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How to Lose Weight With Instagram, Pinterest?

Oct 04, 2013 03:52 PM EDT
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A photo shared on Instagram of a burger, fries and onion rings.
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Fad diets come and go with varying degrees of success. Now, researchers say the best way to lose weight may actually be via the popular social media tools such as Instagram and Pinterest.

Brigham Young University found that looking at too many pictures of food can actually make it less enjoyable to eat, and may even prevent viewers from wanting to eat the food in question at a later stage.

According to the researchers, they pinpoint this phenomenon to the belief that looking at pictures of what is on a plate can make people bored with their meal before they've even taken a bite. The implication for businesses and restaurants is that using social marketing tools, such as Instagram or Pinterest, to promote your food might actually have the opposite effect.

'In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food,' said study co-author and university professor Ryan Elder. 

'It's sensory boredom - you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore.'

To reveal this food-photo phenomenon, Elder and co-author Jeff Larson asked 232 people to look at and rate pictures of food.

Elder and co-author Jeff Larson, both marketing professors in BYU's Marriott School of Management, said the overexposure to food imagery increases people's satiation. In other words, the fifth bite of cake or the fourth hour of playing a video game are both less enjoyable than the first.

['If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food,' Larson said. 'Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had."

'You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects,' Elder said. 'It's not like if you look at something two or three times you'll get that satiated effect.'

In one of their studies, half of the participants viewed 60 pictures of sweet foods such as cake, truffles and chocolates, while the other half looked at 60 pictures of salty foods such as chips, pretzels and French fries.

Larson and Elder, along with University of Minnesota co-author Joseph Redden, published their findings in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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