There is no trend in America today that gets more coverage than the obesity epidemic. It seems that on any given day, some major publication focuses on an obesity story. Whether it’s a personal tale or a general study, our attention to the matter is undeniable. But what can we do about it? To the rescue comes another trend: the quantified self. This involves collecting as much data about ourselves, so that we become more aware of our actions and behaviors. There are plenty of calorie counting apps out there, but I’ve found that using My Fitness Pal has helped to great degrees. The interface is what makes the service work. You not only add the calories that you consume, but you add the specific foods. Oftentimes — for me, more often than not — the foods come from My Fitness Pal’s library of 1.2 million foods. There is, unfortunately, no bar code scanning option for the BlackBerry app, as there is for other platforms. But you can still search, with reasonable accuracy, for essentially any food on the planet. Even better, you can combine foods into meals. For instance, if you have a salad for lunch, you can enter in the individual ingredients, including their serving sizes, and then combine them into a salad meal. When you have that meal later, you can just select the already saved meal, making it easier to record your calories. You can even enter in ingredients in a recipe, letting the app calculate the calories therein. If you add exercise to your daily regimen, the app gets even better. Those who work out can, and should, consume more calories than sedentary folk. When you exercise you can record it in the app, and then you get credits for that many extra calories in your day. It’s really an opportunity to come in 100 or so calories under your daily goal per day. That is, if you burn 300 calories exercising and can limit yourself to 200 additional calories, you’ll be in even better shape. The only downside is that while the app allows you to record strength training exercises, it does not provide you with extra calories. That’s a shame, because more often than not strength training burns more calories, and leads to more future calorie burning, than cardio. You’ll need goals, of course, and that’s how the whole program works. You enter your current weight, your goal weight, and your desired loss per week. You can go up to two pounds, but one pound, or just a half pound, per week is optimal. Of course, different people will lose at different rates, but the mere presence of a goal provides a motivating factor. None of these fitness and calorie tracking apps is perfect. They all make generalizations, while we all possess unique bodies and metabolisms. But a large part of the quantified self movement is merely gathering data. Accuracy is preferred, but even absent precision the act of inputting the data alone will provide motivation. You’ll find that you burn to know how you’ve done for a day, for a week, for a month. And if you notice progress, you might be motivated to work a bit harder — skip that sugary snack or spend an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical machine. I could go on for hours about the benefits of apps like this. But, since it’s free, you can just try it yourself. You can download My Fitness Pal in App World. Make sure to also use their website when you can. Combining the two will make the task easier. If you stick with it, I guarantee you see progress in a few weeks.