As technology changes, so do the ways in which we receive information, provide information and interact with one another. The exchange of social support is increasingly mediated by technology in the realm of health, nutrition, and fitness (Dahl, et al 2015; Wright et al 2011). Commercial weight loss and healthy lifestyle initiatives such as the Beachbody programs incorporate social media and web applications to reach a broader consumer base with individualized programming options. The present study, guided by optimal matching theory and the helper theory principle, employed online participant-observation and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Beachbody coaches and participants to investigate how these individuals perceived social support to be enacted in these programs as well as the perceived benefits and challenges of participating in these online groups. The interview transcripts were coded using thematic analysis to identify significant topics based on Owen's (1984) process of identifying recurrence, repetition, and forcefulness. Major benefits for participants included accountability, around the clock access to feedback, and access to a wide range of information. Noted challenges included the lack of personal connection and a need to maintain face-to-face relationships, difficulty sustaining motivation, and financial concerns. Cultivating a genuine feeling of community to facilitate open discussion and sharing was often inconsistent and a challenge to maintain throughout the duration of the program. This study aims to expand our understanding of social support in the context of online fitness and nutrition programs with potential to guide further research in technology-mediated support and how it may affect health. By broadening our understanding of the benefits of online support and how individuals have overcome its challenges in this context, it may help provide direction for the development of future research and similar online health initiatives.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Community Innovation and Education
Communication; Interpersonal Communication
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Davies, Brittany, "Help Me Be Healthy: Perceptions of Social Support in an Online Weight Loss Program" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6401.