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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
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Cell Phone Diet Coaches continued...

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.

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 you.

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