photo-1While working at the Wisconsin Athletic Club as a nutritionist, Kim Flannery repeatedly noticed an issue common amongst her clients — they needed around-the-clock support in reaching their health goals. “My clients [needed] more support on a 24/7-basis, during the times when I was not there to encourage them to keep going and stay positive,” explained Flannery.

As a result, Flannery came up with the idea to develop an app that would give clients the support they needed, whenever they needed it. The app, called “In the Moment – Mindful Eating,” is lifestyle and attitude focused, and provides users with a library of resources to make healthy nutrition choices.

Key struggles Flannery’s clients were dealing with included food cravings, lack of ideas to satisfy their physical hunger, emotional eating, difficulty breaking habits and misconceptions about eating for pleasure. “These are the key areas the app aims to improve,” she said.

Flannery explained the app guides and encourages users to identify the nature of their nutritional needs and provides customized solutions for their in-the-moment challenges. Solutions include a blend of motivational tips and research, short videos, inspirational quotes and meal suggestions.

“Perhaps most importantly, the app is easy to use,” said Flannery. “There is no data to enter or log to keep. Tapping a series of bubbles, the user progresses toward a solution that opens up in the full screen. Considering the purpose of the app — to help users through in-the-moment challenges with eating — anything complicated would not be as likely to be used.”

In addition, the app provides feedback on users’ progress. “Feedback is always encouraging, so users are not as likely to fail themselves and [are] more likely to keep practicing the habits that will bring lasting health improvements,” said Flannery.

According to Flannery, the app’s approach is not found in any other nutrition app on the market today. “It offers a more human approach that can effectively complement more data-based nutrition apps,” she said. “It does not require users to count, log, or keep a weight chart. Instead it focuses on changing habits over time by helping users through the challenges that often derail even the best of plans.”

To Flannery, a human-based or “self-compassionate” approach, versus a data-based one, is more beneficial to members. “A self-compassionate approach honors human needs,” she said. “It seeks to understand why we use food to meet needs beyond basic physical hunger and aims to avoid judgment on the path to healthier habits.”

Flannery worked with Centare, a technology developer to customize the app for the Wisconsin Athletic Club. The app can be customized and branded to meet the needs of different companies as well.

At the Wisconsin Athletic Club, the iPhone version was launched in June and has been downloaded by hundreds of members so far. The Android version is to be launched within the next few weeks.

“The app offers opportunities for users to practice a more self-compassionate approach, identifying the nature of their needs — both physical and emotional — and finding healthy, supportive ways to meet them,” said Flannery.

By Rachel Zabonick

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