Attempting to Quantify and Visualize Self 11/20/12

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My wife convinced me to join her in a juice diet (my breakfast is above – lots of beets and cranberries). Breakfast and lunch are drinkable. My agreement to join her was based on dinners always involving meat and getting a wireless scale so we can compete against each other. I often don’t usually eat breakfast and lunch for me is typically a fairly boring PB&J, so it’s not that bad of a deal for me.

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My wife also wants to set daily goals for herself related to activity. She has a Nike Fuelband that’s been sitting on her desk for a month because it’s defective. Nike has offered to replace or refund it and she’s still deciding what to do about it. We were at Best Buy last week looking at something totally unrelated when my wife stumbled on the Fitbit display. She loved the colorful Fitbit One and the Ultra and thought pairing one of those with the Fitbit Aria scale would work well.

My issue with the Fitbit trackers is that I know I’d lose one and my wife is even worse than me about this stuff. She also has to change in and out of scrubs somewhat regularly, so I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for her to misplace a Fitbit. I have multiple friends that have lost them. Do I just have careless friends and family,or have others experienced this with the pocket-based trackers? Ultimately she decided to keep the Fuelband for activity tracking.

For nutrition and food logging, her preferred app is LoseIt!, though I don’t think she really gave MyFitnessPal a chance. She uses the Nike+ app for tracking her runs, but is more than willing to go back to Runkeeper if that is required to integrate everything.

The major products I considered for each service are below:

  • Nutrition – LoseIt! and MyFitnessPal. I ended up going with LoseIt! for no other reason that it is more familiar. I think MyFitnessPal is a cool app, but it lost the war of hearts and minds. In comparing which app integrates with more services, both seemed to be similar.
  • Weight – Withings and Fitbit. My prerequisite for this was that it had to work over WiFi, not Bluetooth. I was leaning towards the new wireless scale from Withings for a few reasons. First, it integrates with just about everything. Second, I really like the Withings mobile app. I wrote off the Fitbit scale because I didn’t think there was any real reason to get the Fitbit scale without using the Fitbit activity trackers. In the end, after much research, I went with the Fitbit Aria scale after all, for no real compelling reason. I think I could’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish using either the scale from Fitbit or from Withings.
  • Activity – Fitbit, Nike, BodyMedia, Striive, and Jawbone (just went back on sale after the recall debacle from about a year ago). Like I said, my wife has and likes the Nike Fuelband, when it actually works. I think she’d like the Jawbone Up as well but it’s not available yet. She refuses to wear the BodyMedia armband all day. The Fitbit was a non-starter because she’ll lose it. Striive is an interesting device but again, she’d likely lose it. Another interesting option that’s not available yet is the Shine by Misfit Wearables. I have similar fears about losing the Shine, but it does have wristbands to hold it in place. In the end, we decided to go with the Fuelband because 1) she already has it, 2) it’s a lot harder to lose, 3) Nike integrates with Path, which my wife uses religiously, and 4) I think the Nike+ running app is superior to the other apps that I looked at in terms of experience (next bullet) and you can combine Fuel points from the app and Fuelband.
  • Exercise – Runkeeper, Nike+, and MapMyRun. There are certainly other options for apps that use GPS to track exercise, but these were the only ones I considered. My wife and I used to use RunKeeper and even paid $9.99 back when the pro app wasn’t free. We eventually changed to Nike+ because of the integration with Path. I realize this is an unusual reason to make the switch but, as I was using the Nike+ app, the app was significantly updated and the experience is considerably better. I’ve gone back and tested the most recent release of Runkeeper and MapMyRun and don’t like them as much as Nike+. Maybe it is because Nike is focused (and in a way, limiting) because it is only geared towards running (MapMyRun comes from a line of MapMyFitness apps). For whatever reason, for basic logging of runs, I prefer Nike+. This is probably an entire post subject, but some things would bring me back to Runkeeper, the most obvious being the training plans feature. Runkeeper also has a clear advantage because it does integrate with lots of third party services.

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My task was to find a way to integrate four services (nutrition, weight, activity, exercise) into one place. To be honest, I wasn’t as keen on integrating them all into one place, but my wife wanted that. I’ve never actually tried to integrate these services, though I’ve written about all of these companies and covered integration issues in previous posts. I know the market opportunity is huge for whoever can unify all of these services and a lot of people are trying. Some of the newer options I’m excited about are Traqs.me and TicTrac, which goes beyond fitness data integration and pulls in Foursquare, tweets, and Google Calendars. Both Traqs.me and TicTrac are still in private beta, but you can request an invite on the sites.

