GymPact, the app gives you money if you make your fitness goals, has a new name, Pact, and two new diet-oriented features for the New Year.
We covered GymPact when it first launched a year ago and again in June when it received $850,000 in funding from the founder of Guitar Hero. It recently secured an additional $1.5 million in a seed round led by Khosla Ventures and Max Levchin to expand its features beyond exercise.
Founder Yifang Zhang tells me that GymPact changed its name because “only about one out of five people understood the ‘impact’ pun.” The “gym” part of the name was also confusing for users because the app not only counts gym check-ins, but also check-ins at other fitness centers, outdoor runs, walks, bike rides and activity measured by the wearable tech devices and apps it integrates with, including RunKeeper, Jawbone UP, Fitbit, Moves, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal. Now that the app’s latest version includes two new features focused on healthy eating.
To use the app, you can chose to make a “pact” to exercise, log your meals on MyFitnessPal.com or eat vegetables for a certain number of days. When you sign up for a pact, you select a certain amount–$5 or $10–that is deducted from your credit card or PayPal account for each day you miss. If you hit your goal, then you get paid a reward ranging from 30 cents to $5 per week as soon as you accumulate $10. That payout comes out of the pool of money from people who didn’t make their pact.
Zhang says that Pact has been beta testing its two new features for three months and claims that “they are just as effective, if not more, at keeping people eating healthy consistently as our gym pact feature.” I’m not good at keeping a food diary, so I signed up for the diet pact as soon as the app went live and I already feel the pressure of my potential $5 per day penalty motivating me to log all my meals even though my pact hasn’t started yet (each one starts on the Monday after you sign up and runs through Sunday). I could use MyFitnessPal’s social feed to inspire me instead–MyFitnessPal claims it helps people increase their success rates up to three times–but, to be honest, I find constantly hearing about my friends’ diet and fitness goals tedious.
To be sure, Pact isn’t completely cheat-proof. People can just check in at gyms, for example, without actually exercising and log food or post pictures of vegetables that they haven’t eaten. Zhang says the app tries to “make it difficult enough to cheat that the average smartphone user won’t find it worthwhile.” For example, users fulfill the vegetable pact by uploading pictures of produce that they have consumed and the app checks for device and meta data to make sure that the each picture was taken with the user’s smartphone.
“Also, since the Veggie Pact community has it’s own pool for rewards, members are incentivized to vote down on photos that should not count or look like veggies you are not eating. Selfies are encouraged!” Zhang says.
While the $5 penalty I’ve set for myself is enough to keep me motivated to log meals on MyFitnessPals each day, the 30 cents to $5 reward each person can potentially earn per week is probably not worth the trouble of fake check-ins, fabricating three complete meals per day (the app requires you to enter at least 1,200 calories worth of food and at least three meals, including snacks, each day), or preparing or buying new vegetable dishes to photograph.
I wish I was organized enough to remember to make daily entries in MyFitnessPal on my own, but I’m not, and a week or two on Pact might be the jumpstart I need to make logging my calories a habit in 2014.