January 02, 2012

My Top 3 of free apps that support you in sticking to your goals

We all know that it is very hard to stick to your goals. Here you find my Top 3 of free apps that help you stick to your New Year's resolutions.

1) The Eatery: Build on the honest real-time feedback of friends and strangers
My favorite one! Self-monitoring improves self-awareness of behaviour ('Am I really eating that much chocolate?'), but writing down everything you eat can also be quite boring and time-consuming. The Eatery promotes its free app with the slogan 'stop counting calories, start eating better'.

The idea is that you take a picture of everything that you plan to eat. Then you invite your friends to comment on the meals you are about to eat or just finished. Within a few minutes you will then receive a rating on a scale of 1 (very unhealthy) till 100 (extremely healthy). As you can see, my homemade oliebollen (Dutch treat) were not considered to be very healthy. I did not connect to Facebook, but still I received about 20 ratings per snapped food. So, by using crowdsourcing, other people evaluate the healthiness of your eating habits. 

This app is addictive and fun to do! However, I do not always agree with the crowd's healthiness ratings. I noticed that the crowd is also susceptible to biases such as health halos and the negative calorie illusion. Just put a salad next to your burger or state that it is fat-free, and the ratings go up substantially. And although you can indicate the portion size consumed, I have the impression that you do not include that information in your ratings of other people's food. But the idea is great and offers opportunities for interesting consumer studies.

2) Stickk: Make yourself accountable; pay when you do not reach your goals
Stickk is not an app, but a site that claims that your chances of success are higher when you put actual money on your goal. It is not obligatory, but you have the option to commit money to your goal and if you do not achieve it, Stickk will send the money to the person, charity or organisation that you indicated. The site is founded by Yale economists and based on two key principles of behavioural economics: (1) people do not always follow up what they intend to do and (2) incentives motivate people to do things. I did not commit money to my goal, so I guess that is the reason that it was not that motivating. I think I am going to commit myself again, but then with serious money....

3) My Weight App and MyNetDairy: track your weight loss progress
A recent study of Barbara Cunningham showed that people do not lose more weight when they track their diet using smart phones compared to the traditional pen and paper method. But still, if you have a smartphone, it is convenient to try an app.

These apps help you to track you weight day by day (My Weight App) and calories/exercise (MyNetDiary). I used the free versions, and they are easy to use. The progress bar of the My Weight app gives a view on how far you progressed with your weight loss.


  1. Hi Ellen,

    We're thrilled you're loving The Eatery and having fun learning more about your eating habits. Like you said, it'll be interesting to further explore how we rate (and get more insight into what we really know about our food).

    We're excited for the possibilities ahead, do stay tuned for updates!

    Warmest regards,
    Cassandra and the Massive Health team

  2. Ellen, fantastic focus for your blog. Thanks for sharing the findings from Barbara Cunningham’s study. It seems that the true potential for mobile apps (in the realm of weight management and decision making) is still in its infancy… perhaps the best is yet to come. I look forward to future posts, thanks!
    - Erik from DecisionDisco


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