More and more individuals are taking to the public stage of the internet to share their weight loss journey, but what are the issues and benefits of publicly exploring a typically private experience? In recent years, the number of online blogging communities has increased exponentially, however, there is little research available to understand how blogging for weight loss actually works.
Recently, two researchers from Australia and New Zealand reviewed a number of weight loss blogs to explore this subject in more detail.
To start, 180 weight loss blogs were identified for inclusion in the study. Blogs were reviewed if they met the following criteria: publicly accessible without subscription or login, the author identified as female, and the blog included a statement that explained the writer was blogging publicly to support their weight loss efforts. In total, 31 blogs met these criteria.
Each blog was printed and reviewed in further detail, and the key themes as identified by the research team were then progressively explored.
In discussing their results, the authors described the content of weight loss blogs, and the role of the audience, accountability in the weight loss journey, and noted some of the challenges associated with blogs in the weight loss genre.
What do weight loss bloggers write about?
Typically, weight loss bloggers write about their experiences on their weight loss journey, by presenting information that normally remains private. Blog posts may include weigh in results, photos, food diaries, as well as descriptions of anxieties, struggles and successes during the weight loss process.
For many bloggers, being accountable is often cited as the most common reason for starting a weight loss blog. To achieve this accountability, weight loss bloggers connect with other readers and bloggers, and create large online communities of support.
Blogging as a weight loss intervention
Generally, when you think of technological weight loss interventions, you might think of smartphone apps, an innovative psychological or nutritional approach, or wearable fitness devices. However, many weight loss bloggers use their blogs as a tool to assist them to lose weight. For example, some bloggers would note that if they stopped writing for their audience, their weight started to increase.
A documented journey
Blogging has the benefit of recording a snapshot of a person’s experience at a particular point in time. As their journey progresses, those snapshots can help weight loss bloggers reflect on how far they have come, recognise patterns in the challenges they face, and progressively discuss issues relating to their identity and sense of self.
For example, weight loss bloggers also have a forum to explore the conflict between accepting themselves as they are, with the idea of desiring change and wishing to be a different person, or the ‘best self’.
The flipside of blogging for weight loss
However, publicly blogging about a weight-loss journey is not for the faint of heart. Bloggers may attract criticism, particularly in relation to food diaries, and the public sharing of personal information may also have broader implications for privacy of the blogger.
It’s certainly an interesting topic: the authors note that future research could explore these themes in greater depth, and also consider weight loss blogging by men.
Reference: Leggatt-Cook, C., & Chamberlain, K. (2012). Blogging for weight loss: personal accountability, writing selves, and the weight-loss blogosphere. Sociology of Health & Illness, 34(7), 963–77. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2011.01435.x
We’re curious: do you encourage your clients to blog during their weight loss journey? How does this impact their results? Share your experiences in the comments below.