Healthy eating for weight loss is the only path to permanent weight loss and good health. There are many techniques that help keep people stay on track when they’re trying to make healthy food choices and lose weight. One very effective method is to use a food tracker.
A new study shows that social media can also help healthy eating for weight loss.
Healthy Eating for Weight Loss: Post Food photos on Instagram
A new study finds that people are turning to Instagram as a place where they can log food intake and track healthy eating behaviors by posting photos of everything they eat. Posting also holds them accountable by followers for sticking to their goals.
Instagram users post millions of food photos every day. Some want to show off a sophisticated palate. Others want to make their friends drool over chicken and waffles or artfully arranged colorful macarons.
A new study from University of Washington researchers describes how some people also turn to posting photos on Instagram to track food intake or to be held accountable by followers in meeting healthy eating or weight loss goals.
Healthy Eating for Weight Loss is Easier with Instagram Social Media
A new study shows that healthy eating for weight loss gets a boost from Instagram posts.
• Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 16 people who consistently recorded and shared what they ate on Instagram.
• The interviews focused on the benefits and challenges of using the social media platform to achieve their eating and fitness goals.
• The research team will use the results to inform the design of tools to support healthy behaviors.
• Instead of simply using a traditional food journal or app that requires users to write down or log everything they eat, the interviewees snapped pictures of what they ate in a day and shared them on Instagram using the #fooddiary or #foodjournal hashtags.
• Some also used the photos as a reference so they could remember to log their food later in the day.
Study Authors’ Comments about Using Instagram for Healthy Eating for Weight Loss
Here are the comments from the study author’s about using Instagram for healthy eating for weight loss:
According to Christina Chung, lead author and University of Washington human centered design and engineering doctoral student:
“The benefit of photos is that it’s more fun to do than taking out a booklet or typing hundreds of words of description in an app. Plus, it’s more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they’re out with friends — everyone’s doing it and it doesn’t look weird.”
“Also, having a visual account of everything one eats in a day — both in terms of volume and quality — can help people spot trouble.”
Sean Munson, senior study author and assistant professor of human centered design and engineering at the UW, says:
“When you only have one data point for a pizza or donut, it’s easy to rationalize that away as a special occasion. But when you see a whole tiled grid of them, you have to say to yourself, ‘Wait, I don’t actually have that many special days.'”
Healthy Eating for Weight Loss Benefits from Emotional Support
The interviewees said that social and emotional support from other Instagram users helped them stick to their own tracking and healthy eating goals, and many strove to provide that support for others.
In some cases, feeling accountable to other Instagram users and followers caused people to be more honest about their eating habits. One woman who previously used the MyFitnessPal app to track her diet said she would make excuses to herself about why she didn’t need to log a bag of chips because it was so tiny.
One user said: “With Instagram, it helped me because I was taking a picture of it — it’s real and it does exist and it does count towards what I was eating. And then putting up a visual image of it really helped me stay honest.”
People did report some tensions between wanting to remain honest about what they ate and feeling reluctant to photograph food that would be perceived as undesirable.
But users who ultimately met their weight loss, eating or fitness goals also found that remaining on Instagram — and helping mentor and encourage others — made it easier for them to maintain their desired behaviors and to continue to be mindful about their health, the study found.
According to Munson: “Maintenance becomes pretty boring for a lot of people because your quest to hit a goal has worn off. This made things more interesting and meaningful for people because after they got to their goal, they turned to thinking about how they could help others and stay accountable to people who were relying on them for support.”
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