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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

Dieting Software

A number of new software titles have emerged to help keep various aspects of your weight loss regime on track.

How it works: These programs vary widely, ranging from providing simple nutritional data -- like calorie counts, nutrient breakdowns, and meal planning -- to sophisticated tracking of both dieting and fitness goals. Some also offer meal suggestions, exercise regimens, and daily progress reports. Many also work in PDAs.

The cost: Average cost is $35-$49

What the experts say: "By using software to track your progress over time, you can see your accomplishments in print, which can be highly motivating," says Sandon. As with food journals, Sandon says, these computer programs also raise awareness about eating habits.

Bottom line: As long as they don't dramatically increase the time you spend sitting in front of your computer (instead of outdoors moving about), these programs can provide incentive, motivation, and good information that works with most any diet program.

Automatic Portion Control

It's not the newest diet gadget, but it might be the most useful: A vacuum-sealing device that lets you create pre-measured, individual portions of foods.

How it works: You fill specially sized plastic bags with single portions of your favorite treats or meals. Then, you insert the end of the bag into the device, which sucks the air out and seals it shut. Pop it in the freezer to use later, or toss it in a handbag, briefcase, or lunchbox, for an instant portioned treat that won't break your calorie budget.

The cost: Rival Seal A Meal, with extra bags and storage canisters -- about $49 (also available are pre-divided plates that can be filled and sealed, so you always know the right proportions of veggies, meat, and grains). Deni Fresh Lock Vacuum Sealer -- about $30.

What the experts say: "Anything that helps with portion control, anything that draws attention to the size of what we are eating, or keeps you from eating too much, is a very good thing," says Sandon.

Bottom line: If you just can't stop dipping into the cookie jar or candy dish, this is like discipline in a bag. (Hint: If you seal the bags twice, it makes them really hard to open -- a stronger snacking deterrent!)

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Reviewed on October 24, 2005

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