A smartphone app for binge eating may help curb the urge
Like a friend who gives you no-nonsense advice when you need it most, a new smartphone app aims to help people avoid binge eating behavior.
The "TakeControl" app, which is in development by researchers at Drexel University, will track users' individual eating patterns and alert them when they are in dangerous territory.
Breaking the cycle
Lead study author Dr. Evan Forman, an associate professor of psychology in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, said the technology helps address the binge eating behavior before it actually manifests.
"There is a cycle of sorts – mounting pressure toward a binge episode, with certain triggers that make it more likely that a binge episode will occur," Forman said.
Using the app, individuals record their binge eating activity, urges and moods, including information about whether they've eaten regular meals and taken their prescription medications. As the app learns more about the user's typical behavior and patterns, it will prompt the person with a warning alert when "personal risk" is high.
"It could be an emotion like rejection, loneliness, sadness or anxiety, or something external such as passing a certain convenience store, or a time of day or night," said Forman.
One of the appealing features of the app is that it connects users to other people who have binge eating disorder. Users can also take advantage of learning modules, goal-setting programs and social networking features. Over time, use of the app enables individuals to see patterns and progress.
"Someone could also learn from the charts, for example, how their binges relate to their anxiety," said Stephanie Goldstein, a graduate student who is working on the project.
Development of the app – which is currently being made for Android – may also include web-connected scales, activity bands and integration with popular diet and fitness-tracking apps.
In December, the project will be considered for further expansion and funding by Shire Pharmaceuticals.