Do Weight Loss Apps Really Work?
A weight loss app that promises you personalized plans to track food, workouts, water intake, sleep, and weight loss. Doesn’t that sound like the best thing ever?
As a company, we are inspired by the strength of the masses, so when we see an app telling us that it has 10 million downloads or more, we can feel immensely reassured. Some of the most popular apps even tell you that losing weight is not difficult. By tracking your diet and calories, and following diet charts and nutrition calculator guides, apps encourage you to lose weight “easily”.
If you’ve used a weight loss app or if you feel inspired to do so, one of the first things you’ll do is go to the App Store, browse some of the most popular, and most likely download. the one that has the most downloads or promises the most in terms of cutting edge features.
The promise to you is that you can easily lose weight with a personalized plan, which the app will create for you based on your health data and BMI.
But how do you assess the results of a health plan?
When it comes to health and weight, the first thing you need to understand is that there are or should be several metrics by which you can gauge your results. It is a combination of patient experience and visible tangible data.
1. When you start a program to improve your health and lose weight, you should make a list of all your symptoms. No weight loss plan should make you lose weight and ultimately affect your health. If you are losing 10 pounds and need B12 or iron injections after the program, this should be of concern to you.
2. I like to look at the symptoms and the sera in the lab, before and after the procedure. I use them to correlate with each other and provide advice. It allows you to have a holistic point of view. Obviously with one app you are completely removing one of them, which is a personalized interpretation of serum blood markers. This is very important for weight loss as it provides a picture of the level of insulin resistance, hormone status, inflammatory markers, and nutritional status, all of which play a role in optimal weight loss.
3. Towards the end of your health program, examine your own symptoms and compare them to the ones you had before you started. If you’ve lost weight effectively, but have more pain, acne, hair loss, fatigue, sleeplessness, or anxiety, this is a sign of a bad program.
4. You should look at weight, symptom improvement and better serum labs. The three should correlate to gauge the effectiveness of the app you were using. Since no app is going to customize these aspects, it can only be useful if you become your own advocate.
Weight loss depends on so many things. Can an app really customize this?
Weight loss can happen for a few people by observing calories and monitoring them through an app. However, for many others, the underlying health complications of resistance to weight loss are so numerous. Let’s take a look at what some of the popular health apps promise and dig a little deeper.
1. The most popular apps promise personalized diet based on health data and BMI. Health data only includes parameters such as height, weight, ideal weight, and BMI. Crucially important parameters like blood sugar levels, hormones, menstrual cycle details and inflammatory markers are not even used. It is impractical for an app to integrate such data, but it promises you personalized plans. Have you ever wondered about this irony?
2. Another common promise is that you can eat healthy using this app. Eating healthy is a phrase that encompasses several hidden aspects. The truth is, food sensitivities are more common today. What is one person’s healthy food can be another’s poison. Incorporating such personalized data to protect each person is out of the question.
3. Counting calories is the common promise of all of these health apps. Calorie counting has been seen many times as an outdated approach to nutrition. Overall, it is not redundant and cannot be used effectively to support a patient-centered approach. It is also a stressful practice of eating, where you have to keep counting and tracking every food you eat. It’s a cumbersome, stressful, and unmanageable approach over the long term. Let’s not forget that it doesn’t include anything to support health.
4. Some health apps promise a specialized diet to manage conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, PCOS, cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Under each of these conditions, the root causes for each may be unique. Two people with hypothyroidism can have two completely different root causes. What you get is a cookie cutter meal plan designed loosely to take care of each of these conditions and then makes you think it was created especially for you.
5. Finally, there is more to nutrition and weight loss than knowing the ideal ratio of macronutrients. Any health plan should consider the food you eat for the optimal functioning of bodily systems. Suggesting a high fat diet to a person based on their weight, when they have high liver markers or fatty liver disease can lead to additional complications for their health.
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Do Weight Loss Apps Work?
It is not possible for an application to customize a plan for you based on just a few entries. Disregarding the lab results can be an injustice to the person. What goes into creating a truly personalized plan for someone that will support lab, symptom and weight improvement cannot be done through a health app. It can help to follow your diet and feel responsible.
However, if you are looking to improve your long term health and relieve your symptoms, then it is better that you invest in your health.
Preventive health care by working with a trained nutritionist is a fraction of the cost of managing a chronic health problem. This is also where the missing piece is. Most people are reluctant to support preventative health care.
Your choice of these apps should not be based on the number of downloads they have. You should always monitor all of these key areas on your own, to see if they are helping you.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)