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The Instagram Diet Plan: Can Social Media Help You Lose Weight?

Could publicly tracking food consumption introduce a level of accountability that will help dieters succeed?

After a summer of trying delicious dessert recipes on Pinterest and a fall of long work hours coupled with less-than-healthy food choices, I am now a few pounds above my preferred weight. 

I am not about to tell you what that weight is, but I will say I am about 8 pounds above the midpoint of the range I like to weigh. The last time I got lazy and let myself pick up a few pounds (which was during a period of long work hours, high stress and little sleep), I lost weight by keeping a food journal. I wrote down everything I ate and kept a calorie count. It worked well because I was really loathe to go over my daily calorie target. However, it was also tedious and not at all enjoyable.

So, the other day I was browsing Instagram and it occurred to me that a photo journal of my food intake might be more interesting and would still include enough accountability to keep me from overindulging. Turns out, I'm not the first one to have that idea. On the "Run Jason" blog, Jason Fredin outlines his concept of the Instagram diet. In short, taking photos of everything you eat (if you are honest about it) is a simple way to track your food intake, stops unhealthy snacking and deters overeating because, as Fredin explains:

"I don’t really want to have a picture over there of an entire bag of cookies, a whole pizza, or a bunch of pictures of candy bars. If I feel like someone is watching (even if that someone is really no-one) I tend to be on my best behaviour." 

I realize the chances of anyone actually caring about my food intake on Instagram are really low, so the only one I'll be answering to is myself. Still, just the thought that someone might look at the photos and think to himself or herself, "She really shouldn't be eating that if she is trying to lose weight!" might just be enough of a deterrent.

I don't know if this diet plan will work or not since there is no calorie counting involved, but I'm willing to give it a try. If you'd like to try it with me, hashtag your Instagram meal photos as #PatchDiet. If you are not an Instagram user and would still like to participate, just click on the "Upload photos and videos" button to add your food photos here. Even if no one else knows your user name, there is still something to be said for being accountable to yourself.

For the purposes of tracking my progress on the Instagram diet, my starting point is "+8" and I'll indicate progress weekly on my Instagram account.

An important note to any fellow dieters: The last time I dieted, it took months to hit my target weight. I don't believe in extreme calorie restriction or near-starvation plans. I slowly cut back on my food intake, primarily in the dessert category. I still have desserts, I just try to have them less often. If you are going to diet, give yourself a chance to succeed and don't expect overnight results. Patience is a virtue.

Barbara Colnar Morgen August 03, 2013 at 09:15 PM
hi there! did this work for you?
Kristi Reed (Editor) August 04, 2013 at 10:08 AM
Honestly no. I got bored with it plus I got to be self-conscious about posting what I was eating. I will eat the same thing for breakfast for months on end. I may go days at a time eating the same thing for lunch and dinner. I guess I just really didn't want my eating habits scrutinized ;) I have had success just writing things down and counting calories. It is time consuming, but I find I can do it. I set a target calorie amount for each day and just work to keep under that amount. Some days it is no fun at all, but it works if you stick with it.
Barbara Colnar Morgen August 05, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Thanks, Kristi! I am trying the photo diet thing now. I love seeing what I ate in a "snapshot." Using an app that puts all the photos of food for one day into one mosaic. Easy way to see if i'm eating enough greens, too much wine, etc. Just wanted to see if it worked for you.
Kristi Reed (Editor) August 05, 2013 at 07:34 PM
I'm glad you are enjoying it. Dang it though - I didn't know we had to count wine ;)
Barbara Colnar Morgen August 07, 2013 at 04:53 PM
I wanted to share... I do like the aspect that I can keep the photos to myself (in my app) if I don't want to share them on Instagram. I have to admit, sharing everything automatically seems kind of "too much" for me, too.
Kristi Reed (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 04:56 PM
I think that would be a better way to do it. At least that would alleviate my concern about people thinking I had weird/bad eating habits (I can't help it if I like to eat a bagel for breakfast every morning - boring, but it's what I like).

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