Can tweeting help you lose weight?

A new study suggests the anonymity and social structure of Twitter might help users stick to their diet

By Katie McDonough
January 22, 2013 10:26PM (UTC)
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(Piotr Marcinski via Shutterstock)

A new study on dieting (there is always a new study on dieting!) found that the support and instant accountability provided by Twitter made a slight difference in how much weight people lost.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina asked two groups of people to listen to podcasts about nutrition and fitness and record their physical activity each week. One group tracked their weight loss in a book while the other used a smartphone app and Twitter to interact with others. When Brie Turner-McGrievy and her colleagues at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health reviewed their results, they found those actively tweeting and retweeting their progress lost more weight.


Other studies have analyzed how online message boards and other forms of virtual support help motivate people to stick to their diet and exercise routines, but this is the first study to look specifically at Twitter.

“The more they were posting to Twitter, the better off they did,” Turner-McGrievy told Wired. Her team found that every 10 tweets corresponded with about 0.5 percent weight loss.

The study seems to reinforce previous thinking about the social nature of success, showing, once again, that having a network of support can greatly increases your odds of achieving your goal.


But before you start building up your Twitter list, consider this: Another recent study (there is always another study!) suggests overusing social media sites is closely associated with weight gain. 

As reported by Science Daily:

The results showed that the vast majority of students used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter spend an average of one hour a day online. In the physical activity questionnaire, just over half the students were classified as; 'moderately active' and a third were 'high activity', with a minority (12.7 per cent) falling into the 'low physical activity' group. A quarter of the respondents said they took part in team sports.

So here's the rub on both reports: Neither are really about Twitter. Both are about eating well, getting moderate exercise and finding support from other people. Three basic ingredients to not just a smaller waist line, but a longer life in general. (Yes, there is a study to support that, too.)

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Diet Health Obesity Research Science Social Media Twitter Weight