Wi-Fi Weightwatching: the Future is in Cyberspace

Food and I: we’re good mates.

I like cooking and preparing it; I love eating it.I go through carb-abstaining times, but they smart. Every now and then there is a waistband rebellion and Phil and I lecture each other sternly about not snacking on things between meals. Tomorrow, we say, is the first day of the rest of our lives. I resolve to look like Madonna after a crash-course three-week chicken and lettuce regime.

But the thing about Madonna is, she’s got a dirty great mansion which houses a large kitchen and a top chef. It is his job to find new and delicious ways to present green leaves.

I can moan, but the truth is: I just don’t want to suffer for the cause. I like shortbread. So sue me.

I hear one top model used to allow herself six raisins a day as a treat.


We did have a very successful soup-only initiative which lasted for about a week. It owed its success to the fact that I was able to spend ages preparing new recipes so that the final outcome felt as if it really were like one of Mr Willy Wonka’s three course meal sticks of chewing gum. A whole meal in a bowl of soup: sweet potato and rosemary, chicken and lentil, potato and leek.

But soup palls after a week. One finds oneself craving buffalo once more.

We are fairly average: and not concerned enough to head for one of the many organisations keen to help one lose both weight and cash all at once. They hold meetings and public weighings, and swap recipes and exercise tips. They allege that losing weight is easier when it’s done in fellowship.

And the internet has brought new ways to stay accountable without the need to involve bossy group leaders in one’s progress.

Now you can log in and record your details online in personalised trackers; you can access thousands of squeaky fat-free recipes; you can download iPhone and iPad applications to monitor your progress.

It’s all very helpful: but I do begin to experience a batsqueak of unease as we welcome with open arms more and more monitoring, the passing of information from one place to another with such blithe regularity.

In 1971, Gene Wilder played the Willy Wonka I adored: and hidden in the film was a prod at new technology and the lengths to which it will go. Mike Teevee wants to travel by TV, and Mr Wonka has made that possible. He demonstrates how a chocolate bar can be translated into millions of tiny pieces, travel through the air, and re-materialise in a television opposite.

It materialises considerably smaller, and Mike suffers the same fate. But the idea of bits travelling through the air seemed incredibly futuristic as I gazed into Gene Wilder’s wild eyes.

Enter, the latest tool in the war against overeating.

Imagine a set of scales which weighs you and then, immediately, transmits the results in tiny packets of data to somewhere else.

It sounds like the future: but the future is here. The Aria, by fitness company Fitbit, does what Mr Wonka did with chocolate using television sets. It teleports your Body Mass Index, weight and (terrifyingly) body fat percentage through the air from the scales, flinging it out into space, only to land gently in somewhere in cyberspace.

Of course, you couldn’t pinpoint where all that deeply personal information about you was on a map; cyberspace is not so tangible.

But it strikes me as either smug, courageous or desperate, flinging your body fat facts to the four winds.


Written in response to Side View’s weekend theme: food. You can find the details here

Picture source here


35 thoughts on “Wi-Fi Weightwatching: the Future is in Cyberspace

  1. So much information in the internet ether – bit scary! Wouldn’t it be great if it was actually our fat deposits going through the web and then dissolving and splattering all over the people who collect our data for their own evil gains!

  2. ps. have you heard of DNT (do not track) – shows how many social networks, ad networks and companies are tracking that you look at a website – I’ve blocked 81,082 so far and only been using for a little while!@

    1. I have not, Gabrielle and before even answering I found it and turned it on on my mac. Thank you! An invaluable tool!

      Oh, if only we could teleport our fat away….

    2. Dear Gabrielle – I just wanted to say thank you so much for that tip re: DNT. Like Kate, I have already done it on my Mac, and so far in the last couple of hours have blocked 161.
      I also discovered that it is possible to block adverts too when browsing the internet and Blogs with adverts – very grateful.

    3. I’m not familiar with DNT. I use Ghostery, a browser add-on, to block tracking (and see who is tracking). Also, Adblock Plus, another add-on, is a great way to block most advertising.

      1. P.S. It seems I do use DNT after all. I’d enabled it on Firefox and then forgot about it. I like Chrome too, but it doesn’t support DNT.

  3. I’m sure not being too concerned about it all is beneficial. Cooking seems to be a good way of not overeating. Tasting things as you go along seems to be better than snacking, and the majority of modern chefs certainly don’t appear to have weight issues ( a rather PC phrase, I thought) . Aside from your engaging post, I have to say that I’m interested in “Do not Track”.

    1. It sounds great, doesn’t it, Roger- mine’s turned on as of five minutes ago 😀
      How about hypothetical cooks who taste things as they go along AND snack?

  4. I’m doubtful of the benefits of regular weigh-ins, but that aside, isn’t it interesting how people (women especially) feel that our body fat percentage is somehow telling of other things. It is what it is; nothing more, nothing less, and therefore I’m going to play devil’s advocate and argue that one’s body fat percentage on the web is less dangerous than, say, an address or birth date. What can anyone do with it?

