This Mom Lost 84 Pounds With The Help Of Instagram
Weight loss via Instagram: It's a thing. When blogger Kerry Swift wanted to lose weight last year, she turned to social media. The 27-year-old mom decided to document everything she ate by posting the photos on Instagram. “I had seen other people using Instagram as a food diary and thought it would make me more accountable for what I was eating,” she tells SELF. She says she decided to use Instagram because she thought it was a good way to get support from other people, source new recipe ideas, and find the motivation to keep going on her weight-loss journey.
Before jumping into Swift's inspiring story, it's important to keep in mind that health and weight loss look different for every person. If you want to lose weight, what works for you might not work for others, and vice versa. Swift's success doesn't automatically mean you need to track everything you eat on social media or otherwise to meet your own goals! And it’s incredibly important to think about why you actually want to lose weight—and whether doing so is a healthy decision that will enrich your life. For example, if you have a history of disordered eating, you should talk to your doctor before trying to use social media for weight loss or starting a new eating plan. Even if you don't have that history, setting healthy, realistic goals and expectations is key. When it comes down to it, weight loss involves a lot of components. It’s important to factor in whether you’re sleeping enough and trying to keep your stress levels down, plus elements outside of your control, like health conditions and hormones. The most important tip we can give you is to pay attention to your body, treat yourself well, and be kind to yourself above all. For Swift, healthy eating was part of that.
She says that many times when she was tempted to stray from her healthy-eating plan, she thought of her followers and cooked something nutritious instead. And it worked: Swift has lost 84 pounds in 19 months, she says.
She calls all of the attention to her Instagram account (which now has more than 17,000 followers) “a bit crazy," adding, “I only started it to hold myself accountable for my diet, now I have people telling me I'm an inspiration and that they're trying my recipes!”
Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food, tells SELF that this can be a smart tactic. “It is a struggle for some people to lose weight because there are other barriers than simply not eating well,” she says, noting that people often find it hard to follow a diet because of stress, emotions, and time constraints, among other factors. “If it were solely about food, most people would be able to be successful at weight loss, but it’s about a lot more than that,” says Warren. Posting on social media can provide accountability and mindfulness about what you’re eating, while positive feedback from friends and followers can help keep you on the right path—all helpful when trying to lose weight, Warren explains.
It’s also a more modern form of a food log. “If you are willing to commit to posting everything you eat on social media, it can be a good way to keep a photo food journal and track your food intake,” Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF.
But it’s not for everyone. Warren says that while the method can be effective for some people, it can also work against others. “Posting on social media can provide accountability and positive encouragement, but for others it may breed negative feedback and contribute to too much pressure,” she says.
Gina Keatley, a C.D.N. practicing in New York City, agrees. "Most [people trying to lose weight] need an individualized plan that takes into account all facets of their life: dietary habits, personal and family history, as well as living environment," she tells SELF.
If you like this concept but aren’t sure you want to put everything out there, Warren recommends finding a friend who is going through the same thing or someone who can provide a good support system and encouraging each other to lose weight in a healthy way through texts about your progress, including sharing what you've been eating.
You can also keep a food log for yourself by taking photos of what you eat, logging it all into an app, or writing it out. "I have many of my patients keep private photo food journals," says Keatley. "They help us evaluate the food eaten very quickly and [fine-tune] their diets." This can be especially useful if you find yourself snacking because of boredom or doing other forms of emotional eating. “Food tracking can help you figure out why you are eating and can help determine your eating cues and triggers,” says Rumsey.
But if you know you’ll be more likely to eat healthy if you share your diet with your followers, go for it—Swift is proof it can work. “I feel so much more confident and happier in myself now,” she says. “I'm not afraid to wear what I want and be silly with my son in public.”