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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

January 2, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Lose weight, eat healthier, with tech? A look at self-improvement technology

Not sure you can live up to those New Year’s resolutions this year? Now more than ever, technology can help.

It’s a genre of personal tech that’s gripped me lately, mainly because it’s strapped to my wrist. Call it self-improvement tech. You’ve seen it in apps and services, and now, it’s in wearable gadgets. The Nike FuelBand my husband got me for Christmas is just one example. It tracks my physical activity against my own daily goal, and it made me wish, at the movies the other night, that running in place while waiting for popcorn were more socially acceptable.

This month I’m going to take a closer look at self-improvement tech, and I’d love for you to join me.

What counts as self-improvement tech? Way I see it, it can be as complex as a gadget or app, or as simple as a focused online community.

The Jawbone Up bracelet and the FitBit, an activity tracker that clasps to your clothing, are members of the same get-up-and-go gadget family as the Nike FuelBand. They even track your sleep.

Data-driven apps like MyFitnessPal, which helped me shape up ahead of my wedding, serve up calorie estimates on thousands of foods, meals and workouts, so your weight-loss goals become pure arithmetic.

Then there’s all-powerful social media. Just sharing a goal with an online network helps us stick to it. Countless services take that concept further — using social incentives to kick people into gear.

There are apps for everything from quitting smoking to turning vegetarian, and communities for everything from being happier to — yes — meeting a New Year’s resolution.

In the end, it seems to me, every self-improvement app, gadget or social incentive relies on two very non-techie truths:

1. We manage what we measure.

2. We are more accountable in groups.

Make measuring easier — even effortless, handled entirely by a wearable device — and personal goals fall more easily within our reach. Make accomplishing goals social, and commitments have a better tendency to stick.

Technology was always supposed to work for us. What better genre than self-improvement tech to show how?

Here’s what I’ll be looking at:

First, what’s out there. What apps? What gadgets? What kinds of self-improvement communities? For what goals? Where do they work and where do they fall short? Ever used a gadget or app to meet a self-improvement goal? How’d it go? Join the Facebook thread and share your experiences.

Northwest locals and companies are making moves in the space. I’ll share those with you, too. Know someone working on something interesting in the region, or a local techie self-improvement project that’s taking off? Send me an email and let me know.

Stay tuned. This should be fun.

Seen a story that caught your eye re: digital life? Email me at mguzman@seattletimes.com or reach me on Twitter or Facebook.

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