Accepted paper:

Doing calories: exploring (self-)tracking of calories


Gabija Didžiokaitė (Loughborough University)
Paula Saukko (Loughborough University)
Christian Greiffenhagen (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

Self-tracking can be seen as an ‘objective’ way to learn about your health and body. This paper, based on 31 semi-structured interviews with MyFitnessPal users, shows the messiness of number making in self-tracking by exploring the practicalities in (self-)tracking of calories.

Paper long abstract:

Self-tracking is often presented as an inherently 'objective' way to learn about your health and body. Calorie counting is a form of self-tracking and seemingly rational way to lose weight, however even when technologized it necessitates manually logging what you ate and to create varied, subjective practices for doing so. Based on an interview study involving 31 participants who shared their experience of using MyFitnessPal calorie counting and food tracking app, we discuss the practicalities of 'doing' calories. First, we look at the practical precision of users as the 'messiness' of the food and eating needs to be made exact for the app: how users decide what information to provide for the app and how precise it should be. Then, we explore users' practical principles - their attitudes to adherence to their daily calorie goal, users' ways of dealing with going above it and what they considered as cheating. Lastly, we present user's practical criticality - they were often critical of the accuracy of MyFitnessPal app and their own calorie tracking, nonetheless they found the app helpful in achieving weight loss, and therefore continued using it. Based on our findings we suggest that self-tracking with a calorie counting app is not an impartial and straightforward data collection, but one that involves constant practical strategies and negotiations from the app's users.

panel T102
Everyday analytics: The politics and practices of self-monitoring