5 Ways Your Phone Can Help You Shed Pounds

Here's how to harness the power of photos, apps, GPS, and more for weight loss success.

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I'll admit it: I adore my smartphone. Email, texting, apps, pictures, videos, social media, and Netflix. I'm still amazed that one little handheld device can do so much. And these days more and more people—including many of my clients—are turning to their smartphones for help with their health goals.

If you're among the 58% of Americans who uses a smartphone, check out these five tips for taking advantage of its capacities to bolster your weight loss success.

Use It To Find Healthy Options, Fast

I travel a lot, and even when I'm home, I'm often in neighborhoods that I'm not completely familiar with. A huge benefit of having a smartphone is being able to find a healthy place to grab a bite, no matter where I am. Whether through an app like MenuPages (which has both health food and local/organic categories), a quick GPS search, or a simple Google query, I can always find something close that won't throw me off track.

The other day after a meeting in a neighborhood riddled with fast food options, I was able to find a grocery store nearby with an awesome make-your-own salad bar. This smartphone trick has also helped many of my clients locate sit-down restaurants with healthy options when they need to arrange a spur-of-the-moment business lunch. It's a simple no-stray strategy.

Text for Stay-on-Track Support

I text with many of my clients, sometimes to answer a simple question (e.g. they text me a photo of something at the supermarket and ask, What do you think? or ask for advice about the better menu option at a restaurant), but it's often also for support, as in, I really, really want to eat a pint of ice cream right now, help! In many cases just reaching out to get through a difficult moment can be enough to thwart an emotional eating episode.

And you can text anyone you trust, a friend, a sibling, anyone who gets it and can allow you to vent or decompress (in other words, don't text that person who you know will say Go for it!). I've seen this simple step help people feel less isolated, and greatly reduce instances of eating driven by emotions (after a confrontation with a co-worker), social situations (at a gathering where everyone is overindulging), or environments (walking by a bakery). Even if it cuts following through with your trigger 50% of the time, the payoff is pretty major.

Tweet (Or Instagram) Your Healthy Meals

Social media is overflowing with food porn: pics of decadent meals, lattes topped with whipped cream, cakes, pies, cocktails, you name it. But a trend that's catching on is sharing healthy choices with pride. I'm not talking about the preachy variety, but rather an I feel so good about what I'm eating I want to share it! attitude.

Many of my clients feel motivated by the positive reactions they receive when they upload their healthy choices, and others see it as a positive form of accountability they can control (e.g. not being obligated to post every single meal). Personally, I love to share pics of smoothies because I get so excited when I craft a new ingredient combo, but you can share anything, even the tall glass of water with lemon and cucumber you chose over a diet soda or second glass of wine.

Track Your Intake

One recent Arizona State University study found that diet tracking via a smartphone app, versus a memo function or paper and pencil resulted in more consistent food tracking. What it didn't do, however, was improve dietary quality, and in my book, that's key, both for health and weight loss. So if you're into it, track away just be sure to focus on choosing nutrient-rich whole foods, not just zeroing in on calories.

Escape (Without Using Food)

In my years of counseling clients, I've noticed that the top diet derailers have nothing to do with not knowing what to do. The major dilemma is that despite your knowledge, you also know that eating a food you've been trying to avoid, or eating when you aren't hungry is going to feel good at the moment. Eating, especially comfort foods and treats, is an effective way to feel rewarded, disconnected, and even companioned—all important human needs.

If your smartphone can fill that need, you may be able to avoid turning to food. I used this trick the other day: Near the end of a challenging afternoon, I still had one meeting left, and I found my mind drifting toward food even though I wasn't physically hungry. So instead of rummaging through my bag for a snack, I pulled out my phone for a 10-minute escape: 5 minutes with a mediation app, and 5 picking up where I left off watching The Good Wife. It was enough of a break to reboot my mindset and allow me to move on with my day, no extra nibbling necessary!

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