1. Weight Tracker Pro – This is created by the same people who make C25K, and cost $2 to download. It’s also the app that originally got me thinking about a food photo journal. If you look at the app description and screenshots, it looks like this can track your daily weigh-ins, calculate your TDEE, and keep a food photo journal with daily collages so you can see how things have changed over time. As I use Happy Scale for my weigh-ins and already know my TDEE, it was only this last one that I was interested in.
Verdict: Don’t waste your money. After downloading, I discovered that you can only take a single picture per day. Unless you feel like taking a daily body shot, or a picture of a specific meal that day, this is useless. I even tried the daily body shot thing, until I discovered that the photo log was extremely buggy. It couldn’t even do the single-photo thing right. Fail. Deleted.
2. YouAte – This is a super simple app to use. Every time you eat, you take a picture of your food, then mark if this food is on or off path. The app collects the photos, calculates how long you go between meals, and how often (in percentages) you’re on-path. When you click on a previously-taken photo, you can write in a few notes and answer a couple questions about how you felt during the meal, where you ate, how full you felt after eating, etc. You can’t upload a photo for a previous meal, or set the time differently. The only photos and time-stamps are exactly when you take the meal picture, so that takes a bit of adjusting to remember.
Verdict: Honestly, this one ended up being too simple for my purposes. It was also a bit difficult because technically my “path” this month is to take pictures of my food, so I found myself debating with each photo. Perhaps it would have been better if I defined a specific meal plan. In fact, I’m keeping the app just in case it will help me in the future. Perhaps I’ll revisit this one in May.
3. MealLogger – This comprehensive app has a lot in it. You can log steps, weight, and sleep. You can join nutrition programs with specific goals to reach each day. When you take food pics, you can choose what meal it was and what time you ate. If you forget to take a picture, you can still enter a meal without one. If you like, you can enter the number of servings for different nutrients (starchy vegetables, poultry, dairy, etc) and the app will attempt to calculate both your calories for the day and your macronutrient ratio. If you have the macronutrient amounts and want to put those in, there’s a place for that each meal, too. You can also add pictures for exercise. Every day, you can go in and see a summing up of your day, including the photos and how closely you met your nutrition goals (if chosen). Apparently you can also link this one up to the MealLogger community, but I haven’t done this.
Verdict: I have mixed feelings about this one. First, it’s really buggy. I believe this was originally an Android app so that might account for the bugginess on my iPhone. It’s not so buggy I couldn’t use it, but there are a lot of little things (like being unable to move your photo around to crop exactly where you want). I can live with the bugginess, but I found myself getting obsessed with the calorie info. Some days the calories were spot on, within 100 or so to what I would get on My Fitness Pal. Other days, it was totally off. For instance, one day I ate about 1900 calories and it thought I ate 3000. Since I don’t know which of the food servings is causing the big increase, I began obsessing about making sure I got the calories right, and that was the opposite of what I wanted for this program. So I tried taking pics without using the serving-portion section, and that just seemed pointless. In the end, this didn’t work for me personally, but I could see it being good for someone else.
4. Rise Up – This is not a photo log at all, but an app designed to help people recovering from a variety of eating disorders. It’s a simple thing: Record your meals, choose where and with whom you ate, choose emojis to represent how you felt at that time, pick any disordered eating behaviors you might have indulged in, and write a little diary entry. After you’re done, the app encourages you with little quotes and posters and cute pictures of animals. No judgement, no guiding toward better behaviors when you screw up. You can also check in daily (emotions, actions, medications, etc), and there are sections where you can get activities to help with journaling, body image issues, mindfulness, etc. The app is 100% private, no potential social media aspect, and you can give it a lock code so that no one else can enter it if they happen to be on your phone.
Verdict: I adore this one. It’s not what I was trying to find when I started this project, but the no-judgement aspect is exactly what I needed. I found that when I was feeling awful, sometimes using this app – just writing out how I was feeling – could stave off some of the negative behaviors I have around food. Not always, but even sometimes is a good thing. Some of the cheesier aspects of the app (motivational quotes, logging emotions in emojis) made me think in the beginning that this would be really not-my-thing, but the whole setup ended up perfect. Simple, and totally up to me. I feel calmer using it, and I hope that in time, I can heal some of my disordered eating habits with this app as one of the tools to help toward that end.
After a couple weeks trying out all these apps, I’ve settled into a pattern of taking pics of my food and then just making a collage at the end of the day to document. I’m also using Rise Up as a mindfulness and food-emotion-connection tool, which does help me a lot. Now to see if these two things in combination actually helps me on my journey toward health. Results to come in a few more weeks.