Social Media Diet: The Power of Community for Weight Loss
Posted by MrHooker
Last New Year’s I got on the scale and it said a number I wasn’t familiar with. I was 12 pounds away from hitting the perfect bowling score and knew something had to happen. I had experimented with various diets, challenges, etc, but they only seemed to work for the short term. I looked around the web and the Austin area for some sort of group to join, but knew I also do best when facing some sort of competition. When the result of my search for a group quickly became futile, I decided to take action.
I started a Facebook group of friends with similar goals and made a list of rules. The CenTex Weight Loss challenge was up and running with 15 people throwing $50 dollars into the pool with the top three “biggest losers” percentage-wise wunning a share of the prize pool. It lasted 12 weeks and the results were amazing! The combination of competition and companionship via the Facebook group motivated me to lose 15% of my 288 pound frame. I was excited by the results but disturbed at the ending when the final 4 people (including myself) went on an unhealthy fast the last week to win 1st place. (I finished third for the record with my sister-in-law winning 1st)
Out of 15 participants we lost a total of 285.4 pounds. As incredible as that was, there were some other parts of the competition that didn’t sit well with me. My sister (yes, the infamous Anita) actually lost 12% of her weight, but because of the rules, didn’t win a dime. Others who felt like they didn’t have a chance at winning dropped out with a few weeks to go. I wanted to design a competition that would keep everyone in it. So a month later I started the “Summer 10 Challenge.”
The Summer 10 Challenge wasn’t a competition, it was a goal-driven challenge with 10% loss being the ultimate goal. This time 24-people joined the challenge including a few carry-overs from the Spring challenge. Again, the buy-in was $50 only this time you were guaranteed your money back if you lost 10% of your starting weight by the final weigh-in 12 weeks later. As a bonus, everyone over the 10% line also won an even share of everyone else’s buy-in. With the competition element out of it and the parody that is summer schedules, I found myself less motivated. I kept waiting to kick it into high gear and figured I could make 10% without any issue since I had lost 15% before. I was WAY wrong on that assumption. Interestingly enough, even with more people in the competition, the average weight loss was no where near the spring. We lost as a group 210 pounds and even more people ended up not participating whatsoever by about the half-way point.
The Summer 10 Challenge being a bust, I decided my days of running these were at an end. I struggled getting weights from competitors and posting our weekly graph which I think affected the challenge and everyone’s motivation. In the Fall, a fellow competitor offered to take the reigns and organize a Fall challenge.
We added some more tweaks to the Fall challenge to keep people involved. We added a “5% clause” for competitors that lost 5% of their weight and remained active in the community, they would get half of their $50 back. We extended the challenge from 12 weeks to 16 weeks so people could lose their 10% more efficiently and effectively. We even put in a bonus 10% to whomever lost the most weight. With 20 competitors, the tweaks seemed to work as we lost a higher average weight than the summer. I did much better but still couldn’t motivate myself to get up to the 10% line. It seems that direct competition is the biggest motivator for me when it comes to weight loss. Here’s a chart of the results of all three challenges:
I’m sharing this story with you because, while the results were mixed, I still lost weight. I ended the year down 40 pounds from my starting weight and had won a net total of $20 dollars. More importantly than that, 59 people took place in 3 competitions and lost a total of 692.4 pounds. That’s almost the equivalent of losing this monster 700-pound iPod Dock. It proved to me that with a community of support and a little healthy competition, anyone can be motivated to get into better shape. I also found tremendous success when I logged my exercise and weight in the MyFitnessPal app religiously.
With 30 pounds to go to my ultimate goal, I’m heading into a new challenge for 2014 (this one run by Summer 10 winner Jennifer Flood) that I hope will get me motivated to lose that remaining weight. As we continued to struggle with drop-outs, she’s adding some “mini-challenges” throughout the competition to keep people on track. While 10% is still the goal to winning your money back, she’s added a “Top 5″ group that wins more money based on ranking. She even through in a $25 “In It To WIN it” side-pot built specifically for competitive nuts like me that need that extra edge. Here are a copy of the rules for anyone that wants to join (deadline Friday, January 10) or if you want to start your own group and don’t know where to start.
The challenge begins today and while I’m not certain what the future holds, I know that leveraging social media to create a community of common goals has had a powerful impact on my health. Even though I didn’t “win” any of the challenges, I did win by getting in better shape. I hope this post inspires others to create their own groups using whatever social media means necessary and in turn, helps someone else “win” when it comes to personal health.