Advancements in technology make our lives easier in countless ways, whether you’re banking online, getting your medications refilled automatically or ordering food for delivery. And while technology could help you reach your weight-loss goals if you adopt the right habits, it could also hinder your efforts without you even realizing it.
“Using apps to improve our health is one of the most important tools we have to reach our goals,” says David Nickum, a Virginia-based personal trainer and owner of On the Go Fitness Pro. “Being able to track, see progress and have a community to help is important.”
We asked experts which tech-based habits you should adopt and avoid for weight-loss success:
“Tracking apps are always great for tracking your calories and macros in and out,” says Anne Danahy, an Arizona-based registered dietitian. “I think many people are surprised at how much they learn about their food choices and health habits from these.”
Nickum agrees, adding, “You get to look at your progress in real-time, which provides a positive feedback loop.”
Most tracking tools are intended to be used for education and accountability purposes. If you find yourself becoming overly focused on the numbers, it could be helpful to re-evaluate your relationship with food and the tracking tool itself.
“Actions such as tracking food intake and monitoring steps throughout the day can be a great tool for some people but harmful for others,” says Leah Forristall, a Massachusetts-based registered dietitian. “If someone finds themselves becoming obsessive and stressed out around food, that’s a good sign that it’s time to take a step back and find an alternate method.”
Whether you pay for a premium virtual fitness membership or prefer publicly available YouTube videos, you can easily find a never-ending supply of exercise videos and classes online.
“I love the amount and variety of online workouts available over the past year,” says Danahy. “Even if you’re stuck inside your house or working late, there is some 15-minute online workout you can pull up on your phone or tablet. It helps to develop [or] maintain habits.”
MyFitnessPal has dozens of self-guided workouts available right on the app when you upgrade to a Premium membership, including bodyweight, HIIT, yoga and more. You can also find countless free workout guides on the MyFitnessPal blog.
Between work, social-media scrolling and online workouts, you might spend the bulk of your day staring at a screen.
“It can be a time suck, leaving you less time to focus on your goals,” says Danahy. “Also, much research suggests [social media] can make people feel bad about themselves or their body image. That can backfire and cause you to give up on your goals. It’s important to realize that nearly all content on social media is curated to show the positive side, not the struggles.”
Don’t forget to find screen-free ways to recharge, even if you bring your phone along (and keep it tucked away in a bag or pocket). Go for a walk, do a quick stretch/yoga flow or just sit outside and listen to the sounds.
“You must unplug at least twice a day,” says Annie Appleby, a California-based yoga instructor and founder of YogaForce. “It’s fine to put in the earbuds and move around. Listen to music to boost your mood.”
Joining a health challenge can be a great way to gain motivation or an external support system as you move toward your goals. Many people like the camaraderie of an online community that follows the same health advice for a certain period of time, whether it’s quitting alcohol, doing pushups every day or logging a certain amount of steps.
“Having some sort of support system in place can not only increase the probability of reaching specific goals due to having accountability, but it can also make the process more enjoyable,” says Forristall. “[But], many challenges are unrealistic or too extreme. Some major red flags to look out for would be any challenge that promises quick results or requires purchasing supplements. I would also be wary of a challenge that requires removing specific foods or food groups.”
Before you start a new diet or workout, consider who’s recommending it. Registered dietitians, certified personal trainers and medical professionals are qualified to share nutrition and fitness ideas and recommendations, but social media influencers without credentials may not be.
“Anyone can post what they want on social media — just because someone is giving out health advice does not mean it’s evidence-based,” says Forristall. “‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos are currently trendy on TikTok; however, [they] can sometimes be problematic … They often portray a number of calories that are inadequate for a teenager or adult. Other people often view these videos and then compare and adjust what they eat in a day.”
Don’t read emails, texts or news updates while you eat, whether you’re alone or with company. Take a screen break and focus on your meal, which may help you eat less. Research has shown that people consume more calories when looking at their smartphones while eating. When you’re dining with someone else, enjoy the moment and catch up with each other.
People who use their smartphones at bedtime are likely to get less sleep, according to research. They may stay up later than they want to, focusing on what they’re reading or viewing. Also, the blue light phones emit disrupts the body’s natural tendency to feel sleepy, once they’re finally ready to rest.
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