I often say I learn everything I know from my patients. Here is a case in point. One of my most knowledgeable patients, I’ll call Tory A. Recently Tory told me that she liked journaling her food and behaviors, etc. on a new free app called Recovery Record because it didn’t count calories. A number of my patients use online and phone apps to log their food because of the privacy (no one knows that I am logging my food and I don’t have to carry around my journals). I have my concerns about these weight loss-focused, calorie-counting apps (most are free, too). Many of them go as far as to tell the user how many calories to eat. I tell my patients as well experienced and well educated as I am, I can’t off the top of my head on a first visit with a patient even make an educated guess on calorie needs.

When I tested one of this apps, but signing in as a user, the next day it sent me a message telling me to stop eating at 3 in the afternoon or otherwise I wouldn’t lose weight. I tell my patients who use these apps (myfitnessplan and lose it are popular) to disable as many of the app’s settings as possible. I also suggest making up a weight and using that as current weight and goal weight and entering the calorie goal as 3,000 for women and 3,500 for men (examples of total calories that should meet most people needs) I have not found another food journaling app that doesn’t count calories until Tory mentioned Recovery Record. She said that it could be set up so I could have access to her food diaries and best of all it didn’t count calories! As is my habit, I went into research mode.

I signed in as both a clinician and a patient. Wow! The app allows logging thoughts, feelings, and meals and snacks. As a clinician I have a code that my patient can enter to give me access to her records. Each patient’s records are securely and confidentially archived. My curiosity was piqued about how and why Recovery Record was developed. I learned on the app’s website that the idea was developed by a psychology PhD candidate who worried that the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) self monitoring records that she was assigning her patients were tedious, frustrating, and boring. Jenna Tregarthen, the PhD student, then collaborated with researchers at Stanford’s Eating Disorder Research Program and Stanford’s Institute for Entrepreneurship to develop Recovery Record. It was launched in 2011. Last month after using Recovery Record’s clinician/user interface, Tory and I talked about how to improve it. After I used Recovery Record’s feedback link to share our thoughts, Jenna contacted me almost immediately to arrange a phone conference so we could talk at length and we did. I am not exactly a consultant to Recovery Record but Jenna was very responsive to my ideas and we continue to email. Jenna told me that she and her group are currently focused on how to make Recovery Record a better tool for clinicians. I encourage clinicians, parents, and other users to try out Recovery Record and pass along your suggestions for improvement. 

Nutritionist Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto, co-authors of The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders, Gūrze Books, Marcia is also author of recently published Nutrition Counseling in the Treatment of Eating Disorders (Routledge, December 2012). 

 Copyrighted by Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto.

About the Authors

Marcia Herrin, Ed.D., M.P.H., R.D.

Marcia Herrin, Ed.D., M.P.H., R.D., is the founder of Dartmouth College's nationally renowned nutrition programs. Currently, Dr. Herrin conducts a private practice in Lebanon, NH.

Nancy Matsumoto

Nancy Matsumoto is a freelance journalist who has written numerous stories on health, eating disorders, and body image.

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