By Rebecca Levine MS, RD, LDN
Recent studies have shown that using information technology can be helpful in promoting behavior change and long-term healthy lifestyles. The issue with weight loss and health is not so much that people do not know what they should be doing; it’s finding new strategies to help implement healthy habits.
When it comes to losing weight, it has been shown that using an approach that encompasses both the physical and mental aspects of weight loss is most helpful. There are several strategies that are currently being used to help support weight loss, including both behavioral and lifestyle interventions. Information technology can provide new tools to those trying to lose weight and lead healthier lifestyles.
WHAT CAN TECHNOLOGY DO TO SUPPORT WEIGHT LOSS?
A major advantage of using technology for weight loss is its social and informational support the technology can also help with learning skills for self-management and problem solving. Many people say that the most difficult aspect of making diet and lifestyle changes it not the change itself, but sustaining the changes over time. Different weight loss and health apps can help motivate people to continue practicing healthy habits by providing graphs and charts of progress over time.
WHAT TYPES OF TECHNOLOGY ARE AVAILABLE?
There are many cell phone apps and activity trackers that you can use to help you with your weight loss. Many programs will help you to record your daily food intake and exercise, while others will track the number of steps you take, how many calories you burn, and even how well you sleep by simply wearing a device around your arm or wrist. Also, many gyms are now starting to offer interactive training sessions and classes to reach a wider audience. While the number of tools and functions that the technology can perform is increasing, it is important to remember to keep things simple. Sometimes the variety of options to track can be overwhelming and can discourage people from self-monitoring. Starting with simple goals, for example, “just moving more” and “decreasing time sitting” can be a great step into tracking more components. The following are some options for popular mobile apps and activity trackers that can be purchased:
- Argus: This app tracks everything from how many steps you take and what you eat to how you sleep. It also makes charts that give you feedback to help you reach your health goals. It is available for iOS and is free.
- Moves: This pedometer app tracks your calories burned based on walking, running or cycling. It presents your data very simply and is easy to use. This is available for iOS and is free.
- Nike Training Club: This app features more than 100 full body workouts that are 15, 30 and 45 minutes in length. There are also step-by-step videos and demonstration of the workout moves. This is available for iOS and android and is free.
- Lose It and My Fitness Pal: These apps both allow you to enter your weight loss goals and suggest a calorie level appropriate for your goals. You can then track what you eat and drink and even use a barcode scanner to enter foods. Both are free and available for iOS and Android.
- Noom Weight Loss Coach: This coaching app allows you to create healthy habits through food and exercise logging while also tracking your steps all day. It offers support and tips to stay motivated, such as recipes and health articles. This is free and available for iOS and Android.
- Healthy Out: This app allows you to enter your dietary needs and restrictions and will make suggestions for what to order at your restaurant of choice. It also provides nutrition information for meals. It is free and available for iOS and Android.
- Jawbone Up/Fitbit Flex: These devices that you wear around your wrist are great motivators for those who want to be sitting less and moving more. They track steps taken, calories burned and even sleep quality and can be synced to most mobile devices. Prices vary based on each model of device – $50-150$.
THE POWER OF ACCOUNTABILITY
One of the most positive aspects of using technology as a weight loss tool is the social accountability. Accountability is one of the most powerful aspects when it comes to behavior change. Even if a person does not have a close support network, there is a vast group of people with similar goals and motivation that can be reached simply through the touch of a button. Having easy access to a virtual community that can help support your efforts can be very powerful when it comes to long-term success. Even using websites that allow you to create vision boards or to share healthy recipes are a source of information and accountability. ARE THE NUMBERs ALL THAT MATTER? It is important to remember that while tracking what you eat and your daily physical activity can be motivating, it can also lead to being overly fixated on numbers. Numbers and statistics are great ways to measure success, but they are not the only ways. It is also important for you to monitor how you feel on a given day, how much energy you may have, and what other things are going on in your life. So your goal might be to reach 10,000 steps every day, but some days it might not happen and that is ok. The most important are the patterns and habits that you establish in your daily life, not achieving perfection.
CAN TECHNOLOGY WORK ALONE?
Although technology many increase access to information and support, it still remains your responsibility to use this information and practice accountability. In addition, research shows that technology is not an equal replacement for face-to-face support. Whether you choose to use technology as a weight loss tool or not, it is important to find people who will continue to support your efforts. Here at DayOne Health we provide continuous support to our patients and understanding what is required to make a healthy lifestyle change.
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