Some of the most effective weight loss tools are ones you never would have thought… harness the power of a social network and you’ll be amazed how far you will go…
First things first…what is social media? Social media is basically communicating with others via the internet and/or mobile technology.
What does social media have to do with weight loss/healthy lifestyle? Social media is a relatively new way of connecting to people. What is powerful about social media is that it is highly conducive to connecting to people based on shared interests/goals. When we make friends in the real world the connection is often based on proximity; our friends are people we work with, go to school with, or who live in our neighborhood. Social media is not limited by proximity at all but instead can be used to quickly connect with people based on shared interests. There is an abundance of online communities and groups centered around health, nutrition, and fitness. Just think, your best weight loss buddy might be a tax accountant in Dubuque. You never know.
Why should I consider social media to help me lose weight? The support and influence we get from other people has a tremendous impact on our lifestyle and our weight. A landmark study by Christakis and Fowler at Harvard showed that obesity is “socially contagious” meaning that we are more likely to be obese if our family and friends are obese. A major challenge that many of my patients struggle with is that they have few supports in their current social network for their weight loss journey. Their spouse, children, and friends might not be on the same path. This can make the whole experiences feel lonely and like you’re going against the grain all the time.
I can’t emphasize the importance of having a social network of people who “get it,” who are on a similar path, and who you can share your victories and struggles. I read a blog post the other day by a woman who is struggling with emotional eating. She described a day where she succumbed to it, complete with her thoughts of dejection and discouragement. So many people can relate to that experience. The comments of support flowed in. It was powerful to read, and I bet it was powerful to write. We have to share our stories and connect. We have to realize that we are not alone. We can motivate each other, and share ideas and inspiration. You can use social media to create your very own supportive, inspiring, and motivating network of people who can do just this for you. But how?
What are the ways I can use social media to help me create and sustain a healthy lifestyle?
Facebook – Most of us have a personal Facebook page, but one idea is that you can create a (free!) group or community page on Facebook where you post about your healthy lifestyle journey. Give it a fun name and regularly post links to recipes, websites, articles, pics and videos of interest. Post daily status updates on your progress, exercise for the day, or anything that you like. If people “Like” your page, they will see your updates in their stream. Here is a great example of a Facebook page devoted to one person’s healthy lifestyle journey: http://www.facebook.com/WeightOffMyShouldersBlog If you are concerned about privacy, keep in mind that you are in control. Share what you want to share, nothing more.
Twitter – Get a Twitter account (it’s free!) and tweet about your journey! Afraid nobody is listening? Here is how to instantly create your community: “Follow” all the people on my Healthy List. This is a carefully selected group of people and organizations that provide support, information, advice, and interactions around healthy lifestyle. Click here to read more about it. To find the list, go to @DrSherryPagoto on Twitter, open my profile, and find the option called Lists. Click on Lists and find my list called The Healthy List. Click on “Follow this List”.
Once you are on Twitter, be active! Tweet every day about your workouts, recommend healthy recipes, join fitness challenges (see PlankADay for an example) or just tweet your thoughts about your journey that day. Interact with other tweeters too, congratulate them on their successes, comment on their tweets, and don’t be shy! I guarantee within a few weeks you will have some regular Twitter buds.
Blogs – A blog is an online journal that is viewable to the public. Go to www.blogger.com to set one up (for free!), then compose and post entries about your process. What to write? Anything you want. Tweet and/or post your blog entries on your Facebook page to share them with others. This is a great way to engage others in your journey. Why write? For yourself. Do it to express your thoughts, challenges and/or lessons learned. It can take a while but over time you will get readers and commenters. Here are a few awesome blogs to check out to give you an idea: http://the-running-mom.com/ by @thismomruns http://letstalkandwalk.com/ by @letstalkandwalk and http://gingerstarrett2.blogspot.com/ by @searchin4ginger and http://www.whoatemyblog.com/ by @whoatemyblog and http://twelve-in-twelve.com/ by @minnesota_ann
Mobile apps with a social networking function – If you don’t yet have a mobile phone, health mobile applications are a GREAT reason to get one, even if it is your only reason to get one. A number of mobile apps for fitness and/or weight loss have a social networking function where you can follow other users. If you have a friend that you wish you could exercise with but can’t, make a deal that you both start using one of these apps and follow each other’s progress. You can set up a function on many of these apps to post updates of your progress on Facebook and Twitter. My Fitness Pal, Lose it!, and Nexercise are three apps that come highly recommended. With Nexercise you can even win stuff the more you exercise. Can’t beat that.
Online communities – Sparkpeople, Weight Watchers, and Livestrong are three websites that have online communities (i.e., discussion boards) in which you can interact with other people who use their services. Check out their websites and start interacting on the boards.
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