Two new weight-loss products that use text messages launched this summer: Self’s Diet Tapper and textWeight. Both send you regular messages that are intended to keep you on track and motivated to reach your weight loss goals. I signed up for three weeks of both services to see how they compare.
Beyond the fact that both services utilize text messages and provide weight-loss tips, the similarities don’t go much further.
TextWeight asks you to send in your weight, and with the data you reply, creates a graph of your weight loss progress. Each time you send in your weight, you will receive a tip, which will be on a subject that you have identified as an area you need to improve to lose weight. You can log into textWeight.com to see your progress or modify your settings, such as how often you wish to be texted.
Diet Tapper will send you five texts (or “taps”) per day. You will receive three meal suggestions, a drink suggestion and a workout suggestion. Many of these messages have links to a specific page on Self’s website, directing you to a more detailed workout or a full recipe.
At this time, Diet Tapper costs $2.99 per month and textWeight is free. However, your regular data and message charges from your service provider still apply to messages from both services. In other words, you will be charged by your phone company like any other text message that you send or receive. It should be noted that textWeight will be rolling out a paid service soon.
One thing that irritated me slightly about textWeight is that a fair number of messages asked me to encourage friends and family to sign up for the service. Messages such as “Increase your chances of successfully reaching your goal – have friends join textWeight & work at it together”, “People who share their weight diary with buddies are often more successful at losing weight – share badges via your personal page” and “Success is in numbers – be proactive, introduce 3 friends to textWeight – motivate each other by sharing progress” replaced my healthy-eating tips, all within the space of two weeks. I know perfectly well that social support is very important for keeping us committed to healthy habits, but these messages seemed like a marketing ploy to me. Considering the service is free, this complaint is fairly minor.
Both text message services are supplemented by webpages. On textWeight’s site, you can log into a personal page to see a graph of your weight loss, along with other “badges” that are awarded for healthy habits such as your first pound lost or texting in your weight before being prompted. TextWeight also offers a degree of customization. You can set how often you wish to be texted, from once a week to everyday. You can also select a topic about which you wish to be reminded.
In the Diet Tapper portion of the Self website, you will find recipes, meal ideas and workout plans. There is a lot of great information here that cannot be communicated via text, however users do not have a personal page.
Both these probably work better with a smartphone, because you will be able to immediately access the accompanying websites. I tested both services on an old Nokia 3120, and found that my phone’s memory was quickly used up, forcing me to almost constantly delete messages. Signing for both services at the same time is probably not a typical user experience, but this would be more of a potential problem for non-smartphone users signing for Diet Tapper. I will also add that upping the number of text messages I received per day make me feel a little more popular–lose weight and project a busy social life?
Neither service lays out a comprehensive diet plan, and frankly, such a diet would be nearly impossible given the text-message format. As mentioned above, Diet Tapper will send three meal suggestions and a reminder to hydrate yourself with a no-calorie or low-calorie beverage. Each of these meals will have a target number of calories, so if you follow these recommendations you will consume roughly 1300-1500 calories per day, with meals that tend to focus on satiation and include plenty of protein. Most Diet Tapper meal texts recommended going to the Self website for a recipe, but some are more general, suggesting types of foods rather than specific dishes. I was particularly delighted by the message that told me how to eat breakfast at Starbucks for only 350 calories.
For the majority of the time I was subscribed to textWeight, I asked to receive messages about “Eating Wrong Foods,” because I have a pretty bad sweet tooth. Not all the messages were specifically food-related, but those that were focused on strategies to eat healthier meals and cut down on junk food, such as “Before selecting a meal or snack, ask yourself-how will I feel about my choice tomorrow? Will I really miss it if I don’t have it?” or “Many snacks are available with reduced or no salt, try to substitute these when possible.”
Diet Tapper will send you one text per day, labeled “MOVE,” that will have a workout suggestion or tip. It usually contains a target duration for your workout, along with a type of activity, such as cardio or strength training. For textWeight, you will not receive messages about exercise unless you select the “Don’t Exercise Enough” opition as your biggest challenge.
Overall, I found that Diet Tapper’s messages were more concrete and specific, while textWeight’s messages were more general and suggested larger strategies. Diet Tapper sent quite specific instructions as to what you should eat, drink and and how you should exercise. TextWeight sent tips that concentrated on making better health choices, such as “Remind yourself today of your personal goal for weight management & remember to celebrate the small wins” or “Check out the local Farmers Market. Pick up some healthy produce & try some fruits & vegetables that are new to you.” If you know which type of advice you’re looking for, general or specific, this alone could be a big factor in which service you sign up to receive.
I think these two services offer quite a good product for very little cost. My only real worry is that text messages can be easy to ignore, perhaps even more so as you get more and more of them. I wouldn’t argue that one is better than the other, but rather that they each suit a certain preference and also offer slightly different features.
September 27th, 2011