I wanted to find a platform, something with a nice mobile app, and spent a bunch of time last week looking at the tons of options out there. I’m pretty familiar with this area and these companies, but the process of trying to find and decipher is a massive pain. Each site has its own long list of third-party apps that are supported (Withings, Runkeeper, Fitbit, and many more). Some integrations are read and some integrations are write. Is there a site where you can easily digest all of this info? If there is, I couldn’t find it and I’d love if somebody would create it.

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In the process, I looked at and considered Runkeeper, Fitbit, Withings, Tactio, and LoseIt!. Shockingly, to me at least, is that I ended up going with LoseIt!. It supported both WiFi scales I was looking at and also integrates exercises from Nike+. It doesn’t pull in Fuelband data, but that was a compromise I had to make. Since it’s pulling in Nike+ fitness data via the Nike API, Fuelband seems like a natural extension. If you use Fitbit or BodyMedia, it does pull activity data from them today. I should note I had to upgrade to LoseIt! premium for $29 per year to enable the integrations that I wanted.

You can accomplish almost the same thing for free with Fitbit, Withings, Runkeeper, and Tactio as a platform, but another big advantage of using LoseIt! as the primary app for aggregating and tracking data is related to its primary function – nutrition and food logging. Logging food is manual and can be tedious, but I’ve always thought LoseIt! makes it very simple to add meals, create and save recipes, and set clear goals for caloric intake. It’s how LoseIt! started and I think that’s why LoseIt!, and MyFitnessPal, do food logging the best. The new Jawbone Up app seems to be pretty cool when it comes to food logging as well, though I haven’t tested it. In a way, LoseIt! seems simplistic compared to the other apps but it gives you nice, basic math (goal, consumed, burned). I tried the Fitbit app for this and thought it was horrible.

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Am I the only one that has struggled with this? After going through this process I realized that, more than ever, there needs to be an easier way to integrate this data, both for patients as well as for providers. Most patients are not going to proactively research, test apps, and then manually integrate two (let alone more) services. Also importantly, most docs aren’t going to be able to weed through a list of 20 apps that integrate with Scale A vs. activity trackers that integrate with a food logging app and on and on.

Maybe the payers will drive this. Maybe they will create the integration and package the services for providers and for members. Payers would also be well placed to integrate points and financial incentives. A decent amount of provider education is still required, but that also requires some reimbursement changes as well. What do you think?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress with this and how it all evolves. I ended up going with the Aria scale from Fitbit. Install wasn’t exactly as simple as it should’ve been. I had to rest the scale back to Setup mode three or four times before I finally got it configured. I was only able to configure it after I changed to my phone from my computer. I thought that was strange.

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Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

  • Chris Wasden

    Travis

    I think you made this all too difficult. I have looked over the same ecosystem and have the following that works very well and is fully integrated.

    Loseit for nutrition that integrates with Fitbit activity tracker for calorie points and Withings for weight. Loseit also integrates  back into the Fitbit app for nutrition.

    I prefer the Loseit app because it has all this integration and also provides me with fat, protein and carbohydrate breakdown.

    I use Digifit for interval training as it helps you get into the VO2 Max range quite well with audio and visual displays and cues.

    I am using a Nike Fuelband to compare it to my Fitbit and my Striiv app on my phone. They are all generally the same except when you do a lot of arm activity like yard work or weights and then you get more fuel points with the Fuelband than you get with the pedometer only devices and apps.

    The new Withings app with the butterfly allows integration of Zeo, Runkeeper/Fitbit, their scale and bloodpressure cuff and BodyMedia. My wife tried Body Media for some and gave up on it. She much prefers the Fitbit. She doesn’t lose it too often because she is addicted to it. She keeps it on her bra sometimes and her pockets others. She has had to get one replaced, I have had to have three replaced, because of defects. But customer services is quite good and they replace them at no cost.

    It is interesting, with all this my wife and I are weighing ourselves nearly daily, tracking daily, and only I keep track of what I eat daily. It is a game for us, not a competitive one but one where we compare our activity daily.

    By the way, my wife doesn’t like the Fuelband on me, she thinks it looks too bulky. Not sure if I am supposed to wear it as a badge of honor or not, but is does consume  a lot of valuable real estate on my wrist.

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