School Papers

Introduction 119.8 million American adults who would rather


In medicine, obesity is a term defined
on the basis of a mathematical formula known as the Body Mass Index (BMI) that
takes into account an individual’s height and weight. A BMI between 20 and less
than 25 is considered normal, a BMI between 25 and less than 30 is considered
overweight, and a BMI greater than 30 is considered obese. While the basic
cause of obesity is poorly understood, the process in which it comes about is
clear – being overweight involves consuming more calories than are needed to
maintain an ideal body weight.(c) In addition to that obesity is also caused by
various other factors, these include factors in a person environment, genetics,
health and medical conditions, stress emotional factors and poor sleep.

According to the Center for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), just over two thirds of American adults are
overweight, and more than one third of American adults are obese. That makes
about 78.6 million American adults. If you thought that adult obesity is where
the terrifying data ended, think again. In the last 30 years, childhood obesity
has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents! In 1980, 7% of
children and 5% of adolescents were obese, but those numbers jumped to 18% and
21% respectively by 2012. Furthermore, in 2012 one third of children and
adolescents were overweight or obese. (Strasburger, Jordan  &
Donnerstein, 2012)

According to Jacoberger (2015), 87% of
American adults are internet users, that is about 211 million people. 71% of
these people use Facebook, that is about 149.8 million American adults on
Facebook. Only 20% of these people get at least 21 minutes of exercise a day,
that leaves 119.8 million American adults who would rather sit around on
Facebook than put the phone down, get outside, and do something.

The technology industry is at its peak
—we are in a position of rapid growth and innovation of all new ways to use
technology that is transforming the way we live our daily lives. We are live in
a digital age we are so consumed by that at point in time a television station
has to shut down their programming to tell kids to go out and play! For example
the Nickelodeon TV station.  So what are we doing about the obvious link
between social media and obesity?

Although social media is a powerful tool
for learning and sharing to help in lowering body weight through social support
groups, free medical information on obesity and workout routines on social
media platforms, the constant use of social media can cause an increase in body
weight through some of its consequences such as lack of physical activity,
distracted eating, poor eating habits, poor sleeping habits and advertisements.

How social media causes weight gain
and weight loss

media can cause an increase in body weight through promoting some factors that
cause obesity. These factors are; physical inactivity, bad eating habits, poor
sleeping habits and advertisements on social media which affect an individual’s
health one way or another.

the first place is physical inactivity. Physical activity is important in
maintaining body weight and getting rid of the extra calories that the body
does not need. Some experts have linked television, video games and now social
networking with a decline in physical activity and to weight gain (Nauert
2015).As more people gain access to and carry around smartphones and other
devices wherever they go, it becomes harder to escape the internet. People are
increasingly spending their time on social media sites such as Facebook,
Twitter and Instagram. Social media can cut into time an individual might
otherwise be spending outdoors or exercising. “Time is a finite resource, so
time spent in social networking must come at the expense of other activities,”
said researcher Wendy Cousins, Ph.D. “Our study suggests that physical activity
may be one of those activities.”

Poor eating habits are another cause of
social media that leads to obesity. Today’s lifestyle promotes the development
of obesity in that the diet promoted on most social media platforms is full of
foods that are highly processed and have a lot of calories. Bad eating habits
are promoted by the way we live our lives today. These bad eating habits are;
snacking on highly processed and calorie-rich foods between meals, distracted
eating while on social media, skipping breakfasts because an individual took
time to get on social media in the morning and did not have “enough time” to
eat breakfast, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, “eating out”
frequently and “emotional eating”. Bad eating behaviours are crucial
factors for the development of obesity. Social media, gives a spirit of
competition to have more likes or follows hence an individual will go out of
their way to show off hence “eating out” more and eating highly processed foods
as most of them are considered food for the upper class in a country like
Kenya, an example of these foods is pizza.

The third cause of obesity is poor
sleeping habits. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that young
adults who spend a lot of time on social media are more likely to suffer sleep
Zimmerman’s 2008 research shows that most children and adolescents do not get
enough high-quality sleep, and that their sleep times appear to have declined
over the last two decades. Coinciding with this trend has been the rise in
popularity of new media forms including the Internet, social media and such.
According to Dr. Jason Gill, “among adults who had high genetic risk of
obesity, those who slept for under 7 hours each night were around 2 kilograms
heavier than those who slept for 7-9 hours, while adults who slept for more
than 9 hours per night were around 4 kilograms heavier.”

