August 20, 2009

blame it on the app store

Today’s question of the day on TypePad is right up my alley: What are your fitness goals? What is helping or preventing you from accomplishing them?

I love food, I love television, and I love reclining on sofas. Add those three things together, and at the ripe old age of almost-41, I find myself about 20 pounds over fighting weight, and have recently started to do something about it. I’m trying to be more mindful of what (and how much) I eat, get to gym a few times a week, and be more active during the day…even if it means just grabbing a walk around the block.

I’ve been following the advice of the geeks I love and tracking my progress – I keep a (private) Google spreadsheet to track weight, and a (private) your.flowingdata account to keep track of days where I dragged my ass to the gym. These two data points are good, but I’d love a better solution to keep track of the third – what I’m eating.

There are dozens of iPhone apps that promise to help you log what you eat and count calories. I’ve tried the LiveStrong app, LoseIt and DailyBurn, and while all three of them have their nice tracking capabilities and their slick UI touches, the food catalogs in all of these apps are just awful. Let’s say I have a slice of toast and a peach for breakfast (mmm, summer). Toast – that’s easy. But search for “peach” and your results screen is full of canned and preprocessed food – canned peaches in syrup, canned peaches in water, peach Yoplait yogurt, a peach-flavored breakfast bar, etc. I realize this is how most of America eats, but this catalog just doesn’t work for anyone who’s eating real food.

It also creates this sense of false precision; instead of the app that lets me track the 182 calorie breakfast bar, the 15 calorie cup of coffee and the 373 calorie Lean Cuisine frozen dinner, how about the app that lets me keep track of things like “I had a big, unhealthy lunch” (I highly recommend the fried cheese sandwich at Hotel Utah, by the way), or “I ate like a rabbit for dinner.”

Anyway. What was the question? What’s preventing me from accomplishing my fitness goals? Clearly it’s the App Store.

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