Weight Loss Apps: Useful Or A Waste Of Time…& Money?

A woman looking at her smart phoneFood diaries, calorie trackers, fitness logs, you name it. We now have a number of weight loss apps right at our fingertips. Are these high-tech tools really a way to melt off the pounds or are they just a way to lose a bunch of cash? A new study reviewing app-effectiveness might surprise you.

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Researchers from the University of Massachusetts compared the top 30 most popular weight-loss apps (both free and paid) from iTunes and the Android Market to 20 behavior-based weight-loss strategies developed by the Centers for Disease Control’s Diabetes Prevention Plan. Strategies including portion control, problem solving to figure out why people over eat, and stress reduction have been scientifically proven effective by the CDC program—but 28 of the apps reviewed included only 25 percent or fewer of these tactics. Many of the apps did, however, feature food logging, which seems to be an effective tool in weight loss.

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“Apps do include evidence-based behavioral strategies, but only a narrow range,” said Dr. Pagoto, associate professor of medicine at UMass Medical School. “Strategies that often were missing are ones that help patients with adherence and motivation.”

In the study “Evidence-based strategies in weight-loss mobile apps,” published online Oct. 8, Pagoto and colleagues rated 30 of the most popular mobile weight-loss apps on the market for inclusion of 20 evidence-based behavioral strategies. Most of the apps evaluated include few or no behavioral weight-loss strategies — 28 out of 30 included only 25 percent of the strategies or less. Even the top two apps include only 65 percent of the 20 strategies.

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Behavioral weight-loss strategies that are evidence-based — meaning they have been scientifically researched and found to be effective — include stimulus willpower control, problem solving, stress reduction and relapse prevention. The 20 strategies that the study rated are those in the Centers for Disease Control’s evidence-based Diabetes Prevention Plan, designed to help participants make modest behavior changes in order to lose 5 to 7 percent of their body weight. Pagoto’s team was also interested in determining whether apps incorporate technology features to enhance behavioral strategies. “On the bright side, in terms of how apps are using technology, they’re doing some really interesting things,” Pagoto noted.

Enhancements include barcode scanners that can be used in a supermarket to instantly get products’ nutritional information; social networks where users can encourage and support each other; email and text reminders; and calendars for scheduling exercise and tracking food intake.

5 Ways To Eat What You Want On Thanksgiving

A table filled with Thanksgiving foodsThanksgiving marks the beginning of the season of overeating so why not try the best you can by not going off the deep end so early on?  Your health is the most important gift so honoring your good fortune on the day of thanks is a great way to take care of that gift.

Here are just a few easy tips that can help you avoid being the stuffed bird this holiday.

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1. Toss the Turkey Skin

Choosing lean white turkey meat is a great start towards healthier eating. But as soon as you grab a slice of turkey, trim off the skin. Though delicious, the skin is very high in fat—and not the good kind. Toss the skin before you even start eating. If you leave it on your plate, you may eventually be tempted to nibble.

2. Eat Before Dinner

Don’t deprive yourself before your Thanksgiving dinner. Eat a hearty breakfast and lunch, and healthy snacks throughout the day. If you show up at dinner starving, you’ll be more likely to overeat and your body will have a harder time digesting the heavy meal.

3. Drink Lots of Water

Drink plenty of water before and during your meal. Not only does your mind often interpret thirst as hunger, but water will help your stomach stay full and keep you from overeating. Plus, you won’t pack on any of the additional calories soft drinks and other beverages can add to your meal.

4. Eat Plenty of Vegetables

Before reaching for turkey and potatoes, fill two-thirds of your plate with vegetables of all colours. Healthy veggies will fill you up and keep you from indulging in unhealthy food.

5. Limit Sweets

Aim for a teaspoon or two of cranberry sauce instead of drowning your turkey in it; the relish is often high in sugar and should be eaten in moderation. When it comes to dessert, you don’t have to avoid it altogether. If you’ve eaten a healthy meal, you can indulge yourself in a sliver of pie or small portion of ice cream. If you’re still craving more, eat fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.