It was only a matter of time before a gizmo was invented that would let you see what you look like minus the pounds you want to lose. And with a new app called Visualize You, you can do just that. In a few quick steps — you just upload a photo and input your current height and weight as well as your target weight — you can catch a glimpse of your svelte body and face.
The way it works is simple: Using a 3-D model engine and weight change algorithms, the free app (available on Android or iPhone) uses your data to produce an "after" photo that shows you what you would look like should you reach your goal weight. Best of all: You can save that photo, share it with your friends or, better yet, post it on the fridge so you don't reach into the freezer for that midnight bowl of ice cream.
So is this a good invention or a potentially perilous one?
"Focusing on an image or app that allows you to see yourself at a different weight could play into the psyche in ways that could be dangerous," says Monique Richard, RDN, LDN, a dietitian and adjunct professor of nutrition at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee.
And this is a concern, say the experts.
"I see many eating disorders in my private practice and worry about the ways in which an app like this could change a person's behavior, self-esteem, body awareness and internal cues. The pressure to be thin and physically fit is an obsession in our culture, and society and has really skewed the true meaning of health, weight, one's diet, and, ultimately, a person's overall well-being."
Other experts concur, including Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Fairfield County, Connecticut, who says that an app like this could do more harm than good.
"I feel strongly that this new app in which you visualize yourself with a new body weight is unlikely to be helpful even to someone who is overweight," she says. "The 'after' photos are more likely to lead to frustration and feeling that this is an unattainable goal."
Your self-esteem may take a hit, too. "The photos the app creates will generally wreck a person's self-esteem and, goodness knows we don't need anyone who is overweight to feel even more defeated," Greenberg says.
A better idea: Take actual photos that document your weight-loss journey. They'll be more realistic and give you more inspiration, Greenberg adds.
And, app or not, always focus on the steps you need to take to make permanent lifestyle changes, not ones that will make you to look good in a photo.
"When we focus on superficial measures only like pounds lost, we lose the whole point of making permanent dietary changes," Richard says. "I worry that an app like this will serve to further feed the selfie, photoshopping/non-photoshopping craze that is happening and I don't think that's good for anyone."
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