How Twitter May Be The Key To Weight Loss

Let’s do a quick inventory.  I shot down weight loss pills, miracle foods, vitamin D, the sun, diet books by 70’s sitcom stars, and soda taxes as the answer to long lasting weight loss only to promote things like Groundhog’s Day, the “stink eye,” Cee Lo Green songs, Jerry Lewis movies, and now… Twitter?  To be honest, I almost have to question your judgment for still reading.

Since I can’t seem to deter you (I like persistence!), I might as well explain.  I joined Twitter a few weeks ago motivated by gross curiosity and the encouragement of a friend whose theories and opinions I agree with about 20% of the time. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Twitter, let me briefly explain.  Twitter is a social network in which you can “follow” people based on a common interest. “Following” allows you to view a real time stream of their comments which might be random thoughts, advice, information, motivations, links to interesting resources, etc. For example, if you were interested in connecting with people who are experts in weight loss you could find and follow such individuals to learn from them and hear what is on their mind.  The objective is not so much to become friends with the people you follow, although not impossible, but rather to listen, learn, and interact.

When I joined Twitter I sought out people interested in nutrition, diet, weight loss, exercise, and related topics.  Over the weeks I have come to follow over 200 people and what I’ve discovered is that I’ve created a unique community of people for myself who provide not only a wealth of information, but also support and insights.  I found a slew of amazing nutrition experts giving great tips and advice, such as @EatingPermitRD, @Elizabetheats, @RoopJeannotRD, and @ScritchfieldRD, to name a few.  I also found exercise physiologists, trainers, physicians, and other health professionals who give advice, post handy information, and share their thoughts. Then there are people who tweet about the day-to-day of their journey to a healthy lifestyle.  For example, I’m inspired by @cubicledad who lost 100 lbs and is training for a marathon.  Way to go!  Also inspiring is @PTrunningmomof4 who tweets about being a mother of 4 and making time to exercise and eat healthy. How does she do it?

What I am really talking about is COMMUNITY.  The influence of your personal community, or social network, on your weight and lifestyle habits is immense.  Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a scientist at Harvard studied participants of the Framingham Heart Study and found that any given person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if they had an even just one friend who became obese (Christakis & Fowler, 2007). Odds of becoming obese were also increased by about 40% if a spouse or sibling became obese.  You know the phrase, you are what you eat?  Well, it is also true that you are who you hang with.  The nice thing about the age of technology and social networking is that now, you can hang with anybody you want.

Developing a healthy lifestyle is difficult because it requires a shift in mindset, an evolution of identity, and the adoption of about 1,000 habits.  This is a colossal effort that can only be accomplished with a solid infrastructure of social support in place.  Building a community of like-minded people who can support, cheer, encourage, educate, motivate, and advise is essential to this process.  Ask yourself: Who is my community?  Are they like-minded? Meaning, are they on the same road to health as me?  Are they in the trenches?  Have they committed to the hard work?  Your family and friends may be supportive, but not like-minded. Even if they are like-minded, building and strengthening your social infrastructure will further strengthen your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Twitter is just one way to build community. Other ideas include Weight Watchers (online or in person gatherings), Facebook groups, online communities such as www.Sparkpeople.com, exercise classes, or teams and clubs.  Regardless of the approach you take to building your community, the important thing is that you surround yourself by people whose lifestyles you strive for, progress and insights you admire, and who give you the strength and support you are going to need to stay the course. Eventually, you will become one of them and the person that others seek out for the very same purpose.

Getting control of your weight isn’t so much about low-carb vs low-fat, metabolism-boosting foods, or finally finding the magic pill.  It is about changing your life, making a personal commitment, and doing the hard work that is necessary every single day.  You can’t do it alone. The good news is that you don’t have to.

I’m with you.  Come follow me on Twitter!

 

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.
Benjamin Franklin

 

Christakis, N.A. & Fowler, J.H. (2007).  The spread of obesity over a large social network over 32 years. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(4), 370-379.

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5 Comments

  1. Tremalien says:

    I too am fairly new to the Twitter craze but, like you, I have found great value in it.

    Being an avid runner I have found great information from following @JeffGalloway and @activenetwork

    And I also find great inspiration from individuals just trying to stay healthy: @BJBernier (Runner, writer, student, husband and Dad) or @katierunsthis (Wife. Mommy-to-be. AVID runner)

    I have very few local friends that are dedicated to health as I am so it’s great to have a COMMUNITY of like-minded individuals.

  2. Tremalien says:

    oh yeah, don’t forget to look me up @whohastheruns

  3. Thank you for the mention!! I didn’t join twitter for weight loss, but i do LOVE the nutrition/healthy living community that is there! it’s incredibly supportive and i hope that my tweets help people treat their body with better respect, move them, and eat a little bit healthier!
    keep up the tweetin!

  4. While I’ve found the Twitter community to be a great place of support and oftentimes, humor..I have to say that as someone who battled and ultimately overcame severe body image and eating Disorder issues and now provides workshops for kids on the subject, I’ve found the amount of Twitter messages I get about DIETING to be quite frustrating.

    We are a Fat Phobic, weight obsessed society and I would LOVE to be able to go 24 hours without being told about some new weight loss program or being lectured about the evils of sugar or “junk food”.

    I understand your point, and it’s great to be able to connect with people who can encourage you to stay on your fitness plan and offer exercise/nutrition ideas..but for me..I also see this as another way for the weightloss/diet industry to reach a bigger audience.

    • Sherry says:

      Fit_vs_Fiction: Thanks for this great comment. I agree that Twitter is infiltrated with weight loss gimmicks. For example, I have tweeted something negative about HCG diet and next thing I know they are auto-following me. There is definitely a bit of effort to weed out the garbage. I’m really glad that you brought this up because I think it has inspired me to create a “list” of reliable (evidence-based) resources on Twitter and supportive/helpful “tweeps” (everyday people who are just there to share their journey). Thanks again!

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