Google’s im2calories: A Good Idea With Costly Execution

By Laura Moncur @ 7:12 am — Filed under:

Long, long ago, in December of 2005, I wrote a review of My Food Phone, which was a paid service that allowed you to take pictures of the food you ate and a nutritionist sent you a video of what you should be eating instead. Back then, I called it a good idea with costly execution.

Unfortunately, Google hasn’t learned from My Food Phone’s mistakes. They are creating a program, called im2calories, that can calculate the calories you have eaten based on a picture of your food. You can read more about it here.

That sounds like a lot of computing power to not solve a problem. Knowing the calories in my food was never the problem. NOT eating the food was the problem. Somehow we got sidetracked. Doctors and nutritionists and even AI computer scientists are under the mistaken impression that if we just knew how many calories are in our food, then we wouldn’t eat so much. They seem to think that our obesity is caused by lack of information.

It’s not. It is SO not.

Our obesity is caused by a dopamine response in our brains. We feel bad, either emotionally or physically, and we use food to make our brains make us feel better. It’s the same as drug addiction. Drug addicts know that drugs will kill them and burn through their brain cells, but they keep using because they can’t stop. It’s the same with food. It’s not like we don’t know that overeating will kill us. It’s that we can’t stop.

Sorry, Google. It sounds like you’re spending a lot of R&D funds on something that is irrelevant. Knowing the calories in our food doesn’t stop us from eating it. Thanks to you, we already HAVE that data. At any time, I can pull out my phone and Google nutrition facts for every restaurant in the city. Knowing the calories never stopped me from eating them.

Obesity is NOT an education issue. It’s a brain chemistry issue and until medical science solves that problem, the best we have is Overeater’s Anonymous.

Overeater’s Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog. I speak only of my personal experience and not for OA as a whole.


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