Foodtech and Diet: The Best Nutrition, Health and Fitness Apps

Applications designed to teach you how to eat well and eventually lose weight multiply on iOS and Android. But counting your calories and following a “coach” diet online, is this really effective? By dint of too much inventory of ingested food, would not the risk be lost?

The Best Nutrition, Health and Fitness Apps

Today, to learn how to eat and lose weight, there is no longer a need for a nutritionist: our smartphones provide access to a wide range of health, fitness and wellness applications for to “coach” us on the way to a good diet. Among the hundreds of apps available on iOS or Android, a dozen stand out and hold this market belonging to the Foodtech sector, oriented regime.

Virtual calorie counters

The leader is, without question, MyFitnessPal, a “calorie counter”. This platform, available on a smartphone in mobile application (for iOS and Android), proposes to count the calories of each ingested food (as well as lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, sugars, fibers …), breakfast, lunch and having dinner. The idea is to specify its initial weight, and its goal (for example, to lose 4 kilos in 3 months), so that the app sets for you a daily calories not to be exceeded. By recording everything you eat, then using a connected scale in parallel, or simply by weighing and weighting regularly, or by scanning the barcode of a product, it is possible to hold a true balance “Dashboard” of intake calories and weight curve.

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal also offers you to follow more than 350 cardio or weight training exercises (to burn the extra calories, the exercises are adapted to the number of calories you want to lose). The site describes itself as the “social network of fitness”: it proposes to participate and to feed the database of the app (4 million foods are listed, according to the site) but also to follow a diet in group, with friends registered on the platform. You can “compare your efforts”, encourage each other, or “share with them your balanced meals”.

At the origin of MyFitnessPal, Mike Lee, the former president of NextC, the Californian company creating Mingle, a meeting site. In 2005, eager to get into his wedding suit, he lists all the foods he ingests, as well as their caloric intake, in an Excel file. Its database finally supplies its new site, which now has 80 million users. MyFitnessPal derives its revenues from advertising, as well as its partnerships, including Withings (and its connected scale) and Fitbit (and its connected bracelets).

Another leading application in the food coaching market: My Diet Coach. Behind this application of the British startup InspiredApps, an Israeli developer, Anat Levy, had the idea during her maternity leave in 2015 to create a “genius capable of motivating her not to eat unnecessary calories.” The app, available on iOS and Android, is a tool of “motivation to lose weight”, and “win the psychological battle of the regime”.

My Diet Coach

Like MyFitnessPal, it is a matter of counting the calories of each ingested food, but also of keeping a diet diary, of recording its weight regularly (notably by coupling My Diet Coach with the “Health” app d ‘Apple), and above all, to create “reminders” – daily notifications that remind you of your goal (lose 5 kilos “to feel good about yourself”, for example), or that show you a picture of you thinner.

A true virtual coach, in short, intended to avoid you from cracking, and which also delivers you “tips of perseverance” and “rewards” (virtual), according to the principle of motivating gamification. In two years, the app has already been downloaded 8 million times, all over the world. The most “motivating” features (a “diary”, an “SOS” button in case of cravings, “typical meals”) are available in the “Pro” version, but the free version allows you to count your calories and create notifications.

There are many other applications for counting calories and adopting a “program” for better eating, from the German Yazio and WeightDrop, to the French “coach online” of Fysiki, FizzUp. The most radical application is probably DietSensor, launched by two French, and which allows to “lose weight” or monitor its diet in case of diabetes, using a pocket spectrometer – a small device that is placed above a dish, and which displays instantly on your smartphone, its molecular composition, here the number of nutrients contained (calories, lipids, carbohydrates), and this much more precisely than all the applises listed above.

Counting Calories to achieve what you eat

There is a fundamental question: does counting calories and weight with a mobile app work? A user of MyFitnessPal writes that the advantage of this type of service is to have an idea of ​​the number of calories in a packet of chips, in order to realize what one consumes – sometimes too big amount. But according to her, “to count all that one eats” is also “a real constraint”.

