Techie Tools to Help With Weight Loss

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There’s still no magic bullet for weight loss. I know, we all keep hoping for something quick, easy, and painless that will melt the pounds away with little or no effort. While we wait for that to come along, you might be interested in some new gadgets that are on or soon will be on the market that might at least make it easier to drop some pounds.

The Bite Counter
Smart folks at Clemson University in South Carolina have designed a wristwatch-like device that tallies up the number of bites of food that you take by measuring the motion of your wrist. The Clemson University researchers tracked the number of bites that 77 people took over a two-week period. They then calculated the calories per bite (very clever). On average, men consumed 17 calories per bite and women consumed 11 calories per bite. Based on these numbers, the researchers suggested aiming for 100 bites per day, noting that if people target this number, their daily calorie intake would be 1,700 calories for men and 1,100 calories for women — a low calorie intake, based on the National Institutes of Health criteria.

Sounds great, but does it work? A pilot study that was presented last year at the Obesity Society’s annual meeting indicated that people who counted their bites lost more weight than those who didn’t. And a study is being designed now that will further test the effectiveness of taking 100 bites per day.

Questions remain about how to account for the different nutritional qualities of different types of food — ice cream versus salad, for example — as well as how to account for how big a bite of food a person takes. Still, the premise is interesting. The point of the Bite Counter is really to help you be aware of how much you’re eating. Researchers plan to launch a new and improved Bite Counter, marketed by Bite Technologies, in about a year.

The talking plate
Hate to eat alone? You might soon have some company. AB Mando, a Swedish company, has developed the Mandometer, which is a plate that sites atop a scale. It measures how long it takes you to eat your food. If you’re wolfing down your food, a voice will suggest that you slow down your eating rate. It will also pipe up and ask you periodically how full you are. Based on company research, the average eating rate is 10–12 ounces in 12–15 minutes. Rest assured that if you eat more than that, the plate will speak up and let you know.

In a study of 106 obese children and teenagers, the subjects who used the talking plate had a lower body-mass index (a measure of weight relative to height) and body-fat percentage after one year, plus they ate smaller portions and ate more slowly compared to the control group. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a newer version of the talking plate will be available this fall for $250 and will connect the scale wirelessly to a smartphone app.

The HAPIfork
Can a fork really be all that smart? It can if it’s the HAPIfork. I mentioned this tool in a previous posting, but since it counts as technology, it’s worth mentioning again. The HAPIfork measures the number of bites that you take, how long between each bite, and how long you spend eating. And if it deems that you’re eating just a bit too fast, it will vibrate and light up as a way to get you to slow down. This Bluetooth-enabled fork lets you track your eating data on your smartphone, although you need to do the initial setup on your computer.

The device looks like an overgrown fork, which can take some time to get used to. The outer part of the fork is dishwasher safe. The inner part, or the “brains” of the fork, can store two weeks’ worth of data. Does it work? It’s hard to say, although research does support eating more slowly to feel full sooner — which in turn, can lead to a decreased calorie intake. Reviews are mixed on this smart fork. It’s currently available on Amazon.

Along with these nifty gadgets are smartphone apps, fitness monitors, and video games that are geared to helping you lose weight and become more fit. Remember that a lot of these gadgets sound and look promising, but it’s too soon to say if they can really deliver. In the meantime, if you use any of these tools, we’d love to hear from you!

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