‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

High Tech Solutions to Weighty Problems

For those of us who can turn on a computer, check emails and acknowledge the internet isn't a passing fad, the world is online. It's about instant gratification and information. Want to pick a movie, listen to the radio, find a restaurant, share pictures of your baby or launch multicoloured birds into precariously built wooden structures? Well, there's an app for that. Along with these apps have emerged a breed of health apps, often connected to a device that monitors, well, you. How useful are they, really?

Research shows that keeping a food diary helps people lose weight. It makes us aware of our food habits, and makes us accountable for what we put in our pie holes. It's also a very handy tool to show your dietitian, who can help you assess meals, snacks, portion sizes and more (shameless plug).

The pitfall of food diaries is that they are time consuming to keep, which means they're not sustainable long term.

There are many fancy (and expensive) devices and apps that monitor one or many of your physical activity, heart rate, sleep patterns, food and beverage intake, mood, etc. More research is needed to fully assess their benefits, but so far it looks promising. Or you could just get a smart tooth implant to track your various pie hole habits - I presume the incentive to put that device in your mouth is that it's a 'chip'.

So here are my thoughts: I borrowed and trialed the Up band by Jawbone, which retails for $130. You can set goals like hours of sleep and number of steps. The nifty slumber function tracks info like how long it took to drop off, how many times you woke up and time spent in deep vs light sleep. You can also input your daily meals, snacks and beverages to track your calories.

Here's the summary download:
    • Sleep function:
      • How many times I'd woken up: The band often got it wrong
      • It often counted laying in bed as 'sleeping' (I wish they were the same thing)
    • The physical activity tracker: 
      • Only really useful for walking - cannot figure out activities like cycling, swimming, hockey, circus training, etc 
      • Doesn't monitor heart rate, so it can't distinguish between calories burned when walking up hill vs on flat terrain vs running 
      • It's on your wrist not your hip, so if you don't swing your arms (eg: hand in pocket, on the dog's leash, on the shopping trolly/cart) steps aren't logged
    • Food monitoring: 
      • It's time consuming! It takes several minutes to input, search and select each food item 
      • For combination meals made at home (like spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, curry) you either have to select pre-made versions or guesstimate the quantity you ate of each separate food item in the dish
      • What is really cool though, is in addition to displaying and tracking calories, it also tracks fiber, fat, carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, etc
      The inner workings of the Jawbone Up app in conjunction with the Up Band

      All these things impact accuracy. BUT for many people, these toys provide an incentive to go for a walk, or swap that chocolate bar for an apple.

      People already in the habit of exercising and who know how much food they need to maintain their weight, will find these devices redundant. But for people who are making big lifestyle changes, these tools could be the difference between a 'fad' change that lasts for a week, or a change that becomes a habit and lasts long term.

      The take home:
      • These devices can provide information to aid weight loss and an incentive to move more
      • They track progress and most importantly, bestow a sense of accountability
      • They are expensive, so perhaps a plain old food diary and cheap pedometer will do the job whilst simultaneously freeing up some cash to buy some nice produce


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