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Can Getting Healthy Be Fun?

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Talking about losing weight is easy, but as the obesity rates in the U.S. attest, living up to that talk is something else entirely. Most people try, fail, and try again, stumbling each time back to old habits. It's surprising -- and depressing -- how hard simple things like eating less and exercise more can be. But perhaps the solution is more than just willpower or eliminating temptations. There might be a need for a new kind of tool that approaches the challenge from a smarter perspective.

One on the horizon is healthmonth.com, and it takes a tech-savvy, yet easy and fun, approach that might make all the difference. As the name suggests, it's modeled on the calendar. You sign up for free, set up a few basic behaviors you'd like to change, and track your results. This sounds simple, and it is. But the the big difference is unlike other tools that use the metaphor of a to-do list, Healthmonth frames your health as a kind of interactive game. An interactive game you play with yourself, or your friends. It provides rules, based on theories of human behavior and science, that you can customize to your own particular goals.

According to Buster Benson, the site's founder, there are four key ingredients needed to make change happen, and rarely do we get them all at the same time. They include:

  1. Good information
  2. Ability to make better choices
  3. Motivation
  4. Fun and sustainable triggers

Most of us can summon one or two, but few have reliable sources for all four. His goal in designing the website was to build one tool that helped with all of them. By using simple user interfaces to create and follow rules, and integrating social media features so you can share your activity with friends, he may have created something very clever and surprisingly powerful.

One mistake I've made in the past is trying to improve too many things at the same time . But with Healthmonth, as you create rules you get feedback on just how realistic or not what you're doing is going to be. As you pick individual rules, such as eating more vegetables, or going to the gym 3 times a week, depending on how hard the rule is to achieve, you get a certain number of points. Like a video game, your total score for all of your self created rules determines how well you are doing, and how much healthier you are getting. Friends can form teams to watch each others scores, engage in friendly competition or even share rules.

If this sounds interesting, now is the time to give it a try. Healthmonth.com is currently in a free beta release, and there are seven days left before the next game begins today (November 1st). You can do it solo or find friends to form a team and help each other along. The first few rules are free, but if you want more you pay a few dollars to get more. Seems worth a try: I'll let you know how it goes at the end of the month.

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