A Breakup Letter to the New Year’s Resolution… and What We’re Replacing it With

We love you, New Year’s resolution. No, really, we do.

Your heart’s in the right place. You’re cheery. Full of hope. And you always show up – year after year after year.

But when it comes down to it, New Year’s resolution, you fail. You fail 88 percent of the time.

You fail because you focus on the outcome instead of the process.

You fail because your outlook is short-term when the road to success is much longer.

And you fail because you listen too much to what’s being sold to you, rather than asking yourself what you really need.

So we’ve decided it’s best to part ways, New Year’s resolution. Don’t take this the wrong way, but we’ve found someone better.

It’s not you. It’s us.

***

So if New Year’s resolutions are out, then what now?

At TwoGrand, we asked ourselves a simple question: “What kind of health-related resolution would actually work?” How can you keep the spirit of the New Year’s resolution, but get rid of all the stuff that holds such resolutions back?

The answer came from a simple, but powerful reframing: Make Life Resolutions instead.

Life resolution photo - I believe in my future self

The annual nature of New Year’s resolutions may be their biggest fault. We all sprint toward that May wedding or that July bikini body, and our behavior modification (if any) follows in a similarly short-term fashion.

Diets, cleanses, and pills don’t make us healthier – our habit change does. And it’s habit change that enables us to stay healthy once we’ve arrived at our original goal. (We’ve all heard that the biggest challenge with diets isn’t losing the weight – it’s keeping it off.)

Habit change isn’t glitzy, and it certainly doesn’t move at a rapid pace. But it works.

So what if we viewed improving our health as a Life Resolution – good for this year, and every year to come? Still declare your resolution, and start Jan. 1 if you’d like, but erase the end date, and make it about what you believe, so it can always be improved upon.

  • I believe that health is measured in added years, not lost pounds.
  • I believe in my future self. I will eat to nourish her strength.
  • I believe I can eat the foods I love and still lose/maintain weight.

These are things we can work toward every day, no matter how much (or how little) we weigh. We can always strive to live healthier. And if doing so becomes our creed, the short-term goals will fall into place along the way.

If losing 15 pounds is part of the journey, and not the destination, then we know we’re not done once we get there – even if there are no more pounds to lose.

Make your life resolution today. And after doing so, we’d love to see you on TwoGrand. We’re an awesome community of people focused on improving our eating and exercise habits our way.

It’s powerful change. You just may find that improving your routine will inspire others to do the same.

Life Resolution photo - 2014 is just the first step

Posted in Health and weight loss, Life resolutions, The TwoGrand philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Will Your Last 10 Years Look Like? (The Problem with New Year’s Resolutions)

In the coming weeks, millions of us will make New Year’s resolutions, and almost all of them will fail. It’s the not-so-hidden secret about our annual rite of resolution making.

A powerful new PSA – watch it below – forces us to ask whether we’re setting the wrong goals.

The PSA presents a simple question – What will your last 10 years look like? – then shows us two scenarios for how one man’s life could look during his final 10 years, split across the screen’s two halves.

Last 10 years PSA

In one scenario, the man is active, jovial, healthy.

In the other, he’s bedridden, lonely, sick.

It’s a powerful reframing of goal-setting, and timely, too. Rather than strive to lose 10 pounds, as so many of us do – just look at Twitter – we should strive to add 10 years. Happy, healthy, fulfilled years.

That’s not a New Year’s resolution. It’s a life resolution. And it’s exactly the kind of thing we built TwoGrand to support.

Posted in Health and weight loss, Life resolutions, Seasonal food themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Email of Awesomeness: Dec. 18, 2013

It’s that time of the week, when we release our newsletter Email of Awesomeness into the wild.

TwoGrand #homemade meals montage

Our commitment remains the same: Deliver awesome content to your inbox around 2 p.m. PST every week – stuff that’s worth you taking five minutes out of your Wednesday (or Thursday!) to read.

This has been a big week on TwoGrand – our exercise feature was released, we had a killer #homemade meal competition going on, and we saw a record number of meals logged.

In this week’s email:

  • Vote for the #homemade challenge winner
  • If You Were CEO: Describing TwoGrand to the world
  • Weekly tribute to being real
  • Exercise photo mosaic!
  • Meals of the Week

Read the email in all its glory.

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All of the Science, None of the Counting

When calorie counting, you’re aiming for the number of daily calories required to achieve your goal. As discussed in our last post, there are myriad issues with the practice of calorie counting – which is why we don’t recommend it – but the science of calories in, calories out still makes sense.

If only there was a simpler way to apply that scientific principle…

Turns out there is a way, and all it requires is a simple grammar reversal.

Standard calorie counting logic says X calories per day allows a person to be Y pounds. If this is true, then the reverse must also be true: a person is Y pounds because she consumes X calories per day.

And in the latter case, the calorie number (X) is just a detail. So let’s rephrase it: A person is able to maintain a weight of Y pounds because he consumes the right amount of calories for that weight.

By employing some clever syntax changes, we’ve taken the focus away from counting calories and placed it on the individual and his daily routine – all without violating the scientific principle of calories in, calories out.

If a woman is able to maintain a weight of 130 pounds, then she must be consuming (and burning) the right amount of calories for her body to stay at 130 pounds. Her routine enables her to maintain that weight.

This approach allows you to make statements like this:

Whatever she does is right for her maintaining her weight. So if I’m very much like her – similar age and height, similar body type, similar activity level and lifestyle – then if I can mimic her eating routine, I should be able to progress toward her weight.

This idea is a large part of TwoGrand’s philosophy. There are different foods and routines that work for different people, and by understanding more about you and your body, lifestyle, and preferences, we can help you learn what works best for you.

All of the science, in a fraction of the time, with focus on making good (and lasting) changes instead of a daily calorie target. Sounds like a great trade-off to us.

What one 158-lb, 6'0'' man ate in a recent day

A one-day snippet of the routine that enables one 26-year-old, 158-lb, 6’0” and lightly active man to maintain his weight.

Posted in Calorie counting, Health and weight loss, Nutrition science, The TwoGrand philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Calorie Counting Isn’t The Answer

Calorie counting - 15 calories in one carrot

Calorie counting is attractive because the logic is so simple: If you consume more calories than you use, you’ll gain weight. If the opposite is true, you’ll lose weight.

The science makes sense.

The practice of calorie counting, however, is flawed. The large majority of calorie counting is inaccurate, and to boot, it takes much of the joy out of eating.

Thus, for most, calorie counting is not the answer. Here’s a deeper look at why:

1. Your counting will be imprecise

Unless you’re eating only pre-packaged foods (generally not a good idea), or spending a very large amount of time measuring your food, it’s hard to get a precise calorie count.

How big was that piece of chicken? The chips in that handful were all broken, so how many chips did I eat? Did I include the salad dressing in my calculation, and if so, what was the serving size? How much mayo did the restaurant put on my sandwich? That was a half glass of milk, but is my glass 16oz, 14oz, or 12oz?

You’ll be able to get within range of the real number, but it’s near-impossible to consistently get the right number.

If your calorie goal is 3,000/day, then being 250 calories off might not make or break you. But if your calorie goal is 1,400/day? That’s a whopping 18% difference from a level of imprecision that’s easy to imagine.

2. Your daily calorie goal will be imprecise

Most services that focus on calorie counting ask you four questions in order to derive your daily calorie target: Your height, your current weight, your activity level, and your goal weight.

They combine the first two to get your BMI (Body Mass Index), then plug these answers into a formula that outputs your daily calorie target.

That’s it!

We are massively complex beings, biologically and behaviorally, and the calorie target you’re expected to adhere to day-in, day-out comes from just four basic questions.

That doesn’t compute.

You know, anecdotally, that your body responds differently to certain foods and routines than your friends’ bodies do (for better or worse). So why should we expect anything different from a group of strangers who answer those four questions identically?

Calorie counting has us treat that daily target as the most important number in our routine. But it’s likely that number isn’t even right.

