This was supposed to be a 10-week diary, but I've decided to call it quits one week early for a very good reason; it's just not working out, me and food tracking.
It's nothing personal against Withings and MyFitnessPal. Last week was actually one of the better weeks. It's been great living with Steel HR and the Health Mate hooked up nicely with my Aura sleep monitor and the Hidrate Spark smart water bottle that has proved surprisingly handy in keeping me on top of my water intake.
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But there have been more empty entries than full ones in MyFitnessPal lately and I'm willing to admit defeat that this just isn't for me. The decision on whether to log a few sweets I bought back from a recent trip aboard was probably the final straw. It felt like an appropriate time to bring things to a close.
I feel like I've given Under Armour, Fitbit, Jawbone and Withings a good opportunity to convince me that food tracking can work, but every week has been a struggle to keep up with it. The options just aren't good enough right now based on my experience. As much as Fitbit, Under Armour etc say they are looking more at the way food tracking works, it's clearly the biggest challenge outside of getting activity tracking accuracy right. It's going to take time to come up with something that really works well for everyone.
Food tracking, you've failed me...
In week 1, I outlined exactly what I was hoping to achieve. I wanted to develop better habits around food, become more educated about what I was putting into my body and gain more valuable data and insights to make short term and long term changes to my diet and overall lifestyle.
So how many can I tick off that list? Sadly, I'd say none. Those good habits never lasted more than a week as I quickly slipped back into my normal routine. If I had to pinpoint a reason why, it's something to do with the chore of logging meals that don't have a barcode attached to them or breaking down every element of the meal precisely. Unless you are eating the same, simple meals all the time, I just don't know how people manage to do it.
Aside from some slightly useful trivia on good items to add to my diet (thanks Jawbone for dark chocolate), those meaningful insights I was hoping for were notably absent. It's where I felt Under Armour and MyFitnessPal would really prove me wrong, but that was far from the case.
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What was most disappointing across the board was the genuine lack of effort to educate what I really needed to know about food tracking. If you're beginner to all of this, I can't name one platform that can hold its hands up and proudly say it is doing a good job of this.
The dream device
I don't regret giving proper food tracking a spin, I just hoped that I'd get more out of it. But it did get me thinking about what the perfect food tracking setup would look like. Some of these ideas feel more pipe dream than being anywhere close to reality, but I'm crossing my fingers we're not too far away from it. Here's what I'm hoping for.
1. Scan everything - This would solve my biggest problem with having to track homemade meals and eating out. I touched on this back in week 7, but the idea that something can scan and analyse everything you've eaten would be the ultimate dream.
2. Motivational push - Phone notifications telling you to log meals aren't enough. A constantly bugging wearable would be much better, that won't leave you alone until you put down what you're doing and log. Especially if you're not keeping up with eating at the right times of the day.
3. More wearable love - This kind of follows on from the point above, but I feel like wearables could play a much bigger role in the food tracking process. I think there's something in Senstone's smart pendant that turns random thoughts into text. Being able to create memos that feed back into the app could make the tracking process easier and make a stronger case for having microphone in wearables.
4. Better insights - I feel like this coming and AI and machine learning will play its part, but right now, analysing food tracking data just isn't happening in a way that's useful. I'm hoping Under Armour and IBM Watson's tie-up will lead the way with this.
5. Make it accessible for everyone - This is perhaps the most important. Don't throw lots of nutritional data at me, give me the information that matters and tell me why it matters in a way that sticks.
So there you have it. That's the end of my food tracking diary. I'd like to say it was fun but it mostly wasn't. I'm glad to see the back of it and going back to my moderately healthy eating that every so often veers off course.
If you have any questions about my food tracking experience, drop me a comment in the section below and I'll do my best to answer.
Mike's food tracking diary
Week 1: The quest to find out if food tracking works
Week 2: I'm in measurement hell
Week 3: The struggle is real
Week 4: It's finally starting to happen
Week 5: Making small steps to big change (hopefully)
Week 6: It's time to talk calories
Week 7: The big home cooked meal dilemma
Week 8: MyFitnessPal, we meet again