Diwali has come and gone. Now is the time to start fretting about all those calories that we put on over the last month or so, gorging on sweets. Dieticians may ask you to cut back on food or take to healthy eating habits or even give you recommendations based on your blood group.
We suggest the tech way out. Let us look at some apps that help you burn calories or guide you to eat better.
Sign up for the service via their website, fill in your date of birth, your current weight (in pounds; you can convert from kg to pound by typing in Google 80 kg to lbs), your gender - and choose what you want to do: maintain the same we ight, loose half a pound per week to 2 pounds a week.
Lose It! will tell you how long it will take. They have a free plan as well as a paid professional plan ($39.99 or about Rs. 2,480 per year). Once your sign-up is complete, the site sends you an email to download the app for your smart device [iPhone, Android). (Sadly their app is not available for download in India, but you can access the website through your mobile web browser)
After you have a meal, note it in the app, along with the portion size. You can also add your exercise routine and duration, and take challenges to make it like a game. A community of other users helps you stay encouraged. Over time, it makes you aware - and smarter - about your eating patterns and habits.
Lose It! also connects to smart devices such as Fitbit and Nike Fuel band, and you can cross-connect your accounts.
My Fitness Pal
Similar to Lose It! in the sense that you need to sign up by giving some personal information, My Ftness Pal uses metric units. This site also asks about your lifestyle - sedentary or very active, etc - and if you plan to exercise alongside dieting. My Fitness Pal also lets you gain weight if you so desire, and lets you join as a group with friends so that you can form a support community, even while keep your weight private. It tells you quantities of carbohydrates, fats and proteins that you need to consume daily to achieve your target, and also you how many calories you need to burn .
The app is available for most platforms, including BlackBerry and Windows.
We found that My Fitness Pal has a slightly better index of Indian foods, and you can add stuff to the database, including recipes, which it analyses and gives improvement suggestions.
This makes a game out of eating habits. All you do is snap pictures of what you ate, write down a small snippet about it, add the location (optional), and 'save' your meal. The more pictures you share the more points you get, you can also rate pictures of food other people are eating, your entries come as a nice scroll at the bottom half as thumbnails with points overlaid on them, you can add your weight and track it. Other users on the network can grade your food photo as 'bad', 'okay' or 'good', and so can you. Identities are not revealed, nor is sign-up required. The app has just been launched, and is in the process of adding more features, including a planned registered dietician and personalised reports that help you reach goals.
As of now, it is only a sort of picture-book of your eating habits, but experts* say that maintaining a food diary is half the battle against the bulge. Incidentally, if your pictures get a lot of 'bad' grades, you had better review your eating habits.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine says that among people on a diet, those who maintain food diaries lose up to twice the weight as people who do not. Doctors and dieticians also say that keeping a food diary encourages one to eat fewer calories, and better food.
[App available only for iPhone right now]