Do you Instagram, Facebook, or Tweet before you eat? Turns out, taking your #healthyeating endeavors from table-to-cyberworld has its perks. “Sharing pictures of food represents a common link between all of us because it is something tangible that involves and stimulates our senses and is a way that bonds us with others,” says Holley Grainger, RD, a culinary nutrition expert. “Tantalizing recipe images invoke memories and inspire future meal plans.” And research is showing you can also use them to aid your weight loss efforts. Here’s how:
1. Browse your cravings. If you’re looking for a proven way to ruin your appetite, look no further than Instagram. New research shows looking at too many images of the same food you’re eating will satiate you the same way eating more of it would. Have a hankering for a super-size fry? Why not order a kids’ size and scroll through images tagged #frenchfries. Grainger explains that if you look at enough pictures—think 2–3 dozen—you’ll start to experience “sensory boredom” and begin feeling tired of the particular taste. “The initial response to seeing pictures of indulgent recipes can ignite reward pathways in the brain,” she says. “However, after viewing several images of, say, a chocolate cake, your brain basically says ‘Okay, that’s enough. Cake doesn’t appeal to me like it did 15 minutes ago.’” Works for us!
2. Snap as you nosh. Another recent study found reminding yourself what you’ve already eaten can help you eat less later in the day. “Memory for recent eating shapes what we eat, but if these memories aren't vivid and at hand then we can feel deprived and like we need a snack or larger portion that we actually do,” says Eric Robinson, PhD, author of the study. “Much in the same way that we use memories of our past experiences to decide whether we will find an event enjoyable, memories for recent eating inform appetite regulation.” Think of it as a tool to help you practice mindful eating. “Eating a meal in the car, while checking twitter, in front of the TV, while standing in front of the fridge, etc. results in overeating because you’re less aware of how much food you’re actually consuming,” Grainger says. “By sitting down at the table and eating slowly and mindfully you’re less likely to overeat.” But since that doesn’t always happen in the real world, if you snap a shot of your meal before you dig in, at least you have a record to remind yourself later—whether you post it to all your social or keep it personal. That way you can adjust what you eat later in the day to compensate if you overdo it.
3. Get support from social media. “Sharing the food you eat can make you more accountable to eat healthier, especially if the people who follow you on social media sites know that you are trying to lose weight,” Grainger says. In fact a recent study found the more participants used all of Weight Watchers ways to access treatment—weekly meetings, mobile applications, and online tools—the more weight they lost. Keep yourself accountable by finding like-minded friends to support your healthy weight loss goals.