Putting 1 & 2 together, calorie counting, in practice, is a way to imprecisely lead yourself toward an imprecise goal.

And it isn’t just the math that’s bad…

Calorie counting extracts a mental toll (the time and effort required), and often a psychological toll (the burden of constantly needing to check against your daily number).

“Good” and “bad” can begin to be defined by calorie numbers instead of taste and overall health quality.

Food is meant to be enjoyed, which in turn fosters a healthy relationship with food. At best, calorie counting can co-exist with this relationship. At worst, it can destroy it.

Take the best part about calorie counting and ditch the rest.

The act of logging your meals, alone, is proven to help you make better choices. That’s the best part of calorie counting, and it doesn’t have anything to do with calories.

We all know the difference between a candy bar and a handful of carrots. Or, perhaps more relevantly, between a half tub of ice cream and three spoonfuls. We don’t need a number to tell us that.

On TwoGrand, you log meals and snacks simply by taking photos. You can add captions to each photo if you wish, and you can write a daily journal entry if you want to encapsulate how you did or remember a certain meal that was awesome.

The idea is to make logging meals as easy and fast as possible, and to add a visual element on top of it.

If you’ve counted calories before, here’s to betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how powerful having a visual history of your meals can be. It’s easy to identify areas for improvement, and you can see your behavior change over time.

And if you swear by calorie counting and take the time to do it really well, then take a photo and throw the calories in the caption. Now you’ve painted a better picture.

Photo credit to Flickr user JosephSardin

Posted in Calorie counting, Health and weight loss, Nutrition science, The TwoGrand philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How We Broke Thanksgiving… and How to Fix it

Thanksgiving is, in large part, about celebrating food. Right?

Well, that was the intention, anyway. Now, fearful conversations about food often overshadow the familial conversations over food. Thanksgiving is a time to be careful, not carefree. Turkey is the judge, jello is the jury, and Monday’s weigh-in is the executioner.

Our new holiday ritual – much like the collective food conversation at large – is warped. We’ve got it all wrong. And fixing it would make the US, and the world, a healthier place.

Thanksgiving meal collage

***

If you were to use major US publications as your basis for painting a picture of American health and food intake, these would be some of your takeaways:

  • On the scale of bad/unwanted things, gaining five pounds is on par with smallpox.
  • This new diet – the one that everyone’s doing – is the best because everyone’s doing it. (Last week’s diet… not so much, because… well, no one’s doing it anymore.)
  • The average time it takes to gain or lose 10-20 pounds is roughly one week.
  • Holidays are the absolute enemy and we should probably just avoid celebrating them altogether.

Crashes, cleanses, bloating, ballooning, expunging, inhaling, losing, winning – these are the words we frequently associate with weight management.

The weight loss industry – and associated media – thrives on the quick fix, on hyperbole, on fear. The alternative – “Form strong habits, be cognizant of your weaknesses, lean on others for support and inspiration, and know that we all indulge sometimes” – is a boring message. What will that sell?

Instead, we get fed a steady dose of heightened alarm. The Thanksgiving narrative goes something like this: “Gear up because it’s gonna be a bigger battle than usual. It’s a battle you’ll almost surely lose. Oh, and after you fail, here are five tips to losing that belly!”

Here’s a smattering of what’s being served up today:

  • Health magazine opening it’s “5 Simple Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain” piece with a dramatic reference to the “downward spiral of holiday overeating.”
  • The Huffington Post leading with the story “LOOK: Can You Guess How Many Calories are on Your Thanksgiving Plate?”
  • And the runaway winner, the Los Angeles Times, with “Savor Thanksgiving, but watch the carbs: 47 easy ways to scale back.”

Can we appreciate that headline for a moment? Forty seven? A headline that read “Savor Thanksgiving, but you’re f***ed” would sure save some newsprint.

***

Let’s revisit the opposite, boring narrative for a minute: Forming solid habits, making steady progress, building a solid foundation of support. Viewing your mission as “improving your routine” rather than going on a diet, and treating it as a lifelong journey.

What would those headlines look like?

  • “How to lose one pound each week, for 52 weeks.”
  • “Woman sees that her friend almost always eats a healthy breakfast – is inspired to do the same.”
  • “Gaining two pounds over Thanksgiving is normal. You can lose three by Christmas.”
  • “Man writes nightly note about his food intake to increase awareness. Says it works.”

It sounds funny, doesn’t it? But why are we laughing?

We’re laughing because it’s so far removed from what we’re used to hearing. We’re used to January meaning New Year’s resolution tips and February meaning Valentine’s Day chocolate management. We’re used to May meaning two-week bikini cleanses and July meaning Bud Light Lime damage control.

What we’re not used to hearing is the idea that every day of every month can be viewed pretty much the same, and that it’s almost certainly healthier to do so. Keeping with the same good habits, following the routine you’ve sculpted over time, allowing yourself some indulgence but not overdoing it – this stuff stands the test of time.

We hear groans about the litany of Thanksgiving temptations, but is it that different from your every day life? When are we not faced with the choice to eat poorly?

When we go to the grocery store, we make hundreds of small decisions that seriously impact our health for the rest of that week. When we eat at a restaurant, we typically stare at a menu featuring dishes spread across a 1,500-calorie spectrum.

And when we open the fridge at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, we see apples on one shelf and apple pie on another.

Saying the holidays feature too much temptation strips us of our own agency. It diminishes our decision-making power. It cedes the narrative to people who tell us we need a 47th tip in our back pocket in case the first 46 don’t work out.

This Thanksgiving, let’s not craft a plan to make it through the next five weeks alive, belt notches unchanged. Instead, let’s craft a plan to add 10 more Thanksgivings onto the end of our lives.

It’s time to reframe the food intake discussion.

***

We built TwoGrand (iPhoneAndroid) to change the health narrative. Our tagline is “No more diets.” We aim to help you reach and maintain your weight goal, and we don’t see that as a contradiction to our tagline.

For positive changes to stick, your existing routine – no matter how much (or how little) you weigh – should be the foundation of your improved routine going forward. That’s our philosophy.

That routine should probably include a little turkey on Thursday. And maybe some of your mom’s pumpkin pie.

After all, Thanksgiving is, in large part, about celebrating food. Right?

Download TwoGrand for free

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Email of Awesomeness: Nov. 20, 2013

Here’s the opening excerpt from our weekly homage to being awesome:

‘Sounds cool, but will it work?’ This was a common refrain @alex and I heard while building TwoGrand. Naturally, we had a bevy of arguments and a boatload of confidence to support the positive, but until the app went live, we had no tangible proof.

Now, just over one month in, we know several of you are making awesome progress toward your goal. We’re elated, and we can’t wait to build more features to help you get there.”

This week’s email includes:
– The veggie challenge!
– If You Were CEO: Debuting our new share feature
– Weekly tribute to being real
– Upcoming: Features in the next version
– Meals of the Week

Read the full email here: http://bit.ly/TGemailNov20

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Email of Awesomeness: Nov. 13, 2013

At TwoGrand, we’re not big fans of newsletters.

Calling something a “newsletter” implies a somewhat static nature. You think of routine. And thus, most people ignore newsletters.

That said, email is still a great way to engage and delight people, not to mention a solid channel for feedback. Weekly emails do make sense.

But newsletter? No. We decided to call TwoGrand’s version the “Email of Awesomeness.” And therein lies our commitment: Make it awesome enough to open each week.

emailOfAwesomenessHeader

Here’s this week’s installment.

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When You’re a Startup, You Turn the Floor Into a Beautiful Wood Table

When you’re in the earliest stages of a startup, you’ll always be short on three things: time, money, and people. It’s part of the challenge.

This is a story about creatively working around those limitations.

As Alex and I (Peter) neared a completed beta version of TwoGrand, I was pretty happy with the MVP product and design. There was just one asterisk – I hated the new user walkthrough.

It was one of the first things I ever designed in Photoshop, and it showed. I hadn’t revisited it in months, and alternated between convincing myself it was good enough for a first version and telling myself no one outside of my mom and girlfriend would ever signup for TwoGrand after seeing it.

Here it is, for posterity’s sake. Just promise me you’ll read on to see the final version, OK?

First onboarding flow

About two weeks before our self-imposed deadline to submit the app to Apple and Google, aided by another round of design laughingstock nightmares and some very well-timed inspiration from my girlfriend – and design extraordinaire – Cat, I resolved to give the walkthrough another go.

I knew I wanted the design to be photography centric, and I had an idea of how the website homepage could incorporate the same theme.

We needed several delicious-looking plates of food. We needed a beautiful table. We needed good lighting. We needed a camera. We needed a photographer.

Lucky for us, Cat and her roommate Jackie had the camera, photography, and food thing covered. They’re ridiculous chefs and Jackie’s a photography ace.

But about that table. None of us owned a table remotely good-looking enough to qualify. I suggested a park with wooden tables, but the whole food preparation thing made that difficult.

A few hours later, Cat sent me a text message. “Could we use our kitchen floor? The wood is nice… once we clean the dog’s hair off it.”

It was on.

We shopped, cooked, and photographed it all the next day. Here’s a sampling:

Food prep

Food prep… lots of food prep.

The photography begins

Hanging in the kitchen, I mean, the studio.

Setting the "table"

Getting the positioning juuuust right.

We had a blast and the food was amazing. The only question remaining – and the most important question – was whether the floor would make for a convincing table.

I spent the next day designing, and this is what resulted:

Walkthrough, take 2

The feedback we received was almost universally positive. My walkthrough nightmares ceased. And yes, the website also featured the “table” in all its glory.

When all you have is lemons, make lemonade. Or when you’re a startup and all you have is a floor covered in husky fur, make a beautiful wood table and a compelling app walkthrough.

As of writing this, we’re live on Android and in the iPhone review queue. Download the app and check out the walkthrough for yourself!

Posted in Design, Startup insights, The TwoGrand story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meal Journaling: Why Photos Are Better Than Words

You’ve likely kept a journal at some point in your life. Maybe it was a diary of your middle school secrets. Maybe it was a travel journal to accompany you through Europe.

I wrote about the girls who were looking at me in my elementary school cafeteria. They were definitely looking at me. All of them.

Joking aside, journals not only provide an outlet for self-reflection, but also a means of more effectively remembering events as they actually happened.

For all the things humans do well, our memories aren’t the strongest. We tend to unknowingly modify past events as time progresses. And if it’s a small event or routine detail we’re talking about, it’s likely we won’t remember it at all.

Apply this fact to our food consumption, and it’s easy to see that we might not be the best at recalling what we put into our bodies every day. Eating is a thrice (or more) daily event. It’s fairly routine. Plus, we prefer to eat the food, not stare at it and debate its merits.

Thus, we arrive at our meal journaling dilemma. Logging your meals is undoubtedly one of the best ways to make progress toward a health goal. Recording what you eat and drink each day gives you a concrete basis on which you can improve, and it becomes surprisingly easy to identify where you can get better.

But writing down everything you eat takes time. A lot of time. Typing it on your phone isn’t much of an improvement, either. And when things take too much time, we stop doing them.

When starting TwoGrand, we knew meal journaling needed to be a key element to our service, and we knew we had to make it enjoyable – not cumbersome.

So we asked ourselves a simple question: If the act of journaling alone is what delivers most of the benefit, then what’s the absolute fastest way to journal?

The answer? Taking photos.

With that, we built an app that’ll allow you to log a meal in under 20 seconds. All told, you can log all of your meals in less than three minutes per day.

Not only do photos make meal journaling fast, they provide the most powerful visual of what you’re putting in your body each day. And it’s a visual that fits completely on the screen of your phone.

If you’re skeptical that taking photos can, alone, help you eat better, then we urge you to try it for a few days. After all, it’ll only take you a few minutes.

My day in photos

My day in photos: Sept. 3, 2013

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