Want to Lose Weight? Don't Use a Mobile App

Want to know why you're not losing weight even with all the activity monitors and mobile apps out there?

According to newswise.com, these gadgets are good for measuring your exercise and fitness levels, but they do nothing for the most important part of dieting -- motivating.

Says newswise.com, "Current weight loss apps lack proven behavioral strategies, such as stress reduction, advice about managing social cues, dealing with negative thinking and time management."

I had an activity monitor this summer and I loved it.  I kept exercising more and more to record higher levels every day.  Then I left it clipped to my running t-shirt when I did the wash.  It survived the washing machine (as it had once before). The killer was the dryer.

So now I don't have one, and I'm probably exercising a little less (though I did add swimming to my year-round exercise this year, along with running).

Many of the country’s 285 million mobile phone subscribers want to lose weight, but neither consumers nor doctors really understand current apps, newswise.com quotes lead study author Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D., an associate professor in the division of preventive and behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“Apps are generally good but we need more science behind this effort,” she told newswise.com. “Busy healthcare providers hesitate to recommend apps because they don’t really know what they’re telling patients to use. Patients also worry about receiving incorrect information or offensive advertising when they open an app.”  Adds Pagoto, “But because of their ‘advanced technical features,’ some apps accomplish what we can’t with weight loss behavioral counseling alone.”

Researchers chose 30 apps designed for “health and fitness” for both iPhone and Android platforms out of the 900 currently available.  Basic features of the apps studied included the capacity to track weight, diet and physical activity.

But seven behavioral strategies for weight loss were completely missing, "such as stress reduction, relapse prevention, social cues, negative thinking, developing regular patterns of eating, time management, and instructions on reading nutrition labels," the Web site reports.\

“The ability for real-time information, monitoring and support may help individuals change their diets and exercise in ways that have previously required time-intensive and/or face-to-face intervention, “ newswise.com quotes Wendy Nilsen, Ph.D., a health scientist administrator at the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). “The authors’ findings, similar to work in smoking cessation, highlight the lack of integrated behavioral science in app development.”

So should we be looking for apps that compliment us on our weight loss (Web sites like weightwatchers.com does that), or chastise us when we gain or stay the same? (We'd probably pitch our cell out the window!)  No, say experts. If apps could be developed to tell us when we need additional help, or a coach, that might be what works.


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