In our latest interview, we’re speaking with SmartenFit’s CEO and Founder, Dr. Lorie Sousa, who holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology (research emphasis) with concentrations in Business and Cognitive Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. She has been involved in both qualitative and quantitative research for the last twenty years and has conducted both small and large scale evaluation and research studies involving grant writing, research and evaluation design, survey and metric development, item analysis, data collection, focus groups, statistical analysis, report writing, and presentation of results. Lorie is very happy to be in a position now to work with clients in a consulting capacity which has allowed her the freedom to explore new domains such as mobile app design and development.
Here’s what she had to say…
How would you pitch your company? What’s your elevator pitch?
SmartenFit is a companion app (download link) to a book entitled, “Smart People Don’t Diet” by Dr. Charlotte Markey, a Health Researcher and Professor at Rutgers University. The app is made for people looking for a simplified way to monitor their nutritional intake, exercise, and goal attainment. SmartenFit is based on decades of health research and provides a macro approach to health and wellness by helping users transition discrete behaviors into a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
What sets you apart from competitors?
Three things set SmartenFit apart from its competitors: 1) a Research emphasis; 2) a Macro approach; and 3) the fact that Nutrition is given equal attention along with exercise.
1. The app is based on decades of health research and was created by three PhD’s (a Health Psychologist, a Social Psychologist, and a Cognitive Psychologist) with a very strong research basis. So every component of the app is supported by research, including the News Feed with tips and inspiration, Notifications and Reminders, and Goal Setting capabilities.
2. It is a more holistic and macro approach to health and fitness. The research says that counting calories and steps is not sustainable for most people and may even be counterproductive in many cases because it can trigger an obsession with weight loss that can be unhealthy. We call that “The Miserable Math Problem”. Our app involves a more macro approach to health and wellness that provides pathways to allow users to track and monitor their choices and activities in a way that is more sustainable long term. For example we include a module that allows users to take pictures of their meals and arranges them in a collage by day or week. SmartenFit sets realistic expectations and acknowledges that health is a marathon not a sprint and it is not ever a straight line. There are ups and downs, but if you make good choices most of the time, you can improve your health significantly.
3. We value nutrition just as much as exercise. So we have the photo food diary AND we also have the Healthier Options database embedded in the app. There are browse and search functions, so you can either search for healthier alternatives by name or browse by breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, or sweets. For example, you can type in ice cream or cake icing, and 3 healthier alternatives will pop up. You can save your favorites and make suggestions. We have a registered dietitian who is continually working to improve and expand the database.
What’s your business model?
We chose to charge $2.99 per download for several reasons. First, we are not a fan of ads and can find them distracting. Secondly, when you choose a free with ads model, you have very little control over the content of the ads. Since our app aligns with a book written by a world renowned health psychologist, we needed to be certain that all content in the app aligned with her philosophy and did not go against her beliefs in regard to weight loss and management, and the healthiest ways to achieve one’s health related goals.
Can you share some numbers? How many users do you have?
Our app has only been out for one month, so we have opted not to track the numbers too closely as of yet. Our plan at this point is to make as many folks aware of the app as we can and check in at the 6 month point to see how we are doing.
Where do you see the company going from here?
We have many ideas to help expand the brand. We plan to add features to the existing app, such as a way for users to submit a week’s worth of their food diary to a registered dietitian for suggestions on how to improve their nutritional intake. We also hope to develop a version of the app for young girls, with an emphasis on self esteem and positive body image, as this is an area of great concern and interest to us.
Where do you see the mHealth industry going?
The sky is the limit. I know for certain that the mHealth industry will continue to grow exponentially. The convenience and timeliness of the products and services in this industry will ensure continued growth. I have no doubts about that.
How long are we from seeing modern mHealth technologies going mainstream?
I think we are very close. Every day I hear about new ways in which folks are using mobile and wireless technologies to both monitor and improve their health. People are attending virtual visits with their doctors on their cell phones, using devices that monitor their glucose levels and transmit the data to their doctors’ offices, and using apps to research drug interactions. I’d say we are almost there.