Turns out, ‘gramming your avocado toast has benefits not only for your Instagram feed, but for your health, too.
According to a study from the University of Washington, Instagram is actually an ideal food tracking tool, providing both accountability and a sense of community to its users who regularly record their meals on the photo sharing app. Researchers interviewed 16 participants from the US and UK who use Instagram to support their healthy eating and/or fitness goals, asking them about their preference for the app over other tracking methods, the role Instagram plays in supporting their health goals, and their interaction with other users.
The focus group cited accountability as a huge pro of using the app. Keeping a record of food provides a visual diary that’s also accessible to the larger Instagram community. And since Instagram has grown to a community of over 700 million users since its 2010 debut, there is no shortage of people to turn to for support.
“It makes me feel like I'm then around other people that feel the same, that have the same goals as me, and it can support me in that; whereas I don't particularly have that with my friends and family just because they're not particularly interested anymore,” explained one participant.
The study also found that thanks to hashtags like #fooddiary and #foodjournal, those using the app specifically as a means of recording their meals (as opposed to others who just want to post an aesthetically pleasing photo of a latte every now and then) can find specific communities of people following a similar meal or diet plan.
But why choose Instagram over other fitness tracking apps or even physical journaling? The participants’ results varied, with some stating that it was more socially acceptable to take a quick photo at a restaurant than other methods. Others simply think Instagram is more interesting than its alternatives.
“I think the fact that Instagram is much more visually stimulating [than MyFitnessPal], really makes the people more real, or it makes the goals more real,” said one participant.
The researchers hope their findings will prove useful for those developing tools that support healthy behaviors. According to the study, applying the benefits of Instagram (like its social support system and ease of use) to other health tracking tools has the potential to help even more people achieve their fitness and diet goals.
So for those of us who take five minutes at brunch to snap a strategically-angled photo of pancakes, don’t feel bad. If anyone tries to make fun of you, at least you have a rebuttal ready: It’s for health.
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