HomeHealthcare IT news: healthy eating app seeks to close brain behaviour gap

Healthcare IT news: healthy eating app seeks to close brain behaviour gap

Healthy eating is one of the main health-related behaviors that 21st century Americans are interested in encouraging. Since educated food choices come not only from family acquired habits, but also from personal will to change one’s life, specialists have been trying to find ways to encourage people to choose their nourishment more carefully.

Healthcare IT news is frequently full of information regarding new mobile health-related apps. Growing in popularity, people increasingly depend on them, whether the apps are built to help manage medical problems, or get useful information about their sleep, exercise, or other aspects of daily life.

On September 18th, at the Health 2.0 conference in Silicon Valley, Walmart and engagedIN representatives, David Hoke, Sr. Director of Associate Health and Well-being at Walmart and Kyra Bobinet, MD MPH, CEO of engagedIN announced Fresh Tri. This new product of the neuroscience design firm engagedIN is a new practice app for science-based healthy habits. Walmart is launching Fresh Tri to associates and customers to help them embrace effective behavior change, with healthy eating being only the first step.

One too many apps or a real breakthrough?

Why do we need another nutrition app, one might ask, when the market is already flooded with them? We have access to apps that count calories, provide diets, and grocery shopping lists.  We also have apps that measure how much water we drink, and others that deliver fresh organic food to our front door. Somehow, among all these, none really manages to trick our brain into going from “I really want to eat healthy” to “I am eating healthy”.

The new approach of Fresh Tri is to get rid of the feelings that usually hurt self-esteem, by avoiding any kind of guilt. It uses habits scientific studies have proven to be effective to help people really turn around and profoundly change their lives. Many Walmart associates have already said it has dramatically changed their lives.

How does the new app work on the human brain?

The app focuses on achieving positive results by cultivating the iterative mindset. Basically, it helps people find what works for them, and helps them to keep repeating those good eating habits.

Focusing on practice and experimentation achieves long-lasting, healthy habits. The users are guided to choose eating patterns or behaviours that have been proven effective for others like them.

“We’re launching [Fresh Tri] this week broadly to our associates nationwide and then we’ll be in front of consumers as well as part of an event we’re doing nationally next Saturday,” said Hoke.

“The barriers to healthy eating are not educational. They are behavioral. The iterative mindset is really powerful. If we can help them unlock that in their brain, then they’re going to be successful, not just at work but at home and every opportunity in front of them.”

What tools does the app employ to bridge the gap between wish and action?

Basically, the app works with the brain, rather than against it. Usually, apps are there to remind you to do whatever you are reluctant to do in the first place.

EngagedIN designed this app using a toolkit of behavioral neuroscience and rigorous literature review, and deep knowledge about how the brain functions during habit formation. The app uses game-like interfaces to bridge the brain-behavior gap between what people wish to do and what they end up doing. Mindfulness science is helping users try more healthy habits and repeat the behavior to finally find what best suits the individual.

“The reason that people fail is because they quit trying,” said Dr. Bobinet. “If people could keep trying, I’m pretty sure that everyone would have a breakthrough.”

Other companies are also able to use Fresh Tri for their employees and customers. The underlying platform, Tri Habits™, can be licensed and customized for other behavior change applications. Fresh Tri is available on the App Store and Google Play.

Fresh Tri works because it removes guessing from the process, and also the feelings of failure. One can’t fail at using the app, one can only try and try again, practicing until one thing works. The app promises to be a simple approach that won’t make you feel you did something wrong; it will only reiterate what was done well.  

How to use the new app to create new practices

By test-driving scientifically proven habits, you can find which ones work better for your specific condition, and better support your progress.

Fresh Tri offers suggestions based on what doctors know about how the brain adopts new habits, as well as on what most effectively worked for others.

There are three steps to using the app. The first step consists of three elements, hence the name. Users create a “tri” from three components which are common to every successful endeavor: 

  • WHAT you are seeking
  • WHY this is important to you
  • Exactly HOW you will put this ‘tri’ into practice for one week

The second step consists of practicing for 6 days, after setting up the ‘tri’, while tweaking about their practice. Day 7 is a day of reflection and rest before users TRI again. The third step is all about iteration, which is the key to this game. You cannot fail in Fresh Tri, you just iterate until something clicks again.

About engagedIN

engagedIN is a Santa-Cruz-based neuroscience-based design firm focused on behavior change through a combination of science, design and technology. Founded in 2013, the firm has become the secret sauce of innovators within the Fortune 500. engagedIN solves the brain-behavior gap™ by combining the latest research with a compassionate design approach to increase engagement and behavior change at scale.


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