Weight Loss: Can a Text Message Help?

Amanda MacMillan

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you about the app that sends you daily texts from doctors? And remember how I said, "If I could only time them for those crucial moments when I'm thinking about skipping the gym or pigging out on a double chocolate muffin ... isn't there an app for that?" Well, guess what: There is, I've found it, and you can even test it out for for free. Boom.

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This literal answer to my prayers is called Coach Alba, although technically it's not a mobile app -- it's a text-based program, so you can subscribe with any cell phone that has SMS capability. Coach Alba is designed to help you through those "crucial moments," or "CMs" as Coach Alba dubs 'em, during which you're regularly tempted to overeat or skip your workouts. (Yes, they even use the same language I used in my post a few weeks ago!)

Coach Alba gets to know you via an online questionnaire; here, you identify all of the CMs you'll want help with: I chose "When I wake up in the morning," "I'm hungry for an unhealthy snack," and "Late-night snacking," along with a few others. Then Coach Alba wrote to introduce himself (herself? Itself? Whatevs.) and ask me which CM will happen next. It was about 9 p.m., so I chose late-night snacking. After a few more Qs, Coach Alba gave me a few plan-of-attack options. I committed to "Remember what u already ate today before grabbing more." Then Coach Alba asked what time I wanted a reminder, told me I was "gonna dominate!" and promised to check back in before my CM.

Sure enough, Coach Alba pinged me an hour later, right around the time I'm typically headed for the fridge -- and also a few hours later to see how I handled my CM

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Of course, Coach Alba can't predict all of the spontaneous diet distractions that pop up throughout the day -- and the amount of setup needed to really personalize the service can seem downright ridiculous, especially for the first few days. But for those consistent challenges you face pretty much every day (6 a.m. workout, 3 p.m. sugar cravings), a simple reminder text may very well stop you in your tracks and make you really think about what you're doing. And if you ever run into trouble and need some quick advice, you can always text "CM" to start a coaching session, or "LIVE COACH" to text with a real person.

You can sign up for Coach Alba at CoachAlba.com; it's free for the first two weeks and $5 a month after that. One final tip: Make sure you have an unlimited text plan -- this baby really likes to talk!

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