Last week, I set out to try the SlimKicker website. This is my review of the site. I do have an initial confession to make - I didn't do the whole week. My lupus was flaring and I was just too sick to care about anything.
That said, I asked a few other people to look at it with me.
The site is meant to turn weight loss into a role playing game. My experience of RPGs is limited. (I once attempted to play Animal Crossing, but had trouble understanding the map.) So I asked Mr 18, who has been playing RPGs most of his life, and who is studying IT what he thought. He had a good look at the site, and said it was well-laid out, easy to use, and the concept was good. Since he's Generation Y (the target audience), I'd say that means the site gets a big tick for usability.
Actually, even I managed to work out how to use the site, unaided, so it is definitely very usable.
I took the computer to the Thursday Night Weight Loss Group at church. We had a play with it there. Everyone liked the idea. We wouldn't necessarily swap from our Calorie King website over to using it, but we could all appreciate that the site has appeal, usability, and catches the participant's interest.
The game gives out points for entering the food you eat, with extra points for what is seen as particularly healthy choices. It also gives points for exercise. (I couldn't enter my exercise, because it doesn't allow for things like hydrotherapy - and there's no way I could find to enter a custom exercise that's not in the database.)
Along the way, you can take up extra challenges (for people familiar with RPGs this is like the quests you can do in some games as extras to the storyline.) An extra challenge, like eating salad once a day for a week, can give you a couple of hundred extra points.
Gain enough points, and as with other RPGs, you "level up", or go to the next level. Each time you level up, you gain a reward - something you've chosen in advance to give yourself. This is a fairly useful tool in weight loss or any other behaviour change - to reward yourself when you have achieved mini-goals along the way.
In terms of the diet itself - there is no diet set, but there is a recommended calorie intake for the day, and a recommended target for the amount of several nutrients. Most of this looked fairly standard. I was a bit surprised initially about the recommended amount of sodium - but on checking the Australian National Dietary Guidelines found it was at the high end of the healthy range of sodium intake. (My own regular sodium intake is at the low end, so I was way below the target point.) The fat intake target was another matter completely. The site set a target for me of in excess of 90g of fat per day. Checking the Guidelines, a healthy fat intake for me would be 20 to 25 per cent of my energy intake - working out to a maximum of about 35g of fat per day.
It also has benefits in terms of portability, as it comes as an iPhone app, as well as a website.
So, all in all, would I use this long-term? Probably not. I'm not the target audience, being a generation too old and not so interested in RPGs. I also use a Blackberry, rather than an iPhone, so wouldn't be able to use the phone app. And, of course, because of my health condition, I can't do the kinds of exercises SlimKicker recommends.
On the other hand, if I were 25 years younger, did not have a chronic illness limiting the type of exercise I'm able to do, and had an iPhone - I'd probably find SlimKicker very attractive indeed.
Note: this is not a paid review. But it was done at the invitation of the app developer.