Losing weight is hard. Fast food, lack of time, expensive equipment, and conflicting nutritional advice all seem to conspire to keep you from getting into the shape you want. Dietary plans and exercise regimens are hard to follow; it’s extremely difficult to pay attention to everything you eat, every stray bit of exercise you get in, and every time you slip up. Even if you get a good plan, you have difficulty knowing how well or poorly you’re following it.
Self-monitoring apps attempt to solve these problems. Get the right program, and you’ve got a dietitian, and personal trainer, and health journal all at your fingertips. While the research into these apps’ success rates is still unclear, there is no doubt that they work for many people. Here are some of the big ways in which self-monitoring apps can help you stay healthy.
Simply knowing what to do and what to avoid is a big problem for many would-be health nuts. Ask ten people their health advice and you’ll get ten answers. A good self-monitoring health app—be it nutrition, heart health, or diabetes tracking—will give you consistent advice. And consistency is a big deal; sticking to one plan ensure you won’t jump from strategy to another, following whatever is convenient at the moment. And, since the app’s on your phone, a second opinion is a just a couple Google clicks away. Apps can tell you what to eat, when to exercise, and even how much alcohol you’re safe to drink. Self-monitoring programs can fill your head with knowledge and your body with nutrition.
Self-monitoring apps can give you great advice on what to do and when. One difficulty of taking care of yourself is that there’s too much information out there. You can get overwhelmed with decisions. Many psychological researchers point to decision fatigue as a legitimate obstacle for people in every walk of life. Making constant choices about what to eat, when to run, and whether or not to take one action or another is a real pitfall of self-care. If it’s too complicated, you’ll give up. Life is complicated enough. An app that makes recommendations for you can spare you some much- needed brain power. And, since many apps are designed using expert advice, you can trust that those tips are good.
Self-monitoring apps help you keep track of what you do and when. One great aspect of this trait is that even when you slip up, you’re generating good data to use for later. You can look for, say, everything you ate last July, when you gained 20 pounds. Detailed records can provide insight into what you did, how you felt, and what you should do next time. A mysterious illness or depression may not be so hard to figure out when you back and see you spent the previous two weeks eating nothing but cupcakes. And, of course, the simple act of recording your life can provide big benefits, mental and physical.