High-Tech Weight Loss
Do electronic devices and services designed to help you drop pounds actually work? The experts weigh in
The Fitness Phone continued...
How it works: The Nokia is preloaded with software that
allows you to program in fitness-related information about yourself, as well as
your goals. Based on that, your phone will work out a training schedule, and
keep track of your workouts, including how often and how long you exercise.
With the Siemens, you get an animated fitness instructor that demonstrates
various exercises. Extras include various monitors and calculators, including
one that tallies your nutritional needs based on what you're eating now. On the
way: A fitness phone from Samsung that lets you measure body fat with the touch
of a button, and includes quick links to fitness counselors.
The cost: Nokia Fitness Phone -- $199 plus service; Siemens
Fitness Phone -- $239.
What the experts say: "For people who want to keep
track of how much they did, and to keep organized, these systems can be very
helpful," says Todd Schlifstein, DO, a sports medicine specialist at New
York University Medical Center. That said, Schlifstein warns that if you need
an animated cartoon to figure out how to do an exercise, "you probably
shouldn't be doing it."
Bottom line: For the gadget-lover it's a fun way to track
workouts. For the weight-obsessed -- someone who wants to count calories, track
body fat, and take a pulse count while sitting in a coffee shop or movie
theater -- it's heaven. For the rest of us: It won't do those sit-ups for
Online Diet Programs
Online dieting programs are the electronic incarnation of the group approach
to losing weight. While their offerings vary widely -- from meal plans and
cooking tips to counseling, group support, and more -- what they all have in
common is the power of a virtual community to support your weight loss
How it works: For a set fee, members get a password to a
members-only web site. Here you'll find an eating plan (some but not all are
planned by nutritionists and/or medical experts) as well as recipes, and
cooking and dieting tips. Depending on which program you choose, extras include
everything from email counseling by nutritionists, psychologists, and other
weight specialists; to message boards, group chats, and motivational tools; to
articles addressing weight loss concerns, and fashion and beauty advice to help
you look great while you're losing weight. Some programs also feature meal
plans and nutrition information that's downloadable to your PDA or cell
The cost: Most plans charge around $5 a week, billed in
monthly installments. If you're not satisfied, most also offer a refund on any
unused portion of your membership.
What the experts say: "There are several studies
suggesting that Internet weight loss programs can be quite beneficial,"
says Heller. One study, she says, found that adding personalized counseling via
email significantly improved weight loss in adults at risk for diabetes.