You may enjoy following fitspo, food porn, and celeb accounts, but your own posts of poorly lit meal photos may make the best use of your time on Instagram.
A small new study from researchers at the University of Washington found that logging food intake with Instagram photos is an effective way to stay on track with health, weight loss, and fitness goals. Conducting in-depth interviews with 16 people who consistently record and share what they eat on Instagram using hashtags like #fooddiary and #foodjournal, the researchers found that this method of logging holds people more accountable and is perceived as easier than writing down food intake in a traditional food journal or app.
“The benefit of photos is that it’s more fun to do than taking out a booklet or typing hundreds of words of description in an app,” Christina Chung, lead author and UW human-centered design and engineering doctoral student, told EurekAlert. “Plus, it’s more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they’re out with friends — everyone’s doing it and it doesn’t look weird.”
Instagrammers reported better eating habits as a result of the visual account of food intake that the social platform provides. “When you only have one data point for a pizza or doughnut, it’s easy to rationalize that away as a special occasion,” said senior author Sean Munson, assistant professor of human-centered design and engineering at UW. “But when you see a whole tiled grid of them, you have to say to yourself, ‘Wait, I don’t actually have that many special days.'”
But perhaps the most important reason to use Instagram for food journaling is the emotional support and accountability that comes with the community, differentiating it from a private food photo diary.
“With Instagram, it helped me because I was taking a picture of it — it’s real and it does exist, and it does count towards what I was eating. And then putting up a visual image of it really helped me stay honest,” one user said.
“Maintenance becomes pretty boring for a lot of people because your quest to hit a goal has worn off,” Munson said. “This made things more interesting and meaningful for people because after they got to their goal, they turned to thinking about how they could help others and stay accountable to people who were relying on them for support.”
So if you’re thinking of embarking on a weight-loss journey, Instagram and its users may soon be your best friends.
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