Diet Apps Don't Always Help With Motivating Weight Loss, Say Experts

A lot of us fall back on dieting[1] apps to make staying in shape easier but new research has revealed that often, they just don’t work.

One of the main reasons is because they often fail to provide motivational support and tips on changing behaviour.

A study into 30 of the most popular diet apps, which can be downloaded on to portable devices such as smartphones and tablets, found most included few or no behavioural weight-loss[2] strategies.

diet phone

Researchers in America also discovered that free apps were just as useful as premium downloads.

Weight loss expert Sherry Pagoto, associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said: “Apps do include evidence-based behavioural strategies, but only a narrow range.

“Strategies that often were missing are ones that help patients with adherence and motivation.”

Behavioural weight-loss strategies that are evidence-based – meaning they have been scientifically researched and found to be effective – include stimulus willpower control, problem solving, stress reduction and relapse prevention.

Story continues below the slideshow:

  • Fat Makes You Fat

    Why that’s BS: It depends on the type of fats you’re eating, says Tricia Psota, RD, a nutritionist based in Washington D.C. “Fats in chips, cookies, and greasy foods can increase cholesterol and your risk for certain diseases. But good fats, like nuts, avocados and salmon, protect your heart and support your overall health.” And when paired with a healthy diet, the right fats can help keep you from being, well, fat, adds Sharon Palmer, RD, author of The Plant-Powered Diet.

  • Stop Snacking To Lose Weight

    Why that’s BS: Eating in small, frequent amounts is a great way to curb hunger, control portion sizes, and make better nutritional choices, says Mike Clancy, CDN, a personal trainer at David Barton’s Gym in New York City. “Smarter snacks like nuts, fruits, and yogurt will keep your energy levels high throughout the day.” (Need proof? Our 400 Calorie Fix plan — which involves three or four meals plus snacks — can help you lose 11 pounds in just two weeks!)

  • A Calorie Is A Calorie — And You Should Count Them

    Why that’s BS: “Not all calories are the same,” says Clancy. “The type of calories, the timing of the calories, and the quality of the calories can significantly alter the effect of the calories on the body,” he says. “Food creates reactions within our bodies and the type of food you eat is an important component in diets.” For example, 50 calories of an apple will cause a different internal reaction than 50 calories of cheesecake, says Clancy. “The quality of the calories is also important because the chemicals, hormones, and general byproducts that are found within processed food effects the absorption of real nutrients.” Quality calories are nutrient dense, like spinach. Calories that don’t contain any nutrients — also known as “empty” calories — are like the ones found in French fries. Bottom line: Calories are important for understanding portion control, but theyre not the only factor in good nutrition, says Clancy.

  • Cut Out Carbs

    Why that’s BS: The research on carbohydrate intake is often misinterpreted, says Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RD, founder of Inspired Wellness Solutions, LLC. “Yes, it is true that excessive intakes of refined carbohydrates, like white bread or white rice, may lead to weight gain or increased cardiovascular risk. But there is no research suggesting that healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, or legumes, can negatively impact health or weight. On the contrary, many studies suggest a diet high in these plant-based foods is associated with better overall health.” Case in point: A 2002 American College of Nutrition study that found replacing refined grains with whole-grain and minimally processed grain products, along with increasing the intake of fruits and veggies, can help lower dietary glycemic load and insulin demand. This, in turn, can ultimately reduce the risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of wellness nutrition services for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. So, keep the carbs! And aim for those that come from 100% whole grains or fruits, adds Kirkpatrick.

  • Load Up On Protein

    Why that’s BS: Sorry, caveman lovers: eating lots of protein is not the key to healthy weight loss. Why? The body needs three macronutrients: Protein, carbohydrates, and fat, says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and author of the forthcoming The One One One Diet (published by Rodale, which also publishes Prevention), and focusing exclusively on protein for weight loss makes no sense. “You not only deprive your body of fiber and other antioxidants found in healthy carbohydrates — whole grains, fruits, and veggies — but you also run the risk of eating too much fat in your diet which can lead to high cholesterol and triglycerides.

