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"El Loser Local": Media Market-based Health Gamification Ecosystem

A localized riff on "The Biggest Loser", wherein local competitive communities of weight loss champions can emerge via playoffs

Photo of Logan Powell

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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it inspire the end user to lead a healthier life?

Initially targeted at the TV-watching Hispanic community, local media markets (e.g., local news stations) would partner with NBC/Telemundo to host short time spots for El Loser Local leaderboard displays (think ESPN-style stats with images pulled from twitter accounts). The idea is to make losing weight a competitive sport, but at the local (not just national) level. Badges/prizes and partnerships with local supermarkets / healthy food options would produce a positive reinforcement ecosystem

// UPDATES // ========================

Saturday, August 8, 2015:

Incorporated ideas from collaborators (see "Inspired By" section below) and reached out to some local grocers to request testing assumptions in a prototype program (see "Minimally Viable Product" section)

Saturday, August 15, 2015:

Based on help from mentor (Trevor z Hallstein), have edified the grocery store classes with "Culinary Medicine" concept (see video section at bottom containing testimonial from community participants). Also, have edited/added data sources for food purchases.


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Telemundo, in collaboration with NBC and other stakeholder partners would create a television series like NBC's hit "The Biggest Loser" centered on encouraging the over-weight Hispanic population to live healthy lifestyles by exercising regularly and eating healthy foods. The series would focus on how eating healthy could help people struggling with obesity.

The full ecosystem would include these components:

  1. Local and National TV programming/content
  2. SMS/twitter (feature phone) and/or smartphone (e.g., whatsapp) social game
  3. Stores: e.g., supermarkets, healthy food chains, local markets
  4. Incentives: A points system  which would reward weight loss with coupons and/or discounts (individual or groupon-like) from participating stores

ABSTRACT Of Ecosystem

Ecosystem: positive feedback loop

It starts with a local TV station and grocer. The grocer carries a weight-scale.

Source: flickr/mrd00dman


Local competitors can sign up using a grocery card. This could also be a virtual wallet redeemable at health food stores, supermarkets, vending machines in schools and even at local fitness centers. The points system and partnerships are endless.

The data from the grocery card is combined with the data from the scale to track the diets and progress of the competitors over time...

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Information Machine API provides item-level purchasing data for many grocers!

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Grocers provide a discreet place for competitors to share their data

  • Health data:
    • Height ( only on first visit )
    • Weight
    • Waistline (and/or BMI)
    • Blood pressure and heart rate
  • Food purchases:
    • Leverage item-level grocery purchase data via Information Machine API
    • API to provide other food purchasing data (e.g., fast food)
    • Manual: competitors can take pictures of their food purchase receipts and these can be processed with Mechanical Turk

Discounts can be granted to competitors by the grocer for:

  • Checking in (participation incentive)
  • Losing weight (performance incentive)
  • sticking to a certain ratio of produce
  • discounts could be distributed via SMS codes / qr codes or via a rewards card.

Recipes as Social Currency

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Recipes become a social currency... You remember how your mom and her friends would share recipes. Your mom kept a folder or card catalog of recipes that she had collected over the years that suited your families characteristics. Cookbooks are great, but often contain a low percentage of recipes suited for any particular family and circumstance, which might include:

  • Dietary restrictions
  • Price / financial restrictions
  • Local ingredient availability
  • Cultural preferences

The ability to find and follow others who share similar circumstances, makes finding recipes that you’ll love much more likely!

Mentors ( individuals who keep weight off for a sustained period of time and perhaps like the same recipes ) will emerge to inspire you... Not everyone has a deep-seated cause that leads to unhealthy habits, but for those who do, these competitors have ‘been there and done that.’ Mentors can take the shape of an individual, but also potentially whole families can learn from each other.

The only thing competitors need to sign up is an SMS-enabled phone and a twitter account (for followers and building some peer pressure for those that stay in the game). As the game progresses, stores provide incentives to lose more weight. They give the leaders discounts and free groceries (or some other tangible incentive).

Individual or Team Competitions

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Types of awards/categories: Weight loss: ratio of height to weight and percentage of beginning weight

  • Individual
    • Total weight loss award
    • Sustained weight loss award ( become mentors )
    • Chef awards: People’s choice ( for highly rated recipes )
  • Team
    • Community ( local ): Community engagement awards ( twitter activity / sustained interconnectivity between members )
    • Family ( local or distributed ): Family support awards ( average weight loss: cumulative )

Grocery Store Classes

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Check out Tulane's Culinary Medicine with Chef Leah Sarris:

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Cook a month's worth of food in four hours

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While a common social gathering place for most around the world, the role of the market ( or - in the US - grocery stores ) as a social gathering space have been usurped by shopping malls.

