By Dr. Manny
Snapping pictures of your food isn’t just a way to make your friends jealous anymore. According to a recent article, researchers at the University of Washington are about to present a study that evaluates the success of Instagram users who are posting photos of every meal as a way to track their eating and lose weight.
The idea of tracking daily food intake to help with weight loss isn’t new. Popular weight loss programs and apps have been suggesting that dieters keep food logs for years. It’s a popular method for self-monitoring that’s used by people who want to lose weight by changing their eating behaviors.
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Being able to see everything you’ve eaten in one place lets you study your own eating habits and figure out what you want to change, and the actual record-keeping can keep you from making impulsive decisions. We’re far less likely to sneak an extra donut from the break room if we know that we have to write it down.
But research has found that, though helpful, it’s tough to keep a food journal going over a long period of time (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268700/). It’s time-consuming and just no fun.
So can Instagram actually serve as a fun, easy replacement for an old-fashioned food log in a way that helps users lose weight and keep it off?
Well, since your phone probably goes everywhere you do, using it to track your eating is definitely convenient. And unlike calorie counting apps, Instagram doesn’t require you to type in a long description or pull out your calculator to figure out the calorie content of your meal.
Snapping a photo of your meal is also an easy way to track your food without drawing attention to the fact that you’re trying to lose weight. Everyone is taking pictures of their food to post online, so when you’re out with friends, your food tracking doesn’t have to be obvious if you don’t want it to be.
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Since social media is all about being connected and finding affirmation, it’s not surprising that study participants found that using the Instagram app provided them with social and emotional support which helped encourage them on their weight loss journey. While some food logging apps have the ability to post achievements on Facebook or other social media sites, there’s no interaction with other users within those apps. Instagram not only enables users to share their weight loss journey but also provides a space to encourage and be encouraged by others with similar goals.
And unlike food journals, it’s possible that Instagram may be a more practical long-term weight loss aid because of its convenience and the strong social aspect. The study found that participants who remained on Instagram to encourage and mentor others after they met their weight loss goals were able to maintain their goal weight.
As always, check with your doctor if you have questions about healthy weight loss. But if you’re an Instagram user trying to lose weight, it sounds like you might have a new tool to help you achieve your goals.