  • Go Gluten-Free To Lose Weight

    Why that’s BS: There’s no scientific evidence that gluten is a particularly fattening ingredient, says Palmer. “The problem is that we eat too many refined grains — foods made of white flour or other refined grains,” she says. And cutting gluten without checking with your doctor first can lead to deficiencies in important nutrients, such as fiber, iron, vitamin B12 and magnesium, says MaryAnne Metzak, CDN, a nutritionist in Southampton, NY. In the meantime, focus on getting healthy whole grains in moderate portions.

  • You Burn More Calories Working Out On An Empty Stomach

    Why that’s BS: Working out with or without food in your stomach doesn’t affect calorie burn — but skipping meals before sweat sessions may result in muscle loss, finds a study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. And before you settle for a sports drink, know this: While a quick sip of sugar energizes your muscles, the drinks other artificial additives can be harmful to your health, says Sanda Moldovan, DDS, MS, CNS, a diplomat of the American Academy of Periodontology. Instead, go for naturally sweet fruit, like bananas, peaches, and mangos before your sweat session. Or try an ounce of dark chocolate for the same caffeine fix you get from a half cup of coffee. “Chocolate also contains feel-good substances, called neurotransmitters, which are the same release during a ‘runner’s high,’ ” says Moldovan.

  • Eat Every Two Hours To Rev Your Metabolism

    Why that’s BS: Going four or five (or even eight!) hours between normally-sized meals will not make your metabolism slow down, says Monica Reinagel, MS, a nutritionist based in Baltimore. “Eating more frequently may help stave off hunger, which can help you fight temptation. But if you want to do this, you have to be careful to keep your meals and snacks really small,” she says. “Otherwise, eating every 2 hours can simply lead to taking in too many calories over the course of the day.”

  • Watch What You Eat During The Week, But Take The Weekends Off

    Why that’s BS: Throwing caution to the wind on the weekends can offset the consistency and success you had all week, says Batayneh. “On the weekends, we tend to sleep in, maybe missing our workout, typically drink more alcohol and have heavier meals. So if you lose about one pound between Monday and Friday, you just might gain it back — or at least maintain it, really taking away the efforts towards weight loss.” Which means if you’re trying to lose weight, the weekends shouldn’t be a free-for-all. You still need a plan, says Batayneh. Some suggestions: passing on the bread basket and limiting yourself to one cocktail.

  • Swear Off Forbidden Foods

    Why that’s BS: “We tend to be in ‘all or nothing’ mode when we diet and never seem to find a middle ground,” says Batayneh. “You have to realize that you cant have pizza, French fries, and chocolate cake all in the same day, but — with careful planning — you can enjoy these foods when they are presented to you. Just dont go for seconds and share if you can.” In fact, research shows that moderately indulging in “forbidden foods” is what keeps people from bingeing on the stuff.

Researchers were also interested in determining whether apps incorporate technology features to enhance behavioural strategies.

Enhancements include barcode scanners that can be used in a supermarket to instantly get nutritional information, social networks where users can encourage and support each other, email and text reminders, and calendars for scheduling exercise and tracking food intake.

Martyn Landi, reviews editor with British-based Apps magazine, said weight-loss software should not be used in isolation as a means of fighting fat.

“A little bit of common sense is needed with these apps,” he said.

“There are a few weight-loss apps, mostly driven towards the fitness tracker-style download and those offering recipe ideas.

“But apps are becoming more sophisticated as they develop. We are seeing the introduction of some motivational techniques in fitness tracker downloads where messages can be pre-recorded so that they play while a person is jogging.”

The tech expert also said there was scope for further developments within the market.

“Apps are becoming increasingly geared to our lifestyles,” Mr Landi said.

“Smartphones are so prevalent, they are such a part of our lives that almost every aspect of our lifestyle is being catered for with apps.

“Many now have a ‘sharing’ facility, meaning users can compare their progress with friends, so I think we are seeing some degree of motivational function already.”

The two top-rated apps, according to the study, are MyNetDiary PRO (paid-for) and MyNetDiary (free).

