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The Right (and Wrong) Ways to Use Social Media for Weight Loss

Welcome to the New Year: From green smoothies on Instagram (#spinachismynewbf) to booty-blasting workouts on Facebook (#thisyearIwillbreaktheinternet) to diet pacts on Twitter (#iamyourJillian), our feeds are packed with friends' resolutions to lose weight, get healthier, and get fitter. While this can be a great way to crowdsource inspiration and motivate you to make your own healthy changes, sometimes FitBooking can backfire, sparking a binge on both Ben & Jerry's and Netflix. Here, some science-backed tips to help make social media work for your healthy lifestyle.

Be a Good Sharer
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Tell people your goals and be as specific as possible. Baring it all (sometimes literally in the case of a "before" snap) can be scary, but studies have shown that the simple act of writing down a goal makes you more likely to stick to it. Sharing it with others makes you feel accountable and even more likely to follow through, researchers say.

Check Credentials
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While super-cut abs may be impressive, they're not proof of exercise expertise. These days, anyone can call themselves a "coach" or "trainer." So when you're looking for diet and fitness advice, make sure that your friend has the training, experience, and knowledge to back up their claims.

Don't Compare Yourself to Others
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Call it the curse of social media: It only takes one glance at a friend's amazing progress pictures to send you into a spiral of shame. Why can she eat whatever she wants and still look like a model? How did he qualify for the Boston Marathon? The simple truth: You're not them, they're not you, and everyone's journey to health is different. Your friends' accomplishments don't take anything away from yours and, according to a growing body of research, comparing your worst moments to their best is the fastest way to unhappiness.

Do Your Homework
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We all want to believe that a supplement or program will be the answer to all our weight woes, but do some research before jumping on the latest fad. This goes double for anything that makes specific medical claims like curing diabetes or lowering blood pressure. The National Institute of Health warns there is an epidemic of false medical information, with up to 90 percent of health claims on social media proving to be false. People love a miracle cure but, as the saying goes, if a magic diet or workout existed, Oprah would have told us.

Be a Groupie
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Finding a like-minded group can be the key to nailing those New Year's resolutions. Whether you participate in an online CrossFit forum or form a group of close friends to train for a marathon together, having a group of buddies can provide support, accountability, sympathy, resources, and information. One study found that your social group is one of the top predictors of your weight.

Start Some Friendly Competition
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Consider this the next time your old roommate posts her morning run times: People asked to hold a plank held it much longer when they were told someone else of a similar age and gender was beating them. People like to win, so use this instinct to your advantage by starting up a friendly online competition with a far away friend.

Follow the Money
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Between sneaky viral ads on Twitter, multi-level marketing schemes on Facebook, and advertorials on blogs, it can be nearly impossible to tell when someone is simply sharing information or trying to sell you something. So before you get sucked into that "free" diet challenge or workout supplement trial, read the fine print and ask direct questions. There's nothing wrong with paying for a great product, but make sure you know what you're getting for your money.

Be Positive
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The voices in your head control your actions. It may sound super creepy, but scientists say it's true. So use social media to reinforce positive thinking by not only surrounding yourself with upbeat friends, but also posting happy updates about yourself. Bonus: Showing your self-confidence will help boost others too.

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