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Archive for January, 2011

Can a picture promote good behavior?

Have been getting on the treadmill due to the ice and snow preventing me from running outside (run exclusively in 5 Finger barefoot shoes) and playing golf (hey, it’s a 4-6.5 mile walk with 30 lbs of clubs).  In order to make the work constructive I’ve been launching online Continuing Medical Education programs from Medscape and AAFP’s Learning Link and getting about an hour’s worth of CME with each session.

Effect of eating extra 50 calories and watching TV

Small decisions matter

Have gone through Pain Management, Diabetes, Obesity and several other series.  What’s astonishing about all of these series is that in every case exercise has been shown to be as effective, if not more, than medications.  A few slides stand out but one of them today illustrated the impact of small decisions.

The good news about these slides is that the corollary should be true: It takes only small, daily decisions to lose weight and improve lifestyle, not major changes.

So what’s the best way to do this?  A number of people have suggested using any of the myriad of web or smart phone applications that track calories and energy expenditures.  I’ve found them to be quite good but it’s usually a pain to look up and add everything.  There are some, like Fooducate, that only require one to  take a picture of a food label to do to provide the information.  But the irony of these programs is they usually work best on the most unhealthy food products and the worst on natural, unprocessed foods that have no labels.  As much as I’d like to see an application that recognizes foods (slice of apple let’s say) without any further input I don’t think we’re going to see that soon in a mobile application.

But maybe we don’t need to wait.  There may be other solutions.

What if you could just take a picture of what you’re about to eat, zip it to your nutritionist, nurse practitioner or physician and have them either do the work for you or simply provide feedback? Would you do it? Would it provide value?   Most likely but there aren’t enough nutritionists or professionals that would tolerate getting bombarded all day long by food photos.

Nevertheless, I’ve been photographing everything I eat to see if it’s realistic to photograph everything eaten and now on the 3rd day of doing so.  For example, here’s what I had yesterday:

Here’s what I observed in my own behavior

  • It does become second nature … almost like reaching for the napkin or giving thanks.
  • A picture is a lot more objective than memory.
  • It is hard to see everything that is in the photograph so a extrapolating calories from a photograph is going to be problematic, especially for home cooked healthy meals.
  • Behavior modification, however, does occur.
    For example: just the thought of taking a picture has actually stopped me from reaching out and eating that extra handful of nuts, opening the candy jar or even having that extra drink. And I’m doing this just for myself and am not trying at all to lose weight!

This has prompted me into wondering if beneficial lifestyle changes could be as simple as taking pictures of what we eat?  Whip out your smart phones and take a picture of what you’re about to put in your mouth and let me know if you experience the same behavior changes.