Consistency, consistency, consistency

How befitting of January 1st:   The NYTimes ran an article today entitled “Fat Trap" .   Many schemes exist to help people lose weight — Shysters and hucksters have been peddling their snake oil for what seems like centuries in an effort to help people lose weight.

In recent years, it’s become increasingly clear that the problems surrounding healthy metabolic maintenance revolve not around losing weight, but keeping it off once the dieter has lost weight.

Here are some great pull quotes from the article:

There is no consistent pattern to how people in the registry lost weight — some did it on Weight Watchers, others with Jenny Craig, some by cutting carbs on the Atkins diet and a very small number lost weight through surgery. But their eating and exercise habits appear to reflect what researchers find in the lab: to lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally. Registry members exercise about an hour or more each day — the average weight-loser puts in the equivalent of a four-mile daily walk, seven days a week. They get on a scale every day in order to keep their weight within a narrow range. They eat breakfast regularly. Most watch less than half as much television as the overall population. They eat the same foods and in the same patterns consistently each day and don’t “cheat” on weekends or holidays. They also appear to eat less than most people, with estimates ranging from 50 to 300 fewer daily calories.

She also weighs everything in the kitchen. She knows that lettuce is about 5 calories a cup, while flour is about 400. If she goes out to dinner, she conducts a Web search first to look at the menu and calculate calories to help her decide what to order. She avoids anything with sugar or white flour, which she calls her “gateway drugs” for cravings and overeating. She has also found that drinking copious amounts of water seems to help; she carries a 20-ounce water bottle and fills it five times a day. She writes down everything she eats. At night, she transfers all the information to an electronic record. Adam also keeps track but prefers to keep his record with pencil and paper.

That transfer process is really important; it’s my accountability,” she says. “It comes up with the total number of calories I’ve eaten today and the amount of protein. I do a little bit of self-analysis every night.

We see this repeatedly:  Time and time again, the most important thing is self-analysis.  Only self-awareness leads to self-control that can effect positive behavior change.

Just talking to Bridge about the effort required to maintain her weight is exhausting. I find her story inspiring, but it also makes me wonder whether I have what it takes to be thin. I have tried on several occasions (and as recently as a couple weeks ago) to keep a daily diary of my eating and exercise habits, but it’s easy to let it slide. I can’t quite imagine how I would ever make time to weigh and measure food when some days it’s all I can do to get dinner on the table between finishing my work and carting my daughter to dance class or volleyball practice. And while I enjoy exercising for 30- or 40-minute stretches, I also learned from six months of marathon training that devoting one to two hours a day to exercise takes an impossible toll on my family life.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone else could help you with that?   Shouldn’t it just be easier to keep a food journal that’s actionable?

For me, understanding the science of weight loss has helped make sense of my own struggles to lose weight, as well as my mother’s endless cycle of dieting, weight gain and despair. I wish she were still here so I could persuade her to finally forgive herself for her dieting failures. While I do, ultimately, blame myself for allowing my weight to get out of control, it has been somewhat liberating to learn that there are factors other than my character at work when it comes to gaining and losing weight. And even though all the evidence suggests that it’s going to be very, very difficult for me to reduce my weight permanently, I’m surprisingly optimistic. I may not be ready to fight this battle this month or even this year. But at least I know what I’m up against.

Tags: consistency

If you’re not using a smartphone for photos yet, you will be next year

According to NPD Group, consumers now take more than a quarter of ALL photos and videos on smartphones (1) . Needless to say, we’re ecstatic about this trend.

“There is no doubt that the smartphone is becoming ‘good enough’ much of the time; but thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before,” said Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD. “Consumers who use their mobile phones to take pictures and video were more likely to do so instead of their camera when capturing spontaneous moments, but for important events, single purpose cameras or camcorders are still largely the device of choice.”
When you’re eating or exercising and want to remember what you’ve eaten or how much you’ve exercised, what better to use than the ubiquitous smartphone? Source: The NPD Group/Imaging Confluence Study 2011

Now accepting beta users!

We’re trying to improve the web and mobile usability of DietPicture and we’re looking for Beta testers. If you’re interested, you will get a free month to try it out. And we’ll also be extremely responsive and appreciative if you have suggestions to make.

To sign up for our beta, take a quick trip over to DietPicture.com.


Lots of people want to lose weight. What goes wrong?


Especially at the beginning of the year, lots of people set a goal to lose weight. Except, not a lot of people end up actually doing it. Why? Because it’s hard unless you have other people to do it with and advice from people who have experience.


How having a support group really helps maintain a healthy diet

This year’s Consumer Reports special report about Dieting has been released, and the “winner” is Jenny Craig.

There’s no coincidence that the DietPicture model is based very similar to the most effective diets in the study.

