Monday, October 21, 2013

My Appy Place

I live in a techno-family (hubby is quite the gadget geek, always anxious for the latest and greatest) ...  yet I myself have a hard time with change. When the Ipod Touch first came out, I didn't need it. I was perfectly happy with my traditional ipod. Little did I know the impact apps would have. While I resisted an iphone for quite a while (just wasn't sure it was worth the monthly service cost) it is something I wouldn't want to be without now. In addition to staying connected (phone, email, texts), my gadget lets me read books, play Scramble (it's my turn, I know, you don't need to nudge me again), follow blogs and very importantly - aid in my journey toward losing weight. 

Last week, I saw an article from Time Magazine with the title "Weight Loss Apps - Don't Waste Your Money". Not long after, browsing Facebook I saw a fellow blogger had linked up to a similar read (Evaluating Mobile Weight Loss Apps) for discussion.  Then I noticed another article along the same lines on the Women's Health Magazine site  (Why Your Weight Loss Apps Aren't Working). 

All three articles were based on a new study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. There was much talk of "a list of 20 intervention techniques that have been proven effective as weight-loss methods" used to judge said apps, yet none of the articles included what these techniques were (WH did mention three: calorie balance, stress reduction, and portion control) or a link to the original document. One statement (in the Time article) said "these digitally-based approaches to weight loss may not be as successful as old-school diet and exercise.

Hmmm ... an app doesn't magically make us lose weight just by pressing buttons? Well dang it!

In my opinion and experience, these apps help me WITH my old-school diet and exercise. They motivate me to move, allow me to more accurately track calories and make educated food choices. They give me graphs and feedback. The app itself isn't making me lose weight. It's motivating me to eat better and exercise more. THAT is what is helping me lose weight. Yes, I could do the same things without the apps (keep a paper food journal, track my exercises manually) but it's so nice for me to have MFP on my phone where I can look up calorie counts and add them no matter where I am. I love syncing my Fitbit app to see my latest steps and activity graph on the go. My Streaks calendar motivates me to work just a little harder so I can put an X on another day and provides me with a quick visual of how I've done this month compared to last month. 

The APP isn't actually doing the work.  It isn't a magic bullet that will make fat disappear. If I don't utilize the app with my actions, nothing is going to happen.  It's up to me, not an app, or a website, or a magic pill.  I am the only one who can do anything about my health and fitness. But if an app can  motivate me, enable me, educate me ... help me, then I say it's a great thing to have!

Of course there are apps out there that I have tried and they didn't click. Different things work for different people. The study asked "do you get what you pay for?" When people shell out money does that motivate more than a free version (the answer was no ... which doesn't surprise me, as even if you pay for an app it's about $3. People shell out MUCH more for gym memberships, DVDs, etc. and are often not using them either). I think I've only paid for a couple of health apps, but  my main apps are available for free.

I'm sure there are many apps out there that do cost a little more upfront, or try to entice you with in-app purchases (I looked at the new Jillian Michaels app that has a monthly fee and passed on that myself. I know I'd do better with a basic video from her for a lot less).  Just like any other health product, you have to weigh the pros and cons and decide you think it is worth the money. Even though this Yahoo article has the title Why Weight Loss Apps Are a Waste of Money the author seems to be siding with me on this one. This article What Weight Loss Apps are Missing was a little more insightful than the first three I stumbled upon.

So the point of my post. The top three articles just bugged me a bit. I didn't like the generalization that "apps won't help you lose weight." They have been SO helpful to me. I'd hate to have someone who WOULD be motivated by apps not use them after reading one of these articles. I would also not generalize and say "weight loss apps work wonders" because it does depend on the individual. I say you need to give things a try (oh, if my husband reads that sentence he will fall off his chair laughing, as I mentioned at the start, I'm NOT one for trying new things myself), and latch onto the things that work for you!


  1. I like the My Fitness Pal app the best of the ones I've looked at. I think that like anything else - there are so good and some not so good.

    1. I admit I use MFP on the home computer more than I do the app, but it is so nice to have it on my phone so I can access it on the go ...

  2. Oh sweet Jen, I have learned this year to drop-kick to the curb most studies, advice, and opinions from the main stream re good health/weight loss. For all you/we know, the author(s) of those articles/studies are paid for by the same mass food corporations that bring us the FDA Pyramid that is a load of crock...just wanting us to subsidize the soy bean and grain farming industries that make up SO MUCH of the American economy. Truly.

    You are so right; ANY app is only as good as it's user and usage. I don't use the apps, because I'm pretty confident in my ability to calorie count on the fly/know what's 'safe', what isn't, and in what quantities, but I totally 'get' people who do use them and say GOOD FOR YOU for doing so. Anything that gets people to a better health is good by me!

  3. Apps are tools, and if you aren't going to use the tools correctly then then aren't going to help you.
    It's like using a screwdriver when what you really need pliers.
    I use MFP, but more so out of habit. I mostly use it to keep track of my maco's and my micro's. Cause i'm a nerd like that.


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