Positive App-etite

If your club struggled to help members with their nutrition, an app recently developed by a Wisconsin Athletic Club nutritionist may be able to help.

After a bad day at work or a fight with your significant other, do you find yourself craving a slice of pizza or a piece of cake? It’s called emotional eating, and everyone does it — including your members.

In the age of the Internet, there is a plethora of information out there about diets and nutrition. Members know how to be healthy, but sometimes their emotions get in the way.

Kim Flannery.

Kim Flannery.

Kim Flannery, the nutritional director at the Wisconsin Athletic Club, has developed an app called “In The Moment” that addresses this issue and can help members reach their nutritional goals.

“What I see people struggling with most is the human side of it — the emotional side of eating,” said Flannery. “When people are doing well, they eat better and when they aren’t doing so great, they don’t eat as well. We can be hard on ourselves as human beings and I think that is a big factor in healthy living.”

Many nutrition apps on the market track calories, monitor fat and have a systematic, pass-or-fail approach to health. According to Flannery, a more realistic, encouraging path to healthier eating is missing. Research shows that a positive approach to health and wellness is more effective for making long-lasting changes, versus being critical and trying to lose weight as quickly as possible.

For “In the Moment,” Flannery created the content and collaborated with a developer to design the technological aspects such as interface, customization and distribution. “It is extremely easy to use, which I think is a benefit and necessary for meeting my goal, which is to help someone when they are in the moment, when they are struggling to get a grip and move forward more consciously, more self-compassionately,” said Flannery.

“In The Moment” leads users through a decision-making process. When users open the app, it first asks if they want to eat, and if so, are they actually hungry? If the user is not hungry, then the next set of questions attempt to decipher if they are looking for pleasure or if they are in a state of emotional distress. The goal of these questions is to get to the bottom of what is really going on with the user at that moment.

“Is it that you’re stressed and you’re looking for relief?” said Flannery.  “Are you looking for food to satisfy some physical hunger or are you looking for comfort and pleasure? What is it you are really wanting?”

Once the questions are answered, the user will be presented with a customized solution. For example, if the app determines the user simply wanted a little pleasure, it will give them alternate options other than eating — taking a bath, drinking hot tea, listening to music or playing a game.

“The solutions contain little videos, links to helpful things, a list of suggestions of alternative activities. There are food suggestions if hunger is actually what you’re dealing with — a lot of useful information,” said Flannery. “If a user goes through and chooses different pathways they are going to find all kinds of different information, but the overall message is: It’s alright, calm down, everything is going to be fine and don’t give up.”

featuredAt the end of the entire process, “In The Moment” will ask: Are you listening to your needs and treating yourself kindly? “It’s not all about what you’re eating,” said Flannery. “It is about how you feel, and are you meeting your needs?”

Users of the app have responded well to “In The Moment’s” gentle and unique approach to healthy eating. Last spring, one of Flannery’s nutrition clients, Kelly Andrew, began using the app.

Andrew had struggled with weight her entire life. She began working with a trainer, but was still having trouble with nutrition. “I am a person who really loves food, flavor and cooking,” said Andrew. “It was really hard for me to think about giving up the pleasure of food as the only way to lose weight.”

Andrew was deterred from using other nutrition apps on the market due to the common pass-or-fail mentality. According to Andrew, what is most attractive about “In The Moment” is its lack of emphasis on the numbers or data points.

“It wasn’t like anything I had used before,” said Andrew. “It was almost unsettling, the whole idea that there is a ‘kind’ way to do this. It guided me through the idea that nutrition is not black and white. There are tons of choices and it is really about what is the most ‘kind’ choice for me, at that moment.”

“In The Moment” is available for both Androids and iPhones for a small fee, but Flannery created a customized version for the Wisconsin Athletic Club, which members can download for free. The club’s version features the Wisconsin Athletic Club logo and provides links to information on personal training, social event listings and general information concerning the club.

According to Flannery, all clubs can benefit from utilizing the app to help members get in touch with the emotional side of healthy living. “It is a way to keep members engaged,” she said. “It is a perceived extra value for the members. A health club can benefit from something like that. I really believe it is helping out members because so many of them come to the club to lose weight. It is a positive, easy, private way to work with improving your attitude and doing better with your health goals in general.”

By Emily Harbourne

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