For most of us, the formula for losing weight is simple: Eat less, and exercise more.
But consuming fewer calories is perhaps the most difficult part of the weight-loss equation; many dieters are daunted by the prospect of tabulating their daily intake.
That’s why they’re excited about the new weight-loss programs available for iPhone, BlackBerry and other smart phones.Simple and fun
The apps — which are simple, fun and often free — help users track the number of calories and nutrients they consume, as well as the number of calories they burn. Users learn to balance calorie intake and activity in real time.
Although there is no data on whether mobile apps are more effective than joining a dieting program, their popularity is telling. Since LoseIt, a highly rated free app, hit the iTunes store, it has been downloaded more than 5 million times. They’re linking weight loss to the coolest gadgets in the world.
Dennis Dodge, 67, and his wife, Carolyn, 68, recently started using LoseIt to shed weight and control their diabetes. The retired couple tapped their age, weight and goals into their iPod Touches, and the app told them how many calories they should eat each day.
Every day they record what they eat and how much they exercise. The couple said they were intimidated at first by the technology but had found the app easy and fun to use. “I am now more cognisant of my habits,” Dennis Dodge said. Carolyn added: “With other diets you follow their regimen. Here you set your own goal.”
When you track calories closely, you lose more weight, said Dr Lawrence Cheskin, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. But dieters who simply write down their intake at the end of each day tend to underestimate the calories they have consumed.
Real time functioning
The beauty of mobile apps is that they work in real time. You eat lunch and immediately log in your meal on your phone. The apps rely on databases to record the calorie counts of thousands of foods.
Weight-loss experts are hopeful that apps will help turn chronic dieters into healthy eaters. If you’re looking at a menu wondering what to order, an app can tell you on the spot which foods have fewer calories. Over time, dieters begin to make healthier choices.
With mobile apps, dieters also can better visualise the relationship between exercise and eating. A 30-minute walk burns about 100 calories, while jogging for the same time at 6 mph burns four times that.
If you want to give a weight-loss apps a try, there are a few things to bear in mind.
A human perspective: It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning a weight-loss plan. He can help you set goals and also take a look at the app to make sure it seems legitimate.
Simplicity counts: Opt for an app that is basic and intuitive. Losing weight is hard enough — you don’t need to contend with a program that has an annoying interface or is too complicated.
Share your progress: Some apps let you share your progress via Facebook or Twitter. That’s if human support is important to you.