Connections: The Humiliation Diet

     Because one of my friends wants to lose a lot of weight and recently asked whether I had any recommendations about how he should go about it, I’ve been thinking about diets.  We had discussed counting calories and the Weight Watchers system of food points, but I had seen a new documentary called “Page One: Inside The New York Times” and knew that Brian Stelter, a reporter, had lost 90 pounds in a relatively short time. The question was, how had he done it? The answer was easy to find.
    Mr. Stelter, a former TV blogger, was hired as The Times’s new media reporter in 2007, shortly after graduating from college. “For me,” he subsequently wrote, “Twitter is an early warning system for breaking news, a tool for interacting with readers, and a great way to promote and improve our work.” It comes as no surprise, then, that he lost weight the digital way.
    If Twitter posts helped spur the Arab Spring, using it to lose weight should be a breeze.
    In March 2010, Mr. Stelter let it be known on Twitter that he was going on a diet. His first goal was to lose 25 pounds by his 25th birthday. Five months later, in an article in The Times, he explained his thinking, and the results.
    Rather than blog about dieting, join Weight Watchers, or keep a diary, Mr. Stelter chose to Tweet what he ate, and sometimes what he drank, along with his weight. It took him a while to make it known publicly that his weight as he started was 270 pounds, but he lost 25 pounds in two months and, by August 2010, he had lost 75 pounds and was proud of it.
    On Twitter, he accumulated a big audience. Strangers across the country Tweeted him. He had wanted the “help of a cheering section,” he said later, and he found one. “You’re ruining pastries for me with this Twitter feed, Bri,” a friend said.
    Mr. Stelter acknowledged that he wasn’t the first person to divulge his weight on the Internet. (Drew Magary, a writer for Deadspin, a Web site that puts an irreverent spin on sports news, for example, had blogged about his “Public Humiliation Diet.”)  Mr. Stelter, however, also decided to give the world images of himself as he lost weight, using a short-form-blog platform — which I didn’t know anything about until now — called Tumblr. Anyone who wants to see a collage of his photos can do so there
    The biggest hurdle, he said, was admitting the truth after a long evening of drinking or a late-night pizza binge. With the aid of the “Page One” film, he is now a media celebrity. It has been widely reported that he is dating a CNBC anchor, Nicole Lapin. Gawker, the online gossip site and newsmagazine — which usually has particularly sarcastic things to say about the media and publishing world, and can be just short of nasty — took aim at him about a month ago.
    “So there you have it,” Gawker said. “Brian Stelter lost a bunch of weight and is starring in a movie, and now he has a famous girlfriend. He also seems to be wearing decent clothes. How long before he quits journalism entirely? You don’t belong here, Brian.”
    The screening of “Page One” at Guild Hall tomorrow night — with the film’s director, Andrew Rossi, The Times’s outgoing executive editor, Bill Keller, and the columnist David Carr taking part in a question-and-answer session afterward — is sold out. Brian Stelter is not expected to attend, but I’m sure he’d be looking fabulous if he did.