Brain Training for Healthy Eating!

A project by: Natalia Lawrence


WE RAISED £1,776

from 46 donors

This project received pledges on Fri 31 Mar 2017
Help us develop our app to train healthy eating habits

Raising money to create an i-phone version of our food trainer app

We're raising £5000 to develop a free iPhone version of our FoodTrainer (FoodT) app.


Our app is a simple computer game that trains users to respond to healthy foods and resist unhealthy foods. Research by our team and others shows that playing the game on a computer helps people to eat less and lose weight. We want to see whether playing it on a mobile phone (as an app) is also helpful. We have developed an app for android phones, thanks to the generous support of the University of Exeter. We now want to raise £5000 to develop a version for iPhones. We will then be able to share our FoodTrainer app for free with more people to see whether it helps them.


Who are we?

My name is Natalia Lawrence. I'm one of a team of Psychologists from the University of Exeter developing and testing new interventions to help people resist unhealthy foods. Our team includes several academic staff and students from the University of Exeter. We work in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cardiff and beyond (in the US, Australia and the Netherlands).

What is different about our research?

Many people struggle to resist tempting, unhealthy foods and drinks and maintain a healthy weight, despite having the best intentions and knowing what they should do. There is no shortage of advice about what to eat, diets to follow or apps that help you track your exercise, weight and calorie intake. However, none of these things target the impulses that drive much of our unhealthy eating. These impulses can be triggered automatically by foods or other cues and can be very hard to control.

Our team of psychologists has spent years studying brain reward responses and impulsive behaviour to come up with a different approach to weight loss. Over the last five years we have  developed simple computer games that aim to train people's automatic responses to foods.

Early research findings are encouraging - when people are trained to repeatedly 'stop' (not respond) to unhealthy foods in the game they subsequently eat less, report liking the foods less and lose weight. You can hear more about our published research findings here .

Why do we need your support?

Following positive user feedback and requests from hundreds of people who have tried our online training, we have developed our FoodTrainer (FoodT) app. The app allows users to select which foods/drinks they want to train themselves to resist and collects anonymous data on weight and snacking to help us work out whether the app is helpful. You can find out more about the app and how it works here or by watching the short video at the bottom of this page. We need your help to create an iPhone version of the app with technical support. We want to make this app available for free to as many people as possible.

Update 23 January

Fantastic news – FoodT has been awarded an Open Innovation award by the University of Exeter! This award means we will have £500 extra to help develop the iPhone app, AND additional money to employ a research assistant and give technical support.

Your donations are still essential to create an iPhone app - helping more more people to access and benefit from FoodT training. Combined with the Innovation award the apps can be maintained and improved - for enhanced research and FoodT training during the year!


Every £1 makes a positive contribution to our research. Please check out the rewards to thank you for your help on the right hand side.

Find more information about our app and research here:

Help us succeed!

You don't need to give money to help us succeed! Please share this project with anyone you think would support us – on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, by email, telephone, in a chat over the fence or on your blog. Thank you!

1 month, 2 weeks ago

We have just over 3 weeks to go until our fundraising deadline! Thanks to all our sponsors and helpers so far in helping us reach our minimum funding target and be on track for achieving the amount required to develop the iPhone version of the app, which lots of people have been asking us for. We have raised ~£2,200 so far so need just over another £1000 to develop the iPhone version of the app.

We have had a great response to the android app so far, with over 40,000 people downloading the app (the largest number in France!) and nearly 30,000 using it. People have been giving us lots of useful feedback and interesting comments (please see our facebook page for updates - we will post our preliminary results on the effects of the app in the first wave of users soon). Our app developers have already made several upgrades to the android app based on feedback and this will be available on google play in the next few days.

Thank you again all for your great support, and please keep sharing this appeal with your friends!

Our latest stats for the app are shown below for those interested.

3 months ago

Many thanks to all our generous project sponsors and supporters. You have helped us raise a fantastic £664 in one week!

It's been a busy week launching our android app and engaging with the media. Our research was featured on this week's How to Lose Weight Well (Tues 17th Jan 8 pm Channel 4 - image below) and in the Sunday Times, Telegraph and other newspapers. Please see our facebook page ( ) and website for more information.

We also got some fantastic news – the FoodT app project has been awarded an Open Innovation award by the University of Exeter! This award means that we will have £500 extra to help develop the iPhone app, AND additional money to employ a research assistant and give technical support for the android version.

Your donations will still be essential to create an iPhone version of the app, thereby ensuring more people can access and benefit from FoodT training, but when combined with this Impact award we will now have a mechanism to both maintain and improve the wider app platform, helping to maximise our research outcomes and enhance FoodT training throughout the year.

Thank you again all for your great support, and please keep sharing this appeal with your friends!

Natalia Lawrence

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Only project creators and their sponsors can post comments.

Dear Susan Dunbar, Thanks for your comment. That is a great idea and we are planning to do that soon (contact those who did our online training and offer them the app and ask if they'd like to sponsor). We just need to sort out mailing list out (we have nearly 30 000 email addresses from our online study!) Best wishes, Dr Natalia Lawrence

Why don't you e-mail the people who took part in the original test to bring them up to date and ask if they would like to sponsor? regards S Dunbar

Good luck with the concept

Thanks for the suggestion gseymour - Lucy Porter (Exeter PhD student) is examining the effects of this training in children and the findings look promising - they choose more healthy snacks after playing it than the control group - we hope to publish these findings soon!

Excellent idea. Hope it goes ahead.

Good luck with this project! It would be interesting to measure the effect on children using the app - if for example it would encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables.