About two weeks back, I got a nice comment on this blog from someone who works over at “Slimkicker” – a start-up based out of New York that is offering another variation on health and fitness tracking, a particular interest of mine. I think I last wrote about “The Eatery” – an app that helps you track your diet habits by letting you snap a photo of your food and then have the crowd rate it as healthy or not (fit or fat). The Slimkicker team asked if I would be interested in testing out a new device they are working on, similar to the Fitbit (which I also tried last year when my parents gave me one as a gift), that would pair with its website. I won’t get to try it out until next year sometime, but in the meantime, I felt like it was worth taking a look at the website to see what the offering looks like right now.
Slimkicker takes things further than The Eatery. It helps you track both calories in and calories out (exercise and food consumption) and it adds some serious elements of gamification into its concept.
As usual, you create a profile for yourself and immediately find yourself at “Level 1.” The concept is simple: by logging food you eat, exercise you perform, and challenges you complete, you gather points and advance to the next level. For people who are especially driven by gamification like this (and yes, quite often this is me), it’s a nice idea. There are all sorts of sites and services out there that are offering variations of this.
For instance, there’s “Gympact” – you literally get paid if you work out but *you* have to pay if you miss a workout. I don’t need this kind of stress. I manage to work out 5 times a week usually, but what if I have to travel for work and simply can’t make it one week? Not gonna do it.
There’s “Earndit” which I like more as a concept – it gives you discounts on all kinds of stuff to reward you for working out (it connects with Runkeeper and only gives you points for GPS-recorded fitness activities.) I have a million points over there, though, and have yet to cash in on anything. Might have to do with the fact that it is US-based and I can’t easily claim most of the discounts here.
Of course there is “Nikeplus,” which I use almost daily because of my fuelband (yup, Nike replaced the defunct one for me free of charge – awesome of them, I must say.). Nike tracks my movements with the fuelband and the site gives me “fuel points” for activity. I can challenge myself if I want, to a variety of things, and then get tracked on a daily basis. So rewards are more like those of Slimkicker – virtual.
And there is “Runkeeper” – which I also use daily to track activity, and which also offers challenges if I sign up for one. Like I can enter a self-created challenge like “run a half marathon” by a certain date.
I’ve found that in order to “play,” I have some minimum requirements:
It has to be painless. I don’t want the hassle of having to enter stuff constantly. That’s what I love about Runkeeper and Nikeplus. Runkeeper – just have to turn on the app and press go, and when I am done with my run, press stop, and that’s it. Everything recorded. Nikeplus, same thing, even less painless – I wear the fuelband and all activity is recorded (Ok, the fuelband is not perfect, it doesn’t track biking or elliptical machine activity, which is annoying, but it gets most of the rest of my activity.)
Slimkicker has some work to do here. I imagine when they get their device out, things will get easier, but check this out: for now, you need to go to their site and enter your activity. I put in “run” and got a long long list of possible activities to choose from. It’s super awkward. I should be able to select using drop down selectors, I should be able to specify in miles or kilometers, i should be able to track with my phone with an app. Needs work.
Naturally I had to also try out food entry. More problems. Two examples: 1) what if you like to cook exotic stuff? I do. Or let’s just say you like to cook, nothing exotic. Try a spinach pie, which was the best equivalent I could find to what I was eating. Similar experience to the exercise entry. Very limited ability to be precise.
I’m confronted with store-brand spinach pie. And that’s it if I remember. Not good.
2) I went out to dinner and had chicken enchiladas. Here’s what I got when I tried to enter them:
The site automatically assumes I am eating crap (fast food) when I eat a chicken enchilada. I think the warning is not necessarily bad, but the wording really needs to change to reflect what could be my reality: high quality food at a restaurant, not taco-bell quality high-sodium loaded food.
I won’t rant on further because Slimkicker does have some nice features (calorie database, you can log your own exercises rather than choose from their lists, recipe databases – also for a variety of diets, etc.), I’m curious to hear if anyone else would use something like Slimkicker and what kind of minimum requirements they might have.
And that pinch of salt? (see title of blog…) Just trying out this recipe for “Halva Toffee” from the Beirut blogger I read all the time. It’s easy and fast to throw together. Only thing I think it needs is a sprinkle of pistachios on top along with a sprinkle of salt. Waiting for it to cool and harden to have a bite. Going to run shortly…because calories in must equal calories out…