In This Chapter
Identifying apps and online tools to use for total body wellness
Discovering how technology and in-person support can work together
Finding resources to stay current with ever-changing mobile health technology
Mobile devices are a big part of today’s fast-paced lifestyle. Ninety percent of American adults own a cellphone, and 64 percent own smartphones (mobile phones that can access the Internet with a swipe of a finger). It’s now possible to be tapped into the virtual world 24/7, and a recent report by Pew Research Center reveals that people who use smartphones experience positive feelings of productivity and happiness (which is a boost for your total body wellness!). Six out of ten smartphone users use their devices to get information about health conditions.
According to the upcoming book Bits and Bites: A Guide to Digitally Tracking Your Food, Fitness, and Health (Eat Right Press), there are tens of thousands of health and fitness mobile apps available, and dozens of wearable devices, too. Mobile tools can help you meet your total body wellness goals by keeping track of
· Daily food intake: You can track calories and nutrients consumed. Some apps provide nutrition information for restaurant, grocery store, and brand-name foods, as well as connect you with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to provide feedback on your food choices.
· Fitness levels: You can track steps and calories burned and even get voice coaching during activities.
· Hydration status: You can keep tabs on how much water you drink.
· Sleep patterns: Some apps measure circadian rhythms and sleep cycles, which is important because good-quality sleep is linked with preventing chronic diseases.
· Social support: Apps can create challenges for friends and family to exercise more and improve food choices.
This chapter highlights some helpful tech tools for total body wellness. This is, by no means, a complete list — new ones are coming out every day! I home in on those with tracking mechanisms that facilitate healthier food choices, meal planning, grocery shopping, physical activity, as well as sleep and mindfulness. These tools are great to use as support and communication for working with an RDN or other healthcare professional.
SuperTracker (www.supertracker.usda.gov) is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) interactive website that helps you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity. It offers accountability through journaling and virtual coaching. You can set personalized goals, and find out what and how much you’re eating by tracking foods, physical activities, and weight. You can register on the site for free, and save your personal records so you can come back and access it any time.
This online diet and physical activity tracking website is offered as one of the interactive tools on the MyPlate website (www.choosemyplate.gov), which offers professional and consumer nutrition education. SuperTracker is a fun, eye-catching, broad-based way for folks of all ages to make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of chronic disease and maintain or achieve a healthy weight. With a variety of features to support personal nutrition and physical activity goals, this website offers
· Personalized recommendations for what and how much to consume, as well as type and amount of physical activity
· Access to a database of more than 8,000 foods
· Input and analysis of your own recipes
· Tracking of your body weight over time
· Tips and sharing with family and friends via social media
· Journaling personal progress and behavior changes
· Progress reports ranging from simple meal summaries to complex analyses of food groups and nutrient intake over time
To learn how to navigate, log in, personalize, and use the many features of SuperTracker, check out the instructional user guide at https://supertracker.usda.gov/Documents/SuperTrackerUserGuide.pdf.
Designed for smartphones, MyDietitian (www.mydietitian.com) educates users on the nutritional aspects of their diet through working closely with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Through food photos and personal accounts, users record on this mobile app (available for download on Apple and Android devices) what they eat and drink, as well as their physical activity, which is passed along within a 24-hour timeline to their assigned RDN for feedback.
MyDietitian establishes a professional relationship with an RDN to offer accountability for what you eat and drink, as well as your level of physical activity. To get results, users are encouraged to log in to the website for their progress reports to view their personal graphs and ratings. Plus, RDNs daily responses can come in the form of videos, emails, or written messages through the app.
This mobile food and fitness tracker allows for real-time tracking with downloadable images of meals and snacks, which creates a connection between the mind and body in every food choice. This tool will become a powerful player for mindful eating, wherever you are!
The app itself is free, but there is a fee associated with the online membership.
Based on the principles of calorie tracking and peer support, Lose It! (www.loseit.com; Apple, Android, Kindle, Nook) is a multifaceted system for tracking, connecting, and staying motivated. It allows you to track what you’re eating and drinking simply by scanning a bar code, as well as fitness support by connecting with mobile fitness trackers. It offers friend support, but not professional support from an RDN (although you can take the initiative to invite an RDN you’re working with to view your logs and send feedback via email).
There are two plans: basic and premium. The basic plan, which is free, allows you to
· Track your weight.
· Scan bar codes of food products.
· Connect with family and friends.
· Join public groups and challenges.
· Receive a MyPlate report.
