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High-Tech Weight Loss

Do electronic devices and services designed to help you drop pounds actually work? The experts weigh in

The Food Phone continued...

The cost: $149 a month.

What the experts say: "The good thing about this service is it does help you stop and think about what you're eating, so it increases awareness of portion sizes and even choices," says Heller. On the down side, she wonders how many people are really going to photograph all their food every day -- and how many have $150 a month to spend on this luxury.

While Sandon says the Food Phone can be motivator, "it's like having someone watching over everything you eat." She notes that pictures don't tell the whole story.

"You can't tell how much fat, sugar, salt, or calories are in a dish," she says, "so it may be most helpful in setting people straight on what a portion should look like."

Bottom line: It's a good choice if having "Mom" on your case 24/7 is what you need to help you stay on your diet. It's a bad choice if "Mom" being on your case 24/7 is why you're overeating in the first place!

Cell Phone Diet Coaches

Still using a cell phone just to make calls? Now comes University of North Carolina (UNC) Healthcare with a variety of applications that turn your cell phone into a diet coach.

How it works: By downloading various weight loss programs (including a calorie counter, carb counter, personal trainer, and personal pedometer) you can turn any Java-enabled cell phone or PDA into a dieting encyclopedia. By entering personal information (like height, weight, and dieting goals), you can further customize each program to provide detailed information to help you meet your goals.

The cost: Prices vary from $5 to $7 per application. For an additional $2 per month, you can hook up to the online health link, which lets you monitor your progress and further customize your reports. If you agree to be a beta tester (that is, to test how well the program performs), the application is free and the fees are waived for 90 days.

What the experts say: "There's nothing new here except how you access the information," says Heller. If you need a gadget instead of a book to count calories or carbs, she says, this can help.

Bottom line: If you need to be mildly amused while counting calories, these programs can help you learn what you can and can't eat if you want to reach your goals. They may also help raise your dieting awareness.

The Fitness Phone

Two high-tech programs -- one from Nokia and the other from Siemens -- use cell-phone technology to help you meet your fitness goal. They offer various services, including an electronic coach, a calorie counter, body mass index (BMI) calculator, heart rate monitor, and fitness scheduler. And oh yeah, you can make calls, too.

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