The Analytics Diet: How Big Data Can Help You Lose Weight

by   |   February 3, 2016 5:30 am   |   3 Comments

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr

Calories in, calories out. Seems pretty simple, right?

Well, if the $64 billion weight-loss industry is any indicator, losing weight is a little more complicated than that. Luckily, more and more sophisticated tools are hitting the market, including applications and wearable technology that make use of big data to help us lose weight.

There are dozens – if not hundreds – of weight loss-related apps available on the market, and they generally fall into two categories: food and fitness.

Food diary apps help you track the foods you eat and their calories, fat, sugar, carbohydrates, protein, and so on. Many of these apps require you to enter manually information on the foods you have eaten, which are then matched to a database and the nutrition information of the foods is calculated.

A new app called MealSnap bypasses the tedious work of manually entering the foods you eat by allowing you to take a photo of your meal and then determining the calories by comparing the image to a database of more than 500,000 foods. This is a more sophisticated version of similar apps that allow you to scan the barcodes of your favorite treats to retrieve the nutrition information, and should aid with compliance by making it easier for users to document their meals for the app.

Fitness apps help you track your exercise and even provide exercise programs and suggestions for you. Popular workouts include a running coach like the Couch to 5k program, strength training, yoga, and the scientific 7 minute workout.

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The best of these apps work together to provide a much more detailed view of that old calories in/calories out equation. In fact, many of these third-party apps will sync with Apple’s Health app to help provide you with a more comprehensive picture of your overall health and fitness. Apple’s Health app has a suite of data visualization tools that help you see quite clearly your overall diet and fitness trends.


Much of the explosive growth of Internet of Things (IoT) devices can be chalked up to the popularity of wearable fitness trackers like the Fitbit and others. These devices take the data monitoring that apps provide to a new level by removing many of the barriers – namely, you.

Whereas you might forget to record a workout or not realize that climbing the stairs at work counts as a mini-workout, these data collectors never forget.

These devices combine the functions of a traditional pedometer and heart rate monitor and go beyond providing information on calories burned for a variety of everyday activities. Some even monitor the quality of your sleep, which studies have shown is key to weight loss.

Many sync with food diary apps to help you get a better overall picture of your weight loss efforts.

Other Smart Devices for Weight Loss

Of course, IoT devices for weight loss don’t stop with fitness monitors.

Smart scales are becoming more popular. Instead of just reading your weight, smart scales can tell who is standing there and differentiate between family members. They can send your weight data to your smart phone or computer, or sync with an app. They also can measure your body fat percentage, track your progress, and give you encouraging messages.

Smart scales seem fairly obvious, but what about a smart water bottle?  The Hydracoach Smart Bottle not only tracks your fluid intake but also helps you hydrate more consistently by keeping a diary of your daily drinking habits and then reporting on ways you can improve.

Yep, you can even optimize your water drinking with the help of data.

Other smart devices are like having a personal trainer in your pocket – or the seam of your trousers, as the case may be.  The Adidas MiCoach Pacer attaches to your pocket or seam and has a headphone jack so that you can hear the electronic “coach” announce your speed, heart rate, and other data and give you suggestions for improvement.

The XBox Kinect Training game is also like a trainer in your living room. The program asks some questions about your goals and devises a training sequence for you. The Kinect then monitors how well you perform the exercises and awards points accordingly.

But perhaps the most drastic device is the SMART weight loss device: a medical device placed in the palate that monitors and restricts how much you eat. It physically restricts the amount of food you can take in one bite and requires more chewing, with the goal of slowing down the eating process and allowing more time for satiety cues to register. But the device also records “compliance and progress” data and reports it to a website accessible by the patient and their doctor.

Do you use any big data-driven tools to help you with your health or weight-loss goals? How has it helped (or hindered) you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, strategic performance consultant, and analytics, KPI, and big data guru. In addition, he is a member of the Data Informed Board of Advisers. He helps companies to better manage, measure, report, and analyze performance. His leading-edge work with major companies, organizations, and governments across the globe makes him an acclaimed and award-winning keynote speaker, researcher, consultant, and teacher.

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  1. Essa
    Posted March 6, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I use Fitbit, a great wearable technology that would track my daily workout and enable me to plan what training program I should go with. I think data generated from wearable technologies could also help doctors – after granting consent- to track health issues, give advice on types of training to prevent injuries, or check the protein level in an individual’s body to ensure enough nutrients after workout, for example. But the privacy factor still concerns everyone about using these technologies!

  2. Posted June 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

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  3. Posted November 26, 2017 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

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