Nowadays it’s common to look to your smartwatch or phone for confirmation that you’ve taken enough steps or eaten the right number of calories on a given day. While tracking apps and devices can be helpful motivators for many, they are not right for everyone.
Taking a numbers-focused approach to health – defining it in terms of calories, steps and pounds – can detract from the inherent pleasures of eating well and being active. It can also be anxiety provoking.
Instead of zeroing in on numbers, it may be better to self-monitor in a more intuitive way and with a wider perspective, evaluating eating patterns and activities based on how they make you feel and whether they contribute to your long-term goals.
Luckily, you can now enlist your smartphone to help you do that, too. These four e-tools are designed help you reach your wellness goals more mindfully. Instead of tracking calories and steps, try these mindful apps.
This food diary app is described on its website as “visual, mindful and non-judgmental. Instead of calories, we focus on how meals make you feel.”
Type your wellness goal into the app and it prompts you to select specific steps you will take toward that goal from dozens of behaviour-based options such as ‘cook more often’, ‘no snacking after dinner’ or ‘eat most of your food from plants’.
To start a log, you take a photo of your food, choose whether what you ate was ‘on path’ or ‘off path’ and answer multiple-choice questions such as why you ate, who you ate with, where you ate and how the food made you feel.
At the day’s end, you get a visual recap of your food images plus stats on the percentage of meals that were ‘on path’, the frequency of your meals and the length of your overnight fast.
Good for: those who want the accountability and awareness that comes with keeping a food diary, without the calorie-counting or diet mentality.
Am I Hungry?
This app was developed by author and physician Michelle May and is designed to help you eat more mindfully and less emotionally. It takes you through a set of questions guiding you to respond to your internal hunger cues and examine other feelings, such as stress or boredom, that may be driving you to eat.
The app is very rudimentary, with none of the sleek graphics and high-tech interactive elements, but the line of self-inquiry it establishes can be effective.
When you click the ‘I want to eat’ button on the opening screen, you are guided through a decision tree of sorts to help you to determine why, when, what and how much you want to eat. Built-in tools, such as lists of strategies to help if you are reaching for food without feeling physically hungry, help you along the way.
With practice, this way of tapping into and heeding your internal cues becomes more second nature.
Good for: those seeking to move away from emotional and impulsive eating toward more mindful, self-nurturing food choices.
This is another app that may help you on your quest to eat more mindfully and live better. It offers a library of thousands of guided meditations addressing an array of wellness concerns from sleeping better to dealing with anxiety.
There is a wide variety of classes to choose from on this app and you can upgrade to receive access to a selection of more in depth 10-session courses plus other features such as offline listening.
There are charts where you can track the meditations you have completed and the time you have spent meditating, and a social platform where you can connect with instructors and other users.
Good for: those seeking to cultivate a more mindful approach to wellness overall.
This is not just an app, it’s a scale that is linked to one. But it is a scale with a different mind-set, which is apparent at first glance because it has no number display at all.
When you step on this scale, the app reveals your Shapa colour, a shade based on changes in your weight and body composition, taking into account normal weight fluctuations. (Shapa initially determines this after a 10-day calibration period.)
A green colour display means you are holding steady (within your normal range of fluctuations) compared with the last time you stepped on it; gray indicates you are gaining weight/fat; and blue means you are losing weight/fat.
Because Shapa’s assessment is longer range and multi-factorial, it tracks more meaningful patterns than simply weighing yourself would. For those who find regular scales incredibly anxiety provoking, it is a kinder and gentler experience.
Good for: those who want to lose or maintain their weight and want the accountability and daily affirmation of weighing in without the angst that can come with it.