Whether we’re reluctant users or obsessive phone-checkers, we all have developed into pseudo-scholars of social media. Through Twitter, Facebook, and the like, we learn about news, we argue with strangers, and we’re flooded with photos of dog faces, snowflakes, and chocolate desserts. We also know that while it has its dangers, social media can serve as an ally in our weight-loss quests.
A Northwestern University study published this year showed that those with “high social embeddedness” recorded greater weight loss than those less connected or not connected at all. The results complement other research that shows strong social connections are linked to positive health outcomes. We use these relationships (in person or virtual) as a sort of energy-exchange system to swap motivation, encouragement, and accountability.
Let’s keep it going. Instead of using the paradigm of diet “rules”—eat this and this and this, and skip any food product that contains the word “Cap’n”—why not use the power of hashtags to help us stick to healthy behavior? As an advocate of people customizing their eating approaches, I suggest we take the spirit of such mantras like #TacoTuesday and #MeatlessMonday one step further: Create your own daily hashtags as a system for developing healthy habits. Your hashtags (whether you actually post them or not) morph into a way of thinking, a daily ideal that you strive for, rather than a strict game plan. In the end, as you develop these habits, you’ll develop a varied and effective approach to help you reach your goals. Some suggestions to get you started:
Plan the week, figure out most meals, identify vulnerable times, make sure healthy snacks are in the house, office, and car for hunger emergencies. Not recommended: #LargeChocolateSundae
A day you’ll commit to only eating leaner protein (chicken, turkey, fish, sirloin) and vegetables to help scale back refined carbs and simple sugars. Not recommended: #MillionsOfMeatballsMonday
Your commitment to venture into some new nutritional territory—tasting one new healthy food every week. Kale, quinoa, salmon, beets? When you’ve run out of new foods, transition into new recipes. Not recommended: #TryTenTostadasTuesday
On an often-draining day of the week, choose a short workout (no matter your favorite activity) with high levels of intensity to amp your metabolism and your energy. Not recommended: #IWillWaitUntilNextWednesday
Get up from the desk, sneak out before or after dinner, or do it before the kids get up—a 30-minute walk by yourself or with a trusted companion. For mind and body. Not recommended: #ThirtyOtherThingsICouldDoThursday
Give in to your favorite temptation (#FryDay!) without guilt. One meal or one indulgence won’t sidetrack you. By creating a structured way to look forward to a so-called sin food, you’ve created a reward system that, if kept in check, can help you stay the course the rest of the week. Not recommended: #ForgetItForeverFriday
Entering the danger zone of the weekend, develop your plan for staying on track even when social pressures make you want to stray. Do an early workout, drink lots of water before a party. It doesn’t mean you can’t indulge, but success is about managing excess. Not recommended: #SixScotchSaturday