Dr Pagoto said: “Free apps were just as likely as paid apps to include evidence-based strategies. That’s the good news for the consumer.

“Where we’re hoping the next generation of apps can do better is in incorporating some of those strategies that help the user who might not be so good about entering their diet every day and staying on track with their goals.”

Also on HuffPost:

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References

  1. ^ dieting (www.huffingtonpost.co.uk)
  2. ^ weight-loss (www.huffingtonpost.co.uk)

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Comments

  1. Reply

    What Is Are Some Of Your Favorite Weight Loss Tips? What are some of your most succesfull weight loss tips?? I have my few that I live by, but I am looking for some tips on cutting down. Please only share different/ unique tips.
    I know about all the common ones…. lots of water lots of rest six small meals etc.

    thank you so much in advance!

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      Hi CollegeGirl

      In my opinion, no weight loss tips are truly successful on their own. Lots of water is not necessarily a good way, because how much water a person needs depends on the BMI of the person. 6 small meals maybe hard at times, especially when you are stuck at school or office and have no chance to eat, and then you need to eat more when you have the chance. Well, dieting is a good way to lose weight, but then it is hard to stick to a diet. For example, something like this:

      Breakfast:
      2 egg, low fat Cheddar cheese omelette – 320 calories
      2 slices wholemeal toast with thin smear butter – 200 calories
      Large slice melon – 47 calories

      Lunch:
      Spicy Turkey Salad recipe – 304 calories

      Snack:
      Muesli or honey nut Health Bar “Sainsbury” – 180 calories

      Dinner:
      Baked potato with 100g “Heinz” baked beans &/or Cottage cheese if desired – 300 – 400 calories (350 average)
      Large helping salad fruits &/or vegetables – 100 calories

      Another weight loss tip is to do interval and turbulence exercise.

      Turbulence Training is a fresh plan that requires finishing three 45-minute exercise sessions each week with marginal equipment. It is an increasingly trend-setting fitness plan with the intention of helping you in the reduction of weight.

      Interval training is the fitness world’s equivalent of a visit to the in-laws. The shorter and more intense the visit, the better. An interval is a short period of exercise performed at a given intensity for a specific length of time. Each interval is separated from the next interval by a short rest or lighter activity. There are no strict rules on how long or how intense the interval must be, however, changing the interval length or intensity changes the way your body works and responds to exercise.

      But people have a short willpower. It may be strong at the beginning but will eventually fade as time goes on- as they realize that going on a diet is not actually as easy as they think it is. Of course, the strength of willpower differs from one person to another. This is the reason why there are people who can actually maintain a diet and exercise program for 1 year and there are people who can only maintain it for few months. Nonetheless, willpower is a big factor that dictates someone whether to continue losing weight or not.

      And in my opinion, besides sticking to a diet and exercise plan, it is the ultimate willpower to stop yourself from overeating that is the #1 tip to lose weight. But that is the hardest part if you are accustomed to eating lots of food even though your body does not need it. It is partly because of the delicious taste of the food causing a craving for more. There are certain ways to fight this craving ad I found one that maybe helpful. It is a type of chocolate that can actually suppress your appetite. It will can provide Good Energy that promotes a healthy weight by providing energy while burning fat. And it helps suppress cravings for sugary snacks.

      Good luck!

      PS: Information on the Special Chocolate that I mentioned can be found on the website in the source box. Recently, they are giving away a one month free trial.

      View Comment
    • Jazz
    • October 8, 2013
    Reply

    What Are Some Weight Loss Tips And Ways To Appear Thinner? I am a teenager with a problem and I need help so please help me… I’m  desperate. I have Lupus and when it flares up I have to take prednisone which causes weight gain. I want a higher self esteem. Please, can someone give me some weight loss tips like high calorie burning excersices, health food, some sort of plan and also tips to appear thinner. Thanks!

