Whether you’re into Instagram or Twitter; Pinterest or Reddit — social media can be used in a smart way if you’re looking to lose weight. In fact, people who expressed positive sentiments about their efforts on Twitter were more likely to reach their diet goals, according to one study.
“Using social media, you can find a supportive network of family, friends and followers,” says Lynell Ross, a certified health and wellness coach and behavior change specialist. “Positivity and reassurance are key in achieving your goals.” The next time you’re contemplating posting, consider these six strategies:
FOLLOW INDIVIDUALS WITH SIMILAR GOALS
“Use social media to connect with people who share goals like yours, “suggests Emin Gharibian, a psychologist at Verdugo Psychological Associates. For example, “if you’re a 35-year-old mom-to-be, you’ll likely have a different exercise routine, diet and goals compared to someone who is 20 and not pregnant.” Same goes if you’re in your 40s and beyond. Try not to compare yourself to others, but rather seek inspiration from people who share your goals and are at a similar life stage.
KEEP THE POSTING FREQUENCY REALISTIC
If you post about weight loss more than once per day, you can develop an unhealthy obsession with achieving your goals, says Ross. “Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight, it will take time and consistency,” she adds. Make sure to check in with yourself to see if the number of times you’re posting is distracting or making you feel down. The key is to keep it to a number that feels motivating.
Don’t be afraid to pose questions to the people you meet through social media groups or forums like the MyFitnessPal message boards. It’s normal to feel some nervousness about being judged or looked down upon for asking simple questions, says Gharibian. “But remember: It’s almost guaranteed that if you have a question, other people have that same question or had it at one point.” No question is a bad one. Case in point: our Ask the RD series.
IGNORE THE TROLLS
There are always going to be people online who get a kick of putting other people down. “That’s just their insecurities talking,” says Gharibian, who praises the value of the “block” option. “Stay consistent with your weight-loss journey. You’re making a lifestyle change and that takes time. Some people can meet their goals in six months, some take one year, some take two years — there’s no one-size-fits-all.”
FIGURE OUT WHICH MEDIUM WORKS BEST FOR YOU
Some people prefer the visual-heavy feed on Instagram, whereas others prefer short, text-focused posts on Twitter. Or “you may want to start somewhere private, like a Facebook Group,” says Gharibian. “They can be a great resource to ask for advice in real-time and get answers,” he says. “Also, people tend to be less rude or mean on Facebook compared to forums because there isn’t as much anonymity on the former.” Try a couple of platforms to see what works for you, and feel free to move around.
START A HASHTAG FOR YOURSELF
Each time you post a photo or message, use a hashtag for your weight-loss goals (like #EmilyShedsPounds). This way, you can click it to aggregate your posts and follow your progress over the days, weeks and months. “A little step like this could have a big impact on keeping you motivated and maintaining consistency in achieving your goals,” says Ross. Don’t forget to celebrate the wins along the way.