Study: Tweet Your Way To Weight Loss


I hereby dub this "The Brian Stelter Effect." Stelter is the New York Times reporter who famously used the social-media site Twitter as a tool to lose nearly 75 pounds in 2010. He wrote:

I knew that I could not diet alone; I needed the help of a cheering section. But rather than write a blog, keep a diary or join Weight Watchers, I decided to use Twitter. I thought it would make me more accountable, because I could record everything I ate instantly. And because Twitter posts are automatically pushed to each person who subscribes to them, an audience — of friends or strangers — can follow along.

Stelter credited Twitter with helping not only him lose weight but some of his Twitter "followers" as well. Now, Wired reports that a new study finds more evidence for the Stelter Effect.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina found the support and accountability provided by posting to the social networking site made a difference in how much weight people lost. Although the two groups in the study — one that tweeted and one that didn’t — lost the same amount of weight during the trial, the individuals within the Twitter group who posted the most also lost the most weight.

Both groups received podcasts containing information on nutrition and exercise, but one group tracked their progress in a book, while another used a smartphone app and Twitter. When Brie Turner-McGrievy and her colleagues at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health took a closer look at the results, they found those actively tweeting and retweeting lost more weight.

“The more they were posting to Twitter, the better off they did,” Turner-McGrievy said. In analyzing the frequency and types of posts, her team found that every 10 tweets corresponded with about 0.5 percent weight loss.

Wired reports that most of the participants' tweets were informational, as in “I avoided eating a pastry this morning at a breakfast meeting! I did have a skim Mocha without whipped cream … not too bad!”

My reaction: Friends who want to lose weight might indeed consider Twitter as a tool. But I really hope they don't expect me to follow them....

This program aired on January 21, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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