A new study suggests that sharing your weight loss journey online can help achieve success in one’s goal for a healthy lifestlye.


The study entitled ‘Weight Loss Through Virtual Support Communities: A Role for Identity-based Motivation in Public Commitment’, examines the role of virtual communities and public commitment to setting and reaching weight loss goals.

Published in the ‘Journal of Interactive Marketing’, the study was co-authored by Tonya Williams Bradford, Sonya Grier from American University and Geraldine Henderson from Loyola University Chicago.

The researchers studied two weight loss groups- surgical and non-surgical- over a four-year period, with members of both weight loss groups making use of virtual support communities like ObesityHelp.com and WeightWatchers.com as part of their programs.


Documenting your progress online

“Our research finds that individuals are more likely to realize success with personal goals when they make a public commitment to attaining them,” said Bradford, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

“By sharing success and setbacks in virtual support communities on social media, we found people are achieving better results. This works especially well with goals like weight loss, where before and after images can be shared online with other community members.

“Through our research, we found public commitment, which is a declaration of a position, increases the likelihood of compliance to a course of action and is a key part of a successful weight loss plan.


“When people seeking to lose weight join a virtual support community and share their plans online to attain their goals, they invite members to join them by offering encouragement in both words and actions. This exchange of online support facilitates adherence to the offline goal of losing weight. Public accountability is key.”

Power in virtual support

The study also found that virtual support communities offer a unique environment that allows members relative anonymity, accessibility, availability, and flexibility in how they represent themselves on their journeys.

According to Bradford, it is the process of building community, and the co-creation of related outcomes that helps in keeping participants motivated and accountable.


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