Can your phone help you lose weight? The short answer is yes, says clinical psychologist Joyce Nash, PhD, author of Lose Weight, Live Healthy: A Complete Guide to Designing Your Own Weight Loss Program. The longer answer is that the right phone app can boost your motivation and track your progress as you work on shedding pounds.
Recently, I had a chance to talk with Dr. Nash about choosing and using apps that help you eat smarter, exercise harder, and stress less. Here's what she told me.
Which phone apps do you recommend for people who are trying to lose weight?
Dr. Nash: First, consider your needs. If you need to change how you eat, a good choice is Lose It! This app helps you maintain enthusiasm and discipline by turning calorie-counting into a videogame. It's you versus your calorie budget.
If you need to start exercising, consider iTreadmill; I use this app myself. Essentially, it's a pedometer that counts the number of steps you take or the distance you walk or run. Another fun app is C25K - short for Couch to 5K. It acts as a virtual trainer, helping non-runners gradually build up from easy walking workouts to a 5K race. I have several clients who have used this app and loved it.
If you're already exercising but need to rev up your workout, look for apps that support your favorite activity. For example, let's say you're a dedicated runner. You can log your runs, including distance and location, with RunKeeper.
Do any apps help get emotional eating under control?
Dr. Nash: Emotional eaters need to manage stress, and there are apps to help with that as well. Breath Pacer teaches you to slow down your breathing and, in doing so, get relaxed. White Noise, which plays your choice of soothing background sound, is great for meditation. The sound helps keep you focused, and the app has a timer so you don't have to keep your eye on the clock if you want to meditate for a set period of time.
Do you have any advice on making the best use of phone apps for weight loss?
Dr. Nash: Don't overextend yourself with too many apps. Choose one or two that seem best suited to your specific needs. Then be prepared to stick with them for the long term.
Set goals with higher values in mind. If you just want to wear a smaller size, competing temptations can easily undo your efforts. But if you want to live longer and healthier, then referring back to this value and setting a goal to make healthy choices can help keep your motivation on track. Healthy living is a value that is ongoing, not short-term.
Finally, don't kid yourself. Apps are simply tools; you still have to do the work. Even the best apps don't make weight management easy—easier maybe, but not easy.
Dr. Nash offers more tips on losing weight and living healthy on her website: loseweightlivehealthyguide.com.