#FridayHack: What Your Twitter Feed Has to Do With Your Dieting Success

New research reveals the connection between a person's behavioral expression and their health.

You post a picture of the bin of bagels at work with some sappy Adele lyrics (Hello? It’s me), tweet about how you can barely function (or deal with your co-workers) without your afternoon visit to the vending machine, and bitch on Facebook about twisting your ankle last night on the treadmill.

When you weigh in on Friday night, you’ve lost exactly zero pounds.

You probably don’t see an obvious connection between your Twitter feed and your diet, but what you may not realize is that the poor attitude dominating your social accounts may be to blame for the non-shifting scale.

A new study conducted by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology found that there is a direct link between a person’s attitude on social media and the likelihood that their dieting efforts will succeed. Researchers looked at the more than 2 million tweets and 100,000 MyFitnessPal daily calorie entries of nearly 700 individuals and determined that dieting success ­or failure can be predicted with an accuracy rate of 77 percent based on the sentiment of the words and phrases used on Twitter.

What they found was that those who were not successful in meeting dietary goals often had Twitter feeds with a negative tone, with posts that tended to be more uneasy and fearful.

“These users tend to be more anxious seemingly because of a lack of emotional control, and because of certain activities and events of daily life,” said Assistant Professor Munmun De Choudhury, lead researcher on the project.

Some example tweets included, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose my mind. Completely lose what little is left. I cry at the thought of stupid things…” and “Feel rough as old boots this morning :/ Ankle hurts, shin hurts, chest hurts, head hurts.”

On the other hand, those who were successful in meeting dietary goals had a feed with a much more positive outlook.

“We see that those who are more successful at sticking to their daily dieting goals express more positive sentiments and have a greater sense of achievement in their social interactions. They are focused on the future, generally more social and have larger social networks,” said De Choudhury. “We see that these users are much more likely to share healthy recipes, offer tips on nutrition and exercise, and report on their own progress,” said De Choudhury. “Their larger network of friends and followers, and increased engagement, means that they tend to also have stronger support systems, which positively impacts the likelihood of dieting compliance.”

Instead of the grumpy updates and melancholy song lyrics fueled by your sugar deprivation, the researchers suggest using words and phrases like “Train smart like a trainer…win like 6 time champion [sic],” “If your not failing your not trying hard enough…[sic],” and “If we never stumble we never fall. If we never fall we never fail, and if we never fail we never grow!” These are just some examples of the upbeat and self-reflective language that the research indicated is most common to successful dieters.

So when it comes to posting about your diet and fitness regimen (spring is less than a month away), ditch the Adele lyrics and channel some inspirational wisdom from your favorite athletes instead. Having “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run” at the top of your Twitter feed may have that scale moving in the right direction.

 

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