Tech & Health

September 21, 2020

Throwing weight around on the internet

What users mention in online weight loss forum tracks with how much weight they lose.

by Paul Govern

Reddit’s r/loseit is aonline forum for people trying to lose weightIn the Journal of Medical Internet Research, a study oposts to the forum by Zhijun Yin, PhD, and a colleague reveals online interactions and offline activities associated with weight loss.  

Using topic modeling, word semantic clustering and regression analysis, the researchers analyzed 477,904 posts published by 7,660 users who revealed their start weight, current weight and goal weight, and were active in the forum for at least 30 days. 

Greater weight loss was associated with mentions of nutrition, exercise, Xbox video games and negative emotions prior to initiation of weight loss, as well as with start weight, active days on the forum and more votes and comments from the community. Less weight loss was associated with mentions of vacationsexpenses, employment status and family members. 

Weight loss interventions based on existing online platforms should focus on both offline activities and online interactions, the authors conclude.

Yin was joined in the study by Yang Liu, MSc, of Changchun Normal University in China.