Can a watch help you lose weight?

By: Nicholas Gerbis

Author's Note

Probably the toughest challenge most of us will face in our lifetimes is change, and the most difficult kind of change is self-improvement. Many of us were raised to tough it out, to dig deep and summon willpower to win but, as studies increasingly reveal, it's not that simple.

Radical self-change is terrifying, and -- like guilt, shame and failure -- can drive us from embracing the strategies we need to accomplish our goals; hence the increasing popularity of device-based solutions, which subtly prod us to stay on task while also keeping our secrets. In short, we're taking B. F. Skinner out of his box and putting him into our phones.


The methods of behavior modification have almost limitless applications in society, many of them beneficial. But it's hard not to be a bit creeped out by the various ways they plug into the unconscious mechanisms of our psyche -- even if we're the ones who choose to let them in.

Related Articles


  • Abelson, Reed. "Health Insurance Costs Rising Sharply This Year, Study Shows." The New York Times. Sept. 27, 2011. (July 12, 2012)
  • A.D.A.M., Inc. "Weight Management." The New York Times. May 30, 2011. (July 12, 2012)
  • Basis. "Product Tour." (July 10, 2012)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Obesity." May 26, 2011. (July 12, 2012)
  • Deutschman, Alan. "Change or Die." Fast Company. May 1, 2005. (July 12, 2012)
  • Krause, Kendall. "Keeping Food Diary Doubles Weight Loss." ABC News. July 8, 2008. (July 12, 2012)
  • Mendes, Wendy Berry. "Assessing Autonomic Nervous System Activity." Methods in Social Neuroscience. Guilford Press. January 2009.
  • World Health Organization (WHO). "Estimated Overweight and Obesity Prevalence." Jan. 20, 2011. (July 10, 2012)