British weight loss coach and hypnotherapist Steve Miller has been taking a lot of heat this week for trying to officially declare this past Wednesday—January 7—"Warn a Friend They're Fat Day" in the (supposed) name of encouraging "healthy eating." Unsurprisingly, the plus-size community came out in spades to tell him to fuck off. Most people, regardless of their weight, don't want to hear from a friend that their body or diet is unacceptable. But would you want to hear it from an app?
Telling a friend or lover that they're a cow is an easy way to open the Hellmouth, but far more people would be willing to endure abuse from a neutral third party that's on hire specifically to knock that Otis Spunkmeyer muffin out of your hand and shove you onto a treadmill. At least, this is what the makers of the new app Carrot Hunger clearly had in mind.
As we mentioned yesterday, New Year's resolutions—particularly those pertaining to losing weight and eating "right"—aren't as easy to keep as they might seem at conception. ("Twelve hundred calories a day is plenty," you assure yourself, peeling a stalk of string cheese and stuffing it into your mouth. But then there's happy hour, and buffalo wings … ) The reason why we, as a society, have even harbored the idea of personal trainers or nutritionists is to help nudge us along on our journeys to sveltitude with a kind of tough love that we can't necessarily conjure from within. Carrot Hunger wholeheartedly embraces this idea—barraging you with shame, insults, and even demands for money whenever you wander astray of your goal.
It tells me that I'm going to 'wish I was never born' as my avatar rapidly plumps. The text in my Diary also updates to say, 'Your portion control is bad and you should feel bad.'
Carrot has previously created other "tough love apps" (as they happily self-identify) aimed to increase productivity or lock in your exercise schedule. Carrot Fit, their workout app, is the original home of "meatbag," the brand's signature insult, and verbally abuses you (in a semi-friendly way) as a means of motivation. (Sample callout: "Unless you die, keep going.") Carrot Hunger follows suit—just in a slightly less PC realm, given the general touchiness of weight issues.
"Greetings, meatbag," the new app Carrot tells me (audibly, if your sound is turned on) upon download. "I am your new arbiter of food intake."
I notice when entering my height that women under 5' 2" are scoffed at as "Ewoks" or "jockeys," while women over the height of 5' 9" are called "bigfoot," a "Wookie," or a "giraffe." As you scroll to select your weight, your faceless avatar inflates or shrinks accordingly. The "obese" and "morbidly obese" female avatars resemble Violet Beauregarde post-Wonka-gum-theft, while those under 112 pounds are called "skeletor" and represented visually as such.
"If you blimp up," I am warned. "I will be upset."
Entering your meals is simple, as there's a thorough calorie database of all kinds of the tasty, nasty things one could possibly eat already embedded in its interface. I tell the app that I want to lose one pound a week, and it suggests that I consume about 1,400 calories a day. But—as to be expected—things add up rather quickly. The egg and cheese bagelwich and sugary orange juice that I enjoyed this morning shoot the meter up considerably closer to the upper threshold of my daily allotment. I feel anxiety. The judgement of Carrot breathes heavily on my neck.
Just to be a jerk, I try to tell the app that I have just consumed 11 Milky Way bars on top of my fairly decadent breakfast. This "snack" pushes me far beyond my daily caloric limit. I'm given the option of bribing the app not to include it in my intake log for 99 cents (a smart monetization model, I will admit), or to "ACCEPT CONSEQUENCES."
Not being a big fan of in-app purchases, I choose the latter—causing a notification for "Angry Mode" to pop up. "As punishment," Carrot tells me, "for the next batch of foods you log you'll now have a significantly increased chance of encountering a dreaded full-screen advertisement."
It then changes my screen color from green to red and tells me that I'm going to "wish I was never born" as my avatar rapidly plumps. The text in my "Diary" also updates to say, "Your portion control is bad and you should feel bad." Why do I love this?
Although I didn't actually eat the near-dozen Milky Ways, I feel a little bit defensive, indignant, and (yes) ashamed. But truth be told, I kind of enjoy this sense of punishment; the interface is so jolly that it feels more like a playful mental spanking than an emotional beatdown.
An alternate punishment is a notification sent to your friends putting you on blast for having pitiful self-control and gorging yourself. While I'm unsure whether this is related, the ads at the bottom also shifted from ones for "snake oil" and a mysterious beverage called "Slusho" to an all-caps graphic encouraging me to "Buy a Horse Mask."
This app is kind of like your very own post-modern Jillian Michaels. I just might keep it around.
Recent studies have shown that fat-shaming (at least IRL) actually doesn't work, and can encourage weight gain due to the stress-eating that might follow a particularly raucous round of bullying. But truth be told, it's still a hell of a lot easier to be called a meat bag by a cartoon on your phone than by a Tinder date.