Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Note: This is a spontaneous and uncompensated review.
I have been trying for a long time to find my food-diary groove. I did really well with Weight Watchers the first time around, tracking on paper in a three-month journal. It didn't take me long for my enthusiasm for the program (and my weight loss) to slip away. Since then I have been trying various things without much success. I tried Weight Watchers again, several times, with paper, online, and smartphone journaling. I tried LoseIt!, and that worked okay for a while, but I tend to stop journaling right around the time I need to do it most. I tried posting my food pictures to twitter, which just made me self-conscious and defensive. I tried Intuitive Eating, but intuitively, I seem to just eat like a lumberjack.
I'm trying something new. I heard about dietSNAPS through the appSmitten newsletter. It is a $1.99 app (at least currently) that lets you track your food, exercise, and mood through a photo journal. One of the nice features of this app (for me at least) is that the photos do not go to the iPhone camera roll, so when a friend is looking at my photos they don't get treated to a view of my menu for the last week. It's also nice not to have them end up in my photostream.
Using dietSNAPS is simple. For each entry, you choose an entry type (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack, Water, Drink, Exercise, or Journal Entry). You also need to provide a time (though that field is helpfully populated with the current time and date, you can always change it. Then, of course, you take the picture (though a picture is not required for every entry). ;You can crop the photo, enlarge it, or make it smaller. You have the option to add a picture from your camera roll or media library, too, in case you already have a picture of a similar item. You can add a note (in case you want to track hunger level, effects of the food on your body, or just give a brief summary of what it was).  Individual entries can be posted to twitter or facebook.
So far I am liking this app. Taking a picture is a lot simpler than typing in a bunch of foods. I had heard before about Meal Snap, a $2.99 competitor app that tries to guess calorie counts, but I don't like the idea of some person in the developing world being paid pennies to guess at the calorie counts of my photos. It seems too exploitative.
So I am using photos and words but no numbers this time. I could, of course, do my own calorie counting and put it in the Note field, but I'm trying something different: Instead of focusing on calorie counting, I'm trying to focus more on being reasonable and moderate with both food and portion sizes. It's funny, but seeing the food in the picture helps me reflect on what I'm eating. I'm not sure if this will work, but I'm willing to give it a shot. It takes some getting used to, though, because sometimes I will be well into eating before I remember to take a picture -- I have a few photos of empty plates. I have also thought I was saving a photo and managed to delete it instead. I think that as I get more used to journaling I can get better at remembering to take photos.
The fact that the photo is not required is nice for situations where it would be inconvenient or embarrassing to take a picture, like a business lunch or a party. It would be easy to just describe the meal in the note. The journal entry option is nice, too, for tracking things like mood, or events that happened during the day. Because you can add a photo there, you could include progress photos or even take a picture to signify an important event that day.
The dietSNAPS app has a monthly view, for browsing old entries, and a daily view. You can export your journal to send it to your trainer or your diet buddy, but the reviews in iTunes would seem to indicate that the formatting gets messed up and all of the pictures are dumped to the bottom. It would be nicer if the journals could be exported as a formatted web page to be posted to blogs or other websites or sent as an html-formatted message. The iTunes site says there is an update "coming soon," though how soon is anyone's guess.
If you have an iPhone and you're interested I'd definitely recommend giving DietSNAPS a try. It can be used with any food plan, or no food plan at all. At $1.99 it's a bargain, and the price may go up as functionality is added. It's fun and easy, and it may just be the thing that works for you. I'm hoping it will be for me.
"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07