You can’t get THIS with a free weight loss app!

People, too many people, think losing weight is doing some stuff differently and *BOOM* the weight is gone.

Some people think they’ll just need to do some stuff until they get back to their old weight. They’ll use a free weight loss app. Once they get back to what the want to weigh, they’ll stay there and won’t need the app anymore. They can go back to doing what they’ve always done and the weight will stay gone.

HA! Are they wrong!

Losing weight isn’t just doing some stuff.

The free weight loss apps definitely support the stuff that needs to be done, but it doesn’t help with the most important stuff. In fact, tracking your calories and exercise on your mobile device is less than 10% of what successful, or in other words lasting, weight loss requires.

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Successful weight loss requires change. There are levels of change. Weight loss apps only address the bottom levels – Environment and Behaviors – but aren’t much good for anything more. 

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A user of a free weight loss app is aware that her environment is not conducive to weight loss. It’s filled with high-calorie foods that provide inferior nutrition. Where are the vegetables? Where is the fruit? Why are there so many packages of cookies, chips, crackers, and frozen pizza? It’s time to throw all that crap away and lay in a supply of low-calorie foods.

Sticking to a 1500-a-day calorie diet and tracking it on a mobile app, calls for a change to our personal environment (home, workplace, car) and avoid public environments that put us at risk of exceeding 1500 calories. Stay away from restaurants – sit down and drive thru, movie theaters, parties, and the middle aisles (where all the good stuff is) of the supermarket.”

Changing behaviors for weight loss require monitoring eating and activity.

Free apps are very good at that, providing the information gets entered and it’s honest and accurate. If we have a habit of lying to ourselves, it’s easy to lie to an app, too. The app doesn’t even know we’re lying! Instead of reproach for our lies we get, “Great Job! At this rate you’ll have 20 pounds off in two months!”

HA! If that app only knew the truth!

As we move up through the levels of change we reach capabilities.

Weight loss apps don’t work for dishonest users, but dishonesty isn’t the only reason why they fail. How do we know what our capabilities are when we stick to a safe environment? Under pressure, however, we cave and then we lie again to our app. We haven’t built any skills. We’re as incapable in the face of temptation as we ever were.

We’re lying to our app. It’s congratulating us on our actions as though we are supremely capable. The truth is, we’re not capable and we know it. We can stick to our plan when it’s easy and we are not learning strategies to stick to our plan when circumstances are perfect.

There are things we can’t get with a free app, but there are ways of getting them that doesn’t involve an app.

If, for example, we think we can’t handle ice cream in a responsible manner, an app has no way to positively influence our negative belief. Giving up a little time each week to be part of a weight loss support group is empowering because of the learning that takes place. We learn a lot about becoming capable of managing challenging situations. The learning takes place through the stories of the other members in the group and through sharing their own experiences.

“I thought eating ice cream would result in a total pig-out session, but I’m proud to say today I ate a 1/2 cup serving of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food and I didn’t go back to the freezer to polish off the rest in the container.

I’m capable of eating and being satisfied with 1/2 cup of my favorite ice cream! Not only am I satisfied, but I like how it feels to control the ice cream instead of the other way around.”

This is a half cup serving of ice cream (the standard portion as indicated on the nutrition facts label) compared to a clemetine.

This is a half cup serving of ice cream (the standard portion as indicated on the nutrition facts label) compared to a clemetine.

That’s the kind of thing we need to hear from somebody with whom we share a connection. We struggle with the same food issues. You may be part of an online support group and you may read stuff posted by others, but the real power of such words comes from actually knowing the speaker and seeing and hearing the it as it’s spoken.

The next level of change addresses beliefs and values.

The weight loss app tracks whatever we enter. That’s all it does. It’s all it can do.

We can only force ourselves to do things that don’t align with our beliefs and values for so long, despite the desirable results. Somebody who hates exercise, for example, will do it to lose weight. The belief remains, “I hate exercise. Ii has no value to me beyond the calories I burn that I can enter into my app. Eventually we’ll care less about entering our exercise into our app and more about skipping the workouts. Things we learn and share in a weight loss group move us to change our beliefs and values.

Exercise may have been working out in the gym and hating every minute of it. A change in beliefs took place when a member of the group said, “exercise for me is dancing!” Another said, “My exercise is playing with the kids in the neighborhood,” and another said, “Mine is riding lessons!”

These revelations introduced members of the group to physical activity for “pleasure and entertainment” instead of “punishment for becoming overweight.” Through those new ideas came a change in beliefs and values. “I don’t like the gym, but I love to exercise, now that my belief about exercise has been broadened to include more than the gym.” Now exercise are activities that are extremely fun, so fun they’re done completely for pleasure. Free weight loss apps don’t do that.

Near the top of the Pyramid of Change is Identity.

The transformation from overweight to healthier weight isn’t a matter of inches or a percentage of lean to fat body mass. It goes all the way to our self-identity.

I’m not the overweight, ice cream-addicted, sedentary slob I thought myself to be. I am a lover of good food, boat rowing, riding and gardening, strong, honest, woman. My new identity came by listening and sharing with others who were, like me, trying to find out who they really were.

No free weight loss app does that!

Change can be temporary. Even after achieving all the levels of change, changing back happens.

Research shows that an important and final level of change is passion which becomes Mission.

Some people become passionate about a sport. One man lost 100 pounds so that he could skydive. Before losing the weight no parachute was big enough to safely handle his body weight. He became passionate about skydiving and his new identity as a “jumper” supported his weight-related goals.

Many men and women lost weight and their mission became “mentor to others fighting the same battle.”

They went on a mission to help others successfully reach and maintain their weight-related goals. The found the best way to help themselves was by helping others.

One such woman built a multi billion dollar company simply by helping others and she never stopped until the day she died.

Jean Nidetch March 2010 meeting and greeting members and sharing her weight-related stories! (10/12/1923 - 4/29/2015)

Jean Nidetch, March 2010, meeting and greeting members and sharing her weight-related stories! (10/12/1923 – 4/29/2015)

Free weight loss apps are better than nothing, but when it comes to making changes that last, nothing is better than finding out who you are, who you want to be, and reinforcing it by helping others do the same in an environment of group support.



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.