In a recent and very interesting article, Slate reporter Marc Pédeau tells how he managed to lose 8 pounds in eight months, using MyFitnessPal. Having determined the number of 1,500 kilocalories (kcal) not to be exceeded per day, he notes in his experience that one evening, after an aperitif, fries and four pints of beer, “the daily goal is exceeded “. In the end, after a period when “morale was not at the top”, he ended up “changing his eating habits” by not depriving himself of everything but “watching over consumed food”.

For all that, nutritionists are clearly not fans of this kind of calorie counters. Even if the process allows one to realize what one is eating, it can also be risky. According to an American study, cited in Mosaic Science, counting calories can be ineffective, and “cause deficiencies” or eating disorders. “When you start to count, you forget the pleasure of the food, you enter a permanent frustration and you cut off the multi-sensory aspect of the diet,” says Maïa Baudelaire, nutritionist. By being too often frustrated, we multiply thus the “cracking” food, until the famous “yoyo effect” of any good diet that respects itself, or until bulimia or anorexia. The specialist advocates instead to “pay attention to the quality of foods put on the plate”, to engage in physical activity, and finally to undertake “real food rehabilitation”.

On Slate, Marc Pédeau himself confesses: “I could not count my diet for more than two months. It is really tedious and it calls for a huge will (which in my opinion can not last in the long term). ” It was by changing his habits that he managed to pass that perilous course of discouragement. For all, ultimately, is only a question of will.

Personally, I myself used, for 4 months, the application My Diet Coach. I had set myself the goal of losing 6 pounds in a short time … Without the slightest barrier, without the wise advice of an app that boasts of being a “coach” and a motivational tool, I have set myself an unrealizable goal (1200 kcal per day, that is … nothing at all to eat). At first, counting all the kilocalories of food eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, I lost a few pounds … that I ended up resuming, at the time of Christmas, abandoning all good resolutions.

Today, on the brink of overweight, I would be tempted to repeat the experience. The real merit of this kind of app is to allow the user to realize what it eats, how many calories a simple packet of chips contains (160 kcal), a glass of mojito (217 kcal) , a beer (150 kcal), or a good McDo (1044 kcal, or 58% of the 1800 kcal of the day not to be exceeded). In order to truly better eat after.

Counting calories: sometimes inefficient and risky

But be careful not to blindly follow a supposedly “health” application, but which is in reality very often “homologated by nobody”, and whose reliability of what it measures can be questioned. Who tells us that the packet of crisps in your closet contains 160 kcal, and no more, or less? Are the databases used by this type of service still 100% reliable? And yourself, when you enter the number of calories and food ingested by hand in your “logbook”, do not you risk making mistakes, and deceive yourself – then distorting your diet?

In addition, according to the British Medical Journal, this form of “self-quantified”, or “self-monitoring”, may generate anxiety in the user. On Science of Us, New York reporter Jesse Singal cites an international study, which reveals that “only 3% of those downloading an app of this type use it for more than a week.” According to the researchers, instead of encouraging users in their “nutritional efforts”, calorie counters tend to “discourage” them, when the results are not there – which happens most often.

Moreover, and I can testify myself, many users find it difficult to “precisely determine” their caloric intake, because the amounts ingested are not precise enough, as is the list of ingredients cooked. “This means that many must under or over-estimate their caloric intake, which also promotes abandonment. Worse, as it is easier to obtain nutritional information from industrial foods, it may even help to resort to a less healthy diet. Another problem is the difficulty in informing one’s application when one is in society, “writes Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu, who summarizes the situation in four words:” to measure oneself is to worry “. In other words, counting calories can generate stress, and therefore cracking.

Entering nutritional information for ingurgy foods takes time, and can be extremely time consuming. Too, sometimes, in the context of an eventful social life. “Fastidieux”, to use the term used by Marc Pédeau, of Slate. Tedious, therefore discouraging.

Reusing MyDietCoach could be useful to me to lose the 10 pounds I took in a year and a half, partly due to the failure of its use, partly after trying to drink Joylent, a high protein drink “Miracle”, but in reality impossible to drink more than two weeks without cracking. Count the calories, why not. But in a single perspective, then: discover if what I eat is good or not, and learn, by myself, without blindly counting on an app, eat better. And at worst, tell yourself that an application of “coaching food” will never replace a real nutritionist.

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