Monday, July 9, 2007

Google has a fucked up view of weight

So I added a widget to my Google homepage to track my "moving average" weight. It's called Google15, and their blurb about it reads thusly:

"The Google 15 encourages you to get on the scale every day by calculating a moving average from your daily weight. We then plot this average alongside your daily scale weight and a goal weight that you set--this gives you a better idea of your weight trend by masking most of the day to day noise that variances in water weight introduce."

All well and good, although I'm skeptical of anything that encourages one to get on the scale every day. I mean, I get on the scale every day, and often more than once a day, but I know that's not healthy. I mean, when I'm making decisions about what kind of snack I can eat based on what the scale says at 8pm, that's not right. Rationally I know this. But, as I have found over time, I am not a rational dieter. My overall behavior is pretty sensible and healthy (I am in no way starving myself), but I often have to cycle through some pretty dysfunctional thoughts before settling on that sensible behavior.

Plus, it seems to be calculating the "moving average" over a week's time, giving you today's weight, yesterday's weight, and your weight a week ago. So it seems to me that if you want to filter out the variances in water weight, you should just weigh yourself once a week. Or only "count" it once a week, which is what I already do. And it's what diet experts* recommend.

Anyway, I entered my daily weight over the last week, and because I am three tenths of a pound heavier this week than last, I got the dreaded "Danger! You're heading away from your goal!" message. The goal weight I entered, by the way, was a maintainable and healthy 155 pounds.

But this Danger! message got me wondering about Google's idea about reasonable progress and healthy goal weights. So I added the widget again, put in a goal weight of 95 pounds, and entered my weight for the last two days. I happen to be two pounds lighter today than I was yesterday, on accounta that day to day noise that variances in water weight introduce. I got this message: "Good work! You're on your way to your goal weight." No warning that 95 might not be a sensible goal weight.

Which got me wondering what would happen if I put in a ridiculously low goal weight. Not that I think 95 isn't ridiculous, but I know I live in a culture that thinks that isn't all that unreasonable. Fuckers. Anyway, I entered a goal weight of 42 pounds, and got the Good work! message. WTF? And I forgot to mention that the "submit" button you click after entering your weight says "I'm Feeling Healthy." A healthy 42 pounds.

So, I've determined that the Google15 is an anorexic's dream come true. Something that will encourage every single person, including disordered eaters, to get on the scale every day and tell them that they are making good progress toward even a deathly low weight. How lovely.

Google's description of this revolutionary gadget ends with this gem: "Enter your weight every day and it will give you an early warning if you start to pack on the pounds!"

Message to Google: STFU. Stick to shit you know about.

*I went to to confirm that they recommend a weekly weigh-in (which they do), and I found a link called "Get Your Athlete's Body Back." I thought, "Sweet!" 'Cause I used to be an athlete, and the thing that I hate most about being so overweight is that I don't feel powerful or in charge of my body like I did when I was an athlete. So I was hoping to find some extra special tips for people like me, only to find a picture of a dude with a football and an article about guys who used to be athletes but have put on weight. "The athlete is still there inside you, and you can liberate him," it tells me. And "Men slowly lose muscle mass as the years go by." What about me? My inner athlete is not a dude. But at least it's right about one thing: "Working out with a much younger or stronger guy is a surefire route to frustration, discouragement or even injury." And I can see that. I feel that way about doing most things with men.


Amy said...

Dear Google,

Phydeaux Speaks said...

"Enter your weight every day and it will give you an early warning if you start to pack on the pounds!"

Besides the excellent points you've already made about this being a useless and potentially dangerous widget, the above sentence presupposes that the user isn't capable of realizing the the number input today is larger than the previous?

What? "146" is heavier than "145"? OMG, I had no idea!!!

Remo said...

clueless blog post, i.e. you're a fucking idiot. I entered in a goal weight of 500 pounds, and keyed in a decline from 550 to 537 over 14 days. got the "good job" message. is 500 pounds a healthy weight? no, it's your target weight.

somehow, you think a simple widget to calculate a moving average is supposed to also make recommendations about what a "good" target weight is supposed to be. in other words, you want the widget to take responsibility for doing something a doctor should do.

i'm filing your blog under "usual innumerate stupidity" and "not able to think for herself"


Gender Blank said...

Yes, Remo, what a fucking idiot I am for being concerned that someone with a serious eating disorder could be using this "helpful" tool in order to become dangerously thin.

I know you're the expert on thinking around here, but I don't think there's anything wrong with questioning the mediated cultural messages that are sent primarily to women - via television, Cosmopolitan, rap music, or widgets that tacitly celebrate (by not challenging) a 42-pound goal weight.

How hard is it to set a lower limit on allowable/reasonable goal weights - perhaps with a pop-up message encouraging people to consult their physicians before attempting that goal? My guess is that it's not. I don't need a widget to tell me if my target weight is healthy, but because of the cultural pressure on women to be thin in this society, there are thousands upon thousands of young women who do not think rationally about weight. All I'm really asking is that Google consider these women when designing yet another tool to encourage them to lose weight.

Finally, I might recommend some anger management classes. You have way more hostility toward me than a simple blog post should have elicited. I'm actually quite concerned about your blood pressure.

File my blog however you wish. I'll try not to lose too much sleep over it. And thanks for stopping by!

Oh, and capitalize a fucking sentence once in awhile.

Anonymous said...

Screw google seriously....they're probably reading this right now and going to ban my site from there search engine...go ahead it's