Using mobile apps to manage your weight loss goals
My smartphone earned its place at the top of my list of favorite things when I used it to keep a food diary during a month-long weight loss challenge with a few of my friends in the Spring. Normally, I would be turned off at the idea of jotting down everything I ate, but research has shown that keeping track of what you eat leads to greater weight loss. And during the challenge I found that using my phone was really helpful in tracking the calories I ate and the calories I burned, which is half the battle of weight loss- burning more calories than you consume.
When we started talking about the challenge, I initially felt one month wasn’t enough time. But my friends convinced me that it would be fun to do for the moral support, results aside. My friend suggested using the MyFitnessPal app as a way to monitor our progress. After putting in my weight, height, and goal weight, the app gave me a daily calorie count to meet that goal. It was pretty easy to keep a food diary, too, because my new Pal took care of the math for me. I just selected the foods I ate from the database of food items, with calorie, fat and carb totals pre-calculated, after each meal.
Adding in the calories I burned was pretty easy, too. For every time I went on a run, I just entered the length of the run and about how fast I was going to get a total of calories burned. Granted, all of these are estimates, but seeing these numbers helped me become more aware of how I should choose what I eat throughout the day.
At the end of the month, I lost around eight pounds. I will add that I was also training for a half-marathon at the time, which probably had something to do with that number. But by keeping a food diary, I developed an awareness for the foods I should be careful about- like dairy foods that can sometimes be high in fat- and this has been useful to me months later. When looking back on the challenge, the friend that originally suggested using an app says that using the food and exercise diary helped her realize that she was eating too much of the right foods and that she over-estimated how many calories she burned during her long walks.
As with anything, results can vary and you should always approach weight loss in a way that you think is most practical for you. But if you’re interested in starting your own fitness challenge, here are some mobile apps that may be useful to you. They’re all available to both iPhone and Android users:
Diet Point- This app has a lot of diet plans that you can choose from and provides grocery shopping lists to accompany them. However, some of the diet plans are fad diets or one-week plans, which I would be cautious about. Users can take advantage of discussion forums on the app’s home site.
Fooducate- Using this app at the grocery store can be very helpful in choosing healthier alternatives to your favorite snack foods. Simply scan the bar code of what you’re buying. Fooducate ranks food on a grading system based on the quality of the ingredients. Though this app doesn’t have a social network component, there is a blog you can follow for nutrition tips.
Lose It!- With Lose It!, you can create spreadsheets of your calorie consumption and exercise to really see how your diet is working. Like MyFitnessPal, this app lets you and your friends in your Lose It! social network support each other through newsfeed updates.
The social network aspect of these apps isn’t just for frills either. Working towards your fitness goals with others can be beneficial, according to a study by researchers at The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Participants who worked toward weight loss goals in a team setting showed significant weight loss when working in a group. Being part of a weight loss group makes you more aware of reporting back positive results and provides a support system during tougher days. Talking with others trying to lose weight also gives you the chance to share tips and experiences.
Found any other weight loss apps out there that work for you? Leave a comment and let us know!