Daily fasting, algorithms that explore you, and a mood for love: the Simple app in details

A licensed nutritionist and the Co-founder of the fasting tracking app – on how to transform eating restrictions into healthy eating habits of your daily life
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We live in the era of overconsumption for most people in developed and even some developing countries. We need the power of healthy fasting, says Natalie Butler, a licensed nutritionist, a registered dietitian who runs her own business ("Nutrition by Natalie") and advises the Simple app.
Simple is an intermittent fasting app that Palta co-founded in 2019 with the service's two leaders – Mike Prytkov and Alex Ilinsky. Simple attracted more than 200,000 subscribers during the first year and got more than 8 million installs. It is regularly named a #1 Health & Fitness app in the US, Canada, and Australia. Why so popular?

"The simple habit of saying "no" to food, giving your digestive system a break and giving your blood sugar a chance to come down, has a powerful effect on the body's metabolic function", Natalie explains. This idea was one of the reasons she agreed to become a nutrition and medical consultant for the Simple app.
Simple fasting
Fasting is not a new concept. People have been using it for thousands of years. Now we have more information with recent research to understand better how it affects the body.

There are different types of fasting. Simple supports mostly time-restricted eating, where you have a window for fasting at night and then a period of eating during the day. "We all need a break from eating while we're trying to sleep, and our body is trying to recover and regenerate. And then, we will replenish and refuel during the daytime hours. Most people can do this every day of the week for the rest of their lives. And it's a healthy practice. We get ourselves into trouble by eating around the clock", Natalie explains.

When somebody starts for the first time, fatigue and weakness are the most common complaints, says Natalie. Probably their body is not used to taking so many food breaks, or it could be that they don't eat well during meals, and now they have less time to eat. They need to keep their diet on track. It could also be that their blood sugar levels are too low because of fasting. But don't get scared, assures Natalie. It rarely gets so low that it becomes an emergency issue: "We have a physiological function to handle periods of fasting; that's what helps us survive as the human race".

Mike Prytkov admits that he hadn't paid much attention to food some years before they founded Simple. Then he noticed that it was becoming more complicated to stay healthy and fit every year. After Mike and Alex got interested in the topic, they went through different nutrition programmes to lose weight. Therefore, "they had to learn their lessons the hard way so other people wouldn't have to". At one point, says Mike, he intuitively tried some fasting without even knowing the term. After it proved its efficiency, they dived deeper into the topic with Palta and the medical experts. And so began the story of Simple.
Simple algorithms
Fasting can be challenging. How a person responds to fasting will depend on their health, and that's when the power of Insights in the Simple app comes in, notes Natalie Butler. This feature is a good alternative to working one-on-one with a nutritionist because the app provides feedback as personal data is tracked. For example, the app can notice that you turn to junk food each time you finish your fast. It gives the user insight into behavioural patterns and allows them to adjust their eating choices.

User wellbeing is a cornerstone of the app's ideology. So, Simple doesn't promote prolonged fasting but rather promotes more conscious eating and exploring the regularity and the amount of food consumed to eliminate automated eating, which is very easy to slip into. To gain control over food intake would be a gist of Simple's message, claims Mike Prytkov.

The app also provides personalised advice on your fasting and nutrition programme. A pop-up window in the app will show you your behavioural patterns, understand your eating history and habits, and what to do about them based on your data. Natalie assures that all insights are based on particular medical guidelines. By the way, the app asks new users for their medical background to consider it or even prevent those who are contraindicated from using the app for health reasons.

Simple gives you information on how the food you've just eaten affects your wellbeing, and what to do to minimise its bad effects if it's not healthy, but you can't resist trying it. All these things combine to make Simple a unique service. In this way, the app explores all sides, giving a complete picture of the user's situation. It also considers your mood and sleep, which is very important for healthy eating (for example, when you're stressed and have sleep deprivation, there's no point in dieting because you'll surely fail).

All of the app's features are powered by essential algorithms because human bodies, mental states and life goals are constantly changing. A lot of data needs to be analysed to consider all of this and give personalised recommendations relevant to a given moment.

Simple has also recently released another feature, your day plan, a list of tasks you should stick to during the day. Its points are compiled by the app according to the user's goals regarding nutrition and wellbeing.
Simple ideology and the future
The Simple team doesn't believe in long and strict food restrictions. "Evolution has programmed us to enjoy food, and to deprive it is to prevent us from developing healthy habits, not the other way around," says Mike. The product methodology was created with psychologists, nutritionists, nutritional biochemists, and fitness instructors.

The Simple team has got an image of the app as a virtual space where everyone can achieve their nutrition-related goals: "Nutrition is an area that involves many aspects of our lives. Not just health, but mood, inner resources to manage relationships with our loved ones, the way we look", underlines Mike.

Fasting is an ongoing practice designed to keep us healthy, says Natalie Butler: "Every decision we make about eating will affect our health, whether it's good or bad. Considering that we have to eat for the rest of our lives, an app like Simple applies to the rest of our lives too. It can be used in different ways: someone needs a guide to an overall lifestyle. Someone needs help with navigating their fasting and understanding. If someone wants to work with a nutritionist through the app that sees their logs, that's available as well. The longer you use such an app, the more it learns about you. The more specific and useful its insights become".

As a practitioner herself, Natalie says that she doesn't see such kinds of apps as her competitors but rather supports her work. Also, sometimes people just don't need detailed advice that a nutritionist could give them (and would have to pay a lot of money for).

"Sometimes you just need general guidance", Natalie explains, "It depends on where the user is in their medical history and what their health goals are. The support that Simple offers is, if anything, a great starting point for someone to improve their health. And they may never get to a place where they need to have a one-on-one with a nutritionist".

The Simple's team plans to build a community around the app. There are many men over the age of 30 among users of Simple. They hate the word "diet" but accept fasting and food control, says Mike. Also, young parents are now very keen to be role models for their kids, so they're starting to pay more attention to food. Some are just preparing to become parents and improve their health to raise their chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby. There are also many people aged 50+ among the app's audience because they just want to stay active longer and, well, live longer.

Co-founder of Simple
Natalie Butler
Licensed nutritionist, advisor of Simple
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