With major #foodporn filling up your Instagram feed, it seems impossible that the social app can actually help you lose weight. (And we’re not talking about the #fitspo posts and accounts out there.) But a recent study from the University of Washington showed that people who used the platform as a food diary ate healthier and stuck to their goals, which of course, can translate to successful weight loss. Plus, you’ve got followers to hold you accountable, and scanning a grid of grams is easier than flipping through a written diary.
One IRL example of this social-fueled weight loss? Kathleen Vuong (@whatkateats), who’s lost 10 pounds since starting her own Insta #fooddiary. In college, she hit her heaviest weight of 230 pounds, and in an effort to shed some of that, she took on a new restrictive diet, limiting herself to one Subway sandwich per day (cut into quarters and eaten throughout the day). Even though it worked (she lost 90 pounds), she was miserable, and once she started incorporating more foods into her diet after that, she started to gain weight again. “My underlying problem was that I just didn't really know how to lose weight,” says Vuong. "I didn't know how many calories I was consuming, how much of that was carbs versus protein versus fat, and it just continued to fluctuate.”
Enter, Instagram. “One day, I happened to see an interesting hashtag, #IIFYM,” says Vuong. “I had no idea what it stood for so I browsed it until I found a post that explained what it was, and it stood for ‘If It Fits Your Macros,’ a diet that considers how many macronutrients you should consume in a day.” (Note: Macronutrients typically refer to carbs, fat, and protein.) She’d see photos of protein pancakes or protein donuts (using protein powder instead of flour), and it inspired her to create her own healthy versions.
That hashtag led her to several other healthy eating ones, providing her with dieting and cooking inspiration and tips, such as #fitfood, #eatclean, #fooddiary, plus others that pertain to specific types of diets, like #paleo and #keto. And those hashtags have led her to discover some of her now-favorite accounts: @ruledme for keto diet, @nomnompaleo for paleo foods, and @kimhoeltje for protein-baked treats. “Hashtags help you connect to people who are doing the same things or experiencing the same things, and to have a community of people there, knowing that you’re not alone, is a comforting feeling.”
She’s picked up some awesome intel, but she also does thorough research online to make sure different trendy diets are also healthy. “Instagram is great because it's a way for me to see what other people are trying, what they actually eat, and read about their own personal experiences, but people rarely write about the science or theories behind those diets.” And there are plenty of scams out there trying to sell products like “magic detox teas,” claiming to help with weight loss.
While you can totally keep following those #foodporn accounts, if you’re trying to shed some weight, browse for some other healthier hashtags as well—you’ll connect with others on the same journey and you could pick up some major weight-loss inspo.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health