In my recent Food Management editorial column, In Praise of the Quantified Selfie, I commented on the increasing use of the digital tracking devices people are using to manage their diets, exercise and other aspects of their personal health. Apple Computer is also rumored to be working on a wearable device, perhaps one that adds new capabilities beyond those presently available (see link to the story about that rumor, also below).

This trend has clear implications for onsite foodservice programs: the larger contract management companies now often offer their clients systems that integrate the use of these devices with menu offerings, especially when clients have HR departments with well-developed wellness programs.

FM has reported on some of these uses several times (you can find the links to some of those stories below). But for those looking for more information on the technology and theory behind the so-called "Quantified Self" movement, we assembled the following set of additional readings.  If you have opinions or observations to make about the technology, we welcome them: if you are a registered user of the site, you can submit your comments at the bottom of the page...

 

A Road to Self Discovery

Gary Wolf, who worked with colleague Kevin Kelly to found the website Quantified Self back in 2008, contributed The Data Driven Life to The New York Times magazine in 2010. The movement has gained a lot more attention since then, but his lengthy article— Data Tracking: A Road to Self Discovery—remains one of the best introductions to the subject in that it delves deeply into the principles and psychology of self-tracking: 
 

Know Yourself: Track Every Facet of Life

Here’s another article by Gary Wolf, this one from a 2009 issue of Wired magazine. The style of this article is geared to the hidden geek inside of all of us: Know Yourself: Tracking Every Facet of Life, from Sleep to Mood to Pain.
 

Watch the PBS Video: The Quantified Self—Data Gone Wild?

In this PBS NewsHour video segment, public TV looks at how technology is helping people quantify and track various aspects of their lives. 

 

Fitness Apps and Dining

Speaking at the Spring 2013 Society for Foodservice Management Critical Issues Conference, Sodexo's Bill Mitchell speculated on ways that the increasing variety of fitness and health-related mobile apps would come to influence corporate wellness programs: A Nexus in Corporate Wellness Programs
 

Mobile Fitness Devices Tie in to Menu Promotions

Menu tie-ins with mobile food intake tracker give contractors another wellness tool. And at self-operated  University of San Francisco Medical Center, FSD Dan Henroid has integrated the same kind of program to take advantage of the barcodes his department has been putting on its food offerings for several years.  Read: The Fitness Bidness.

 

What? Me Change My Ways?

New York Times technology columnist Jenna Wortham describes her experiences using fitness trackers and their impact on her personal health and lifestyle habits in Personal Trainer, Worn on a Wrist.
 

Got Your Game On?

Digital, wearable activity trackers appeal to more than just those interested in personal health and diet. This article, Digital Coach, Perched in Your Pocket, explores how some of the new devices on the market are geared to sports training in areas like golf, basketball and tennis.
 

Is Apple Getting Ready to Enter the Fray?

News articles citing a mid December meeting between Apple executives and high level officials from the Food and Drug Administration suggest that the Cupertino, CA-based company may soon introduce a wearable tracking device of its own. Read: FDA meeting, IOS 8 rumors point to fitness focus for Apple's "iWatch."

 

Pogue Ruminates on the Quantified Self

Who doesn't like the perspective of technology guru David Pogue? Here, in Wearable Device Nudge You to Health, Pogue  ruminates on how wearable digital devices have given rise to the Quantified Self Movement.
 

How Your IPad and iPhone Can Help You Shed Pounds 

If you don’t want to go the wearable device route, there are a wide range of low and no cost apps that can help you manage diet, weight and exercise. This article from MacWorldGetting Fit with IOS: How Your iPad and iPhone Can Help You Shed Poundsprovides a good introduction to some of the most popular ones.
 

The Battle of the Fitness Bracelets 

If you want the fitness bracelet story in just a few words, here it is, from ABC News:
 

Wrangling Data from a Huge Variety of Fitness Gadgets 

Want to know what other metrics digital devices can measure beyond one’s daily steps and physical activity? Think everything from blood pressure to carbon dioxide levels to sleep quality to body fat.  In this article, author Eric Taub evaluates some of the companies that see this trend as a promising business opportunity for the future.
 

Diabetes Management in the Future

Measuring one’s blood glucose levels could become much less tedious if Google has its way. The company is testing prototype contact lenses that will do the job for you and wirelessly send the data to an electronic reader.
http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/17/technology/innovation/google-contacts/
 

The Quantified Self: What Would Wiki Say?

If you prefer a more academic discussion of the topic, here’s how Wikipedia covers it.

A Somewhat More Cautious Point of View 

Not everyone sees tracking technology as taking off as fast as the early adopters believe it will. This article from The Economist looks at both the technology's promise and its impediments going forward: Health and appiness.

How Feedback Loops Can Assist in Behavioral Change

If you look more deeply into why self-tracking technology works when it comes to changing behavior, it helps to consider the theory behind “feedback loops,” which are key to everything form the systems used to land commercial airplanes to the way psychologists use behavioral to help clients address bad personal habits.
 
In 2011, Wired magazine contributor Thomas Goetz explained how the four key stages of a feedback loop apply to efforts of managing personal behavioral change in Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops.
 
More recently, Michael Traylor looked at how the concept can be applied to population health management on WebMD.
 
 

And Speaking of Behavior Modification Therapy...

It’s also useful to consider how rewards fit into the picture. While many people associate this idea with B. F. Skinner’s pigeon-pecking experiments, later theory in operant conditioning underscored some key principles that could bear on the way the most effective “loyalty rewards” programs are structured.
 
One of these is the idea of “extinction,” which, simply put, describes how long reinforced behavior lasts after the rewards are taken away. Psychologists exploring this discovered that stronger habit-forming behavior is formed if rewards are given out in a somewhat unpredictable way, using a variable schedule. Here’s a blog article by  Nir Eyal that touches on some of the implications this has for retail purchase behavior: Want to Hook Your Users? Drive Them Crazy.
 

The Best Personal Data Tools

Here's one final article: The Beginner's Guide to Quantified Self. It also includes a list of what it calls "the Best Personal Data Tools Out There."