YOU ARE WHAT YOU TWEET
Food Diaries Gain Popularity Online in 09
by Kim Thomas
A recent study published in the American Journal of
Preventative Medicine found that people who keep a
food journal lose twice the weight of those who rely
on dieting and exercising alone.
Do you find yourself somewhat Internet-dependent
these days? I know the symptoms, trust me. Sometimes it
begins as simply the malady known as Blackberry thumb,
then you find yourself trying to gently convince your
Facebook friends to stop sending those pesky environmentally
guilt-driven Lil’ Green Patch requests, or adjusting
your MySpace settings so your not-so-discreet friends? If
you update your status on both MySpace and Facebook on
an hourly basis, you might be a NetNeck. If you have had
to block a family member because they will only rsvp
through MySpace, then yes, that family member may too
be a NetNeck?
I’ll be the first to admit, I love being in touch this way. In
fact, I have somehow formatted my $19 phone so that, apart
from texting, I can also access yahoo, MySpace and Facebook
with just a few touches (and waiting for 5 minutes that seem
like forever) to connect. However, all this activity, which isn’t
really activity, per se, as it only involves exercising my fingers,
is probably what has caused my stretch-denim jeans to
be stressed to screaming at the seams, and my previously
modest necklines to plunge into the abyss of never before
seen cleavage only naturally found on nursing mothers.
With the challenge of finding flattering clothes, and
knowing that I don’t get up and walk or exercise nearly
enough because I’m too busy seeing who’s playing Twirl or
has removed me from their Top Friends (sniff), it occurs to
me that perhaps I just might have reached my Internet
social networking point of saturation and mayhaps I should
pare back my time spent at the keyboard and use that time
to get myself up and running, jogging, walking, or heaven
forbid, doing housework.
Just as my skinny jeans laughed at me and I was about
to lose any motivation to rid myself of the extra poundage,
along comes (new to me/old to teens) Twitter.
This micro-blogging service, Twitter has emerged as a
powerful tool for communication, networking, seeking out
like-minded tweeters, and now, it appears that tweeting on
twitter might even lead to…weight loss? It’s true.
Twitter’s new sidekick, TweetWhatYouEat, implements
a free and easy tool to help users stick with their
New Year’s resolutions by tracking their calories. That’s
right! With TweetWhatYouEat.com, Twitter users can track
their food intake and weight from their mobile phone,
instant messaging, or the Web.
TweetWhatYouEat was founded and developed by New
York native Alex Ressi, who describes himself as a “creative
entrepreneur. After graduating from the University of
Wisconsin, where he studied film as a Comm Arts major, he went back to New York, where he worked in Product
Development for web-based enterprises — primarily focusing
on Games, community, and emerging technology — for
the last 10 years.
Best of all, don’t even have to know the calories of the
food you’re eating. TweetWhatYouEat’s proprietary
CrowdCal database will automatically fill calories in for you!
While the CrowdCal database is unique, it?s not all about the
calories. Unlike other food diaries, you don?t have to pick
apart your food piece by piece. ?If you eat a cheeseburger,
you enter cheeseburger in your TweetWhatYouEat diary, the
database will figure out the rest. We wanted to remove the
barriers that make food tracking difficult and this is as simple
as it gets,? says Ressi.
What’s a Twitter, you may ask?
Twitter is a free social networking and
micro-blogging service that allows its users
to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise
known as tweets), which are textbased
posts of up to 140 characters in length.
Updates are displayed on the user’s profile
page and delivered to other users who have
signed up to receive them. Senders can
restrict delivery to those in their circle of
friends (delivery to everyone being the
default). Users can receive updates via the
Twitter website, SMS, RSS, or email, or
through an application such as Tweetie,
Twinkle, TwitterFon, Twitterrific, Feedalizr,
and Facebook. In September of 2008, Twitter
had well over 5 million visitors which was a
fivefold increase over the month of August.
You’ll need a Twitter account to use
Tweetwhatyoueat which you can register for
free at www.twitter.com. Once you’ve created
a Twitter account, follow the guided registration instructions
Tweet What You Eat (TWYE) suggests you can use your
internet addiction to lose weight. Ressi says he came up
with the concept in the summer of 2007, when he wanted to
lose weight for his upcoming fall wedding. “I needed a simple
tracking tool that would allow me to log my eating
habits from just about anywhere. I wasn’t interested in using
any existing tool that would force me to pick apart my food
entries piece-by-piece in order to figure out calorie values. I
needed a simple food diary that I could use to track my eating
so I could begin to make changes to my diet. I knew
exactly what I was looking for, so rather than hunting
around for something may or may not exist already, I set off
to build it myself.”
