Selfies have such a bad reputation: not only have they been linked to promoting bad body image, they may also be a sign of narcissism. That's why it's refreshing to hear of at least one woman out there using selfies to make a healthy change.
Eva Rut Gunnlaugsdottir, the 35-year-old mom of Reykjavik, Iceland, made headlines last week when the New York Post said her 110-pound weight loss was fueled by self-taken photos she posted to her Facebook and Instagram.
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"I posted the first one almost as a joke," she told Central European News. "I felt really bad about myself and looked bad and I felt if I could start to see the change it might help me to carry on. But in fact I was also so embarrassed about the images that it was something that made me determined to carry on."
Gunnlaugsdottir says she's struggled with her weight since she was a teen. By the time the 35-year-old started sharing Facebook selfies, she was at 268 pounds and had an unhealthy relationship with food.
"For me, food was a drug," Gunnlaugsdottir says. "After I had my children almost seven years ago, I completely lost control of everything and put on quite a lot of weight."
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Though maintaining a good diet was hard at first, Gunnlaugsdottir credits her social circle for helping her stay on track. In fact, it was family and friends who suggested the idea of sharing the before-and-after shots on Facebook. By the next year, she had shed more than 100 pounds.
Research has shown that having a supportive network can go a long way in keeping up with weight loss goals. A 2014 study in Health Affairs found that people who relied on social networking sites to shed pounds saw a significant decrease in body mass index.
More recently, a study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface also found that online weight management programs can be helpful the more connected you are. Highly-engaged dieters who logged in regularly and friended other users on CalorieKing lost more than 8% of their body weight in six months. Users who weren't as connected lost 5% of their body weight in the same time.
The idea here is that sharing weight-loss photos on sites like Facebook or Instagram forces you to be more pro-active. If people you're close with see you're trying to lose weight, it makes you more accountable to actually work toward your goal. In Gunnlaugsdottir's case, seeing people cheer her on was a big motivator.
Though she initially found her photos embarrassing, Gunnlaugsdottir has grown to appreciate how they helped her make a change.
"I still find it painful to look at the first few selfies from last year,” she admits. “But I always feel better looking at the end of the year."