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Progress report: How to find a weight loss app that works for you

Find a tool to help maintain healthy habits.

The Best Weight Loss Apps for Motivation | Juniper

Technological advancements over the last decade have resulted in enormous innovation in what the World Health Organisation calls digital health [1]. Put simply, digital health is the digitisation of medical records and treatment plans, but the scope of it is really so much broader than that.

Digital health has revolutionised the way we treat health and allowed greater access and affordability to a whole range of healthcare needs.

This broad scope means that while many health apps and digital health services are designed to help with the management of complex diseases and chronic illnesses, there are also a whole host of apps that are being utilised by many medical practitioners, nutritionists, and dieticians to help people to form and maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Often called weight loss apps, these particular digital health services are specifically aimed at not just helping people lose weight, but in giving them the tools to maintain healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

But with so many options on the market, how can you tell which will be among the best weight loss apps for you? Before we can answer that, it's important to understand just how these apps can help with losing weight.

What are the benefits of using a diet or weight loss app?

Weight loss apps are specifically designed to help you in your weight loss journey, or, if you've reached your ideal weight, in maintaining that weight and avoiding any seasonal fluctuations.

The range of diet apps available means that different apps will offer different benefits (more on that later), but in general, a weight loss app (particularly when paired with a smartwatch such as an Apple watch or Fitbit) can help you with:

  • Food tracking and calorie counting
  • Meal planning
  • Tracking exercise habits
  • Self-monitoring lifestyle habits
  • Goal setting
  • Step tracking
  • Sending push reminders to input your food intake and workouts, or even remind you to go to bed [1].

Some weight loss apps offer further services such as social networking, coaching, medical advice, access to an extensive food database, and even heart rate and blood sugar level tracking that can help contextualise weight loss or weight gain and inform on other health issues.

Some of these functionalities, particularly in food logging and exercise tracking, can replace a pen-and-paper journal you may keep, which is where digital-specific elements such as step tracking and push notifications can become irreplaceable. These sorts of technological advancements unique to weight loss apps can keep you on track as pivotal reminders and useful tools to keep moving and to keep an eye on those eating habits.

Are weight loss apps effective?

Studies show that they certainly can be! Recent research found that most participants who used a weight loss app felt that their eating habits, exercise routine, and weight management were better following starting using an app [1], and a second study found that weight loss apps supported long-term habit maintenance [2].

In that sense, weight loss apps have been found to be particularly effective as they can prompt self-motivation that might slip by the wayside with other weight loss programmes, or under a non-digital, pen-and-paper managed dietary plan.

Who should use weight loss apps?

While weight loss apps offer a cost-effective and accessible option for all people looking to embark on their weight loss journey, many studies have found that they're most useful for those looking at low-intensity approaches to weight loss and conventional weight management strategies [1].

Weight loss apps also use calorie counting as a part of their recommendations, and while calorie counting can be effective for weight loss, links between calorie counting and disordered eating in some people have been found.

If you're looking for high-intensity alternatives, require modifications as a result of health conditions, or if you are experiencing, or have historically experienced, disordered eating, speaking to your doctor is recommended.

Health and fitness apps

With so many weight loss apps on the market (and at so many different price points), understanding what will be the best weight loss app for you is synonymous with understanding what, exactly, you want out of it.

Are you just looking for something to help you with calorie counting? Or are you looking for support to help you maintain habits you think you might struggle to maintain on your own?

In that sense, it can be useful to think of weight loss apps as operating on 3 levels:

1. Food tracking and exercise tracking

If you're wanting to stick to basics, you might be happy with a simple food and exercise tracker. These are often the most affordable weight loss apps, with some brands even offering their services in both a restricted free weight loss app format and an unrestricted paid premium version.

They offer straightforward tools for the self-motivated person. They'll help you to figure out how many calories are in a meal by accessing a recognised food database, often by utilising a barcode scanner, track exercise habits and measure your current weight, set fitness goals, and some may even offer meal planning.

Some food-tracking apps include:

  • Calorie Counter PRO
  • ControlMyWeight
  • Apple Health

Think you might need a little more?

2. Food education, coaching and community

If you have trouble staying motivated or have tried other weight loss programmes with little avail, a more advanced weight loss app might be a better fit for you.

This next level of app is more expensive, but it also contains a lot more information on things crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only does this include everything that the food tracking app offers, but this model can include a range of healthy recipes, a more detailed food log, workshops on healthy lifestyle habits, tips for getting more physical activity, coaching from people who work in nutrition and exercise, and the advise that can help you to lose weight [3].

Some food education and coaching apps include:

  • Weight Watchers
  • Noom Weight Loss Coach

Is this still not quite enough?

3. Medical advice, supplements and support

If you've been trying to lose weight for a while, hearing what may be the best weight loss app for you might feel like reading through a list of tried and failed attempts.

You might even think that if you've tried one weight loss programme, you've tried them all, and if that's the case, you might need a more tailored, more supportive programme that goes beyond weight tracking, meal planning and coaching, and gives you the medical guidance, community support, and the personalised long term plan that can support successful weight loss.

Juniper's Weight Reset Programme offers more than other health apps, providing all of the above functionality while giving you real medical advice and structured support to help you lose weight and change your life.

It's here to support you at every stage of your weight loss journey, and as an exclusive app for Juniper patients, you'll be accompanied by many others going through exactly what you are.

How to choose a weight loss app for you

Ultimately, different weight loss apps focus on different things, with some more focused on food tracking and dietary intake, others on coaching and goal setting, and a select few based on offering you medical support and advice.

How you determine which is best for you will depend on your needs and your weight and well-being goals, how self-motivated you are, and the budget you have to commit to this chapter of your journey to a healthy lifestyle.

Image credit: Keira Burton / Pexels