Wellness Wednesday #50: Tracker Apps

buttonMy April nutrition challenge involves a photo food journal. I’ve been using several for the last few weeks, and I promised to do a bit of an app review once I’d used them long enough for a decision.

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.

Overall
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.

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About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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8 Responses to Wellness Wednesday #50: Tracker Apps

  1. Kristen M. says:

    Thanks for the reviews! I am just not finding the motivation to do anything about nutrition so I’m going super basic and just trying to add fruits and veg whenever I can. I’m eating too much sometimes and not enough other times but am slowly changing what I eat to be a little closer to what it should be.

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    • Amanda says:

      I need to get in control of disordered eating. So much of my food-relationship these days is trauma-based, which is why the Rise Up is helping a bit. Sometimes I can’t always identify WHY I’m feeling what I feel when I eat, and then that doesn’t help. But sometimes it does, and I hope that eventually I can recover.

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  2. Michelle says:

    Okay. The Rise Up app intrigues me. There have been so many time where I have eaten something and felt so guilty about it (whether it was bingeing on junk food, eating an extra serving, or just make terrible food choices). It seems that an app that allows you to express those feelings of guilt without judgment would be cathartic and useful to recognizing patterns. I am definitely checking it out!

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    • Amanda says:

      Awesome! I’ve found it to be really useful. I haven’t yet tried any of the features that let you look back and see patterns – I think you can do that with the daily check-in, which I don’t really use – but just having it as a place to think before I eat is helpful for me.

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  3. Pingback: Wellness Wednesday #51: Well THAT didn’t work… | The Zen Leaf

  4. Esther says:

    Hi Amanda,
    Loved your article, I myself had a rough time overcoming bad eating habits and thats how I got involved with YouAte! The reason I am reaching out is because I am the Marketing & Community Manager at YouAte and wanted to hear if you had any new updates or feedback on the app!

    We appreciated reading your feedback of how it is “too simple” to use. Sometimes an app that is complicated does not have retention and thus people do not like to use it. In my opinion MyFitness Pal can be too complicated since not everything I eat has a barcode and I do have to eat out a lot which makes it difficult to weigh my food, etc. Also counting calories got me over obsessed with numbers and it was not a lifestyle I wanted to continue. Hence, YouAte was developed to keep ourselves aware of what we eat without having to worry about how many grams and calories are in every portion, meal, etc.

    On the other hand, I wanted to let you know that with the latest updates you are able to upload pictures and text if you do not have a chance to activate the app at the time of your meal.

    Additionally while reading the rest of your reviews, I saw that being able to keep an app private is something that you appreciate. Thankfully with YouAte you can keep your food journal private (which I am sure you realized) however, a new feature also launched where you can share your timeline with a nutritionist, coach, etc. whether it be for accountability or for professional needs.

    I’d love to hear and see if you ended up revisiting the app in May. If you have any other feedback, good or bad, I would be happy to hear!

    In the meantime best of luck with getting on track with your eating disorder, and I wish you the best!
    Esther

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    • Amanda says:

      Thanks for stopping by Esther! I’m glad to hear of the change in the app to allow photos/text if you can’t take a picture just then/there. I think that makes a huge difference. I’ve not gone back to using the app yet because I don’t yet feel like I have sufficiently organized eating to use it effectively, if that makes sense. In the past, before developing the disordered habits I currently have, I would often use intuitive eating as a weight loss tool. I hope one day to be able to do that again, and this is when I really thing YouAte will be an excellent app for me. Whereas other apps I tried out, I deleted (except Rise Up), I kept YouAte for use in the future. I look forward to the day when I can use it effectively!

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