With television losing its relevance
 to the masses and people move into the social media platforms, so has
advertising. According to Andreyeva, Kelly and Harris (2011), the increasing
exposure to TV ads for sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks during 2002–2004
was associated with a 9.4% rise in children’s consumption of soft drinks in
2004. The same increase in exposure to fast food advertising was associated
with a 1.1% rise in children’s consumption of fast food. This shows the
increase in uptake of unhealthy foods, which is a major cause of obesity.
Pictures of to-die-for food and beverages clog the news feeds of 63 percent of
social media users ages 13 to 32. According to Dr. landa (2015), as of May
2015, #foodporn, a hashtag used to mark photos of snacks and meals, was tagged
54 million times on Instagram alone. Although you cannot reach into the screen
and make the depicted meal in real life, the mere pleasure of viewing such
tasty fare can be all it takes to stir up your appetite and compel
overindulging. Indeed, 70 percent of household meals in America are influenced
by digital media in some way, says food psychologist and researcher Brian
Wansink. According to a research published in the October 2015 issue of the
journal Brain and Cognition found that the brain undergoes dramatic
neurophysiological changes in response to food images that intensify
physiological hunger. According to the study, “external food cues, such as the
sight of appetizing food, can evoke a desire to eat, even in the absence of

Despite social media negative effects on
weight, it can be used as a tool to encourage weight loss in several ways. The
first being social media support groups. Social support is one of the most
widely used and studied approaches for inspiring behavior change in social
networks (Berkman, 2000). When people with similar interests interact to
achieve a shared goal, social support can reduce the supposed costs of embracing
a new exercise routine by providing company in the activity (Cavallo, 2014).
Further, social support eases the doubt of exploring new exercises by providing
entrance to relevant sources of peer information (Wing and Jeffery,1999).
Therefore, supportive online relationships, where people work towards the same
health goals, can raise collective efficiency for increasing everyone’s levels
of physical activity.

Social media links to tools and
technology that make it easy to keep track of an individual’s health and
fitness. These tools are often free and more preferable than going to a gym.
From MapMyRun to MyFitnessPal and other countless applications an individual
can use them for workout routines and dietary intake. These applications are
used to keep track of an individual’s own progression. If used in a social
engagement engage, the inspiration is yours for the taking. A
CNN article quotes that “social features on fitness devices play three
roles: They motivate people; the various interactions act as triggers for
action; and sharing information and tips can increase ability.”

Social media has brought with it an
increase in knowledge distribution, hence the various blogs and social media
pages on various topics one of which is obesity. There is a bevy of reports on
all kinds of online social networks to help an individual looking for
information on obesity and how to combat it. The information is readily available
and given freely to those who need it.(Cavallo,2014)


towards avoiding weight gain though social media

Time is an important factor in the
regulation of social media. As seen above time spent on social media chips away
time that could be used for exercising or getting a good night sleep. It is up
to an individual to regulate his social or her media time and invest it in
other things.

In the case of advertisements and poor
eating habits, an individual should regulate their social media feed making
sure to avoid pages that promote highly processed food and high calorie foods
with no nutritional value. Distracted eating should be avoided as it leads to
an individual eating more than is needed for his or her body. An individual
should take note of his distracted eating habits and seek to control them.


Social media left unchecked can cause a
slew of problems to an individual’s health and in this case, obesity. It is up
to an individual to look out for his social media behaviour patterns and manage
and regulate them accordingly. Social media has help in communication a lot and
changed the way we live but we cannot ignore its negative effects on our lives








1.      Strasburger,
V. C. (2011). Children, adolescents, obesity, and the media. Pediatrics,
128(1), 201-208.

2.      Zimmerman,
F. J. (2008). Children’s Media Use and Sleep Problems: Issues and Unanswered
Questions. Research Brief. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

3.      Nauert
PhD, R. (2015). Does Social Networking Limit Physical Activity?. Psych
Central. Retrieved on January 16, 2018, from

4.      Andreyeva,
T., Kelly, I. R., & Harris, J. L. (2011). Exposure to food advertising
on television: associations with children’s fast food and soft drink
consumption and obesity. Economics & Human Biology, 9(3), 221-233.

5.      Loney
S. (2016). Is Social Media Affecting Your Sleep? You’re Not Alone.” Best
Health Magazine Canada. Retrieved from

6.      Kelly
H. (2013) Fitness tools that tap the power of your friends. Retrieved

7.      Berkman
L.F., Glass T., Brissette I., Seeman T.E.(2000) From social integration to
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8.      Cavallo
D.N., Brown J.D., Tate D.F., DeVellis R.F., Zimmer C., Ammerman A.S.(2014) The
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9.      Wing
R.R., Jeffery R.W. Benefits of recruiting participants with friends and
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