Whether you need motivation to stick to a diet or encouragement to get fit, let the latest gadgets and tech give you a helping hand
Losing weight can be a struggle, but the good news is that, thanks to developments in technology, there’s a plethora of new methods to support you as you try to reach your goals. From using the latest gadgets to making the most of the features on your mobile phone, these are some of the best ways to help you slim down.
Get Snap Happy
Write a log of what you eat and you’ll lose twice as much weight, according to a study by US scientists. But if you keep a photo diary by taking snaps of your meals and snacks with your camera phone, it’s been shown to be an even more effective method of shedding pounds.
Dr Michelle Storfer, founder of The Food Effect (thefoodeffect.co.uk), says, ‘Written food diaries can be very effective but the problem is people usually record what they eat after they eat it. But when you’re taking photos, you have to snap the picture before you eat – and that can stop you making an unhealthy choice.’
You know you’re not supposed to sit for long periods, so invest in a gadget like a Fitbit, which monitors your movements, and it will soon let you know if you’ve been lounging on the sofa for too long.
With over three million fitness bands sold in the UK last year, these activity trackers – which can also tell you how many calories you burn in an exercise session, how well you’ve slept and whether you’ve walked enough of your daily target of steps – are the latest must-have.
John Brewer, Professor of Applied Sport Science at St Mary’s University, London, explains, ‘They provide objective feedback, and the daily desire to hit targets helps people to personalise their activity levels. Also, as you’re comparing with your own performance, it avoids the demotivation of comparing with other people, who may be fitter.’
It’s easy for any diet to come unstuck by consuming hidden sugars, but there’s a new way to combat this. The Sugar Smart app – launched by Change4Life – lets you scan barcodes with your phone to see how much sugar is in food before you buy it.
The amount is illustrated in grams and in sugar cubes, and it’s shown per 100g, per packet and per serving.
Nutritionist Kim Pearson (kim-pearson.com) says, ‘It’s simple to keep on hand when wandering the supermarket and makes assessing the sugar content of a food much easier than analysing the nutritional information.’
Recipe For Change
Many weight-loss plans can be scuppered by eating portions that are too big. But while measuring out food can be time-consuming, a new gadget that connects with your phone or tablet speeds things up.
Simply search for a recipe you want to cook on the free Drop Recipes app on your iPhone or iPad, connect the Drop Scale (£79.99, lakeland.co.uk) via Bluetooth and start weighing your ingredients.
It will automatically tell you as soon as you have measured out enough, then will move on to the next food on the list that needs to be weighed – you don’t even need to touch the screen.
Use Your Head
A recent study found that people who were taught mindfulness were less likely to put on weight. So learning how to meditate could be key to your diet’s success. But you don’t need to go on a special retreat to learn the skills – you can use your phone or computer.
The app Headspace has a multitude of meditation courses to follow, and over two million people have already signed up.
Phone A Friend – Or Text
There’s nothing like a few words of encouragement to motivate you to keep on the straight and narrow when you’re trying to stick to a new health and fitness regime. So why not use your mobile phone to take this to another level?
A study published in Health Promotion Practice found dieters were more likely to stay on track when they received weekly, motivational text reminders of their daily ‘calorie budget’. So joining forces with a friend and sending each other regular, supportive messages could keep both of you on the right path.
Professor Brewer explains, ‘Sticking to a healthy exercise and diet programme can be difficult, especially when the conflicting demands of busy lives often give little time for exercise, and eating results in ‘comfort food’ rather than ‘healthy food’.
So when peer pressure – via text messages or phone calls – to eat sensibly and exercise regularly is positive and supports a healthy lifestyle, it’s not surprising that the response is enhanced nutrition and more physical activity.’
Grab An App
Let your phone do the hard work for you and download an app that will support you as you try to lose weight. MyFitnessPal has a diet diary, which you can add meals into by searching for well-known products on its database or by scanning barcodes of items.
Kim says, ‘It doesn’t just track your calorie intake, it’s a great way to keep an eye on your intake of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), as well as of fibre.’
If you feel too self-conscious to attend weekly meetings with a slimming group, or if you don’t want to pay for web-based support such as Weight Watchers’ online plans, why not join an internet-based forum for free?
By doing a quick search on the web, you’ll find groups such as 3fatchicks.com, where you can swap advice, share your struggles and get help from other users.
Web forums are a convenient and easy way to connect with, be encouraged by and learn from other people in the same boat. And forums can be completely anonymous – you don’t even have to use your real name.
Motivate yourself to walk more each day by transforming your smartphone into a pedometer. Simply download a free app such as Argus, which can be used on iPhones and Android, to keep track of your steps. It’s very user-friendly.
Things To Remember
✤ It can be easy to get carried away when you’re using a new gadget, so it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor before taking part in any new type of exercise.
✤ Whether you’re using your mobile phone or a hi-tech fitness band, it’s important to make sure you keep them charged up – you can’t use them if they don’t have any battery power left.
✤ When you are looking to buy a new gadget, don’t assume the top-of-the-range model is the best. It might have more functions but
they may not all be of use to you. Check out the cheaper, more basic models, too.
✤ Before spending money on an app, try the free ones first because they may be just as good and will save you some money.