Translational Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 287–294 | Cite as

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-McGrievyEmail author
  • Deborah F Tate
Original Research


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 



The authors would like to thank Alaina Boyle, Jordan Wong, and Megan McMullins for their assistance with coding the messages in the study. In addition, the authors thank the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Population Sciences Award and the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Center (NIHM 5-T32-MH75854-05) for providing funding for this research.

Conflicts of interest

The authors have no financial disclosures.


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Copyright information

© Society of Behavioral Medicine 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabrielle M Turner-McGrievy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Deborah F Tate
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Behavior and Education, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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