How Instagram Can Help You Lose Weight

Losing weight (and keeping it off) isn’t easy. If you’re looking lead a healthier lifestyle, turning to Instagram can help.

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Trying to lose weight can be a lonely experience. While pretty much everyone says they could lose a few pounds, but anyone wanting to eat healthier knows how isolating it can be to eat clean at a work lunch or skip drinks with the girls to workout. Especially if you don’t know anyone else who needs to lose more than 100 pounds in order to be a healthy weight.

Bailey Ryan knows that feeling all too well. She struggled with obesity for most of her life. But it was 2015 when the nurse decided that a healthier lifestyle was worth it. To find support and inspiration Ryan turned to Instagram.

Inspired by clean eaters on Instagram (using the hashtag #whole30approved), Ryan tried The Whole-30 diet, a month-long nutrition program that excludes dairy, sugar, grains, legumes and alcohol. Ryan later adapted to a paleo diet. In addition to clean eating, Ryan also works out regularly.

Now, two years into her fitness journey, Ryan credits part of her 120-pound weight loss success to her Instagram account @paleobailey.

When Ryan started her account in December 2015, she was 240 pounds. Having already lost around 50 pounds, her goal for the account was to track her progression and save her favourite recipes. As she began to post more, she realized that she was growing a supportive community of like-minded people who wanted to reach their health and fitness goals.

“People thank me for articulating how they’re feeling [about losing weight],” she says. “They remind me that I’m not alone in this and to keep going when it gets tough.”

How sharing your fitness journey on Instagram can help

Weight loss Instagram accounts aren’t like the typical accounts you see on Instagram. There are no expectations to post carefully crafted, witty captions to photos that look like they belong in the glossy magazines.

In fact, weight loss Instagram accounts are the exact opposite. Most people with these accounts expose the vulnerable thoughts of body image and self-esteem that we all have, but wouldn’t even admit to our best friends.

People with weight loss and fitness Instagram accounts post progress pictures, recipe ideas and their non-scale victories. The posts are intimate, diary-entry confessions.

The new way to get healthy

With Instagram following her weight-loss journey, Ryan felt motivated knowing that people were invested in her weight loss.

“My followers hold me accountable and push me through the hard stuff,” she says. “My Instagram account is a place where I can share everything about my struggles with weight loss.”

Instagram also helped Ryan track her progress. “Since I also wrote about how I was feeling in the photo captions, it’s been really cool to see how much I’ve changed. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too,” she explains. You’ll notice that her cutlines are long and she doesn’t hold back.

Reading her old posts and looking at her weight loss pictures have been Ryan’s favourite parts about journaling on social media about her weight loss.

Being vulnerable on social media

Unfortunately, with cyber bullying and Internet trolls, anyone active on social media is at risk for online harassment. And when you have a big social media following like Ryan, you’re more likely to receive unwanted comments. Although Ryan knows a lot of people who have experienced online harassment on their weight loss Instagram accounts, remarkably, she seems to be an exception to the rule.

“I’m super grateful that I don’t have to deal with any of it or read any of it,” she says.

So far, the only negative comment she received was from a pro-vegan account that criticized her for eating meat.

“People are scared of posting about their weight loss because of harassment, but even though it makes me feel vulnerable, I still do it. And I’m happy that I did it.” Ryan also started a blog, so that she could share more of her fitness journey.

The power of online communities

After a significant amount of weight loss, like 50 pounds or more, excess skin is inevitable. And unfortunately, no amount of dieting or working out can make it disappear. So if someone decides to have it removed, plastic surgery is the only way to go.

After consulting with various doctors, she was heartbroken that she wasn’t able to afford the cost of her much-needed surgery. Planning to save for a few more years, Ryan was shocked when one of her friends created a Go Fund Me page for her skin removal surgery.

In just seven months, Ryan’s family, friends and Instagram followers had donated over $10,000 towards her surgery. Thanks to their generosity, Ryan is scheduled to have her skin removal surgery in the summer of 2017.

“It’s kind of bizarre how many people I don’t know in real life were willing to help me. I still can’t wrap my head around it.”

An expert’s opinion on Instagram and weight loss

Should you go to Instagram to share your healthy lifestyle?

“If you’re thinking of pursuing healthier options and positive changes, Instagram can help you make it happen, says Richard Carpiano, a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia. “Joining groups creates motivation, so as a health promoting and health-changing tool, Instagram can be quite influential. If you do use Instagram as a fitness and weight-loss inspiration tool, just be sure not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others.”