There’s an App For That
It’s becoming more and more clear that when it comes to weight loss or living a healthier life, calorie restriction isn’t a sustainable solution. Neither is counting carbohydrates, intermittent fasting or keeping yourself from eating certain foods. Positive health behaviors have a greater impact on sustainable changes and your overall wellbeing. These behaviors include getting regular movement, having a healthy relationship with food, not spending too much time on screens (TV, smartphones, computers, tablets), getting a good nights rest and caring for your mental health. Because of this, if you’re looking for a way to improve your health, you should focus on behavior change rather than tracking, counting, or measuring food.
With the Coronavirus lockdown and ever changing technology development, the way people access resources is changing. What used to be in-person services like health care, coaching, exercise, etc. can sometimes now be done online. As of 2019, there were already over 318,000 health apps available, with 200 or so coming to the market everyday. However, when it comes to making changes to improve health, many of these apps still put the focus on logging food intake, counting calories, and defining foods as “good” and “bad”. Data shows that focusing on health behaviors is a more sustainable solution to meeting your goals, and there are some apps that can help you with that:
Eat Right Now: Designed to help individuals overcome emotional eating, overeating, and binge eating by increasing awareness around cravings and emotions that may be driving certain food choices.
- Wellory: This claims to be “anti-diet”, and pairs you with a nutrition coach for one on one counseling. After a 30 minute call, you message daily and send pictures of food for feedback.
- Don’t Break the Chain: A motivational based behavior change app that encourages you to keep try to achieve steps towards a goal. Unlike the others, this app isn’t directly health related but allows you to set goals around any type of behavior change you’d like to achieve.
- Done: A habit tracking app that allows you to set goal and see how well you’re doing on them. It claims to help build good habits while breaking new ones through daily tracking and progress updates in a colorful interface.
And while it’s helpful to have app options that don’t focus on tracking and logging food, it’s important to keep a couple things in mind when considering any type of health coaching or goal setting app:
- Being on your phone often can negatively affect your wellbeing.
Blue light, a UV ray emitted from electronic devices, can have a negative impact on your sleep, which will impact your body in a variety of ways. Thus, while using an app to help with health interventions may seem convenient, it can actually be counter intuitive.
- Working with a professional, not an app, can lead to more sustainable behavior changes. While an app will likely try to use algorithms to look for patterns to target, it won’t be able to take the same type of individualized approach that a clinician with years of experience will. Additionally, having someone you can speak with, and who can really support you throughout the process of behavior change (which is one of the most difficult things to do) is important. This could be a therapist, dietitian, or other medical provider.
- Lastly, and maybe most importantly, weight loss should not be the focus of health behavior change apps. If an app claims to focus on health behaviors, it shouldn’t also ask you to track your calories or count your macros.
So, are there apps out there that help people make positive changes in their behavior? Yes, plenty! But will they be the right one for you? It’s hard to say! If you’re really interested in working on behavior change, it might be worth making an appointment with a health care provider to get their input on your situation before turning to an app.