Research: Social media may improve weight loss results


Social media may increase weight loss.  

Sitting at table with laptop

Sitting at a table with a laptop

The impacts of obesity on health and wellness are well documented.  We regularly work to promote weight loss programs in community settings but they have limited impact on actual weight loss. There is a well-established gap between the need for weight loss and the utilization of healthy weight loss programs among those that are overweight and obese.  The low utilization of healthy weight loss programs may lower the overall benefit of these programs.  The key is that we need to find a means to bring assistance into the home space of those who need our assistance and social media is one means to reach out to help them.   

Today, social media has expanded the audience in ways that would not have been imagined ten years ago when your only option was online forums.  Social media has changed all of our lives.  It allows us to maintain contact with our friends and families.  Social media and computer usage have long been blamed for creating a sedentary lifestyle and making us overweight.  Although few of us would argue that inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle while using a computer is healthy, the use of Facebook may help you lose weight by allowing you to share your success and learn from others.  

Despite the promise of social media providing assistance of those that need to lose weight, there is limited research to back the use.  New research published in Hu li za zhi The Journal of Nursing in October of 2018 is attempting to change that[1].    The researchers in the study reexamined access to health services and developed an accessible weight loss program for adults with a body mass index of at least 27 that would improve the overall utilization of healthy weight loss programs.  The main reasons identified were: program schedules did not fit with respondent’s daily schedule, the unsuitable services provided, and the overly long distance to the weight loss class.  A social-cognitive-theory-based 1-year weight loss program that was developed provided immediate and accurate information about weight loss, inspiring words, weight management advice, and immediate and convenient consultation services.  The program established an incentives system on a social networking platform (Facebook) and was marketed under a creative slogan.  The developed weight loss program increased program utilization from 54.7% to 78.1% and reduced the average weight of obese adult participants by 3.4 kg.

The bottom line:  Social media programs show promise for improved weight loss program utilization and weight loss.   These results may be applied elsewhere to increase weight-loss efficacy and to maximize health.  More research is needed but the results are promising.  I recommend that you find some friend on social media and share your goals and successes.  


Weng S., Cheng Y., and Liu H., “[Using the Facebook Social Networking Website to Improve the Utilization of Weight Loss Programs by Community Obese Adults].,” Hu Li Za Zhi, vol. 65, no. 5, pp. 80–88, Oct. 2018. [PubMed]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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