Our formula, combining Peer Support, Intervention & Convenience is the best way to actually remain cognizant of your dietary patterns and change your lifestyle in the shortest period of time — but more importantly, actually stick to your new behavior over a period of time.


Do people need “nudges” or “shoves”?


Jonah Lehrer’s latest piece in the Wall St Journal about “shoves” over “nudges” is fascinating.

It’s sometimes easy to forget this, but there are a vast number of options out there that are more enticing than, say, eating healthy, or exercising regularly. Lehrer aptly points out a big problem with reforms inspired by behavioral economics:

- Nudges of Policy Makers must compete against the nudges of the marketplace (Posting the number of calories in a certain meal literally competes against the experiential and delicious taste of the french fries in your meal)


We know that posting calories in restaurants alone is insufficient in impacting true behavioral change. Luckily, we believe we have the answer.


Can the internet make you healthier?

Recently, there was a great article in TechCrunch, titled “Can the internet make you healthier?"
People are leading busier lives than ever before – working longer, sleeping less, stressing more, working out less frequently, and eating the wrong foods. As a result, it’s gotten more difficult for an increasing number of people, myself included, to stay in shape. Unfortunately, there’s no pill you can take or button to push to ‘make it all better.’ Staying in shape requires developing healthy habits across a number of key areas over a sustained period of time (hopefully, a lifetime).

Different things motivate different people when it comes to increasing physical activity. Some are data junkies, who long for more data to analyze and to hold themselves accountable. Others are social creatures that thrive on the encouragement they receive from others. Some are competitors, and do their best when head-to-head. And still others are at their best when you turn things into a game and dial up the fun. The key is to identify your personal motivational drivers, and then set up a routine that best aligns with them.

As virtual health/fitness platforms evolve, they have the potential to fundamentally alter the state of world health in a positive way, by empowering people to better manage their health on an individual basis, by making these tools accessible to the masses, and by using the aggregate data sets they generate to continually self-optimize and improve the way that their services are delivered.
The point of view is interesting, but I think the article might be mistitled— The Internet as a construct is broad and multifaceted. There are apps, an ecosystem, and social norms that the internet facilitates… But ultimately, it’s individuals that will make themselves healthier if they have the necessary scaffolds and sustained motivation to do it. We firmly believe that’s what we can provide.

How “reality” games can improve your life

RealityIsBroken_300dpi Dr. Jane McGonigal’s “Reality is Broken" is about how games make us better and how they can change the world. When we conceived Workout.io, we had exactly the same intuition. From the Boing Boing write-up by Cory Doctorow:

McGonigal takes us through mechanisms that make games so consuming: a series of tasks that increase in difficulty at a rate that keeps us fully engaged; failure modes that are fun and amusing; activities that feel epic in scale.
McGonigal wants us to see that small, voluntary modifications to the already arbitrary rules by which we conduct our affairs (social norms, conventions and laws) can make us work in ways that make us happier, that fill us with motivation, that encourage us to help and value our friends and neighbors.

Apps to share your pride at the Gym

Region capture 4 There’s an interesting article in the NYTimes today about Apps to share your pride at the gym. Needless to say, we’re very intrigued.

For 315 days straight, I logged into a Web site or popped out my phone and confessed what I ate, how much I exercised and what I weighed. When I went to the gym, I also checked in on Foursquare, announcing my location to friends and eventually winning the rank of “mayor” of my local gym. When I completed my food and exercise diary, the computer informed my Facebook friends; when I lost weight, it broadcast the news to the world on Twitter.
And it seems their sustained obsession with my obsession has helped me stay on track. Since last March, when I first got an iPhone, downloaded a host of helpful apps and hooked them up to my Twitter and Facebook accounts, I’ve lost 63 pounds. In the year before, when I dieted and exercised in digital isolation, recording my calories in and out in a so-last-century Moleskine notebook, I lost only 20 pounds.
Mr. Gammell said the ability to show friends your workouts offers “social proof,” a phenomenon in which people take cues from others’ behavior. “It’s something I’ve experienced in my own life,” he said. “Once you start working out, and your friends start knowing about it, that’s the biggest factor in their starting to work out.” I’ve reached my desired weight, so now I need new goals. And that’s where most apps and services fall short.
And each new app or Web site adds more time to the routine.
Not ours… :)

Weight of the World infographic animation


According to this article by the Washington Post, the average body mass index in most countries has risen since 1980, according to a project that tracked risk factors for heart disease and stroke in 199 countries over 28 years. Click through to see the infographic animation. SOURCES: Global Burden of Metabolic Risk Factors of Chronic Diseases Collaborating Group. GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews and Todd Lindeman / The Washington Post - Feb. 3, 2011.