The premium plan, which costs $39.99 per year, allows you to do everything the basic plan allows, plus the following:
· Monitor body weight, fat, and hydration levels with a Bluetooth scale (for an extra one-time fee of $69.99).
· Monitor sleep.
· Track steps and calories burned during exercise.
· Connect with popular mobile fitness devices (for example, NikeFuel, FitBit One, and JawBone Up).
· Participate in public and private fitness challenges.
As the name implies, Emeals (www.emeals.com; Apple, Android) is a mobile meal planning system designed to assist you in your weekly meal planning with recipes and master shopping lists. The meal plans run the gamut and include Diabetic, Heart Healthy, Low-Calorie, Mediterranean, and more. There are also grocery store–based plans to highlight sale items for that week, as well as family-friendly and quick meal ideas.
It’s a simple, highly accessible way to plan meals, but keep in mind that it doesn’t take the place of working directly with an RDN. Emeals is a practical way to get weekly meal planning solutions and save time and money. Not only are these healthy, balanced meals, but they offer a wide array of meal plans to fit into your lifestyle and health needs.
Here’s how Emeals works, according to the website: You pick your meals, get the recipes correlated to your chosen meal plan, get a detailed shopping list (with sale items if you choose the store-based plan), and prepare the meals.
It costs $69 for one year, $59 for six months, or $39 for three months. You can try it out for free for 14 days, too.
A virtual personal coach, Lark is a mobile app (Apple, Android) that tracks your activity, eating, and sleep data from sensors in your smartphone. The purpose of the app is to drive you to make healthy lifestyle changes (or continue to do so!) by creating the feeling of a true coach on the other side of your mobile device. It has an upbeat, positive voice encouraging you to get more sleep or make healthier food choices. You can compare how you’re doing with other Lark community members, too!
If you have your mobile device with you, this app offers two-way motivation with automated conversations and text messages. It adapts to your schedule with a unique quality to show you how to manage travel and jet lag, offers tips to get more sleep, and sets up charts and graphs of your activity and sleep patterns. You can tell this app what you’re eating — and it will respond with instant feedback.
It may seem like a lark to have artificial intelligence leading the way in the mobile health app arena, but it has shown to be beneficial for motivation and accountability in today’s fast-paced world. Lark follows you where you go and texts and responds to your voice with motivational charts and creative solutions to eating and fitness dilemmas. It can be a great adjunct therapy in between visiting with an RDN or other healthcare team member. There is a support community on social media, too — members use the hashtag #larkgoals.
This free website and app (www.myfitnesspal.com; Apple, Android) is all about tracking what you eat to help you lose weight. With more than 5 million foods in its database, MyFitnessPal offers you a simple and easy way to be mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth every day. You set your own personal weight loss goals and keep track of your food and beverage intake in order to stay within your nutrition and calorie goals for the day.
Tracking what you eat and drink is ideal, and MyFitnessPal allows you do just that. It creates mindfulness and can help keep you from overeating (and listening to hunger and fullness), if you know that you’re going to write it down. Plus, tuning into your physical activity and making sure it happens is essential to weight management. Although there is an online forum for support, this weight loss tool may be more beneficial if paired with an RDN to offer professional feedback and nutrition solutions. (You can eat whatever you want within your goal calorie range, but that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy, balanced approach to help prevent chronic diseases down the road!)
Whether you are logging your food and activity on your home computer or want to do it on the go with your mobile device, MyFitnessPal allows you the opportunity to see the nutritional value of what was on your plate, according to the portion that was consumed. It has a recall feature, which remembers your favorite foods, too — making it easy to log your typical breakfast or lunch without taking a lot of time or effort. This may promote lack of variety, though, so watch out for that!
Having trouble falling or staying asleep? Sleep Genius may be the app for you — it offers a scientific approach to creating a restful sleep environment and healthy bedtime behaviors (also called sleep hygiene), and pinpoints your perfect bedtime. The sleep technology in this app (available for Apple and Android devices) uses elements to engage the brain’s sleep centers by combining expertise from neuroscientists, as well as sleep and music experts.
Because sleep health is such a vital part of your overall total body wellness, Sleep Genius is an important tool to help you get much needed rest. Lack of sleep has been linked to the development and management of chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep Genius also homes in on the power of naps and encourages brief periods of shuteye throughout the day with a Power Nap feature that offers sleep-inducing music to relax you and an alarm to gradually wake you up.
