Tip: The Case for Gym Selfies

They can get annoying to other people sometimes, but science says they can also help you get lean. Check it out.

Share Your Goal or Just Shut Up?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to setting and reaching a goal:

  1. The first says to share that goal with people because that makes you more accountable. Accountability is huge, and a big part of the reason why people hire trainers and diet coaches. So that makes sense.
  2. The second says that telling everyone about your goal can backfire because of something called a "premature sense of completeness." That means you get a feeling of satisfaction just from declaring your goals when you haven't actually done the work yet. Satisfaction isn't exactly the feeling you want to have BEFORE you've reached your goal.

Both schools of thought are correct because it comes down to the individual. Both methods work depending on your personality type.

Now a new study says that the former – sharing your goals – works very well, but there's a slight twist. This method works better in "virtual support communities."

The Study

A study published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing looked at the role of virtual communities and fat loss goals. Researchers found that "individuals are more likely to achieve success with such goals when they make a public commitment to achieving them."

So instead of telling their families, friends, and coworkers, the people in the two groups studied (groups with surgical and non-surgical weight loss goals) went public but remained semi-anonymous over the internet. Think Facebook groups, Instagram posts etc. The study lasted for four years.

The participants not only reported their achievements by posting things like progress photos and "before and afters," they also reported their struggles and setbacks. Motivation increased as did accountability. As the researchers noted, "...social identity motivates public commitment in support of goal attainment."

What This Means to You

Virtual support communities work. If you're trying to build muscle, lose fat, or set a new PR, you'll be more likely to do it by finding a like-minded group on the internet and going semi-public with your intentions. Then, use that community to discuss your achievements and failures.

And maybe it also means that we shouldn't be too tough on all those people sneaking in a selfie at the gym. It could be the very thing that's keeping them on track. (Just don't take those selfies right smack in the middle of the free weights area, okay?)

If you aren't too comfortable sharing your progress photos on social media, head over to the T Nation Forum. You'll find thousands of people who share your goals that will cheer you on, offer advice, and maybe kick you in the butt when you really need it. And we all need that sometimes.


  1. Tonya Williams Bradford, Sonya A. Grier, Geraldine Rosa Henderson. Weight Loss Through Virtual Support Communities: A Role for Identity-based Motivation in Public Commitment. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 2017; 40: 9 DOI: 10.1016/j.intmar.2017.06.002
Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram