It’s a great time to be a geek who wants to lose weight and who loves gadgets. A slew of companies are cranking out gear that can help you eat better, move more and in general become a fitter, sleeker nerd. I honestly don’t think I would have lost so much weight (65lbs!) without the help of technology, and better still it’s made the whole process more fun for me.
Here are 11 of the best gadgets I’ve found that have helped me lose weight, and that I think can help you too. The only thing here I haven’t personally tried is Autom, but I’m including it because it’s too cool not to. So check out the list, and if there’s something you think should be added, let me know in the comments:
This is kind of a super pedometer that unobtrusively tracks how much you move each day and then automatically uploads the data to the Internet. It also lets you unlock achievements and create challenges, turning your daily activities into a giant game where you win by moving more. You can share your info on your social networks, join challenge groups, or go it solo. Interestingly, it tracks vertical movement and will tell you how many stairs you climb, and it can track your sleep to tell you if you’re getting a good nights rest or not. The only downside for me is that I feel like I’m constantly in danger of losing it or forgetting it because it’s so small. Huge plus: The battery charge lasts forever. [Price: $99.95]
Striiv is another fitness tracker with a major twist: It will actually bribe you to walk using three different reward systems. 1) Striiv will donate money to charitable causes based on how far you walk. For instance, 18,000 steps will preserve an area the size of a parking spot in the rainforest for a year. 60,000 will provide a dose of polio vaccine to one child. You get the idea…all good stuff. 2) Walking is what powers Myland Games, a game where you try to bring back animals that inhabit a virtual island. Access to new levels is based on how much you move. 3) Striiv lets you enroll in personal challenges like “Stairway to the Clouds,” which you win by walking up stairs. Striiv is aimed more at average people than athletes and has a keychain form factor for ease of use. [Price: $99.95]
When the two UPs I had actually worked, they were fantastic, mostly because they’re incredibly convenient and easy to use. You wear the UP around your wrist like a bracelet and use it to track your movement and your sleep, uploading your data to your iPhone via the UP app. The app then spits out neat charts and graphs of your activity, and it’s very effective at inspiring you to move more. Two features I really love are that you can tell it to vibrate after it detects you’ve been sedentary for a set amount of time (you control how long), and it can be used as a sleep cycle alarm. The big problem is that the first generation of UPs failed so much that Jawbone temporarily stopped selling them until they fix the issue. Once they get a stable version on the market though, I’m getting it. [For Sale Again Soon]
The Fuel Band is like a bulky version of the UP with a snazzier readout and a few features exclusive to Nike, but also minus a few that Jawbone’s product has. The most interesting one is that while the Fuel band tracks how many steps you take like other devices, it also tells you how much “Nike Fuel” you’re using. Nike Fuel is something more intense than simple steps, but how intense isn’t exactly clear because Nike doesn’t say how its fuel is calculated. All Nike says it that Fuel “counts all the activities of your athletic life.” Except biking, one of their reps tells me. It will sync to your phone via bluetooth, which is nice, but doesn’t track sleep or vibrate like the UP. It does let you compare yourself to other Fuel users, which is a powerful motivator for you to move more. In the end, that’s what matters most. [Temporarily Sold Out]
Pretty much every nutrition expert out there thinks commercially produced sodas are bad for you in one way or another. But it can be hard (oh so hard!) to resist their fizzy sweetness. SodaStream tries to bridge both worlds by letting you easily create your own fizzy drinks where you, not the soda companies, control what goes into them. A good starting place would be to use far, far less than the whopping 40g of sugar that comes in a can of Coke, for instance. Personally I favor drinks lightly flavored with fruit, which give me the soda feel but just a small portion of the calories. [Price: $87.95]
At first I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Withings scale. That’s because I was a fool. Now I know better and love it! It not only tells you your weight, but also gives you a rough estimate of your body fat percentage and it computes your Body Mass Index. All of that info is immediately sent wirelessly to the Web where you can track it and share it with other people. Here’s mine. The scale also works with a whole bunch of 3rd party devices, and as a bonus it’s actually one of the best looking scales I’ve seen. Up to 8 people can use it, although I’m the only one using mine. It’s pricey but I think worth the cost. Price: $159
If you could take some of the time you spend sitting practically motionless at your desk and add a simple movement to it, research shows you’re going to get all kinds of health benefits. TreadDesk does that by giving you an easy way to walk while you’re on your computer. I’ve been using a TreadDesk for a while now and it’s exceeded all of my expectations. It’s as small as you can reasonably expect a treadmill to be, it’s easy to set up, quieter than I thought and fits perfectly under my raised GeekDesk (see below). I can easily use my laptop on it (I’m typing this sentence right now as I walk 2.5 miles per hour), which means I can surf the Web or watch Netflix to make the time pass by more quickly. The biggest drawback by far is the price, which is steep at $840. And I had to add another $150 to that for shipping. I decided the cost would be more than worth it in the long run due to the health benefits. I’ve got no regrets. [Price: $840]
All sorts of studies are coming out that say sitting for hours and hours a day is incredibly damaging to your body and urging you to get a standing desk. But for most of us it’s just not practical to stand all day. GeekDesk recognized that and created a simple motorized desk that let’s you switch between standing and sitting whenever you want. Some models let you preset various heights so you don’t have to mess around trying to find the perfect level. I got a GeekDesk at work when we were switching out our office furniture and love it so much I also got one for home. And hey, guess what fits perfectly under it? My TreadDesk. [Price: $749-$949]
This is a (relatively) low-cost way to turn your daily Web surfing into a healthy activity. It’s basically a compact stationary bike with a foam desk attachment that will hold a laptop so you can peddle while you laugh at Internet memes. The full version is $229 and they also sell a $79 version that will turn your existing bike into a FitDesk. I’m impressed at how compact the whole set up is in person but a little less impressed with the build quality (especially the giant rubber bands you’re supposed to use to keep your laptop secure). Still, for the price you can’t expect something like the bike machines at your gym, and anything that gets you moving is a good idea. [Price: $229.99]
Yes, this is the same awesome machine you’ve seen chewing up iPhones and iPads in the excellent “Will it blend” YouTube series. Technically the Blendtec is a blender, but it’s more like an aircraft engine attached to a spinning blade that sits on your countertop. Besides being ridiculously fun to use, it lets you easily make all sort of healthy smoothies and soups, which is a fantastic way to eat better. After buying one I’ve become an aficionado of the “green smoothie,” which is a smoothie made from things like spinach and kale that sounds disgusting and vile but turns out to taste great (as long as you remember to throw an apple in there for sweetness). I now make green smoothies every day, which has significantly upped my intake of vegetables and fruits without having to chew endless amounts of lettuce. [Price: 397.06]
Autom is a ridiculously cute personal weight loss coach in the form of a little talking robot that sits on your countertop. She asks you questions every day to help you track your food intake and exercise, which you input via a touch scree in her belly. She’ll take that info and use it to create tailor made suggestions to help you eat better and move more, and she’ll also offer you words of encouragement. The idea is that you’ll form an emotional bond with Autom, and in turn that will help her motivate you. Autom costs $199 along with a $19.99 subscription for updates to keep her information current and her conversations fresh. She can support any commercially available diet plan or you can custom design your own, and she can also be used my multiple people in one house. [Price: $199 + $19.99 Monthly Subscription]
If you found this post helpful, you can get more weight loss tips from my upcoming book Weight Hacking: A Guide For Geeks Who Want To Lose Weight And Get Fit.