National Eating Disorders Association
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All Health Apps Are Not Equal

Palmer Hipp

Technology has enabled us to catch up on the news, watch TV, shop, edit photos, pay bills or even collect Pokémon with just the click of a button. An app store, or software application platform, contains millions of various apps designed to help users perform tasks. Health and fitness apps were among the most popular apps used in 2015, and this isn’t that surprising given the vast amount of nutrition and activity trackers popping up. 

However, recently a new app has entered the nutrition app world, designed to be the next-generation nutrition database. The app shows a wide variety of information about foods and products, but then the app goes a step further; one might even say it crosses a line…a big line. The app tells its users how long it would take to ‘burn off’ a particular food and places rewards next to certain foods. It even filters its data around one’s preferences or restrictions. 

For some people, these apps may be useful tools, but for those with eating disorders or in recovery, these apps affirm that their destructive obsessions are healthy. The need for control is a central theme in the development of eating disorders. These underlying motivations are why numbers become so dangerous. People with eating disorders may obsessively calorie count and feel the need to change their bodies to conform to the app. 

Smartphone users can shift to apps that focus on a more holistic approach to health. Health is more than just nutrition and exercise; it’s caring for one’s body, mind and soul. Apps are available that still offer services similar to other nutrition and fitness apps, but they also take into account other important factors. Some apps include mood logs, check-ins and safety features, and also improve self-esteem, body image and anxiety levels. Technology is still new and evolving, making it nearly impossible to know the psychological effects on users. However, if you’re looking for body-positive apps that encourage healthy attitudes toward food and exercise, check out these standout alternatives!

Recovery Road

Recovery Road is an app for anyone, whether they have a history of an eating disorder or not. The app includes meal logs, meal plans, coping skills, data and charts and secure messages. Recovery Road also focuses on coping skills and has a mood and behavior journal as well as the ability to be in contact with licensed clinicians. 

SuperBetter

Jane McGonigal created this app/game (you can play online) to help users fulfill goals and realize self-worth through hard times. After her struggle with recovery from a concussion, McGonigal wanted to create something that would improve lives and have a positive impact on health. She also hosted a Ted Talk discussing the app! 

Good Blocks 

Good Blocks is a psychological training game (PTG). Although the app bases itself off of the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), you’d never know because the app feels like a game—it’s actually fun! The app has been associated with improved mood, higher self-esteem, positive body image and lowered stress and anxiety. 

Rise Up 

Created by the amazing Recovery Warriors, the Rise Up app allows users to track meals, emotions, behaviors and thoughts. The easy-to-use app even has a map of local eating disorder specialists for those who feel they need help.

Palmer Hipp is studying in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia. She hopes to obtain a MSW, aspiring to become an activist for social justice issues.