Through a specialized sleep sound system, which includes special beats, brain-relaxing music, as well pink noise (sounds that block out distracting noises), Sleep Genius is set up to encourage the brain to fall asleep faster, deeper, and longer. In addition, it targets the right bedtime for you — this sleep technology trains you (and your brain) to go to bed within 15 minutes of your targeted bedtime. Plus, a soothing alarm is embedded into the system, which allows you to awaken slowly without harsh, startling noise. You also get sleep reports to assess your sleep quality to be able to make improvements accordingly.
The app is $4.99 plus add-ons for Sleep Genius Audio Programs.
Before I Eat, Moment in the Zone
Getting into the zone before eating can be a powerful player in making healthy food choices — and not overeating. This app with a long name (available for $0.99 for Apple devices) is geared toward managing food cravings and stopping urges in their tracks, as they occur. Through a collection of audio sessions and other resources, Before I Eat, Moment in the Zone, offers you mindful eating strategies.
The beauty of this app is that it allows you space to stop, breathe, and think before eating. It teaches you ways to surf urges beyond the traditional behavior therapy techniques with inspirational quotes, guided audio sessions, and countdown timers for quick focus. Plus, it offers tips for countering emotional eating triggers. You can track your progress on the app, and it even offers rewards for success, such as money toward a vacation fund or 15 minutes of guilt-free TV (you can also create your own rewards). The only downside is some of the sessions are as long as nine minutes, which can be a bit lengthy.
To start off, there’s a tutorial teaching you how to navigate the app. You can create your own plan. This app introduces a concept called HALT-B, which stands for the following and offers the simple solutions:
· Hungry? Think mindfully.
· Angry/Anxious? Try to relax.
· Lonely/Sad? Food is not comfort.
· Tired? Get some rest.
· Bored? Busy yourself.
With an option to journal, set goals, and take notes, this app is designed to work with eating urges. It offers guidance and progress rating with a star system (on a scale of one to five stars).
Want to eat more mindfully and slowly? HAPIfork may be for you. HAPIfork (www.hapi.com; Apple, Android) is an actual fork with an electronic device in it that counts the number of bites that goes from your plate to your mouth. If you’re having more than one bite every 10 seconds, a light indicator goes on to help you realize that you need to slow down your eating. Plus, you can link this tool to your computer and track the speed at which you’re eating or time between fork servings, as well as overall eating for the day.
If you’re craving mindful eating, this is the mobile device for you. In a world where mindless eating abounds, HAPIfork can offer you a solution to slowing down your eating. There’s a coaching program that goes along with HAPIfork, in which you can connect with professionals — an RDN would be a great adjunct here — to motivate you along your path to mindful, healthier eating and living.
There are a couple of drawbacks: You have to have the fork with you when you eat, so don’t forget it at home when you go to work or school or a lunch date. Plus, if you aren’t not eating foods that require a fork, you can’t use it!
The app allows for accountability in real time, while you’re eating. You can sync it up to a whole community on www.hapi.com to see your dashboard, which can track your daily eating and fitness goals, participate in challenges, and share with friends.
HAPIfork can tell you:
· How long it took you to eat your meal
· The amount of fork servings taken per minute
· The time between fork servings
You can see your fork stats on the www.hapi.com dashboard, because it’s all uploaded via USB or Bluetooth from the fork.
The HAPIfork isn’t cheap — it costs $79 with a case and micro-USB cable for charging and data upload.
Meallogger is an app (Apple, Android) where you journal with food photos and connect with your friends to exchange thoughts, ideas, and motivation. You can record eating and physical activity goals, share links, and build awareness and accountability for your eating choices.
The app creates real-time accountability and mindful eating. Images are such a powerful tool, and Meallogger makes use of the fun nature of snapping food photos, while at the same time managing your waistline and food choices — but tracking the food and beverage amounts is important. Plus, it may help reduce mindless snacking if you’re snapping photos every time you eat or drink! It’s all about community support, too — Meallogger can connect you with a professional, too. For example, you can connect with an RDN while on the go. Meallogger makes food journaling simple because there’s no real writing involved — just snapping photos and recording the contents. Also, it encompasses the whole body with the fitness and sleep components.
You can track calories, carbohydrates, and protein for each meal, if you input portion sizes. The basic program (which is free) affords you a connection to friends; for a premium, you can connect with professionals, whether RDNs, health coaches, or personal trainers. There is a professional version called MealloggerPRO, which allows RDNs to connect directly to their clients for support, too.