From Zocalo (Jim's research):

I ask Tish about a small group of diners and a Zócalo staffer (in tell-tale red polo shirt) off to one side of the court, who look as if they've gathered for a lunchtime seminar. Tish says my observation is right on target... this is one of Zócalo's fifteen-minute mini-classes. Tish explains, "We want to do for healthy lifestyle education in the community what Apple Stores are doing in the world of consumer electronics. Courteous, knowledgable staff teaching useful tips on nutrition, cooking and various health topics, all in a casual, supportive style. They're our ambassadors for healthy eating.

Grocers provide classes wherein local recipes using local ingredients are taught:

  • Recipes must be buildable using ingredients available in the store
  • Classes could allow students to cook an entire month worth of meals in four hours
  • Recipes can be:
    • built using ‘discount’ produce/ingredients ( incentives for healthy eating: cheaper )
    • members ‘subscribe’ (ala’ groupon) to the classes (classes are free, you just pay for the ingredients)
    • store can offer these discounts to groups - once they reach a certain size
  • crowd-sourced from the community
    • community members - themselves - can be the teachers
    • recipes can be submitted online ( or by filling out a form available from the grocer, for those without internet access ) and accessed by logging in with your twitter account ( API )
    • up-votes of recipes can determine the ‘people’s choice award’ (see slide:
  •  be accompanied by a small postcard with the prices of the ingredients and a floor plan of the grocery store where you can find them

Health data can also be collected before/after cooking classes.

If successful, a pie in the sky idea might be to actually spin off one of these classes into a healthy restaurant (within or separate from the grocer/market) that uses a rotating menu built of recipes (potentially crowdsourced: attribution required ;) of seasonal and local ingredients

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Local winners (determined on a rolling/weekly basis) would be pitted against their neighboring local areas, which would lead to state competition, then to regional and nationals (like playoffs)...

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Check-in’s are what get measured by the platform

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TV comes into play at both the local as well as National level

  • Local TV: At this level, competitors are given a weekly 2-minutes spot ( about the time of a weather forecast ) where the top ‘athletes’ are showcased by:
    • Their weight loss
    • Any tweets about them or other competitors ( cheerleading )
  • State / regional TV
    • Celebrities can start coming into play at this level... cooking shows can be made up of the most popular ‘chefs’ from around the state and celebrities can share culture-specific recipes
  • National TV: This will be a rolling show where the biggest losers from around the country get to tell their story and explain how they did it...

Source: The Biggest Loser
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Minimally Viable Product (MVP)

  1. Sign up ( Promotional sign in the produce section of a local grocery store )
    1. begins by sending SMS to a temporary Google Voice # ( team member )
    2. team member responds via SMS with ‘honor code’ confirmation request
    3. competitor signs up by replying with “YES”
  2. Health data
    1. each week, team member requests data from competitor
    2. competitors responds SMS with height, weight and waist measures
  3. Food/grocery/ingredients data:
    1. competitor saves receipts from all food purchases (including fast food)
    2. team member requests data via SMS
    3. competitor takes pictures of their receipts and sends via MMS/Whatsapp
  4. Weekly winners’ names are added to the promotional sign in the grocery store

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

See Minimally Viable Product Section (above)

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea?

We will need help to scale this (business development/partnerships) relationship between local media markets and grocers/supermarkets, etc... We would have to work with such partners also to share data. A nice tech team would include members experienced in: 1) SMS-gateways (e.g., twilio) 2) JavaScript-based data visualizations (e.g., D3.js) 3) The twitter API 4) Gamification 5) IOT/Arduino/Raspberry Pi (for connecting weight scales to the internet)

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Does your idea currently have an Indiegogo campaign drafted?

  • No
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Team (14)

Logan's profile
Beth's profile
CJ's profile
Jim's profile
Jim Robertson

Role added on team:

"Perspective: Zocalo - a Texas supermarket the hosts mini-classes which teach healthy cooking with local ingredients"

Richard's profile

Role added on team:

"Perspective: looking at the purchasing data and keeping data collection convenient."

Simon's profile
Simon Powell

Role added on team:

"Perspective: Internet of tThings - consider the range of technologies."

Katherine's profile
Lewis's profile
Kate's profile
Kate Rushton

Role added on team:

"Perspective: Technology/ecosystem should assist small groups to motivate each other to reach their goals"

Napas's profile
Napas Kitirattragan

Role added on team:

"Perspective: Incentives - reward activity with discounts proportionally (e.g., give 100 credits for each pound of weight lost). Offer groupon-like discounts as well."

Karen's profile
Karen Sorensen

Role added on team:

"Perspective: User can collect their eating, health, and fitness information then posts it directly to social network."

Catarina's profile
Karen's profile
Trevor z's profile


Join the conversation:

Photo of Trevor z Hallstein

Here are some things out of tulane you might be interested in:

"Through innovative nutrition curriculum and hands-on training in the culinary arts, The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University seeks to better prepare future physicians to serve and heal patients and communities."

"Chef Leah Sarris, program director at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, describes an innovative program for medical students focusing on the role of cooking and nutrition in health care."

Photo of Logan Powell

Ooooo.... Culinary Medicine! I LOVE it :)

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