TL;DR: I’m making an app to log my own personal meal/snack times as painlessly as possible, so I can track my eating habits and lose some weight. You can download v0.1 for OS X here.
It’s very easy to put on the poundage when you work from home and food is always at hand. I’ve always had a problem with frequent snacking; call it a need for sensory stimulation, staving off boredom, cry for help, whatever you like. I think it’s just a bad habit.
Having put on 10 pounds since last year, this is something I’m becoming increasingly concerned about. I’m sure frequent snacking is not good for my teeth and gums either. And it’s probably also a risk factor for diabetes.
I’ve read a ton of Quantified Self posts recently, and also a book or two on gamification, so I’m wondering if I can code my way out of this.
I’m wary of food diaries and other techniques that are hard to keep going. I tried using an iPhone food-diary app to photograph everything I ate, but I gave up on the third day. It took multiple actions to launch the app, start a new entry, take a picture of the food before eating (or another one if the first one was clipped, badly focused or too dark), and then think of an appropriate label for the food in English. It’s more natural for me to think ਦਹੀਂ than ‘1 cup yogurt’.
So I decided to make a really simple app: one button to push when I eat something, and a timer that shows how much time has elapsed since I last ate. The idea is that by becoming conscious of how much time has elapsed since I ate, I can increase this interval.
First I made it an iPad app. It looks like this:
Can you get more minimal than that?
This would have been OK for me, except that as an iPad app I keep forgetting to use it. The iPad shows one app at a time. When the app is switched away, I tend to forget that it exists. Out of sight, out of mind.
So I decided to make a desktop version instead. I use a Mac all day, and if the app window is somehow visible (even if partially covered), it’s easy to remember why I’ve got it running and so it’s more likely that I will use it when I’m considering grabbing something to eat. About to snack too soon? Look at the time, it’s only been 2 hours, I should wait. When I do eat, all I have to do to log it is to push the one big button.
The OS X app looks like this:
Well, it’s been a couple of days. I’m enjoying using it. It seems to be helping. I can’t resist thinking of a hundred new features to add to it; that’s inevitable. But meanwhile here is v0.1 preserved for posterity.
If you use it, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll make my day.
By the way, you don’t need to keep it running to track the time. You can close it and relaunch it later. It will save the time when it’s being closed (or when the computer is about to sleep) and add back the time elapsed when it is relaunched (or when the computer wakes up from sleep).