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The Social Diet

By Hayet Rida, senior strategic planner, FCB Chicago  

One month ago, I stood before a jam-packed room and told my story. The story started with an image. An image of me smiling nervously from a hospital bed four years before.  I nervously glanced over at the photograph of my former self and, with inexplicable confidence, I began.

Four years ago, morbidly obese and unhealthy, I faced one of the scariest moments in my life. I was diagnosed with gallstones and had to have an operation. As I lay in the bed, I made a promise to myself that if I made it through this episode I would change my life. I lost over 40 pounds post-surgery, but just as quickly as I succeeded, I failed. Two years later, fed up with the situation of my life, I decided to take on the weight-loss journey one more time.

A planner once said to me, when you want to hold yourself accountable for something, you put it on social media. Then you have to do it. Thinking back, I don’t think she thought I would take her advice so literally, but her wise words resulted in the hashtag #hayetisonadiet.

All around us, we see people losing weight. From TV to the newsstands, we hear success stories of Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson and, even recently, Graham Elliot. As inspiring as those stories were to me, they fell short of the reality of weight loss. They didn’t show the late-night struggles or the ups and downs. They didn’t even explain how they lost the weight! This frustration was the fuel that led me to take my then-250 Instagram followers on a real journey of weight loss.

For months, I posted gym selfies, healthy recipes, selfies of me drinking crazy-but-yummy smoothies and glimpses into everything else that was a part of the journey. Sometimes I felt like I was speaking to myself. But that never stopped me – this may not come as a surprise, but talking about myself felt rewarding.

And without warning, as the number of followers increased, amazing comments began to emerge.

‘You inspire me,’ ‘I went to the gym today because of you’ and ‘I started eating healthy because of you.’

I never imagined I would actually start to inspire women all over. Others like me had begun the journey confused and uncertain.

1,600 followers later – plus a CNN feature, brand recognition and thousands of ‘Likes’ –  I am proud to say that social media and its sometimes-scary pressure helped me change my life. I am leading the way for people, total strangers, both similar to and different from me, to lead a healthier life.”

As I wrapped up my 30-minute tale of a four-year story, I retreated for a minute into my thoughts. I slowly realized that the audience was a physical representation of my everyday social media life. We stand before friends, strangers and colleagues, telling our stories with a sliver of hope that we can affect someone’s life.

You can follow Hayet's journey on Instagram @hayetrida.