A good app, that whole Lance Armstrong thing aside

First impressions

We have always had a problem eating more than we should, and barely exercising at all. Therefore, unsurprisingly, our weight has soared like a bird over the years.

As we approached the festive season a couple of years ago, we realised that perhaps merely guessing the number of calories we were ingesting was not the most effective method of keeping the pounds at bay.

We therefore turned to our trusted iPad and the App Store to help us find something that would assist us with tracking our calories, and hopefully encourage us to get off the couch and move.

The Livestrong app has actually updated significantly since the first time we downloaded it. This report is about the latest version.

How it works

This is technology’s answer to the age-old recommendation of writing down what you eat every day. You set up your profile by putting in your weight, height, how active you reckon you are and your weight loss per week goal. It only offers up to two pounds a week for this option, as healthy, sustainable weight loss is usually recommended to be one to two pounds per week.

Once you’ve entered your information, the app uses it to calculate the maximum number of calories allowed per day in order to reach your weekly weight loss goal. In the old version of Livestrong this was unchangeable, but in the updated version you can manually override its recommendation. That being said, man cannot live on 200 calories alone. It is never a good idea to set yourself an unrealistic goal, as your plan will be more difficult to stick to, and you will be more likely to fail.

The app displays your weight on a graph, and as you enter your new weight each day or week (however often you want to check it) the graph updates, showing your progress.

On the left hand side of the screen are buttons you tap to record your breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, exercise and water intake each day.

The great thing about this app is that you can access the calories for thousands of food and drink items that you might not otherwise know. Most packages have their nutritional information prominently displayed, but when it comes to fruit and vegetables and the like, it becomes more of a guessing game. All you have to is type in the item you ate, and whether it was name brand food or unlabelled cuisine, odds are good that Livestrong will find it for you. You can then add it to your meals consumed for the day.

As you confirm each item that you’ve consumed, Livestrong automatically adjusts the number of calories you have remaining. Of course, if you exercise, you burn calories which can also be taken into account. The app has a list of exercises in its database, or you can manually enter the exercise you did, for how long, and the calories you burned.

You can update your profile at any time, and add comments to the 
“Community” section where others trying to lose weight provide support and encouragement for each other. The reminder is also useful so you don’t forget to track each day.

When we used it

We had tried writing down what we were eating each day, but then we would leave our notebook at home, or drop it in the car, or lose it in our handbag … We just couldn’t seem to stick to the programme. We always had our iPad with us, however, or our iPhone, so this made it easier to remember. If we didn’t, there were some beeps at 6pm each night to gently remind us that we needed to track.

We stuck to a diet of 1395 calories per day as recommended, and recorded our time on the treadmill which improved as we went on. Seeing our weight going down on the graph spurred us on, and when we cheated and saw it go up a bit, we were even more determined to get back on the straight and narrow.

As the months went on, recording our progress became second nature to us, and the pounds were dropping off. We lost 60 pounds in the end, and although it wasn’t all Livestrong’s doing, it certainly helped us be more disciplined.

We had to agree with the experts that recording our efforts and the food that passed our lips was an excellent way to avoid pitfalls. The only upsetting thing about using the Livestrong app is that we discovered there are a lot of calories in chocolate.

Final thoughts

The older version of this app was good, but the updated version is much better. It has made it easier to track food with the buttons for each meal of the day, and the graph is clearer.

It is great to have the access to its calorie and exercise database – on that point alone it beats a pen and paper. For the money it’s definitely worth giving it a go. Different strokes for different folks, but this method of watching what you eat seems to work for a high percentage of people trying to lose weight. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, what have you got to lose?

Cost: $2.99

Seller: Devices: iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, Android

Rating: E for Everyone

Three stars

The great thing about this app is that you can access the calories for thousands of food and drink items that you might not otherwise know.

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