The Eatery: A Photo App That Promises To Improve Your Health

People take photos of food with their mobile phones all the time. But to what end other than to gain cred on Foodspotting or brag about your gourmet meal on Instagram and Twitter? The Eatery is a different type of photo app. It is about you, and taking photos to make yourself aware of what you are eating so that you can change your behavior and eat healthier foods.

The Eatery is the first app from Massive Health, co-founders Sutha Kamal’s and Aza Raskin’s startup which wants to make people healthier by arming them with better data about what they doing to their bodies. The iPhone app is simple. You take pictures of everything you eat and rate it on a scale from “fit” to “fat.”

You share these pictures with your friends, who can then give it a thumbs up (fit) or a thumbs down (fat). The food data you collect gets measured in a health dial that scores how well or poorly you’ve been eating. There is also a feed of what your friends are eating, with pictures and comments.

You don’t have to guess how many calories each meal contains or do anything else. The whole point of the app is just to make you constantly aware of what you are eating, and when you are eating healthy and when you are eating fatty foods. You can also check into paces where you are eating such as coffee shops and restaurants.

The more you use the app, the more data it shows you over time, charting your food habits in a very systematic way. The social aspect helps keep you honest, and the game mechanics keep it fun.

Despite its simplicity, The Eatery is asking a lot of its users: to take a picture of every single meal and snack. “Everyone asumes you are taking food porn pictures,” notes Raskin. He wants to give people enough motivation to take a picture of what they are eating as a way to track your intake. Some people will be obsessive about it, but for many people it may prove to be too much. Stop taking pictures and eat your food!

Can this data really make you healthier? The app follows the dictum that you can’t change something unless you measure it, and at least it is attempting to measure the right thing. “This is just about answering a simple question,” says Raskin: “Are you eating better today than yesterday.”