Let’s start with the embarrassment part. I was too embarrassed to tweet my starting weight, so I just called it F (for Fat—the truth being I was close to my highest weight ever). And while I was honest about tweeting everything I ate, the public aspect of Twitter motivated me not to eat less or differently but to focus on entertaining my 1,300 followers with my dieting mishaps.
Rather than issue a snore-inducing update like “Snuck two Doritos—oops,” I kept dreaming up more interesting tweets:
Walked to deli for roast-beef sandwich. Felt like Jared.
Succumbed to bowl of crack, uh, I mean Phish Food. Ben & Jerry belong in jail.
Like keeping any food journal, writing my tweets made me aware of certain patterns; one was named Ben & Jerry’s. Yes, I was downing too much ice cream, as well as stuff like grilled cheese and french fries. Problem was, tweeting about them wasn’t enough to make me stop eating them.
On Twitter I adopted the persona of the jolly fat girl who thumbs her nose at the world. This may have reduced any chance I had of attracting earnest but possibly effective support or weight-loss advice from my followers. According to Stelter (@brianstelter25, now with 1,900 followers), he greatly benefited from the responses to his tweets, but I knew it wouldn’t work that way for me. I was too skeptical. Why should I care what tips I received from @hotchick41? She could have been a 370-pound guy.
Defensive much? Well, yeah. Underneath my bravado, I’d hoped—just a little—that the Twitter Diet would magically transform my eating habits, but that didn’t happen. Did this diet method help at all? Well, Twitter shame may have prevented me from eating 14 cookies instead of three, but to lose weight, I should have been eating twigs and berries. Couldn’t I have turned twigs and berries into Twitter fodder? No. I can’t be funny when I’m in pain. And why suffer when Twitter was supposed to do all the work?
What Stelter’s piece didn’t mention was that if you’re going to lose weight via Twitter, you need to follow an actual diet plan such as Weight Watchers or Atkins, says Rebecca Regnier, a TV anchorwoman in Toledo, Ohio, who two years ago lost 20 pounds via Twitter (handle: @laughitoff).
“Twitter is a way to take the plan that you have and amp it up,” says Regnier, whose Twitter Diet guidance is now available on her website, Does This Blog Make Us Look Fat?. Unlike me, Regnier made the most of having online followers. “They are there at 2 am when you’re in danger of eating something that you shouldn’t,” she says, “and they provide 24/7 feedback and support—more than you can get from a weekly meeting.”
Unlike Stelter and Regnier, I was turned off rather than motivated by encouragement from strangers, and public humiliation was less effective for me than a long look in the mirror. And so, at the one-month mark, just when Stelter says he was getting the hang of dropping pounds via Twitter, I quit. Not only hadn’t I lost any weight, but I had gained: I was now clocking in at F + 2.
But my Twitter Diet wasn’t a total, uh, loss. It made me conscious of how badly I was eating and helped me resolve to find a weight-loss method better suited to my personality. Know thyself is always good advice, and in this case here’s what I know: Unlike Brian Stelter, I am not going to outfit my bathroom with a scale that will automatically tweet my weight to the world (Withings Wifi Body Scale, $159 on amazon.com). Frankly, I’d rather live-stream my sex life. But I did sign on for a sixth round of Weight Watchers, headed back to the gym and for good measure asked my doctor for weight-loss help. My current thinking is, the more tactics at my disposal, the better. But you’re not going to catch me tweeting about any of them.