If you want to lose weight, there's an app for that--actually, there
are quite a lot of them out there, ready to help you count calories, keep
track of the food you eat, and serve as your own digital cheerleader by
motivating you to improve your diet and exercise habits.
In 2014, researchers at Tulane University synthesized research from 14
previous trials of weight-loss apps, with a combined participant pool
of more than 1,300 people and study trial periods ranging from six to
12 months. They concluded that those who used mobile phone apps lost about
3 pounds more, on average, than people who didn't use the apps, and
also reduced their body mass index (BMI). The researchers also stated
that apps sending users daily texts or videos for encouragement and motivation
seemed to be the most helpful.
"Starting your day off with a text message urging you to eat well
can put you in a positive mindset for the day, and perhaps it can help
you to avoid temptation as the day moves on," says
Monica Ferguson, MD, an internal medicine physician at
St. Joseph Health Medical Group in Santa Rosa. "If you find yourself at a point where your motivation
is lagging, an affirmation or inspirational message can help get you back
Motivational messages are just one of many features weight-loss apps offer.
"The good thing about the multitude of weight-loss apps out there
is that you have a good chance of finding something that works for you;
however, narrowing down your choices can be overwhelming," Dr. Ferguson says.
Here are some tips to keep in mind before you download an app:
Figure out how the app can best work for you. "If there is an area you struggle with when it comes to diet, find
an app that helps you make the changes you need to lose weight,"
Dr. Ferguson says. "For instance, if you want to track and cut back
on the calories you eat each day, an app that lets you keep a food journal
that calculates calories will be helpful. If you are trying to figure
out how to incorporate healthier foods into your meals, an app that compiles
grocery lists and provides recipes can make the difference between success
and failure. And if you want to increase your fitness workouts, some food-based
weight-loss apps come with amenities such as a pedometer to count your
steps or an activity tracker."
Know the costs. There are lots of free apps you can download, and it's a great way
to test if a weight-loss app is right for you. But Dr. Ferguson recommends
reading reviews and descriptions of the app to see what the in-app costs
are. "It can be frustrating to find an app for free or at a low cost,
only to find out there are premium features you want that cost more, or
there's a monthly fee. Figuring that out in advance ensures you don't
waste time with a product that ultimately doesn't meet your needs."
Get some support. "There are some weight-loss apps out there that include access to
online support communities, which can be beneficial," Dr. Ferguson
says. "Members of these groups can share success stories, help each
other through plateaus or struggles, and serve as a source of accountability."
Another source of accountability: apps that let you share your progress
with your followers on social media.
Keep it simple. "You want an app you can seamlessly integrate into your life,"
Dr. Ferguson says. " If you're tech savvy and can handle all
the bells and whistles an app can provide, that's great, but if too
much tech prevents you from using the app to its fullest, it won't
help you in the long run. A weight-loss app won't work if you never
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.