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Free phone and online tools for dieters

Smart-phone apps and online communities provide free information and support.

By Teresa Mears Dec 31, 2009 3:17PM

If you’ve resolved to lose weight in the New Year, there’s an app for that.


Best of all, some of those apps are free and don’t require an expensive iPhone to use.


Of course, you can always engage in the best free fitness activity of all, walking. You can count your calories the old-fashioned way, on paper. And it’s not too late to get a deal on a health club membership.

But for those who prefer a high-tech diet aid, Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times’ Phone Smart column tried out three programs for smart phones, two free and one that costs $2.99.

  • Lose it!, from FitNow is for iPhone and is the most popular.  It’s also free. Tedeschi notes that it is also highly rated by users. It’s a calorie counter and weight tracker, which sets a calorie budget for you after you enter your weight-loss goals. It has a database of foods, so you can get the calorie counts of what you eat, and exercises, so you can also calculate the calories you are burning. You can share data with your friends and view full-screen reports online. Says Tedeshi: “Based on a week or so of playing with it, the ratings are well-earned, and probably would be just as high if it cost a few dollars or more.”
  • Calorie Counter is also free, and it works on Android, 3G and BlackBerry phones. It’s by FatSecret, which is an online diet and exercise community, with plenty of free resources. Tedeschi found Calorie Counter mostly easy to use, and very comprehensive, but noted some glitches.
  • Calorie Tracker, which costs $2.99 and is part of Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong empire, is even more comprehensive than Lose It!, Tedeschi reports. It works on iPhone and BlackBerry, plus the site has a mobile version that works on any Internet-enabled phone. Calorie Tracker has calorie counts on millions of food items, and its users add new items daily. If you don’t have a smart phone, you can track your calories and exercise free online, plus find hundreds of articles and resources on healthy eating and fitness.

Weight Watchers also has a free online phone app for members. That program is not free, but a current promotion waives the $29.95 sign-up fee if you sign up for three months at $17.95 a month. The site offers a seven-day free trial, and you can also get the sign-up fee waived for a limited time if you prefer to attend meetings in person.

My youngest sister swears by SparkPeople, a free online weight loss and fitness community, but I found the number of emails overwhelming. However, you can opt out of email updates and just choose the free online resources you want to use.


Patrick Swint at LifeHacker likes LiveStrong, LoseIt! and SparkPeople. He also listed among his five best weight management tools two other free online sites, NutriMirror and FitDay.


What’s your favorite free source of online weight loss, fitness and health information? Do you find participating in an online community helpful in reaching your diet and fitness goals?


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