    My husband is considering cycling to work (after we’ve moved closer, perhaps) and asked a cycling-enthusiast workmate how he might up his speed. The male workmate told him to get a bike with thinner tyres and to lose some weight. While this pragmatic and sensible advice went down fine between two men, I wonder what sort of reaction a woman might have had.

    It’s possible we’ve been acculturated into taking body fat too much to heart.

    1. You’re right, Lynley. It is not rational to object to information like this being in the public domain, providing it cannot be linked to other information. What are we afraid of?
      Although I would probably object to being called “Wobblybits Shrewsday” 🙂

  5. Kate, at present, I don’t think there’s enough cyberspace to cope if my body fat was flung across it… I may have to go with the six raisins a day for my meals to start off with. I heard the other day that eating smaller and more meals helps to reduce weight, but I don’t have time to eat all day. I’m going to have a nosy at that Do Not Track thingy though…

      1. That is interesting, Tom. Wonder if they sanction tracking; or if advertisers won’t countenance being blocked…I’m right there with you on the six raisins a day thing. I shall be joining you ‘ere long.

  6. That is all too complicated for me – counting calories is enough. Thank you very much Gabrielle – I have turned it on my Mac too, and I have also put a block on Adverts when browsing the internet – very grateful for that information.

  7. I am probably more concerned now with overall health issue related to how I eat, and I sure do get on kickes sometime, only to realize I can’t really live that restricted! But I did try using one of the recommended iPhone apps and found that it wanted to default send my food choices for the day to Facebook! I stopped using it because that stressed me out! I love to share thoughts, but I’m not THAT open! 🙂 Debra

  8. Every time I see a new photo of me and am shocked to realise I don’t look how I think I look, I resolve to lose some weight. Sometimes that resolve lasts a whole evening.

    I am resigned to the fact that I like eating more than I don’t want to be this size.

    If I ever have a mansion, a chef, a personal trainer and a nutritionist, my resolve might last until the next day 🙂

  9. Despite my best efforts, there’s already way too much information about me flying around on the Internet. I’m not about to enable any more “sharing” than is absolutely necessary.

  10. I would never stop talking if I let myself start talking about food and weight and dieting and accountability. I’ve struggled with all of longer that I can remember. I a simultaneously drawn to and very skeptical of all these apps and devices. Even Morris now that I’m in possession of my sparkly new iPhone. Oh sigh.

  11. I tried a tracking app for a while, but I am too lazy to pound in all of that information. Now, MTM and I are both on the Dukan Diet, though I’ve said nothing whatsoever in public about it until this very moment. We’re going to dinner with Lou Mello and Miss TK tonight, and we are going to cheat and have one glass of wine. I get tired of talking about food and hearing about food. I just want to eat food.

    1. I know just what you mean 🙂 Whch phase are you in – still attacking or are you cruising now? Love the idea that we can have a little pain and then it gets easier and can be consolidated.
      I guess one of Dukan’s allowed foods would not be chocolate. *sigh*

  12. Pity they haven’t worked out how to teleport the bulges into the ether for good. 😉 “1984” has nothing on our current world – yesterday, I read something rather fascinating regarding how our every move is tracked. A man who stands accused of his wife’s murder in Queensland maintains that he last saw her in the evening before he went to bed, but did not know she was missing until the next morning because he slept through without waking; however, the police have ascertained that he plugged his mobile phone into its charger at some point in the night when he was supposed to be sleeping and unplugged it later. We are trackable in activities most of us are not even aware of!

  13. Dear Kate, I’ve give you no body fat statistics, but I will tell you that I feel such peace when I make bread that I’ve been doing this for forty-five years and I eat what I make. So I’m overweight from carbs, but oh how delicious they were on my tongue. My taste buds loved them.
    And just yesterday I ordered from Amazon two new books on baking. The mind wills, but the will rules. Peace.

    1. Baking is one of the most therapeutic things I know, Dee, and making bread the old fashioned way chief amongst its pleasures. And tasting fresh bread? Who could resist it?
      I think your priorities are perfect, Dee.

  14. We’ve got a Wii that lectures you, Kate. Switch it on and it says “Oh Jan, I haven’t seen you since May 2010! Why don’t you let me find you a workout?” It takes absolutely no notice when I tell it I’ve been out on my bike quite a lot! 🙂
    Food is a major pleasure of life and should be embraced as such. Just a question of not over-doing things. That should be easy, shouldn’t it?
    Oh wait….

  15. I didn’t know about personalized trackers.Well, I am actually on the other side..I have trouble gaining weight 🙂

  16. “mmm…tomato soup…rich and creamy…” or something like that, dear Violet, I wanted a piece of that chewing gum. I’m still waiting for the three course meal! As for food, meh, I’m an annoying person who has grown accustomed to only fruits and veggies, I panic if I run out of apple and grapefruit…oh, and popcorn and wine (I do have my vices!)

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