The Healthy Apps Challenge
May 02, 2013
"How did you do it?" I asked. My clinic patient had steadily lost weight over the last 6 months, reducing her body weight by about 50 pounds total, and bringing her body mass index (BMI) down from above 50 to 39. She looked like a new woman. While she still has a ways to go in her personal fight against obesity, she has successfully made and maintained true lifestyle changes. Good old-fashioned diet and exercise was the answer, but she had a new-fangled secret: a healthy app!
For years she had struggled with diets that told her what she could and could not eat, and she hated the idea of "absolutely forbidden foods." With obesity being her most serious health problem and risk factor for future cardiovascular events, she realized she needed a plan for weight loss that encouraged healthy choices in diet and exercise, but gave her the freedom to choose, as long as she stayed within her daily caloric budget for weight loss. She discovered a free app for her phone called "Lose It." I had never heard of it before, but I soon learned that it was a winner of the U.S. Surgeon General's Healthy App Challenge in 2012.
Along with other apps like Fooducate, GoodGuide Mobile Application, and Healthy Habits, Lose It was selected as a winner of this challenge. The Healthy App Challenge was issued to encourage the creation of mobile applications, which are now part of our everyday lives that help engage individuals in their own health, and serve as tools in making healthy choices.
As a great example of how technology can be your friend in achieving health goals, Lose It allows you to set a personal weight loss goal, calculates a daily caloric budget to achieve your goal, and serves as a platform to log your daily exercise and diet. The app allows you to search a database of food items, or even use a barcode scanner for packaged items, and displays the nutritional content including calories, total and saturated fat, sodium, protein, and carbohydrates including fiber and sugars content. The app also has a searchable database of activities and exercise that is used to estimate calories expended, and keeps a tally on your net daily calories alongside your daily caloric budget. A motivate feature allows you connects to other users, share your progress, share recipes, and take part in challenges that, for instance, might encourage you to spend a certain number of calories on fruits and vegetables.
My patient was astonished to learn how much sodium she was taking in, and took measures to reduce it. She also quickly learned that increasing her vegetable intake allowed her to have more flexibility with the remainder of her calories. She and her husband participate in motivate challenges together. There are no advertisements, and the best part may be that this app and the other winning apps are free! Read more about the winners of the Healthy App Challenge and give them a try.