Book Review - Beyond the Apps
Up to eight out of ten people who sign up for a post-Christmas diet program will either abandon it by Spring or regain the weight before they the beach in the Summer. This despite their investment in time and money not to mention the peer pressure at weekly weigh ins. So, what chance of success for the DIY dieter who downloads a fitness apps onto their mobile phone, and goes it alone. Slim, pardon the pun, according to Karen Oliver author of ‘The 12 Week Health, Fitness & Wellness Planner.’
Apps, not just the dieting and fitness genre, tend to be devoid of narrative; or at least fail to tell a story sufficiently immersive and compelling to keep the user engaged for 12 weeks. Twelve weeks being the industry standard duration for diet and fitness plans.
The main problems with apps, says Oliver in the book’s introduction, is the smart phone itself; the weapon of mass distraction. Personal health apps compete in a fierce ‘What’s Next’ environment in which we are constantly being sold yet another piece of software promising instantaneous fitness and weight loss. The mobile phone is also a portal into the world of social media with its constantly shifting and contradictory take on diet exercise regimes; something Oliver has first-hand experience of after four years of personal health blogging.
Oliver is not saying people should be throwing their mobile phones onto the barbeque; in fact, her book is based around the use of two well-known apps. ‘MapMyFitness’ is a GPS enabled exercise monitor and ‘MyFitnessPal’ is a calorie counter; both can be downloaded for free. However, as the name of her blog, ‘Beyond the Bathroom Scale,’ suggests Oliver believes improved health depends on more than the constant monitoring a narrow range of parameters.
At first sight the 12 Week Planner resembles a combined fitness log and food diary; rather like those handed out during the first weight watching of slimming club session. Except Oliver’s book is devoid of propriety recipe suggestions. All the data, such as calorie intake and cardio machine readout are provided by the apps and entered in what builds, during each week, into a motivational map. And, at the end of each week, there is an assessment of progress followed by a challenge for the next seven days. A thread of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) runs through the book; replacing the peer pressure absent within a DIY diet program.
Oliver’s claim that you can’t beat ‘good old pen and paper’ is probably correct if people are going solo on lifestyle improvement. The book provides a tangible record of the time and effort invested in a fitness and exercise app and hooks the user into the app itself. Probably not the present you want to receive on Christmas Day; but maybe one to consider buying yourself when the festivities are over.