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February 24, 2015 | 4 minute read

How to Get the Most Out Of Your Diet App

One of the best ways to prevent cancer is via healthy lifestyle. We have a love/hate relationship with diet apps, they help us on the road to success but recording everything you eat and do can get…exhausting. When we hit “app fatigue” we end up cutting corners and actually getting less out of the app. Here are a few tips for keeping up the motivation for app’ing so that it is more effective than stressful.Vector Fitness App And Tracker

1. App Vacations!  At some point most people will hit “app fatigue,” because we know this is going to happen, it is best to plan for it. If you know you quit after 2 weeks, then schedule a planned break on week 3. This allows you to practice your portion control without the assistance of the app, a skill that the app is really supposed to be helping you build. If you keep losing weight and meeting your exercise goals, then resume the app once you hit a plateau.

2. Don’t Skip the Days That Matter Most!  When we tire of app’ing, we end up taking breaks from it on the days we are least likely to meet our calorie goal. The most common days I see people skipping are Friday-Sunday. The problem with skipping days where you eat more is that your sense of your average calorie intake becomes skewed. If you have trouble keeping up with the app all week, be sure to capture at least 1 weekend day.

3. How Low Can You Go?  Another discouraging experience with apps is seeing how high in calories some foods are. To feel better, we have a tendency to pick the lowest calorie version of each food which might result in our underestimating how much we consumed. For example, the app gives you 6 versions of a ham sandwich ranging from 200-600 calories and you select the 200 calorie version every time. The habit of always picking the lowest calorie option will have you underestimating your intake because the truth is….sometimes we have the 600 calorie ham sandwich. Try to make a habit of picking the middle calorie option (or getting more precise calorie info when possible). If you are overestimating calories, at least it will result in your losing more weight.

4. No Activity Left Behind.  This is the “superlogger” who enters every single activity, not realizing that most “lifestyle” activity is already accounted for in the daily calorie goal estimate in diet apps. The superlogger logs vacuuming, laundry, walking to the mailbox, walking from the car to the office, and other activities that he or she does anyway.  This habit can make us feel like we were more active than we really were. Most apps ask you to select an activity level upon setup. The “sedentary” setting gives you a calorie goal based on your getting little or no structured exercise but it still accounts for typical daily activities. Make a habit to only log structured exercise, i.e., workouts.

5. Face Your Fears. One reason people have a hard time logging is because it is hard to give an honest look at how much you eat. One way to overcome the fear is to confront it head on—-plan to log on a day that you know you are likely to eat a lot—birthday, holiday, or party. Sound crazy? Maybe so, but if you can overcome the fear of logging on the worst day ever, an average day might feel like no sweat. Here is a great blog post by a guy who actually tried this on Easter Sunday. Even though he went way over his calorie goal, logging caused him to eat a lot less than he probably would have otherwise, and he ended up learning a lot about his holiday eating behavior.

6. A Little Help From My Friends. Why do this dreadful task alone when you can drag a friend into it?  Round up one or more friends to commit to logging and keep each other accountable. Mobile apps that allow you to “friend” others who use the app can be very helpful.

Celebrate monthly milestones by doing something healthy and fun together.

Sherry Pagoto, PhD is an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Follow her blog FUdiet.com and find her on Twitter at @DrSherryPagoto.

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