In the article “Why Weight Loss Mobile Apps Aren’t Really Changing the Game,” in Psychology Today Dr. Sherry Pagoto states “this generation of apps is not advancing the science of behavioral weight loss when mobile technology is certainly advanced enough to be doing so.” As app developers who have created health and fitness apps, you may find it surprising that here at Little Green Software we agree with this opinion. Instead of pushing the envelope, too many apps are simply coasting on the public’s need for something. Very few apps deliver an excellent product experience that takes advantage of the new opportunities enabled by smartphone technology.
Losing Weight and Getting in Shape is Hard – With or Without a Smartphone
Once you think about the issue, it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that becoming fit – even with a smartphone – is difficult. Whether you do it the “old-fashioned” way or have the help of technology, losing weight and staying in shape takes hard work and attention. What is surprising is that we in the developer world haven’t tackled the problems that come with weight loss with more innovation.
Tapping into the power of game psychology
Some of the most successful weight loss programs have turned becoming fit and losing weight into a game of sorts. Think about Weight Watchers. You earn “points” as you eat, and you can eat more points if you exercise – an extra life! Some foods don’t even count against your total score. It’s true, some of the best weight loss methods really are just one giant game.
Thinking about weight loss in the framework of gamification suddenly opens a window into all sorts of new possibilities for weight loss apps. We know how to make games that draw people in, challenge users, and make them want to come back. The trick is bringing the excitement of game-playing to a weight loss app. To our advantage, a large hurdle to tracking your eating habits correctly is taking the time to do it; however, when someone starts using a smartphone, they are rarely without it. Having a tool in your pocket that can give you that immediate feedback about your eating habits and exercise is a distinct advantage over traditional methods of calorie tracking. There is a lot of untapped potential for apps that successfully bring together the world of mobile gaming and weight loss.
Changing the game
As developers, we need to take the constructive criticism from Dr. Pagoto to heart, and rise to the challenge to create better weight loss apps. We have the power to step up and make a real difference in people’s health.
The description, “fun, easy to use, provides immediate feedback” applies without question to a box of candy or a can of soda. An app must be equally and immediately rewarding if it expects to help users lose weight and be fit.
We look forward to seeing and creating apps that fit that description.