Nigella Lawson, Matt Lucas and Stephen Fry might all be avid fans but is tweeting what you eat a friend or foe in the war against weight gain?
Tweet what you eat (or TWYE as it is commonly known) is a Twitter based food diary that lets you broadcast everything you eat to your followers. Created by Alex Ressi in 2007 as a way of recording his eating habits in an attempt to lose weight for his impending wedding, TWYE was officially launched in January 2008.
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The idea is that you tweet the foods you eat to your own personal food diary and to your followers if desired, so that you can record, in real time, everything that you eat and drink. Photos of your food can also be uploaded and thanks to the applications' 'Crowd Cal system' (a crowd-sourced calorie database, which fills in a food entries' calorie count based on what other members have entered) you can keep a rough track of your daily energy intake too. The application also allows you to enter your weight so that you can create a graph to chart your progress and chat to other dieters in the online forum. And if the public domain that is Twitter isn't enough, you can even link it to your Facebook page so that even more people can get a glimpse of your day to day eating habits.
To date, TWYE has more than 20,000 followers, a number that is growing all the time but is bleating about your eating in an attempt to lose weight really a good idea and is anyone really that interested anyway?
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On the plus side, studies show we routinely under estimate the amount of food that we eat, sometimes by as much as 50per cent, so taking the time to actual note down your food intake can be a highly effective way of cutting calories. Whether you choose to write it in a personal diary, on a post it note, send yourself an email or post it for all to see on Twitter, it doesn't really matter. It seems it is the very act of recording your meals, snacks and drinks that raises awareness and ultimately helps us to make better food choices. According to the researchers of one of the biggest ever studies into this very subject matter, keeping a food diary can actually double the amount of weight you lose over a given period.
The idea of confessing our eating habits to a wider audience in an effort to help us lose weight is not a new one. In fact, it is one of the key tactics in many local slimming group meetings and one that can act as a real motivational tool to many. After all, group encouragement can be a very powerful weapon. But, it goes both ways and on TWYE, the negative comments that may come your way after a particularly bad week may be less diplomatic than those you might receive in a face to face group situation and the very last thing you need to hear when you're already feeling down about your efforts.
Personally, I have mixed feelings on the matter. Whilst I'm all for anything that helps to make eating a healthy diet a higher priority in our busy lives I am certainly not a fan of obsessing about every bite we eat — or for that matter, anything that may fuel an already unhealthy obsession. It's the bigger picture that's important and that also includes the amount of activity we do too. My advice, always seek the help of a fully qualified and registered nutritionist or dietetician before embarking on any new eating regime. That way you can at least be sure that you're following an eating plan that's worth shouting, bleating or tweeting about in the first place!