Ressi first heard of Twitter early in 2007. “Intrigued by
the concept, I recruited a selection of friends to try it out with
me. As I began to use the service, I immediately saw the
value of Twitter as a messaging platform, and decided to
build Tweetwhatyoueat using Twitter’s platform. The primary
reason for this choice was the accessibility Twitter’s
platform provided, allowing users to post updates from their
mobile phones, IM or the web.”
Alex claims that from start to finish it took about 6
months to produce Tweetwhatyoueat. “I was working on it
in my spare time while working a full time job (though not at
Twitter). The folks at Twitter have been extremely helpful
along the way, providing guidance and support. While I’m
not affiliated with Twitter, I do keep in touch with the team
there” and he says they’re fans of the app.
According to Ressi, there are a number of reasons for
using Tweetwhatyoueat to track your eating habits:
Privacy With Tweetwhatyoueat, you can choose to make
your eating habits public, or keep them private.
Tweetwhatyoueat allows you to send food diary entries via
Twitter’s direct message which means your followers won’t
see them. You can also log food entries publicly by adding
@twye plus your food entry to your tweets.
Tweetwhatyoueat allows you to maintain one Twitter
account which you can use for all your Twitter activity,
including privately tracking your food intake and weight
along with your regular Twitter activities.
An Integrated Picture
A planned enhancement
for Tweetwhatyoueat is to provide users the
ability to see their Twitter timeline juxtaposed with their
food entries allowing them to easily identify different eating
triggers and contextualize their food intake. This is something
no other food diary can easily provide. Status updates
are the core DNA of Twitter. Seeing your status updates (or
Tweets) in-line with the food you eat will help you identify
trends and triggers with your eating and weight.
Easy calorie values Tweetwhatyoueat makes calorie
tracking simple through the internet’s first crowd-sourced
calorie database. TWYE’s CrowdCal database uses the calorie
values entered by other users to auto-populate un-caloried
foods in their diary. The database uses the most popular
value entered by other users as the default value for a food.
If there’s a food you eat frequently, you can enter the calorie
value once, and subsequent entries for the same food will
auto-fill with your selected calorie value without having to
enter it again. This approach is much simpler than most food
diaries, which force you to search through sometimes tens of
thousands of entries to find the calories for your foods. The
CrowdCal database is built in natural language using terms
you use to describe your foods — so there are no confusing
searches or ingredient lists to comb through.
Charting Tweetwhatyoueat also has charting tools that
you wouldn’t otherwise have access through on Twitter, so
you can chart your weight, caloric intake over time, and
other features to help you understand the full picture of your
eating and weight.
One of the longer term goals of the site is to build up a
community, which will include these types of surveys, contests,
and other motivational tools for users. These types of
enhancements are planned for Q2-Q3 2009. Alex says, “in
the immediate future, I have some more site enhancements
I’d like to add on, and will continue to focus on growing
the TWYE user base to a point of critical mass for these
types of features.
TweetWhatYouEat launched in January 2008, and has a
number of planned enhancements including an iPhone
application currently under development. ■
To get started using TweetWhatYouEat, go to www.tweetwhatyoueat.
com or just follow @TWYE on Twitter.
TweetWhatYouEat.com and TweetWhatYouSpend.com are
subsidiaries of Ayver, LLC, and are not affiliated with Twitter.
You can subscribe to the Ace twitter at twitter.com/aceweekly.
It is highly unlikely that you will lose any weight that
way, unless you have to walk a very long distance to the computer. It is possible,
however, that you might pick up a free movie pass or concert ticket.
Local Online Food Diary in Lexington
In the spirit of keeping money in the local economy, you can also try Lexingtonian Justin Pearcy’s popular website for a nominal fee at www.myfooddiary.com
“MyFoodDiary.com is not a crash diet; it does not promise
that you will lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks; it does not push
diet pills; and it does not force you to adopt a completely new
menu of foods. Diets are temporary. If you want to lose weight and keep
it off, it is time to change your lifestyle MyFoodDiary.com is not a diet.
It is a lifestyle tool. Its tools are designed to give you the knowledge to tweak
your existing lifestyle into a healthy one. Such an approach is much easier to maintain over the long haul.