It was a couple of weeks before New Year’s when it dawned on John Derek Bentley. “I have to do something different,” Bentley told himself, “because I’m kind of sucking at life.”
A 21-year-old freelance web designer from South Portsmouth, KY, Bentley was not thrilled with his job. He wanted to travel the world, he realized. He weighed 255 pounds.
Bentley decided Dec. 14 he was going to do something about it, so he created a blog, The One Year Project, to track his resolutions.
Year after year, millions of us go through the same ritual of promising ourselves we’re going to lose weight or save money or quit smoking. And year after year, most of us
Millions of us also spend our days staring at a computer monitor, whiling away the hours between work, email, instant-messaging and, for those a bit more technologically minded, Twitter. Twitter is a free social networking and blogging service that lets users post status messages (or “tweets”) about what they’re doing throughout the day.
Someone might tweet, “I just ate a grilled cheese sandwich,” which seems like a fantastic waste of time. But what if, by twittering about that grilled cheese sandwich, you were somehow helping yourself to keep your New Year’s Resolution to lose weight?
Nutritionists and dieticians agree that the simple act of recording meals into a food diary is one of the central tenets to weight management. According to Cher Pastore, a registered dietician in New York City, people who lose weight and keep it off have three things in common: they exercise at least three times a week, they eat breakfast daily and they all keep a food diary.
But writing things down in a diary can be cumbersome. In the summer of 2007, Alex Ressi, a product developer and entrepreneur, wanted to lose weight before his wedding, and he wanted a simple way to track his progress. By the following January, he had created tweetwhatyoueat.com (TWYE), which lets users tweet their food intake and calories from their mobile phone into a diary on the site.
“I wanted something that I could update from my mobile or from the web,” said Ressi, who has 2,500 registered users right now. “I didn’t want anything fancy.
A friend who’d read Bentley’s One Year Project blog told him about tweetwhatyoueat.com, and Bentley started tweeting his meals that day as part of his project. This afternoon, at 4:57 p.m., he had recently “tweeten” (as the site calls it) five cups of milk, green beans, two slices of whole wheat bread and mayonnaise.
While Bentley has only been using the site a couple weeks, he says it’s the first time he’s used a food diary that’s worked for him.
Part of what makes weight loss so difficult, nutritionists say, is the private nature of it, which is why the Weight Watchers method of going to a group and weighing in can be so effective for some people. Other online sites like fitday.com and sparkpeople.com provide users with free online food diaries and communities to track weight-loss progress.
“By keeping an online food diary like tweetwhatyoueat.com you are not only experiencing the process of typing out how much you are consuming, but others are also aware of what you eat throughout the day,” according to said Joshua Rosenthal, founder and director of the New York–based Institute for Integration Nutrition “This builds a support network, and you are more likely stick to healthy habits if your friends are holding
In the middle of week four now, Bentley has lost 12 pounds, and he’s resolved to keep going until he loses 68 more. While many of us whimsically say we’re going to “start working out” in January and forget about the gym by February, Bentley has committed himself to his goal out loud and “on paper,” through his twitter feed and his blog.
Of course, it’s still only January, and Bentley could easily fall off the wagon; but he is convinced that with the help of technology, this year will be different.
“I’ve given myself the deadline of exactly one year,” Bentley said. “Tweet what you eat and the blog allow for all the accountability of Weight Watchers without the price, or, without the ‘being-the-only-guy’ there thing.”
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