Are you one of those social media users who scrolls through numerous food images on Instagram each day and also posts pictures of some of your meals? Before you guiltily nod and think "Damn, I do that all the time," know that it is not a bad thing. And oh, we do it too.
Wondering why we are saying that it is not a bad thing? A study by researchers at the University of Washington has found out that posting images of what your meal includes motivates you to eat healthy. The study says that posting these images helps people track their food intake and promotes healthy eating.
Additionally, the users also post these images as their followers hold them accountable for meeting their healthy eating and weight goals. It is an added motivation and also a source of emotional support.
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"The benefit of photos is that it's more fun to do than taking out a booklet or typing hundreds of words of description in an app," explained Christina Chung, the lead author of the study. "Plus, it's more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they're out with friends — everyone's doing it and it doesn't look weird."
For the study, researchers assembled a group of 16 people and asked them to document everything they ate on Instagram under the hashtags #fooddiary and #foodjournal.
It was found that posting these images not only inspired the Instagram users to eat healthy, but also helped those who had already achieved their weight goals maintain it. "Maintenance becomes pretty boring for a lot of people because your quest to hit a goal has worn off," study author Sean Munson said.
"This made things more interesting and meaningful for people because after they got to their goal, they turned to thinking about how they could help others and stay accountable to people who were relying on them for support."
The people who were a part of the study also seemed to agree and said that posting these pictures were, in fact, benefiting them and their health goals.
"With Instagram, it helped me because I was taking a picture of it – it's real and it does exist and it does count towards what I was eating. And then putting up a visual image of it really helped me stay honest," one of the users who was a part of the study said.