When Roni Noone set out to lose 70 pounds, she decided to blog about the experience. Her first posts were little more than the electronic equivalent of a note tacked to the refrigerator: They charted her weigh-ins and a few simple thoughts.
Now, five years later, she's dropped all the weight and her daily web journal, Just Roni, has blossomed into an active community of over 200,000 followers. For the past three years she's hosted the annual Fitbloggin conference in her hometown of Baltimore.
Noone said her blog has played a huge part in her successful weight loss. "That simple commitment made a world of difference. Something happened. Something clicked," she said. "The goal of blogging weekly was something completely in my control. It was a conscious decision I made and I only had myself to blame if I didn't keep up with it."
Obviously, Noone isn't the only weight loss blogger out there. As the nation has grown fatter, so has the number of people who blog about being fat. Though no group appears to be keeping tabs on the weight loss blogosphere, the website fitnessblogs.org lists nearly 500 diet and weight loss related web logs, the formal term for blogs.
Most weight loss blogs consist of daily musings, concerning everything from the struggle to shed the pounds, to the frustration of hitting a plateau, to the celebration of success. Some offer recipes, surveys and links to calorie-counting sites and support groups.
The reasons people -- mostly women it seems -- begin sharing their innermost thoughts about their outermost traits are varied. Alyssa Curran started The Double Chin Diary about a year and a half ago to give herself some accountability.
"I want to share what I'm doing with my audience, no matter how big or small, and I don't want to disappoint them," she said.
Fifty-year-old Gail Gedan Spencer focuses her blog, Shrinking Sisters, on working through some of the stickier situations that arise from trying to lose fifty pounds. For instance, if she feels an evening binge coming on, she tries to reach for the keyboard instead of a snack.
"I've shifted my blog writing time to 9:00 p.m. as a way to keep my hands and brain busy during the danger zone. When I do that I'm less likely to wonder what's going on in the kitchen," she said.
Gary Foster, a psychologist who is the director of the Center for Obesity research and Education at Temple University, said he suspected a lot of people blog about their weight loss to build a sense of community and find encouragement.
"Losing weight is really tough, so the more support someone can get the better," he said. "If blogging gives you a feeling of not doing it solo, it could be really helpful."
Spencer agreed. She said when she first started blogging she knew there had to be others just like her she could inspire -- and be inspired by.
"I am 50 with 50 pounds to lose. I realized I can't be the only one out there in that situation."
Spencer now has over 250 dedicated followers. She also said many of the best diet tips she's gotten have come from other bloggers.
But Foster warned that taking advice from blogger sites has a potential downside. "What's an expert opinion or not? You may read someone else's blog and take it as a fact. At minimum it may not be helpful; at worst may be harmful."
Foster does see a definite potential upside to blogging about weight loss, though. He said writing or reading a blog could be especially helpful for anyone who has been stigmatized because of their weight.
No one knows this better than Kenlie Tiggeman, the 32-year-old political strategist who fired up the blogosphere last year after she blogged about her experience getting kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for being "too fat too fly" -- twice. By the morning after she posted her thoughts about the first incident, twitter had exploded with angry words for Southwest and her website Alltheweigh.com was flooded with messages of support. Within hours she got a call from Southwest headquarters, offering apologies and vouchers for free flights.
"I'm sure they never would have reached out unless I blogged it. That's how I got their attention," she said.