Phone apps can keep track of what you eat and provide nutritional information
Keeping track of everything you eat might double your odds of weight-loss success.
New phone apps help dieters count calories.
One study of nearly 1,700 people found that those who kept daily food logs lost twice as much weight as people who didn't. And the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks more than 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year, says that food journaling is one of the most common behaviors among successful losers.
Journaling doesn't have to be anything formal -- just a quick note of meals or snacks -- but this increase in awareness of habits can translate to a change in behaviors, which is essential for losing weight and -- more importantly -- keeping it off.
Technology is making it easier all the time. With the evolution of smartphones, we can download an app and log food and exercise information directly into our phones.
Graham Thomas, a behavioral medicine professor at Brown University and investigator with the National Weight Control Registry, has just completed a study of how smartphone apps facilitate weight loss. The study hasn't been published yet, but Thomas said smartphone apps seem to have advantages for journaling, and that he would recommend them for most people.
"They make food journaling a lot easier than carrying around a pencil and paper journal and having to look up the calories of everything you eat. The smartphone apps automate the process.
Plus, most of these programs can give immediate feedback on your intake as it relates to your weight loss and calorie goals."
Some of the more popular weight-loss apps include Lose It!, My Fitness Pal, My Net Diary, Daily Burn, Calorie Counter by Fat Secret, and SparkPeople. Most are free or a few dollars a month.
They all offer similar cool features, allowing you to customize your weight goals, as well as your nutrient intake goals. Some will establish a daily calorie budget for you, and others ask you to set the target calorie goal.
Track your food intake using their database of foods or create your own "custom" food for specialty products that aren't listed. Items can be entered manually, or you can use your smartphone's camera to scan a product's barcode to add it to your log. Enter your favorite recipes to find out the nutritional stats, and to make it easier to add that food the next time.
Most of the apps have a community forum for support and questions, or a "friends" list that allows you to keep friends up-to-date on your progress, and also lets you know about their successes. It's one more layer in the personal accountability department.
Detailed charts and graphs give you a visual report of your progress: Weight change, whether you're meeting your nutrient recommended daily allowances, if you stayed within your calorie budget, and where your calories are coming from (carb, protein, fat, alcohol).
The immediate feedback can be a powerful motivator.
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