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      There are some good tips listed in the answers, here are a few more. Recent studies have shown that having eggs for breakfast will increase energy during the day and act as a natural weight suppressant. Have listed an article on using eggs as a weight loss food. Tracking your daily food intake and daily exercise will help a lot in determining how much you are really eating and working off each day. Have also noted a article that list a few easy ways to work exercise into your routine.

      View Comment
  2. Reply

    Where To Find Weight Loss Tips, Programs And Detox Programs For Dummies? Where to find weight loss tips, programs and detox programs for dummies?

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      You can try http://detox-programs.net for many weight loss tips and detox programs

      View Comment
  3. Reply

    Does Anyone Know Any Good Weight Loss Tips? I’ve been struggling for the past few months to drop the last few pounds I need to fit in my cheer uniform from last year. Does anybody know any good, fast, sufficient weight loss tips that can help me drop 10-15 pounds by at least January? Please help!

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      The best advice I could ever give you is losing weight takes time. If you’ve tried and failed many times (which is what I am going through), you have to start slowly. Maybe start cutting out bad things in your diet little by little. You can’t expect to go from eating sugary processed foods and not exercising much to extreme healthy eating and exercising 7 days a week in one day, or even one week. You have to learn to control yourself and that means start small and keep everything under control. Another VERY important thing to remember is to NEVER EVER EVER give up! No matter if you go a whole week eating junk foods and not exercising, that does not mean you have to give up and never reach your goals. Just think, well, next week I’ll do better and get back on track. You have to believe you can do it. You have to want it for yourself and no one else.

      Exercise at least 5 times per week. I suggest strength training and cardio. Let’s say Monday you walk/run for 30 minutes, then Tuesday you would do push ups and sit ups and planks, and squats and then take a break Wednesday and start back up on Thursday.

      As far as your eating you really need to watch what you eat! That is the most important step. Portion control is important. If you normally get a big dinner, then cut the amount of food you get in half and that will help a lot. Another way is to get your plate and only eat 3/4 of the food you have on your plate.

      Eating healthy, lean meats, whole grain breads, and staying away from sugary things and high calorie foods. Always remember that cutting out something bad with something healthy really makes a difference. Drinking sodas and eating candy bars is empty calories. If you replace those things with a whole grain waffle or one small piece of dark chocolate it will really help.

      View Comment
  4. Reply

    Can Someone Give Me Some Weight Loss Tips? I do gymnastics and dance. I am a female, 13 yrs, 5’4 and about 130 lbs. I feel gross. I at least want to be 100. I am planning on running in the morning along with an excersize video, at school we run for 5 minutes every day, in the evenings I will take my dogs for a walk, and doing gymnastics/dance stuff downstairs. Can anybody give me any weight loss tips.

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      Drink more and more water and don’t eat oily and junk food . Walking, gymnastic and dancing are good way to reduce weight. You will achieve your desired weight in some days.. Keep going..

      View Comment
  5. Reply

    I Am 5foot 11 Inches Tall And Weight 230lb. Can Any Body Give Me Some Weight Loss Tips Or Diets? Hi. I am a 15 year old kid, who is 5’11, 230lb. And I need some weight loss tips before school starts. I work out alot. I play high school football, and competitive baseball in the summer. During football I lose all of my weight, but after that I gain all of my weight for baseball season. Please HELP!!! What can I do?

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      No fats , no sugars and no junk food plus all the exercise you can manage ,

      View Comment
  6. Reply

    What Websites Have Good Weight Loss Tips? Does anyone know of any websites that have helpful (and free!!) weight loss tips?

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      Try this AWESOME diet program — “Spark People”. It’s a FREE website (www.sparkpeople.com) that actually works!! It’s SOOO helpful in losing weight, finding exercises, and tracking your progress! It is run by nutritionists, and it encourages a healthy/balanced diet (no fads!). You can track food eaten, read articles about nutrition, exercise, and motivation, talk to experts, receive motivation from other dieters, look up exercises that will work for you, and SO much more! I belong to it and LOVE it!!!! Please check it out – you won’t be disappointed!!!!

      If you join, please state that I (matcm81) referred you. Thanks and GOOD LUCK!!

      View Comment

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