Despite all the related problems which contribute to obesity such as stress , the main cause is... eating too much. Recent studies have shown that people tend to overeat when they are stressed out - often creating a negative cycle of eating more, gaining weight and then getting stressed out about gaining weight – especially during the holiday season with Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We eat not just because we are hungry and craving nutrients, but also for a host of emotional and habitual reasons. There is no single term that encompasses the combination of lifestyle, hedonic, emotional, or habitual over-eating that leads to obesity."
When traditional methods pretty much failed, scientists started thinking out the box, designing new, innovative ways to help anxious overeaters get rid of this habit, or at least be more aware about it. Along with stress and eating apps engineers and designers at Microsoft Research recently invented a stress-busting bra made with special material that monitors the wearers moods and helps reduce stress eating.
"It’s mostly women who are emotional overeaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring EKG (electrocardiogram)," said Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist and senior researcher in visualization and interaction at Microsoft. "We tried to do the same thing for mens underwear but it was too far away (from the heart)."
The stress monitoring bra, which was initially presented at the Society for Affective Computing conference was recently tested by a group of volunteers, who reported getting accurate information about their moods. The results seem promising enough to see it on the shelf in the near future, especially considering that it's probably going to be pretty cheap. Microsoft built it with a standard microprocessor powered by a 3.7-volt battery. It's able to simultaneously monitor up to eight bio-signal channels simultaneously, according to Czerwinski’s research paper, "Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating".
The sensors track heart rate and respiration with an EKG sensor, skin conductance with an electrodermal activity sensor, and movement with an accelerometer and gyroscope - and they can do all of this from a bra. All this information can, when taken as a whole, accurately depict if the user is stressed and stream the results to a smartphone app or a computer.
The only bad thing is that the battery life is pretty small - they only last for about 4 hours, and then they have to be changed, but researchers are currently trying to find a way around this - they're trying to find alternative ways to monitor these parameters, in a way that requires less energy.
Erin A. Carroll, Mary Czerwinski, Asta Roseway, Ashish Kapoor, Paul Johns, Kael Rowan. Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating.