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Using Social Media to Inspire Positive Lifestyle Changes

La Petite Maison Verte: Using Social Media to Inspire Positive Lifestyle Changes

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Using Social Media to Inspire Positive Lifestyle Changes

Last night I read an article by Dr. Miriam Nelson for The Huffington Post (link to full article here) and I thought it was so fascinating that I wanted to talk about it on the blog.

Dr. Nelson has written a book called The Social Network Diet:  Change Yourself, Change the World, in which she discusses the impact of social media on our lifestyles, particularly our health and body weight.  In her HuffPost article, Nelson brings up the idea that personal obesity and even our Nation's obesity problem are related more to the culture (a person's social and physical environments) than to poor personal choices.

At first thought, I would disagree with the idea that a person cannot buck the trend, or make lifestyle choices to oppose those negative influences around them.  I believe strongly in a person's ability to make their own destiny and I shun the idea that a person with free-will, born into a certain socioeconomic or cultural situation, cannot (in this country, at least) alter their own course from that of their peers.  However, with deeper thought, I can see Nelson's point.

If you watch The Biggest Loser, you have probably observed that the majority of contestants come from families where obesity is common.  They might have a spouse who is overweight, or their parents or children are obese.  Often times, the entire family has a weight problem.  More often than not, the contestant has tried and failed at weight-loss in the past.  Or perhaps they did lose some weight but then plateaued, or gained it back.  I think this is a pretty common phenomenon across the country, not just on TV:  overweight families with poor eating habits who cannot seem to lose weight and keep it off.

For The Biggest Loser contestants, it takes completely removing them from their homes and families, (and let's face it - many, many hours of exercise and physical activity per day in addition to education on nutrition) for them to lose weight and make a breakthrough in their health and lifestyle.  Often times, the contestants are nervous about returning home, as they fear slipping back into the bad habits that lead them to gain so much weight in the first place.  If you believe Nelson and her HuffPost article, they should be worried.

It's relatively easy to stay motivated to eat healthy and stay active when you have a supportive team around you.  When everyone is eating salads for lunch and saying 'No Thanks' to dessert, it makes it easier for you to do the same thing, right?  Willpower and motivation can be contagious, this is clear to anyone who has found his or herself struggling to finish that last leg of a race while others push on around them.  Likewise, you are much more likely to dig into the unhealthy snacks at the party if everyone around you is doing the same.

Well, we cannot always control the physical and tangible social networks we find ourselves in, for example the community where we live (due to economic factors) and who our families happen to be (that's just genetics).   But we do have control over our social networks online, and these networks can be valuable tools to inspire positive lifestyle changes.

Here are some ways you can use social media to inspire positive lifestyle changes:

1.  Connect with like-minded individuals who have similar goals:

     These can be individuals you know personally or ones you have never met!  Most people are on at least one of these big three social networks:  Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  They can all be used to inspire you to make healthy lifestyle changes.  A great way to find healthy lifestyle bloggers is to peruse Healthy Living Blogs list or just go onto my Blog Love page (not all are HLBs but MANY are!)  Even your own friends or acquaintances who are also trying to lose weight or get healthy could be inspiration for you.  Encourage each other to post your progress if you feel comfortable sharing it online!    

     Follow or Friend healthy lifestyle bloggers on Facebook or Twitter (I'm on there!).  The blogging community is a constant source of inspiration.  You can learn new workouts, see healthy recipes, and follow along with their healthy lifestyle journeys:  that might be weight-loss, training for a marathon or triathlon, or adopting a cleaner diet.

     If you don't want to follow healthy bloggers on Facebook or Twitter, most of them are on Pinterest too (yep, I am!).  You can find workouts, healthy recipes, inspirational quotes - whatever works for you to inspire the positive changes in your life.

     If those sites are not your thing, follow healthy lifestyle bloggers by subscribing to their posts via e-mail or add their site to your RSS feed.  That way you have a constant source of inspiration coming to you, even if you don't enjoy the big three social network sites I mentioned above.

2.  Disconnect from negative influences:

     Don't get me wrong:  I am NOT suggesting you "de-friend" or "un-follow" every friend, acquaintance or relative who posts pictures of their greasy fast-food meals that looks so tempting after a week of salads, or who is constantly Pinning different desserts they are planning to make (I am definitely guilty of pinning future indulgences too!)  But if those temptations are just too much for you to bear and you find yourself with a spoon in one hand and the Ben and Jerry's container in the other hand after looking at them, then maybe un-follow just those boards that are too tempting.

     Likewise if there are certain people whose comments or attitudes bring you down or facilitate your negative behaviors, perhaps consider adding them to a list on Facebook where you are unsubscribed from their posts.  That way, you can still see the cute baby pictures they share of their kids and they can still write Happy Birthday on your Facebook wall, but you are not constantly reminded of how unfair it is that they can eat macaroni and cheese every night and still look as skinny as they did in High School.

3.  Don't just follow, share your experiences too:


     Putting your goals out there will make you more likely to stick to them.  Again, I'm not suggesting you post them to Facebook so that everyone you know will see it, but maybe just share those posts with a certain group/list on Facebook (for example, other friends who are trying to make positive lifestyle changes).

     Or if you don't want to share your goals with your Facebook friends, just share your progress with the healthy lifestyle bloggers you follow by commenting on their posts, or start your own blog and share it with people you know will be supportive of your goals.

     Another benefit of sharing your experiences and progress is the positive feedback and encouragement you will receive from others.  It's a positive cycle:  the more you encourage others, the more it will come back to you.  And that is such a powerful motivator!

4.  Use social network apps to share and track your progress:

     Just like sharing your goals and progress on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and blogs can help you stay motivated, mobile apps can be useful tools to facilitate tracking and sharing those goals.

     MyFitnessPal,  iMapMyRun and TheDailyMile (and their mobile app versions) are good sites that allow you to track progress and give you the option of sharing your progress with others.  They also connect you with a community of people, many of whom are also trying to make positive lifestyle changes.

     There are plenty of other apps out there, if those I mentioned don't do it for you, try Googling your specific interest and I would bet you can find something!  

5.  Use Message Boards:

     Message boards and forums are great for learning from others experiences.  Obviously, they are not usually reviewed for accuracy (nor are most blogs, for that matter) so you have to take the responses with a grain of salt, but they can often be beneficial in helping you learn more from people who have "been-there, done-that."  Message boards give you the opportunity to ask your questions and get answers from many sources.  With the information you receive, you can then make your own decisions on where to go from there.

     A couple of good, active message boards and communities can be found at Livestrong.com and Bodybuilding.com, but again the options are almost endless.

     Like I mentioned in #3 above, it's also great for you to share what you know too.  Not only can you help others but being able to help someone else is often some of the best motivation.  




Do you use social media to inspire you to make or maintain positive lifestyle changes?  If so how?  Which sites do you recommend to others trying to get healthier, eat better or be active?

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2 Comments:

At June 3, 2012 at 6:22 AM , Anonymous Clients said...

Thanks for sharing this great article! I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. It is extremely helpful for me. I hope you post again soon

 
At June 6, 2012 at 10:20 AM , Anonymous Jules said...

Thanks for commenting, glad you enjoyed the post!

 

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