‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

High Tech Solutions to Weighty Problems... Pt II

We've discovered the health app and complimentary devices component of the smartphone and weight loss industry. However, I couldn't pass up the chance to write a follow up article based on some new research I stumbled upon. There's well and truly an app for everything, and there are some 10,000 apps specifically for diet and weight loss... Quite astronomical, really. So, how useful are they?

Some stats to start us off: 91% of adults in the US own a mobile phone. 61% own a smartphone. Half of smartphone users have used their phone to search health information. 60% of all downloaded health apps are related to weight loss and exercise. Perhaps more time walking and less time on our bums letting our fingers do the walking would help.

There are some studies that suggest the internet and mobile technologies are beneficial in delivering health behaviour interventions for lifestyle changes and weight management. It is, of course, traditional that these interventions are administered by trained healthcare experts whose strategies are based on evidence. This begs the question: How many health apps can boast evidence-based strategies?
Evidence-based strategies are those that have demonstrated efficacy through research. For example: Setting weight loss goals, education about food substitutions, portion control, time management and nutrition label reading are evidence-based behavioural strategies that aid weight loss. 

A majority of apps included weight loss goal setting and diet goals (90%). 87% of apps included calorie balance tracking (calories in vs calories out). The two highest scoring apps included 65% of behaviour strategies (MyNetDiary free and MyNetDiary Pro). The next highest scoring apps only included 25% of strategies (All-In Fitness and Noom Weight Loss). That's quite a quality difference.

Generally speaking, the free apps were just as good as the paid ones: Many of both featured a bar code scanner and allowed social media connection (providing social support). But the majority failed to feature much in the way evidence-based strategies for sustained weight loss.


In the end, evidence-based strategies are important, but so too is interface, user experience and the ability for people to engage and reengage with the app - which are imperative for long term behaviour change. Self monitoring and recording are associated with improved weight loss. So too is frequent and consistent monitoring of foods eaten which results in twice as much weight loss compared to infrequent monitoring.

The short recap:
  • Weight loss apps can be useful
  • Look out for ones that support your healthy lifestyle changes in the long term
  • It still takes drive and motivation... Just because you downloaded an app, doesn't mean the weight magically falls off

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