A social media solution to weight loss

“Operation Ken and Barbie” is Grace Borst’s slogan for her transformation. It has helped her succeed in reaching her ideal image and weight along with her husband.

“I have been struggling with my weight my whole life,” said Borst, 25, from Phoenix. “I have tried everything and nothing seemed to work. I was sick of who I was and I knew I needed to change my lifestyle.”

This is when Borst noticed a lot of women using social media accounts dedicated to fitness and weight loss, so she decided to do the same. 

Modern media applications are a significant asset to those determined to shed unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (34.9 percent or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. 

There are more than 13,000 health and fitness applications available via iTunes as of August 2012, as stated by Transitional Behavioral Medicine journal article Twitter classification model. This study gathered data on daily use patterns, exercise frequency, location based workouts and overall workout sentiment. The authors argue that social media and media applications have turned exercise into something positive, leading to a long-term compliance with fitness.

“Simple mobile devices can function as inexpensive, accessible, and powerful triggers for behavior change and may be a particularly powerful mechanism for delivering social support,” the authors wrote. 

Researchers can now examine many questions, ranging from how apps and sharing of workout information motivates people, how apps influence social support, to which apps have the best features when it comes to physical activity.

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition contestant Bruce Pitcher from Salt Lake City, lost over 200 pounds on the show and is now an expert on nutrition and fitness and said social media has played a huge role in his success. So much so that he developed his own weight loss game on Dietbet, an application for smartphones.

Pitcher believes when people post before and after photos it inspires those people to get up and do something about their weight because they see others who are in the same situation.  He gets the most feedback when he posts photos on social media of where he used to be and where he is now.

Pitcher started his own Dietbet game that has more than 2,100 contestants and over $64,000 in the pot. Dietbet is a challenge that costs users money to enter and they then pledge to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain period of time. If they do not lose the weight they signed up to lose, their money is awarded to the winners and the winners get their money back. The application does make it pretty hard for people to cheat, there are officials that look over official weigh-in photos that are submitted with unique words of the day to ensure it was not taken too late or too early. 

“Dietbet gets people really fired up and gets them going because you have a purpose first of all. People put their own money into it and it’s amazing when people put their own money into something that they are fighting for, they’re going to get something back in return,” said Pitcher.  

On Dietbet, participants communicate with each other and users share their workouts, meal plans and positive words. 

Pitcher said, “When you share [with] people your story and how you overcome it people just look at it and continue to look on social media and say ‘why not me?’”

Amanda Regele wrote a thesis in 2013 titled Effects of Online Media Applications on Fitness at the University of Arizona. She thinks social media and applications play an extremely powerful role in helping people reach their fitness goals.

“Applications that are built with an integrated social network or some sort of social sharing features have the most significant impact. What these applications do a great job of is tapping into the users intrinsic motivation where they actually end up enjoying the actual activity as opposed to doing it solely for the end result,” said Regele.

Regele added, “social media ties people together and “exponentially enhances the aura of competition. With social media we are always in the know about our friends diets and workout routines and this creates the perfect environment to get our competitive juices flowing.”

Regele sees social media connecting and motivating us even more in the future.

“Whether it be new types of workouts that are becoming the hot new thing social media is ultimately what will spread the word around the world and turn something from a trend into a viral sensation,” said Regele. 

Grace Borst shows her progress to followers through Instagram. Photo by Grace Borst.
Grace Borst shows her progress to followers through Instagram. Photo by Grace Borst.

Grace Borst, also known as @graciesjourney on Instagram, has lost more than 50 pounds in five months. She has more than 24,000 followers and over 1,000 posts.

Borst once thought being fat was her destiny.

She posts exactly what she eats, workouts with calories burned, transformation photos of herself and others, her scale to show how much she has lost, and pretty much anything motivational to inspire others.

“Social media can have a positive influence on weight loss. It helps a lot of people with motivation. I receive so much positivity from others and absolutely love it,” said Borst.

Ten Must Have Weight Loss Apps Description
10. MyFitnessPal
This free calorie counting app has one of the largest and fastest food and exercise databases and is incredibly easy for users to log their daily diet and exercise as well as tracking their progress.
9. Lose It!

Lose-It-IconThis free calorie-tracking app gives peer support for healthy, sustainable weight loss and allows you to connect with people, devices, and food information. They also customize a weight loss plan that fits with your life.8. Weight Watchers Mobile

unnamedWhile this app is free, membership is required to access most of what the app has to offer. In order to sign up users must pay $29.95 and then an additional $18.95 per month. This app has features such as an easy diet tracker, interactive progress chart, delicious recipes and meals, and nearby Weight Watcher locations.7. Diet Point

urlThis app has 130+ weight loss diet plans, meal reminders, grocery lists, BMI calculator, tips and a supportive community.6. 7 Minute Workout Challenge

url-1This $1.99 app is great for people who do not have time to workout. It delivers high intensity interval training and will get users sweating. Based on ‘The Scientific 7-Minute Workout’ routine posted in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal.5. Fitness Buddy

fitness-buddy-iconThis $1.99 app is fitness journal with tons of amazing content: 1000+ exercises, 45+ tailored workouts, 3000+ retina display images and animations, upgrade to more access for a couple dollars extra.4. Cardio Buddy

url-2This $1.99 app monitors users heart rate by using the camera sensor within your phone and also features personal graphs, comparison charts, sharing capability, and support.3. Nike+ Running

nike-plus-gps-iconThis free app tracks your route, distance, pace, time, calories and Nike Fuel to run smarter. You can also receive coaching and real time audio feedback to run better. You can share photos, compare progress, and get cheers from friends to get you to run more.2. Daily Burn

url-3This free app allows you to achieve your goals with a variety of workout videos, community support, and team of professional expert trainers keep you engaged and get you faster results while having fun. Subscription required for full access, $9.99/month.1. Calorie Counter Pro

urlThis app will cost users $3.99 and helps with diet planning, tracking food and exercise, making better food choices, and helps to achieve goals faster and easier. Average 5 star rating.

Don’t forget about social media!
Capture your workout moments, diet, and progress to share with others on the apps mentioned above and through:


Contact Madeline Ruth at mruth1@email.arizona.edu

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