While a healthy diet and exercise are important, it turns out that posting selfies could help you lose weight too.

Nobody better exemplifies this theory than Gina Licata, who has 15,000 followers on Instagram. She has been tracking her weight loss journey of exercise and health food by taking plenty of gym pictures and before and after shots, and she says it seems to be working – she has lost a third of her body weight, 80 pounds, in a year and a half.

Speaking to CBS in America, Licata said: "At first I didn't really tell a lot of people in my personal life about it, it was just strangers on the internet.

Explaining why she started posting so many selfies on Instagram, she added: "I just wanted to hold myself accountable and be sort of a member of this community and just have that support. It helps me think, like well you know, I should get this workout in because then I'll have something to post to Instagram."

Recent research in the Journal of Interactive Marketing backed up the idea that taking selfies and sharing them with an online community can help weight loss.

Dr. Sonya A Grier, professor of marketing at the American University's Kogod School of Business, said: "The sharing of intimate information and photos about weight loss goals in virtual space is a key factor in motivating behaviours that fulfil that new thinner identity and thus helps people reach their goals."

Grier said that whatever people chose to share in their online community, whether their old "before" photos as motivation or their current milestones, they had relative anonymity, accessibility, availability and flexibility, which overall helped them stay motivated and accountable.

The study followed two communities of weight loss groups, both surgical and non-surgical, over the course of four years and found that participation in online support communities and sharing successes and setbacks was a key part of achieving weight goals.

"Not everyone can get the support they need from the people they interact with in person on a daily basis. It is helpful that technology can support community building and goal achievement in virtual spaces," Grier said, according to Science Daily.