The Body Data Craze

I was interviewed by reporter Alissa Quart for Newsweek's "The Body Data Craze", the cover story of the June 26, 2013 issue.

Greenhall, 26, a programmer at a startup in San Francisco who runs the Quantified Self Meetup group there, calls QS a “mindfulness practice”: for seven years, Greenhall has tracked her weight every day and then calculated a 10-day running average. “If I am losing weight or gaining it, if I am stressed out or not sleeping enough, I’ll know,” she says. She also keeps a long text document entitled “Read, Done, Accomplished,” that she keeps updated, including things like the books she has read in a given year.

Leigh Honeywell and I both emphasize that there is big opportunity to improve mainstream consumer's experience of mass market devices and apps, such as Fitbit and Runkeeper, by better customization of goals.

QS-ers Honeywell and Greenhall both questioned why achieving a low body weight is the desired outcome of dozens of new sensors now on the market.

Why make assumptions about everyone's goals? In 2007 I used weight tracking to make changes to lose weight, but for the past few years my goal has been to stay the same.

“I’d like to tell all of these companies that offer ways to measure yourself, that consumers should have the option to turn off all the diet talk,” said Honeywell. “I’d love Fitbit to have an option to keep your weight above a certain amount as well as below.”

As Quart notes:

Sensor manufacturers have clearly not read Fat Is a Feminist Issue.

2013