When Apps Hurt Recovery

Technology - it’s part of our every day. Tweeting, instagramming, blogging, following - it’s part of the norm. Although our smartphones, laptops and smart TVs provide us many positives, when it comes to eating we must be weary of the information that’s out there. Just last week, Refinery 29 posted an article discussing diet apps and social media influence (Spratt, 2019). Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey posted about fasting back in January- receiving over 6,000 replies. These days - everyone has an opinion about body image, health and nutrition. It’s important to sift through the information, taking posts with a grain of salt. Author Roxane Gay responded with “Ahh yes. Disordered eating to approximate the suffering induced by poverty and/or access to potable water.” Ouch. When it comes to recovery - it’s important to stick to the facts. Although influential - Jack Dorsey did not go to school for nutrition. Reach out to your MDs, RDs, therapists and those who have evidence based training and schooling for guidance.

Now let’s talk smart phone apps. The search term “fasting” or “diet” on the Apple App Store brings you to several apps that claim to help with health and nutrition. One of the most popular or well known fitness apps out there - MyFitnessPal allows you to track caloric information and exercise. But what does this mean for an already health conscious society? For many individuals - who use these apps, it means making unsubstantiated health decisions without guidance from a medical professional. This can lead to disordered eating, unhealthy behaviors and an undesirable habit of tracking of exercise and/or caloric intake.

The article in Refinery 29 cites two studies that were published in 2017 that found a direct correlation between tracking apps and eating disorders(Spratt, 2019). One study out of Virginia Commonwealth University found that those who used calorie trackers reported higher levels of eating concern (Simpson, 2017). The second study - conducted by Elizabeth Eikey and Madhu Reddy - found that women with a history of an ED spoke to apps worsening their condition (Eikey, 2017). 

Here’s what’s important when sorting through the app and online realm when your in recovery from an eating disorder:

  • If you feel that tracking your food intake and/or exercise leads to unhealthy behaviors seek out help from a therapist and/or dietitian. 

  • Speak to your treatment team about which apps or websites are appropriate for you and your recovery goals.

  • Avoid triggering apps, websites, online content while you are in recovery (and afterward for that matter!)

  • Surround yourself with positive influences - accounts and reading materials that promote anti - diet, intuitive eating and body love. 

  • Use meditation, yoga and affirmation apps as a recovery tool. 

Beware and take care. That’s our message at Integrated Eating. There are many ways in which we can use online apps that influence us in a positive way. Simply put, stay away from other platforms, posts and accounts that do not support your recovery.  


Eikey, E., & Reddy, M. (2017). "It's Definitely Been a Journey": A Qualitative Study on How Women with Eating Disorders Use Weight Loss Apps. ACM,642-654. doi:https://doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025591

Simpson, C. C., & Mazzeo, S. E. (2017). Calorie counting and fitness tracking technology: Associations with eating disorder symptomatology. Eating Behaviors,26, 89-92. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2017.02.002

Spratt, V. (2019, July 8). The Sinister Side Of Fasting & Fitness Apps That No One's Talking About. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/07/235423/meal-tracking-apps-eating-disorder