Holiday Excess?

I was checking mail on hotmail, and saw an advertisement:

Hot Chocolate  2,000 steps
Cookies  4,000 steps
Cranberry Sauce 8,000 steps
Get rid of the holiday excess
Track your progress at Health Vault

Of course, when you click on the link, the first thing you see is

Lose or maintain weight

Take the first step with HealthVault

Carrying extra pounds can contribute to a host of problems. Even a little weight loss can improve health and energy. Whatever your focus, we’ve found the tools that can get you results.

The steps on the first page have to do with tracking your exercise by using Microsoft Virtual Earth to figure out how far you’ve gone.  This step also encourages you to get your friends signed up too, so you can compete with them on how much exercise you do.

The second step tries to get you to buy a specific pedometer so you can upload your steps automatically into your computer.

As you go further into the site, you see “one family’s story”:  They use HealthVault to keep track of the 11 year old’s health data so they don’t have to keep track of paper.  Also, the 11 year old is seeing a nutritionist, but the nutritionist’s computer program and HealthVault aren’t compatible, but that’s no problem!  All you have to do is upload all the information manually.   They also use HealthVault to manage the father’s blood pressure (by plugging the blood pressure cuff into the computer and uploading the information directly in).  The father also gives his doctor permission to see the information stored in HealthVault so the doctor can see how things are going with his BP.  And finally, the mother wants to stay fit and uses HealthVault for that purpose.  She can choose to let others see her progress, and chooses to let her sister see her exercise progress, but not her food diary, “that’s too personal.”

While the program is trying to do more than just nod at ‘health’ concerns, it’s main focus is on losing weight.  Everywhere you go on the site, you are being given advice on how to lose weight, whether it’s by establishing healthy meal plans (with a section that reads Food can be friend or foe, but can’t be avoided—we all eat. Make food work for you by developing a healthy eating plan), tracking your exercise, competing with others on exercise. 

Of course, they also want to sell you all the gadgets, the pedometer (normally $60, on sale now from Amazon at $32), the heart monitor (normally $240, on sale now from Amazon at $195), and the blood pressure cuff (normally $90, on sale now for $65). 

The first problem I have with this is that it’s a glorified weight loss site.   It does what just about every other weight loss site out there does — basically, tracks your calories in and out.  It states that it provides motivation (so do other weight loss sites), and provides you with a place to put all your vital health information.

That might actually be the one saving grace of this program, except that it’s not compatible with other programs.  For a time saving device, it’s not very time saving when you have to do data entry every time you come home from the nutritionist.  (And an 11 year old going to see a nutritionist?  Really?  That’s not setting the 11 year up for years of problems later.  “Yeah, I was so fat, my mom made me go see a nutritionist when I was 11!”)

Never mind that something online is only as good as your password.  Your information is always at risk, no matter how secure the site is (ask anybody who’s had people hack into their bank accounts — of which I personally know two).  I may be just a little bit paranoid, but I have to wonder who else (besides my physician) would be able to get their hands on my personal medical information, and what purposes they’d use it for.

But really, do we need another diet site out there?  Isn’t there enough with all the ones in the ethernet already?   I guess Microsoft thinks they need to get on the diet (for your health, of course) bandwagon.  

Since it’s the holidays, here’s my “Christmas wish” (that will take all the ‘magic’ of Tim Allen’s Santa Clause in The Santa Clauseto pull off):  For once, I’d like to see a program that tracked exercise, and healthy eating without the goal being weight loss.  I like to challenge myself, and it would be really cool to plug in how long I spent on the exercise bike, or how far I walked in the Garden of the Gods, or that I did my yoga tape x amount of days a year.  It would give me a sense of accomplishment, really.  But I’m no good at making spreadsheets (I know some people are whiz’s at them, but for me it’s a struggle), and writing it down and not having a tally (x amount of days for yoga, x total miles walked in Garden of the Gods, etc) isn’t much good.  I know, I’ve tried it.

So, Microsoft and any other program developer out there?   You want to get me to use your program?  Then design it without all the encouragement to lose weight.  Design it so I don’t have to wade through the daily tips on how to not engage in “holiday excess”, and if I do, how many extra steps I’m going to have to walk to get rid of that hot chocolate.  So I can utilize the parts I want to utilize without wading through all the parts I don’t want.  Heck, if you could even make it so I can personalize it and opt out of the in-your-face dieting stuff, I’d be happy. 

Cuz, yanno, when it’s 16 degrees Fahrenheit outside, home made hot chocolate (with cinnamon in it and mini marshmallows on top) is just the thing I want.  And I’m NOT thinking about the extra mile I’ll have to walk to ‘atone’ for drinking it, either!

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4 Responses

  1. […] Original post by A Day in the (Fat) Life […]

  2. I did this for myself a while ago the low-tech way.

    Find a calendar making program.
    Print off a blank month. (or, use the inevitable lame freebie calendars that show up this time of year)
    Decide how public you want this to be- I put mine on the fridge, because I don’t let anyone in my kitchen who would be negative about this.

    Get some stickers- ones that make you giggle. (I used shiny gold stars, because, well, I’m lame that way). Everytime you meet a goal, put a sticker on your calendar, with details about distances, times, personal bests, the perfect time of day to use a new path… whatever is important to you about it. I was following an online training program, so I gave myself extra gold stars for completing a full week. Want to ‘upload’ the information to your doc? take it with you to an appointment.

    And Bingo, if you keep your old calendars, you’ve got a record so you can look back in a month, or a year, and see how you’ve improved your speed, or stamina (if improving speed or stamina are part of your goal).

    Not just any record, a shiny gold star record.
    Because You’re a STAR!
    (and I’m such a geek)

  3. dude they’re trying to sell this? you can do this on your own. I used gmaps pedometer to figure out how many steps I usually take in a day, because I was curious. (it’s about 2500 or so on a very lazy day, but usually more like 4000-5000) Just pick a block and count how many steps you take walking at your normal pace in that block, then later find out the length of that distance. divide by the number of steps you took and you have your stride length. then you can use the same program to figure out how many steps you’ve taken by the distance you’ve walked. easy peasy.

    also. these damn calories burned estimates never account for how much more of a pain in the ass it is to walk through four inches of snow in various stages of packed-down-ness while expending energy to keep your body warm. not to mention how your body will actually shut down nonessential processes (like how you can feel your brain gearing down and are unable to form much in the way of complex thought) when you’re doing too much on too little energy. bodies are not bomb calorimeters like these estimates assume. don’t believe them! they are stupid!

  4. I want to know who this mythical person is who consumes 8000 “steps” worth of cranberry sauce – 4 times the amount of calories in hot chocolate as above! I know when I sit down to a holiday dinner, I’m thinking, “Gee, better go easy on that cranberry sauce!”

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