One of the hardest parts of losing weight is eating healthy. User-friendly weight loss mobile apps can be a great tool to manage eating habits for participants of weight management programs or for individuals wanting to lose weight on their own.
Health apps provide institutions offering disease management or wellness programs an opportunity to improve the program effectiveness at a lower or no cost. The institutional dilemma described by Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody, occurs because institutions/programs have to expend resources to manage resources. The larger the institution the greater the costs. Certain activities may have some value but not enough to make them worth pursuing in an organized way. For example, a weight management program can leverage the use of existing health apps to track meals instead of developing its own website meal tracking tool which will require more management, time and money.
Existing weight loss apps make it easier for the participant to track meals, health goals and it also helps the health coach/trainer in providing more effective and specific feedback on their nutrition. It is easier to keep a food diary in your phone than to keep it in on a notebook or piece of paper you are likely to lose. You may not take a pen and journal to a restaurant but you will always have your phone. Mobile health apps offer an alternative option to keeping a food log for those on-the-go and not wanting to do this process manually. Most of the existing apps don’t require you to be technical savvy to use them and as an added bonus many of them are free.
As a telephonic care manager in a weight management program I found MyFitnessPal app really helped participants keep track of their daily caloric intake. It also had a tremendous impact on their behavior (increase accountability) making them more mindful of the food they were eating knowing the food will be logged and they had to share it with me. Sharing information from these apps is very easy as majority of the apps allow the user to e-mail progress reports.
I am promoting the use of these apps with participants having chronic conditions especially those with diabetes. The following is a list of popular apps for wellness or disease management programs to inform participants on or to adapt as part of their program requirements. What I really like is that the apps are also available in Spanish and in many other languages.
MyFitnessPal: This app is a top pick of both PC Magazine and Wired. It incorporates the two weight loss essentials: diet and exercise. Its massive database of more than three million foods lets you track the calories, fat, carbs, and cholesterol. This app has many easy to use features including a calorie counter that adds calories when you select the food items you ate during that day and subtracts calories according to the amount of exercise you input. Users get meal logging reminders and gives daily/weekly/monthly reports on exercise and nutrients. Furthermore, you can scan the food item and it will save the information for future logs. The app also offers more than 350 cardio and strength training exercises. More information on how to use this app on the iPhone here .
Diet Assistant – Weight Loss: Diet Assistant makes it much easier to watch what you eat. Enter in your target weight and the app will design a meal plan to get you there. It will create a daily menu, along with detailed shopping lists, to make supermarket trips stress- and hassle-free! More information on how to download and use this app: iPhone or Android
Lose It!: Lose It simplifies weight loss by designing a custom plan for you, then tracking your calories and exercise. On the way to weight loss, you can also challenge yourself to achieve other goals, such as sleeping better, trimming body fat, or eating a more nutritious diet. The app is designed so you don’t have to go it alone. Its groups and one-on-one connect features help you get support from friends and fellow dieters in the program.
Clay Shirky (2008). Here Comes Everybody. Penguin Books, New York.