CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Smartphone apps help us stay connected with friends, record the world around us and kill little green pigs with flying birds.
They also can help make your daunting New Year's resolutions a little more manageable.
If you want to lose weight, Charleston dietitian Amy Gannon says measuring caloric intake is a crucial step to watching what you eat.
But since writing down everything you eat can be a daunting task, Gannon recommends her patients use the free app "My Fitness Pal."
The application uses a person's height and weight to determine their daily recommended caloric intake. It then allows users to create a list of their favorite foods and the number of calories in those dishes.
"Once you get those in there, you can just click, boom, boom, boom. It's easy to track on a daily basis," Gannon said. "That really helps you to see, 'Oh my gosh, that extra few tablespoons of coffee creamer is pushing me over my calorie limit.'"
The app also allows users to track their physical activity and how many calories they burn throughout the day.
"Using the app is a way of self-monitoring. You can see a clear line of calories in, versus calories out," she said.
Although Gannon likes My Fitness Pal, she said it doesn't matter what app people use. Just keeping track of those calories makes a big difference.
She said the National Weight Loss Registry show people who check their weight every week and keep track of their daily food intake are most likely to keep their weight off long-term.
"What you can't track, you can't change," she said.
My Fitness Pal is available on both Apple and Android phones, but can also be used in a computer browser at www.myfitnesspal.com.
If your New Year's resolution is to get organized, Rita McGhee, who owns Sort My Space professional organization service, says she uses Google Calendar to keep all her appointments straight.
The app is only available on Android phones, but there are plenty of other calendar apps for iPhones.
McGhee said no matter what application you use, it's important to sync your phone's calendar with the one on your desktop.
"Keep it all the same. Whatever you're using on your desktop, you need to use it on your phone. You make an update while you're out and it also makes it on your phone or your iPad, what have you," she said.
That way, any changes made on the phone are also changed on the desktop.
"Some people make mistakes, they'll have too many calendars going," McGhee said.
Also, if one device bites the dust, syncing ensures the information will survive somewhere else.
Brandon Walters, head personal trainer at the Charleston YMCA, recommends the FitBit One for those wanting to get more exercise in the New Year.
The FitBit One is a $100, chewing gum-sized device that clips inside a user's pocket and transmits fitness data to their smartphones, providing a simple and addictive way to record fitness statistics.
"It's a tool I think people will like," Walters said. "The pedometer is boring and it's bulky. This is very connected and you get feedback on your phone."
Walters said most Americans walk 4,000 to 6,000 steps a day, when they should be getting at least 10,000 steps per day.
His FitBit recorded about 31,000 steps on Monday, the equivalent of 15 miles.
"I use it constantly," he said. "It's really an eye opener. People have no idea how little they move until they wear this thing."
The device comes with a free smart phone application, which allows users to set daily fitness goals. The app then provides encouraging reminders to help them meet those goals.
"Throughout the day it will give you a message. It will say, 'You're almost there, only 2,600 more steps to go,'" Walter said.
The app becomes a kind of game, with users earning rewards for specific accomplishments and competing with their friends.
He said it always helps to have a group of friends involved, no matter what fitness app you choose. Having similar goals helps keep everyone honest.
FitBit's applications work with both Apple and Android phones.
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.charlestondailymail.com