I’ll admit it; I am an insatiable techno-geek who is always looking for ways to add new technology into my life. They say the first step to recovery is actually admitting you have a problem. I wouldn’t exactly say it was a problem but according to my wife and family it is.
So when I went on something as simple as a diet to change my eating habits and become healthier I was sure that this would be one area that would be relatively technology free. I mean really how could anyone possibly add technology to something as simple as eating?
Well oddly enough there are a lot of technology touch points with dieting and exercise. A quick look at the Apple iTunes App Store will show you pages and pages of applications that have been written to help you make changes to your lifestyle and eating habits.
There are apps for tracking what you eat from simple food journaling to exhaustive encyclopedia-like databases that will give you facts about every food you could possibly imagine eating. I quickly began questioning where to even start.
As I perused the app store I would pick up an app here or there that sounded great or had interesting reviews to see whether it would help motivate me to stay close to the program. Before long I had several pages of applications on my iPhone each offering one piece of the puzzle. What I found though was if I wanted to track my overall health there was not one magic application.
During my search I uncovered an app specifically for Take Shape for Life the diet program I have been using. How could I have missed that? An app designed and distributed by the program had to be a perfect fit right?
I downloaded the free TSFL application and quickly entered the basic information. It asked for my name, whether I was on Weight Loss or Transition & Maintenance, and what my current week of the program. The last choice consisted of telling the app whether I was on week 1, week 2, week 3, or week 4+. That’s it for the settings.
From there I could set the time of my first meal of the day for each day of the week then create alerts that would tell me how long after eating I wanted to be reminded to eat again. Once I set all of this up I waited for the magic to begin.
At the first alert it reminded me to go into the app and log my meal. I had expected that would mean identifying the actual time I ate and what I had for that meal. That was only partially true. It did allow me to enter the actual time I ate and whether it was a meal replacement or my “lean and green” meal but there was no place to enter what I actually ate.
Once I recorded the meal the application would start the counter for the next meal and provide me with a message of encouragement or a tip. At the end of the day when I recorded my last meal the application congratulated me for becoming healthier and then suggested I come back tomorrow to do the process again.
That’s it? That’s all the application does? Sadly the answer is yes. There is no way to record the food you consumed, no way to know how many calories you had ingested. That was bad enough but I also found out that you cannot go back and look at when you recorded your meals.
When you have a busy day and only have your iPhone with you it is quick to record that a meal was made but no way to recall that to add to the Daily Success Tracker sheets that come with the program. There is also no way to record the amount of water you are drinking, the exercise/activity you have had, or even how you felt that day.
Overall the application is little more than an advertisement for the Take Shape for Life program. To really be usable serious rework needs to be done to this application. You should be able to upload before pictures of yourself and the ability to enter current pictures to see the progress you are making.
You should be able to enter all of the data that is tracked on the Daily Success Tracker which includes the times of the meal replacements, the actual food you have eaten, the components of your Lean and Green meal, the amount of water you drink, the exercise or activity you have done, and a simple good/ok/bad rating of how you felt.
That should be a minimum of what it does. You could enhance that with the ability to share any of this information with your friends on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. You should be able to send an email to your health coach with questions or comments. You should be able to find your reading assignments for each week with a link to more information for workbook exercises. Finally, instead of the canned tips and encouragement, it should allow your support group to send personalized encouragement to you. In a nutshell this should be a tool that can be used by people on the TSFL program to help them gain confidence.
After just a couple days of use I quickly deleted the application from my phone. Instead I’ll use the FitBit application. While it is focused more on the exercise portion it does allow me to track other things to remind me what I need to record when I get home about eating, activity, and food consumption.