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Selfies, Weight Loss and Virtual Support

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Social media and selfie photos can play a positive role in helping people achieve weightloss goals, according to a study published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing in 2017.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine; Loyola University, Chicago; and American University, Washington D.C., followed two weight loss groups over a 4-year period. Members of each group used online virtual support programs like WeightWatchers.com and ObesityHelp.com. Researchers analyzed member roles in virtual
support communities, participation drivers and goal compliance behaviors.

“Our research finds that individuals are more likely to realize success with personal goals when they make a public commitment to attaining them,” said lead study author Tonya Williams Bradford, PhD, assistant professor of marketing at UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business. “By sharing success and setbacks in virtual support communities on social media, . . . people are achieving better results. This works especially well with goals like weight loss, where before-and after images can be shared online with other community members.”

Bradford noted that building community support keeps participants motivated and accountable. “When people seeking to lose weight join a virtual support community and share their plans online to attain their goals, they invite members to join them by offering encouragement in both words and actions. This exchange of online support facilitates adherence to the offline goal of losing weight. Public accountability is key.”

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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