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COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBS Charlotte) – A new study has found that those who use Twitter to discuss their weight loss goals may ultimately have an easier time achieving them.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina found during a six-month study that those who tweeted about their weight loss journeys found a supportive community in other users on a similar path to health, which ultimately helped people stay on course with their fitness goals.
According to the website Medill Reports, almost 100 obese and overweight men and women ages 18 to 65 with body mass indexes exceeding 25 participated in the study.
The group was split in two, with one half asked to listen only to a topical podcast, and the other given weight loss and Twitter apps for their smart phones in addition to the podcast. The second group was reportedly instructed to interact with each other daily on Twitter, in addition to getting two tweets per day from a registered dietitian.
“If they did engage with Twitter, they benefited,” lead researcher Brie Turner-McGrievy was quoted as saying by Medill Reports of their findings.
Turner-McGrievy, who works as assistant professor in the department of health promotion, education and behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health of the University, added that the group who used Twitter felt a sense of community and support that encouraged them to eat and live in a healthier fashion.
In all, both groups averaged a weight loss of approximately 2.7 percent per person – for someone weighing 250 pounds that would represent a drop of approximately seven pounds.
Researchers are encouraged by the feelings of support and encouragement expressed by the group that used Twitter in their weight loss journey, and registered dietitian Holly Herrington of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation in Chicago agreed that the idea is “a good theory.”
“It’s a really good accountability tool and a really good way to pick up nutrition information,” she added to the website. “A downfall is that there’s a lot of incorrect information out there as well. So if you’re going to get something off of Twitter, you want to go for something that is reputable.”
Turner-McGrievy noted that using social media and technology to assist in weight loss can’t have a “one-size-fits-all approach.”
She noted the benefits of “real-time support” to Medill Reports, adding, “Maybe someone does better with Facebook, maybe someone does better with texting each other, maybe someone does better with no contact.”