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Looking at photos online can change the way you eat

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Having grown up really never having to worry about her weight, Stoneboro native Erin Bridgen was caught off guard when she realized, like millions of other Americans have realized, adulthood isn't very kind to our metabolism.

"Stuff started not to fit and I didn't want to go to the beach. Just normal things you should be doing when your 25, 26, 27," Erin  said.

Having packed on nearly 30 pounds to her 5'4'' frame over a five year span, Erin topped the scales at 148 pounds. An unflattering photo she saw of herself is what ended up motivating her to make a change.

"I saw myself running and I was like, 'Holy crap, I look big,'" Erin said.

That power of a picture is what turned Erin to Instagram, an online photo sharing site.  She began using it to follow people who had transformed their own bodies. She also used it to look for healthy recipes and workouts, gaining inspiration, with just a flick of a wrist, for a journey all her own.

"So, when I wake up and start out by looking at stuff like that it makes me ready for the day," Erin said.

The photos have even helped her ward off cravings.

"I looked up pasta of some sort and I was like, 'Oh wow, that looks really good,' and I was scrolling through all of the images and then by the end of the page, which is 100 pictures, I was like, 'It looks really good, but I don't have to have it,'" she said.

And that's exactly what a study out of Brigham Young University has found. When people look at too many pictures of food, it can actually make the food less enjoyable. Because it takes looking at least 60 images to feel that way, Humility of Mary Health Partners registered dietitian Cindy Heslop doesn't suggest relying on photo sharing sites for that.  Instead, she suggests using it how Erin mainly has, for motivation.

"It is going to cue them every time they look at that, to want to mimic or look like that person or want to eat those foods and that's another tool that we use in our weight loss classes," Heslop said.

A seemingly effective weight loss tool that's not only helped Erin drop 20 pounds, but one that's allowing her to document her journey and hopefully inspire others to make healthier choices.

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