Fitness gadgets and food-tracking apps are helping some but health tech is, arguably, not quite up to speed.
Not so long ago, fitness wearables (Fitbit-style activity monitors) and food-tracking apps were seen as transformative. We would know how many calories we had eaten each day, how many we had burned, act accordingly and the weight would drop off. Increasingly, that is seen as wildly optimistic.
For health-freaks all that data (heart-rates, nutritional stats, steps this, calories that) is compelling. But for couch-potatoes, unless paired with structured, motivational fitness programmes, it can be bewildering, if not depressing: a constant reminder of your failings.
The quality of food-tracking apps varies widely, too. Fooducate ( fooducate.com) proactively analyses food, assessing the quality of calories and suggesting healthier alternatives, but that's rare. Myfitnesspal (myfitnesspal.com) runs on a database that contains over six million foods. Few trackers are that comprehensive, which can be frustrating if you cannot find the nutritional information you need for a specific branded product or restaurant. Moreover, says Dr Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at Boston’s Tufts University, all that searching databases, scanning barcodes or typing foods into your tracker app is ‘Boring. Many people sign up, but many don’t use them.’ A reliable visual app that could ‘see’ your food would simplify the process, but, for now, Roberts is helping develop a voice-activated tracker that people talk to: ‘The prompts and advice I can provide in a heartbeat, when we get good recording programs.’
All that searching databases, scanning barcodes or typing foods into your tracker app is 'Boring. Many people sign up, but many people don't use them.'