Lose It! is a weight loss application available for free online and for the iPhone. As soon as you sign on, you’re prompted to supply basic info such as your current weight, age, height and sex, what weight you want to be and how many pounds you’d like to lose per week. Based on these factors, a calorie budget is suggested for you. Log in daily to add what you’ve eaten during the day from an extensive database and any exercise you’ve done.
Your consumed calories are deducted from your daily allowance, but calories burned through exercising are subtracted from your daily consumption.
Ideally, calories consumed – calories burned ≤ maximum daily allowance. Get it? It’s pretty simple and will be the basic metric to measure your success.
So, do you like data? Lots and lots of data? Then Lose It! is the app for you. A graph on your front page shows how many calories you’ve already consumed that day and how close to are to your allowance. You can toggle between a daily or weekly view. Your goals page shows a graph that tracks how you’re progressing towards your target weight and gives you the option to adjust your plan. Your reports page breaks down your habits even more so, even including a pie chart that shows in which meals do you consume the most calories. You can also view your progress as how often you’ve been over or under your calorie allowance, your nutrition (are your calories coming from fats, carbs or proteins?), your favorite foods and exercises or weight loss over time.
Lose It! also has a “motivators” page, which includes the option to share daily messages with friends via email and link your account to Twitter and/or Facebook. As it says on the page header:
By sharing your progress with others, you improve your self discipline and get additional support from your peers. Set up sharing on Twitter, Facebook, or using scheduled email reports. Set up reminders and get a notification on your iPhone if you forget to log.
It’s great that you can get support from your friends, but while most users would be proud while they’re doing well, many would just feel shame if they’re not doing well, which is reason enough for them not to share in the first place. There are some personal motivators. Lose It! offers a series of badges for personal accomplishments as well as interacting with the site. But when you first look at the page, you only see 7 badges. Their names are vague and there are no details about how to earn them. At first glance, you would assume that these are the only badges you can earn. However, once you start exploring the site, updating your profile and such, secret badges are unlocked. This helps suggests that you could earn more by doing more. You receive an email to notify you, but it would be nice if you could be informed of the badge at the moment you complete the action to better reinforce the behavior.
Not knowing how to get the rewards makes them a rather weak motivator. Is there something to reward you for logging on everyday? For doing well every week? Sure, you can have a reminder sent to your email or phone, but unless you’re already super determined to lose weight, there’s very little to keep you coming back. Unless you’re very good at processing all the charts and graphs and numbers, you may be lost as to how to improve your progress. Since the food database includes well-known brands and chain restaurants, maybe Lose It! can make suggestions on how you can eat better, based on your habits. “Hey, you had a cheeseburger last time you were here. Why don’t you try the salad this time?”
Lose It! is an interesting app, and I’ve known people who have had success using it. But its gamified and motivation aspects need a lot more substance. If you’re already very psyched up about losing weight and simply want a tool with which to track your success then Lose It! has dozens of ways to keep you informed. But if you’re the kind of person who’s always struggled with weight loss, needs a lot of help and lots of incentive and reward you’d probably only find this frustrating.
Need help with behavioral science and gamification? Get in touch with our boutique consulting agency Dopamine.