My life with type 1 diabetes doesn’t have as many instances of positive reinforcement – those “Hey, nice job!” moments – as I’d like. For as many times as I check my blood sugar throughout the day, or take a look at my continuous glucose monitor, or track the general ins-and-out of my life, it’s not all smiley faces and high-fives. And I found that most diabetes-specific smartphone applications were disappointing because they didn’t provide anything new or different to my health tracking attempts.
That is, until I explored the “quantified self” apps – those that track my fitness efforts. Those apps provide the positive reinforcement that I’ve been craving because my ability to get up and move my body, or sleep, or eat, isn’t always tied to diabetes.
Here are a few of the apps that I’ve downloaded – and actually use – on my smartphone:
As a newbie runner (started logging hours a few months ago), this app helps me feel motivated. I use it to log the length, time, and pace of my running excursions, and seeing the data of my progress and dedication inspires me to keep going. As well, I’m able to connect with some of my friends in social media who are also using this app, and we can cheer one another on. It helps to know that other people can see my updates, because it keeps me accountable. I like when people “nudge” me for not updating, or when they “cheer” me on when I complete a particularly tough route. This is my favorite fitness app so far, and the one I’ve been using the longest. I feel like I have a personal relationship with the app itself (“Oh RunKeeper, you’re so handsome!”), and I plan to stick with it as I move into the next phase of my life as a runner (which is to not fall into a ditch).
As the mother of a young child and part of a dually self-employed household, sleep is at a premium. However, as a person living with diabetes, one sleepless night can lead to a really tough day, so sleeping well is especially important to me. I blame the use of this app on a coast-to-coast traveling friend, who told me that he sleeps better and wakes up more refreshed using the Sleep Cycle alarm. You set the app to active on your phone, sleep with it at the top corner of your bed, and it tracks your sleep patterns (light, deep, awake), then wakes you up “gently.” Every time I try to explain that “gently” part, I stumble through my attempts. “It wakes you up when you’re mostly almost awake. When you’re sleeping lightest? It grabs you then.” The description offered by the site is a bit more streamlined: “A bio-alarm that analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase.” Whatever the science is behind it, I do wake up feeling better, and that’s a plus.
To be completely honest, the Calorie King himself has always unnerved me. He seems too happy to tell me the carbs and fat in everything, and his crown is frustratingly crooked at all times. But I think the app is awesome. I travel quite a bit, and meals during transit are sometimes chaotic for me because they involve a lot of “SWAG [scientific wild-arse guess]” bolusing! The CalorieKing app helps me make sense of what I’m eating with accurate carb, fat, and calorie counts. Whether it’s accounting for the coffee I grab on the way to an event, or assessing how many carbs are in the steamed carrots that arrive with dinner, this app keeps me from guessing wrong.
Fitness apps remind me that, even though I don’t feel like an athlete or look like one, I can still exercise like one. Health apps remind me that there’s more to manage than simply blood sugar, but I can still do my best. These apps are part of an arsenal of tools I have at my disposal, and each one, when used well, can make a world of difference in my life.
Kerri Morrone Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986, and is the creator of one of the first diabetes patient blogs SixUntilMe. She is a freelance writer, global public speaker, and lends her voice to many diabetes-related publications, conferences, and causes. She is constantly inspired by the diabetes community. Sparling lives in Rhode Island with her husband and their daughter. Sparling is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
1 RunKeeper is a registered trademark of FitnessKeeper, Inc.
2 CalorieKing is a registered trademark of CalorieKing Wellness Solutions, Inc. CalorieKing provides the database service that powers GoMeals® through a partnership with Sanofi US.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience