'Tis the season to count calories--with mHealth's help

It's that time of year again--and holiday gatherings are meant to be enjoyed with all the delicious edibles and good cheer that they entail. And I may sound like Ebenezeer Scrooge, but we all can admit we oftentimes overdo it during the holiday season when it comes to eating and drinking.

Not surprisingly, healthy eating tends to follow a seasonal pattern, dropping precipitously in November and December. For many of us, the gluttony starts with Thanksgiving, continues with Christmas, and (hopefully) ends with New Year's. 

However, health problems can arise when we take our bad habits of overconsumption and poor nutrition that we picked up during the holiday season into the new year. That's what seems to have happened in 2013 for most Americans.

According to results of a Gallup poll of U.S. adults released late last month, healthy eating is down for all months in 2013 when compared with 2012. "As the U.S. obesity rate continues to increase across almost all demographic groups, it is critical that Americans begin to eat healthier and exercise more," argue the public opinion experts at Gallup.

Thankfully, eating healthier and exercising more has never been easier due to a plethora of mHealth apps, trackers and devices available to consumers trying to manage their weight. There are literally more than 40,000 health and fitness apps with such names as Daily Carb, Fitbit, Glucose Buddy, and MyFitnessPal.

"Most efforts in app development have been focused on overall wellness, especially diet and exercise apps," found an Oct. 30 report by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Though the IMS report took developers to task for putting their efforts into apps that "do not fit well with the greatest areas of spend in healthcare," I believe these are areas in mHealth that will produce tangible cost and health benefits in the near future.

With obesity in this country at epidemic rates, diet and exercise apps could be integral in fighting type 2 diabetes and heart disease (both of which are linked to obesity). No wonder the American Medical Association this summer for the first time recognized obesity as a disease in its own right. 

So, this holiday season reach for an apple instead of a Christmas cookie. And, get out of your La-Z-Boy recliner and take a walk. Your diet and exercise apps will track your progress as you start 2014 on the right foot. Now, that's something to celebrate with friends and family. - Greg (@Slabodkin)