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Social media driver behind weight loss

“Operation Ken and Barbie” is Grace Borst’s slogan for her transformation. It has helped her succeed in reaching her ideal image and weight along with her husband.

“I have been struggling with my weight my whole life,” said Borst, 25, from Phoenix. “I have tried everything and nothing seemed to work. I was sick of who I was and I knew I needed to change my lifestyle.”

This is when Borst noticed a lot of women using social media accounts dedicated to fitness and weight loss, so she decided to do the same.

Modern media applications are a significant asset to those determined to shed unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (34.9 percent or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.

There are more than 13,000 health and fitness applications available via iTunes as of August 2012, as stated by Translational Behavioral Medicine journal article “Twitter classification model: the ABC of two million fitness tweets.” This study gathered data on daily use patterns, exercise frequency, location based workouts and overall workout sentiment. The authors argue that social media and media applications have turned exercise into something positive, leading to a long-term compliance with fitness.

“Simple mobile devices can function as inexpensive, accessible, and powerful triggers for behavior change and may be a particularly powerful mechanism for delivering social support,” the authors wrote.

Researchers can now examine many questions, ranging from how apps and sharing of workout information motivates people, how apps influence social support, to which apps have the best features when it comes to physical activity.

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition contestant Bruce Pitcher from Salt Lake City, lost over 200 pounds on the show and is now an expert on nutrition and fitness and said social media has played a huge role in his success, so much so that he developed his own weight loss game on DietBet, an application for smartphones.

Pitcher believes when people post before and after photos it inspires those people to get up and do something about their weight because they see others who are in the same situation. He gets the most feedback when he posts photos on social media of where he used to be and where he is now.

Pitcher started his own DietBet game that has more than 2,100 contestants and over $64,000 in the pot. DietBet is a challenge that costs users money to enter and they then pledge to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain period of time. If they do not lose the weight they signed up to lose, their money is awarded to the winners and the winners get their money back. The application does make it pretty hard for people to cheat, there are officials that look over official weigh-in photos that are submitted with unique words of the day to ensure it was not taken too late or too early.

“DietBet gets people really fired up and gets them going because you have a purpose first of all,” Pitcher said. “People put their own money into it, and it’s amazing when people put their own money into something that they are fighting for — they’re going to get something back in return.”

On DietBet, participants communicate with each other and users share their workouts, meal plans and positive words.

“When you share [with] people your story and how you overcome it,” Pitcher said, “people just look at it and continue to look on social media and say, ‘Why not me?’”

Amanda Regele wrote a thesis in 2013 titled Effects of Online Media Applications on Fitness at the University of Arizona. She said she thinks social media and applications play an extremely powerful role in helping people reach their fitness goals.

“Applications that are built with an integrated social network or some sort of social sharing features have the most significant impact,” Regele said. “What these applications do a great job of is tapping into the users intrinsic motivation where they actually end up enjoying the actual activity as opposed to doing it solely for the end result.”

Regele added that “social media ties people together and exponentially enhances the aura of competition. With social media, we are always in the know about our friends diets and workout routines and this creates the perfect environment to get our competitive juices flowing.”

Regele sees social media connecting and motivating us even more in the future.

“Whether it be new types of workouts that are becoming the hot new thing,” Regele said, “social media is ultimately what will spread the word around the world and turn something from a trend into a viral sensation.”

Grace Borst, also known as @graciesjourney on Instagram, has lost more than 50 pounds in five months. She has more than 24,000 followers and over 1,000 posts.

Borst said she once thought being fat was her destiny.
She posts exactly what she eats, workouts with calories burned, transformation photos of herself and others, her scale to show how much she has lost, and pretty much anything motivational to inspire others.
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Madeline Ruth is reporter for the Arizona Sonora News Service


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