Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How Your Smartphone Can Help You Lose Weight

Contributed by  Betsey Miller, CRNP, PinnacleHealth Medical Group

Think about the things you do every day with your Smart phone…you might update your Facebook status, text a friend, check the score of the ballgame, play Words with Friends, check the latest headlines or check the weather forecast.   The truth is, the possibilities are endless.  But did y
ou know your Smartphone can help you lose weight?   It’s true – “there’s an app for that.”  In fact, your smartphone is the perfect tool to help you get the weight off and keep it off.  There are many great (and free!)  apps to get you started on your weight loss journey.

According to a study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine (December, 2012),  people who used a structured weight loss program via mobile technology (such as smart phone apps) to monitor their daily food intake, weight and physical activity lost an average of 9 pounds more  than people who didn’t use the technology.  And those who continued to use the technology maintained significant weight loss 12 months later. 

While there are probably many more great weight loss apps available, the three that I’m the most familiar with and that I recommend to my patients are MyFitnessPal, Sparkpeople and Lose It!   All three of these apps are completely free and do essentially the same thing.  They allow you to track your dietary intake, track your weight and log your exercise, and all of them make it super simple. 
  
Diets don’t work.  If you go “on” a diet, eventually you’ll go “off” the diet.  And when you do, you’ll go right back to the same old habits and gain back any weight that you lost.  There are so many “quick fix,” gimmick diets out there – the no carb diet, the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet…the list goes on and on.  Let’s say, for example, that your favorite food is pizza, but you’re on a restrictive diet that doesn’t allow pizza.  What happens when you DO give in and eat pizza?  You might feel like a failure and quit.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to eat sensibly?  Couldn’t you still eat the things that you like if you eat less of them?  But how much is too much?

That’s why these apps are so great.  They function as a digitalized food log.  You enter what you eat and how much, and the app calculates the calories for you.  Many things are preprogramed, so there’s very little data entry.  Some apps even have the ability to scan a barcode on your food item to enter it that way.  Want to know how many carbs or how much fat you’ve eaten so far today?  The app will break that down for you too.  In essence, you can still eat the foods that you enjoy eating within the confines of a balanced, healthy diet. 

I often challenge my patients to pick an app, and stick with it for a minimum of four weeks.  I challenge them to enter every single food they put in their mouth for that amount of time.  What I love about this is that it gets people thinking about what they’re eating, it keeps them accountable, it gets them looking at food labels and thinking about serving sizes, and it helps them realize how much they should be eating.  After four weeks, new habits are established and it’s easy to keep going.
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These apps also allow you to enter your exercise activities and can account for any calories you burn.  You can enter your weight as often as you like and follow your trends as the weight comes off.  You can even link up with friends to keep each other motivated! 

And now, Pinnacle Health has added a new mobile app to help you make healthy decisions when you’re eating out.  Check out The Health Hub of Central PA -- an easy, convenient, and free smartphone app that helps you find healthy restaurants and fitness centers in the Central PA area. The app is designed to be completely personalized to your preferences. You can base your search on your specific diet and exercise preferences. You can view location hours, get directions, and receive a special coupon code for making your healthy choice!

Losing weight is still hard work.  There is no “quick fix.”  But now, smartphones allow us to have a personal coach in our pocket 24/7, and this does make losing weight a little easier and a lot more fun!

 

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