Here's how to harness the power of photos, apps, GPS, and more for weight loss success.
I'll admit it: I adore my smartphone. Email, texting, apps, pictures, videos, social media, Netflix, GPSâ¦Iâm still amazed that one little handheld device can do so much. And these days more and more peopleâincluding many of my clientsâare turning to their smartphones for help with their health goals.
If youâre 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 Iâm home, Iâm often in neighborhoods Iâm 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 âhealth foodâ and âlocal/organicâ categories), a quick GPS search, or simple Google query, I can always find something close that wonât 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 âWhat do you think?â or ask for advice about the better menu option at a restaurant), but itâs often also for support, as in, âI really, really want to eat a pint of ice cream right now, help!â In many cases just reaching out to get through a difficult moment can be enough to thwart an emotional eating episode.
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And you can text anyone you trustâa friend, sibling, anyone who gets it and can allow you to vent or decompress (in other words, donât text that person who you know will say âGo for it!â). Iâve 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 thatâs catching on is sharing healthy choices with pride. Iâm not talking about the preachy variety, but rather an âI feel so good about what Iâm eating I want to share it!â 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 didnât do, however, was improve dietary quality, and in my book thatâs key, both for health and weight loss (check out my previous post What is Clean Eating?). So if youâre into it, track awayâjust 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, Iâve 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 youâve been trying to avoid, or eating when you arenât hungry is going to feel good in the moment. Eating, especially comfort foods and treats, is an effective way to feel rewarded, disconnected, even companionedâall 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 wasnât 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!
Cynthia SassÂ is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with masterâs degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen onÂ national TV, sheâs Healthâs contributing nutrition editor, and privately counselsÂ clientsÂ in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller isÂ S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia onÂ Facebook,Â TwitterÂ andÂ Pinterest.