Confessional Tweeting May Help Dieters

Click here to listen to this podcast

Social media—it can help you keep up with friends, stay on top of the news, and maybe even fit into your skinny jeans. Because a study shows that using Twitter can help people lose weight. The results appear in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine. [Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy and Deborah Tate, Weight loss social support in 140 characters or less: use of an online social network in a remotely delivered weight loss intervention]

Now, before you go thinking you can just Tweet yourself to a size 2, the volunteers in the study were taking part in a media-assisted weight loss program. For six months, 96 overweight participants tuned in to weekly podcasts about nutrition and exercise. In addition, half of them made use of mobile apps to track calories and physical activity, and to keep other folks in the study apprised of their progress.

On the whole, participants reduced their body weight by about 3 percent. But those who used Twitter lost even more: another half a percent for every 10 times they Tweeted.

Some Tweets offered emotional support, but many were simply informative. Like, “Avoided the pastries at this morning’s meeting. But I did have a skim mocha without whipped cream.”

Such confessional Tweeting may help dieters stay honest. Or at least keep their fingers occupied and out of the cookie jar.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs.
Visit for the latest in science, health and technology news.

© 2013 All rights reserved.