Original Research

Translational Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 287-294

First online:

Weight loss social support in 140 characters or less: use of an online social network in a remotely delivered weight loss intervention

  • Gabrielle M Turner-McGrievyAffiliated withDepartment of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina Email author 
  • , Deborah F TateAffiliated withDepartment of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel HillDepartment of Health Behavior and Education, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Little is known about how online social networking can help enhance weight loss. To examine the types of online social support utilized in a behavioral weight loss intervention and relationship of posting and weight loss. A sub-analysis of the content and number of posts to Twitter among participants (n = 47) randomized to a mobile, social network arm as part of a 6-month trial among overweight adults, examining weight loss, use of Twitter, and type of social support (informational, tangible assistance, esteem, network, and emotional support). A number of Twitter posts were related to % weight loss at 6 months (p < 0.001). Initial reported weight loss predicted engagement with Twitter (p < 0.01) but prior Twitter use or initial Twitter engagement did not. Most Twitter posts (total posts n = 2,630) were Informational support (n = 1,981; 75 %), with the predominant subtype of Teaching (n = 1,632; 62 %), mainly in the form of a status update (n = 1,319). Engagement with Twitter was related to weight loss and participants mainly used Twitter to provide Information support to one another through status updates.


Social support Weight loss Social media eHealth Mobile health