Friday, April 20, 2012

Christine Chew's Slimkicker app

Almost a year ago (as I was getting ready to work in Haiti for a month, of all things), I was contacted by a woman developing a smartphone app to help with weight loss. She had read my blog and wanted my opinion on her idea. Here's what I responded:


I'm not sure if you really read my blog and are a real person asking for insight, or if this is an automatically-generated email to promote the new app. Assuming the first possibility, here is my input. I don't really know much about smartphones or applications. I live in a small town in the Third World, and my cellphone is a Nokia model that's probably close to seven years old or so. I'm not too interested in electronic diversion or things like that.

That said, I know that a lot of people are really into their iPhones etc., using them both to better organize their lives as well as to waste time. I think your app idea is a novel, noble use of smartphones; you're tying the impulse to goof around on one's smartphone to real-life choices. It's the fun of Farmville or the Sims, but applied to health and decisions that are occurring in the real world. And it sounds flexible. Whether someone is doing an official diet like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, a structured exercise regimen, or simply trying to use common sense in their eating choices, your app could fit in with and complement what they're doing. So you've got my admiration. Instead of apps that make kazoo sounds when you blow on your phone, or that automatically select mediocre music to fit a mediocre occasion, you're doing what mobile devices and social apps should be doing: bringing real-time insights and organization to pertinent issues in the real world.

I hope my meager reflections are of some use to you. Feel free to consult me on any finer points of your new venture.


I doubt my input was of much use to her, and despite losing ten pounds or so during my month in Haiti, I don't have any other weight-loss advice for my readers. At any rate, she recently and kindly got back to me to announce the release of her app. It's called Slimkickers, and is set up almost like a role-playing game in which you track your food intake, take on challenges to earn points, and can follow your progress against yourself or other companions. Except instead of just a video game, it's based on your real life choices and actions. Those of you who know me know that I'm not into weight loss programs, or anything very intentional and artificial, for that matter. But I also constantly lament the state of the US and the world in terms of the prevalence of totally preventable obesity and the countless related ills it brings. Gimmicky diets and deceptive processed food companies have only made the problem worse, but equally gimmicky or extreme exercise programs or food dogmas don't seem to be a realistic solution for the problem, either. What I like about Chew's program is that it's flexible and uses achievable, common-sense goals (like avoiding pop for a week or moving around during TV commercials) to promote good eating and exercise habits. I don't know if she'll make any money from it, or if that was her initial goal, but perhaps the search for profit is part of what has gotten us into such unhealthy habits.

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