If you have a smartphone, you've probably experimented with a few mobile applications (known as "apps"). One of the most popular - and useful - categories of apps are those that help you monitor and manage various aspects of your health and diet.
(Image, Yale University)
There are apps that let you look up nutrition information for foods and restaurants, track your food intake, log your exercise stats, chart your weight loss, analyse your sleep habits, even monitor how much water you're drinking. (For those without smartphones, many of these are available as web-based applications, as well.)
This sort of record-keeping is a tried and true behaviour modification technique. If you're having difficulty managing your money, track your expenditures for a week or two. If you can't figure out where your time goes, productivity experts recommend logging your activities. And if you're trying to lose a few kilos, a nutritionist might suggest that you keep a food diary.
Not only does this record keeping give you valuable information about your habits - like revealing times and places that you tend to overeat, or just how much you're spending on lattes - but just the act of recording a behaviour tends to change it. Even if no one will see your diet log, if you know you have to write that chocolate down, you might just skip it.
You could do this with pen and paper, of course. But now you can also do it on your cellphone, and this offers a few advantages.Convenience
We always have our cellphones with us and they make it very easy and convenient to log things as we go through the day. Whatever you want to keep track of - weight, water consumption, spending, workouts, calories - there's an app for that (and you'll find links to some of my favourites below). Plus, because everyone is constantly fooling around with their phones, no-one even has to know what you're doing.Whiz-Bang
Digital devices offer some very cool features that pen and paper don't. For example, you can simply scan the barcode on that frozen dinner to get a nutritional analysis or - if it passes muster - to add it to your diet log.
A Japanese technology company is even working on an app that would allow you to simply snap a picture of your plate with your camera to get an analysis of the caloric content.
There's an app called DrinkTracker that not only logs how many drinks you've had, but will estimate your blood alcohol content - and call a cab for you if you're not fit to driveCommunity
Support groups have always been a powerful tool for change and mobile apps like the popular Lose It and Calorie Count not only help you track your food intake and exercise, they also keep you connected to a supportive community. Even better, your community can be made up of people you don't know in real life.Accountability
A lot of apps also up the ante by broadcasting your progress to your entire social network. The Daily Mile, for example, posts your running times right to your Facebook or Twitter feed. Whether it taps into your shame or your vanity, this sort of public exposure is apparently very motivating to many people.
The developers of an app called MyFitnessPal did some analysis on their user base and found that people who opted to connect with other users, giving them access to personal information such as their daily calorie counts, lost 50% more weight than the typical user - and the more connections they had, the more weight they lost.How else can apps make you healthier?
To the extent that you find them engaging, empowering, and motivating, mobile and web-based applications can be a powerful tool for positive change.
There are also apps designed to help you make smarter food and nutrition choices at the supermarket or restaurants. For example, Food Scanner, Fooducate, and Shopwell all allow you to type in brand name foods (or simply scan the barcodes) to see the nutrition fact label, ingredient list, and even a health "score". The Seafood Watch app will tell you whether the catch of the day is low in mercury and sustainable. I myself developed an app called IF Tracker which tracks the inflammation factor of your diet.
The fact that phones are GPS-equipped and know where you are opens up even more functionality. Apps like iVegetarian and Gluten Freed locate the closest vegetarian or gluten-free restaurants. And an app called GoodFoodNearYou will find chain restaurants near your location and vet the menus for the best choices. Most of these apps are free; some cost a few bucks or have premium versions with additional features.Are there any downsides to using health and nutrition apps?
Other than possible loss of privacy (to the extent that we have any anymore) I don't really see any downsides to using these apps. To the extent that you find them engaging, empowering, and motivating, mobile and web-based applications can be a powerful tool for positive change.
Source: Business Day
via I-Net Bridge