Figure Out Food App

Be healthier by eating what works for you.

A digital health mobile app design © 2015 by Kenny Gow

Meet the Figure Out Food App

(design prototype)

Figure Out Food is a mobile app to help you figure out what to eat to be healthy and how to tell if it’s working. No diets or medical tests required. It connects what you eat to specific signs of health so you learn what actually works for you, not what experts claim or one-size-fits-all diets say should work for you.

The app gives you an easy and effective way to measure your health after eating so you can tell whether what you are eating is working for you, and, over time, build your own personalized diet. It puts you back in control of your diet and health.

Figure Out Food redefines health and simplifies good nutrition into practical terms and a process you can follow to optimize your health now. It focuses on health first, not diets, and uses your own experiences to guide you to better health.

“People need this app” —Adele HIte, RD, MPH

“the emphasis should be on measuring health, not weight”—Traci Mann, University of Minnesota

“Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so”
—Galileo Galilei

“The Board considers it scientifically unsound to make single, all-inclusive recommendations to the public regarding intakes of energy, protein, fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate, fiber, and sodium. Needs for energy and essential nutrients vary with age, sex, physiological state, hereditary factors, physical activity, and the state of health.” —Toward Healthful Diets, Food and Nutrition Board, NAS, 1980

How It Works

Figure Out Food helps you figure out what to eat to be healthy by connecting what you eat to how you feel to see if it’s working. Eat what you want and take an experimental attitude to eating. Try standard diet plans, your favorite foods, or whatever you want. Figure out the best diet for you with your own data. Simple.

Take Lunch Photo

You take a photo of your lunch everyday (before you eat it) with the camera function of the app, then set the app to remind you to rate how well it’s working for you a few hours later.

Why Lunch?

Of course, it doesn’t have to just be lunch that you track. Lunch was chosen first, because for most people, lunch is the meal they have least control over, time-wise and content-wise. This usually makes lunch the most challenging meal of the day to get right, but with the most impact on the rest of your day.

So start with lunch, but expand to track all your meals, and snacks, if you want. The more you learn about how different foods affect you, the better off you’ll be.

Measure Your Health

Rate yourself in five key health signs at 1, 2, and 3 hours after lunch (or whatever custom times you prefer). Each score is saved and tracked over time with the meal so you can mentally connect what you eat with its effects on you.
1:00 pm Monday
2:00 pm Monday
3:00 pm Monday

See What Works

Over time, you learn from your own data, seeing the trends in history and graphs, with the ability to review how different meals made you feel and perform afterwards.

Track Health Signs Over Time

See how your health signs vary by day and time. You can always go back and see what you ate that produced these health sign ratings. Use your data to learn to predict and produce the better health you want, like more energy and less hunger.

Get Started with the Simplified Guide to Nutrition

If you don’t know where to begin and need help getting started, the app has a built-in guide to Simplified Nutrition. Everyone needs some basic nutrition knowledge so they have a base from which to start experimenting with their foods and diets,

The Simplified Nutrition section of the app is based on principles developed by the Healthy Nation Coalition (HNC) regarding adequate essential nutrition. The Healthy Nation Coalition is run by Executive Director, Adele Hite. Check out their website, Healthy Nation Coalition and see the great work they are doing.

Build Your Own Personalized Diet

It’s personal nutrition, using your own data to build your customized diet for the 21st century. No need to rely on fad diets or experts who change their minds every other week. Use the power of technology to create better health for yourself, every day. Share your results with friends and learn from the crowd to accelerate your learning curve.

  • Identify foods and diet patterns that work
  • Share with friends; Learn from the crowd
  • Browse your history of what works
  • See your best and worst meals
  • Get recommendations that work for you

Gradually build a database of what works for you—your own dietary guidelines—and regain the intuition to know what works for you.

Why Figure Out Food Works

The real key is defining health in a way that you can easily understand, self-assess, observe, record, and tie back to the foods you’ve eaten. It’s about redefining health and healthy eating.

Redefining health, however, does mean changing your health perspective from risk factors, longevity, and chronic disease prevention, to “How am I feeling right now?” “Am I operating at my best?” “If not, let’s figure out the cause and fix it.”

Redefining healthy eating means no one-size-fits-all diets or Dietary Guidelines, but figure out food and eat what works best for you, not anyone else. It’s reinventing the process of eating for health, by focusing on health first (“begin with the end in mind”) and working backwards from feeling great to what you ate.

Figure Out Food redefines health into two key concepts: Health Signs and Health Now. Health Now is what we want. Health Signs are the measurement tools we use.

Health Signs

Health Signs are a new, simple way of self-assessed health measurement. Health Signs are a way to quantify wellness and feeling healthy, feeling good, feeling well, right now—an innovative new way to measure health. Health Signs are a direct measurement of health.

Health Signs are a checklist of high-level indicators of health:

  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Concentration
  • Bloating
  • Hunger

These high-level health indicators were specifically selected to cover the full range of how you feel, mentally and physically, and each one encapsulates lower-level body signs and reactions. High-level signs motivate you to take meaningful action, whereas you typically just try to ignore or avoid dealing with lower-level signs.

Health Now

The Health Promotion era officially started decades ago, but we seem to be stuck in the Prevention era. The WHO Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 1986, says,

Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health.

Instead of asking what causes disease, ask “What causes health?” Instead of worrying about what causes disease, change your perspective to focus on what causes health. Instead of prevention, focus on health promotion. Instead of worrying about longevity, focus on what you can do to produce health today, health now.

To read more about Health Now and why it’s better than the prevention paradigm, see my blog post, Health Now.

Figure Out Food is a process, not a diet plan

Eating is just one part of the process of nutrition. Nutrition is a process, not just what you eat at discrete times of the day, that you can then forget about. If you want good health, you have to see nutrition as a continuous process, of which eating is just a small part, but a very important part.

Good nutrition is the process of eating the right foods, digesting them well, absorbing them well, metabolizing them well, and easily and comfortably excreting the waste products—all leading to and contributing to smooth functioning of the overall body and mind, with good energy and mood, clear thinking, and an overall feeling of wellness.

Figure Out Food is an ongoing process of testing, experimenting, adapting, and learning. Our food world is not static, so your diet must be dynamic and adapt to changing circumstances. Figure Out Food teaches you how to listen to your body and answer this simple question: “What did I eat to make me feel like this?” When you know how foods will make you feel, you are back in control of your health.

About – My Story & Motivation

Why do I care so much about health and nutrition and health?

Years ago, I tried the conventional wisdom on diet and health, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and instead of making me feel better and healthier, they actually turned me into a pre-diabetic! Instead of solving my health issues, following the Food Pyramid made me feel worse, not better.

I said to myself, this can’t be right! 

That’s when I realized that experts are not always right and one-size-fits-all diets are not the answer. I decided to figure out a better way to learn what to eat to be healthy. So I started looking for other ideas and trying different ways of eating to find out what worked best for me.

It has taken me over 15 years to really figure out food and I’m still learning. It’s an ongoing process because our food world is constantly changing. But I have figured out enough to know that I’m ready to share my system with you so you can figure out food too.

My ultimate goal is for you to figure out and understand food and how it makes you feel and affects your health.

My Background

I have been figuring things out all my life, starting with all kinds of puzzles as a youngster, progressing to competing nationally in mathematics and computer science in high school, tackling physics in college, and creating and troubleshooting software of all sizes and shapes, from small benchmark programs to corporate enterprise software consulting and troubleshooting.

I’ve been a software developer and consultant most of my professional life, but for the past decade my real passion has been learning about nutrition and health. In other words, how to program yourself with food for better health.


What this project is NOT about:

  • Weight Loss
  • Restrictive fad diets
  • Calorie counting
  • Arguing over what’s the best diet
  • Risk factors, preventing chronic disease, longevity
  • Specific food recommendations, superfoods, etc.

What about weight loss?

Will this help me lose weight?  Possibly, but the focus here is on health first, not necessarily weight loss. See the Health At Every Size (HAES) website and concept.

What about Quantified Self wearable sensors?

Whether you are counting steps or calories, the idea behind quantified self data is to generate insights that motivate behavior change. These low-level data typically are hard to interpret and understand as they relate to health. How many steps equal better health?

The Figure Out Food app focuses on higher-level signs that DO motivate you to take action, just like when you go for coffee to perk you up because of your low energy.

You are the best sensor.

Figure Out Food: Eat what works!


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