What Is It?

The Eatery, from Massive Health, is a social food tracking app. Rather than focusing specifically on calorie counting, you take a photo of what you’re eating, (optionally) provide a description and then rate how fit or fat you think it is.

Other users also rate your meal (and like/comment) giving you an average score out of 100. It also has some nice features, like a weekly review feature telling you how you compared to the rest of the user population and key stats including where you eat most (and least) healthily and the healthiness of your meals by time of day. The latter is especially helpful to pinpoint the mid-afternoon vending machine visits that are derailing you…

Screenshot of The Eatery dashboard

The Eatery Dashboard

My Experience of the App

I’ve been using the app since last October and recently hit 1000 items recorded (milestone prompting me to write up some reflections). For those of who have instantly done the maths and your reaction is “Stop eating 6 meals a day and you’ll lose some weight!”, bear in mind that drinks are also recorded 😉

Overall it’s easy to use, intuitive & nicely designed, though could be a little speedier. Sometimes there’s a bit of a delay between snapping a photo and getting to describe/rate, but it is getting slicker with every update. Adding the ability to retrospectively add meals if you forgot to take a photo has been a most excellent addition for 2012.

Key Thoughts

  • It helps to combat “all or nothing” thinking: a bad choice is a blip rather than the beginning of a binge. A great improvement on just “good day” vs “bad day” approach many of us default to.
  • Since it is SO much less laborious (just snap & rate) than detailed calorie counting, it is easier to keep tracking.
  • The community rating aspect is great – gives you a reality check on what you’re eating – and although some folks have some funny ideas about what is (un)healthy, the average tends to be pretty good.
  • Whilst you might argue the opinion of a crowd of strangers is not exactly reliable, I find I object to calorie counting apps for the same reason – since I mainly eat non-prepackaged food, I find it hard to trust the calorie estimates since diff apps vary so much.
  • Some of the little gamification elements help you stay consistent – the quirky “streak” messages from Andrew Carman are particularly awesome.

All in all, one of the most helpful health apps I’ve found – and certainly the one I’ve used most consistently for the longest!

Some of you know that I’ve been having trouble sleeping over the past couple of years. Actually, more accurately, having trouble *staying* asleep. Only being able to sleep for an hour or two before waking got annoying enough that last November I checked into hospital overnight for a sleep study for an uncomfortable night covered in electrodes.

What they found astonished me. I wasn’t just waking up every hour or two. I was stopping breathing over 75 times an hour — waking each time so that my breathing restarted, without being aware of it. They have diagnosed severe sleep apnoea. The condition wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise (anyone unfortunate enough to have had to share a room or even house with me knows my snoring is pretty epic – my dad is just the same) but the level of severity was.

They immediately gave me a CPAP machine which forces me to breathe during the night by blowing a gale through a mask at me. The effect has been pretty much immediate — the first morning I felt infinitely more awake and I have a huge amount more energy than I have had in years.

The weird thing? You’d assume that having had no REM in over 18 months, I’d *know* just how tired I was. But I really didn’t. I’d occasionally fall asleep in front of the telly, but otherwise I experienced hardly any daytime sleepiness (one of the key symptoms of the condition). But having had some decent sleep over the last week since I was given the machine, I can suddenly feel the difference. I have more energy, I feel smarter, more awake and much more balanced.

Net, my one and only resolution for 2010: To sleep more and get more done.

Any of this sound familiar, either for you or someone you know? The Sleep Apnoea Trust has a decent FAQ section, more info available at NHS Choices.

Elly & I just sent the new Heddon Holistic Therapies Centre website live.

The centre itself was founded by Val Lockey, who is an amazing therapist. Since we moved up to Newcastle 18 months ago I’ve been going to Val for help with my RSI. Even with all the crazy travel I’m doing these days, she helps to keep me pain-free and so I can heartily recommend her services!

Today is Nov 1. In addition to starting my new shiny job, Ben’s post just reminded me that the end of October means the end of Pink for October. Personally I’m quite glad to get back to my usual blueness, but I hope that the pink was worth it and helped raise some awareness!

Thanks to Elly, Meriblog is also going Pink for October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re feeling a little flush, make a donation online.

I was on the phone to my Mum yesterday and we basically both ended up bitching about the NHS, particularly when we compare it to the South African medical landscape (which, to be fair, we paid for, but still found to be higher quality for less than 11% of our earnings).

What occurred to me when we were having this conversation, is that a lot of the NHS’s problems (e.g. treatment taking a long time, high cost, etc) come about as a result of emergent behaviours because of the rules put in place. For instance, the fact that every practice has been tasked with “keeping costs down” means that for anything expensive, GPs would rather refer someone to a hospital than treat them locally. That way, the eventual cost for the treatment lies in another cost centre.

Another obvious example is the ubiquitous treatment of budget allocation by most government departments — i.e. the “use it or lose it” principle. Because there is no generic, effective measure by which the GOOD use of a department’s budget has been used, the only real metric is whether it was used up/whether they ran out. This is what results in the emergent behaviour of the “last quarter scramble”, when departments will buy all sorts of shit, just to finish using their budget.

So what’s my point? My point is, that instead of employing all these management consultants who fail to build anything useful, the government/NHS should be employing some game designers/theorists. The important thing is not what the rules are, but what emergent behaviour they will result in.

DISCLAIMER: First, I am not a game designer. My knowledge of game theory is not extensive, but when I was doing AI-related research, I got enough of a taste to at least vaguely know what I’m on about. Second, I’m not a part of the NHS — and I apologise if I get some things wrong. My point is not to speak harshly about the PEOPLE in the NHS, but to question the structure/rules.

Another year, another 3 million deaths. Today is World AIDS Day.

According to Avert

  • 40 million people are living with AIDS today
  • Since 1981, 25 million have died of AIDS — 3 million this year
  • Africa has 12 million AIDS orphans
  • 5 million people were infected this year
  • More than 6000 young people (15-24 yrs) are infected EVERY DAY
  • Of the 6.5 million people in developing and transitional countries who need life-saving AIDS drugs, only 1 million are receiving them.

That there is a terrible disease that threatens you, your family, your friends and your neighbours is not the most horrific thing. That I have not yet seen ANYONE wearing a red ribbon today isn’t either. The fact that there are women, men and children out in the world who could be living with this disease rather than dying from it is what is really horrific.

Why do you care? You should care because you are human. Because however far away this problem seems, it isn’t. Check the statistics — even first world countries have big AIDS problems these days. People there are more likely to live a longer, fulfilling life, but they have still contracted a horrible disease. This is no longer just an issue for the gay community. This is no longer an issue just for third world countries. This is all of our problem, all of the time.

What can you do today? Well, take a look at some of these:

  • World AIDS Day — spread the word
  • 46664 is the charity signified by Nelson Mandela’s prison number trying to raise the profile of the HIV/AIDS crisis — donate
  • Avert provides information and services about HIV/AIDS — donate
  • The Terence Higgins Trust has also done a lot of great work over the years in the UK and deserves your support
  • CWAC is the Children With AIDS Charity helps children & their families in the UK if you prefer your donation to stay local
  • On the other hand if you want to support AIDS children in Africa, SOS Children has a comprehensive programme of support for AIDS orphans and those infected at an early age — you can sponsor a child or simply donate

Support World AIDS Day