Online Tools for Losing Weight
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So, you want to lose weight. You're thinking about joining a gym and all the monthly fees, or the weekly meeting cost of Weight Watchers, and you think "I can do this without intervention," and maybe you're right. Or maybe you've been getting help in-person for weeks and you need a little extra help at an odd time of the day, the kind of help that comes from the 24/7 Internet community.
I've collected a bunch of resources in this hub to help you lose weight. Just remember that playing around with online tools, logging your food eaten, or planning a workout regimen from the computer-- none of these actively contributes to weight loss.
To lose weight, you must eat less and exercise more.
That's the only medically proven safe way to lose weight. It's worked in the past. It will work in the future. It will work for you.
See Your Doctor
Every one of these sites, and in fact, all reputable weight loss and exercise programs will tell you to see your doctor before changing your diet or exercise program, and I will, too.
If you have an eating disorder or psychological issues, you can trigger these when you undertake a new diet program. Any metabolic problems you might have can be exacerbated when you change your diet. You might go on a caffeine-free diet only to discover that caffeine was really suppressing an asthmatic condition. If you're diabetic or insulin resistant, you absolutely must talk to a doctor before changing your diet or exercise program, because changing what you eat, how much, and how much you burn has a massive impact on insulin. Do it wrong, and you could die.
If you are very overweight or have any medical conditions, these conditions can be made worse, or even life threatening, by a sudden increase in exercise. The danger of overexercise is usually limited to injuries, but sports injuries can be extremely painful (especially when you end up with two feet that hurt too much to walk, for example).
Any heart or organ condition can also be made worse by haphazard exercise. You don't want to be the guy who starts jogging on January 3rd and has a heart attack before Martin Luther King's birthday.
But with all that in mind, there's also something you should keep in mind. You probably didn't call your doctor and say "Hey, doc, I'm going to start sitting onmy butt every night, eat pizza 3 days a week, and stop flossing. You cool with that?" The main worry with changing your diet and exercise levels is that you'll make changes that are too drastic for your body to adapt. Go slow, ease into your program, and get a medical checkup when you start out (it's a good way to get a baseline)!
There are probably 1001 diet plans out there for weight loss. Most of them either adhere to the basics (Eat less, exercise more), or they try to sell you a supplement, system, miracle food, vitamin, or procedure that, ultimately, won't help you lose weight as healthfully as just eating less and exercising more.
Most online programs have to be flexible to accommodate lives outside the computer. People on the program may come from anywhere, but also people with odd work schedules need a program they can benefit from no matter what time their shift ends.
Here's a quick roundup of some of the diet plans that don't require anything "weird." You won't go under the knife or pop any pills to achieve these, and you can follow them no matter what time of day it is.
Weight Loss Books
Online Diet Plans
- How To Lose Weight with a Spreadsheet and a Web Site
Derived from the Hacker Diet, but a little less aggressive and little more forgiving.
- You: On A Diet - The Official Website
Free. The website for the book You: On a Diet by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen. The book is excellent and effective-- you should definitely read it, even if you choose not to follow it.
- Free Diet Plans at SparkPeople
Free. Community-based weight loss program with dieting program available.
- Welcome to WeightWatchers.com
$10/month. One of the very best long-term weight loss programs, Weight Watchers helps millions. There's an online-only option, or you can attend local meetings. The website has food plans, diet log, and exercise support.
- The Hacker\'s Diet
Free. The Hacker's Diet: How to lose weight and hair through stress and poor nutrition. This one is a straight-math kind of program, which will be frustrating when your body won't respond mathematically.
- The Biggest Loser Club
$Unknown-- they are completely not up front about how much the program fees are. (If you have to ask...) The Biggest Loser Club's program follows the popular TV show and signs you up for NBC spam. If you're inspired by the TV show, the club may work.
Diet Log Tools
- My Food Diary
$9/week ($32/month). My Food Diary is a diet and exercise log site.
- Google Docs
Free. Google docs is ubiquitous and easy to use. As a diet log, it won't tell you how many calories you ate. It's just a text file or spreadsheet, after all. But it's easy to use and you can use it offline as well.
- FitDay - Free Weight Loss and Diet Journal
Free. One of the very best diet logging programs available with an enormous database of calorie and nutritional information. Track your food and exercise for a week and you can look at your log to decide if you need to add a vitamin to your regimen.
$5/week ($20/month). Food logger and diet/exercise program. Much more than a food log, but so are most of the tools in this section.
Eat Less: Log Your Food
One of the proven strategies for successful weight loss is to keep a food journal. Last year, a study came out showing that participants who logged their food were significantly more likely to lose more weight and keep it off. This is a well-known phenomenon in personal finance, too-- simply keeping track of something helps us change our behavior.
Your diet log can be anything from a little notebook in your purse to a full-fledge PDA-enabled synchronizing database. You might simply track each food item, or you could break it down into a meal-by-meal nutritional analysis.
Online logging tools can not only help you track foods and trends, but many offer a database of foods already in their system so you don't have to look up the food you ate to figure out how many calories or points or kelvans you ate.
There are several tips to use with food loggers, and perhaps the most important one is this: don't let diet logging replace dieting.
Spending 3 hours a day writing down, looking up, and logging your foods eaten might keep you occupied, but it will also keep food on your mind-- you'll be thinking about food all day long.
Instead, start with a meal plan (another key component to improving your diet), and then take 5 minutes after each meal and an extra 5 minutes every night-- about 20 minutes a day-- to write down whether or not you stayed within your plan for the day and how you felt when you were eating, whether or not you were satiated by your meal, and so forth.
These links should help you get up and moving ASAP. From exercise programs to workout logs to training support-- it's all here to help you get going.
Just remember that overexercise is the leading cause of sports injuries. Listen to your body carefully and if you have any concerns, see your doctor for a clean bill of health.
Better Running with tempo and technique
- Yoga Learning Center - Yoga online video classes and instruction
$9/month. Yoga online video instruction, classes, meditations, video podcasts.
- Beginning Yoga - Getting Started and Beginning Yoga Practice
Free. Basic information before starting yoga. When you start yoga, go with an instructor-led class, then move to videos and workouts at home. It's easy to injure yourself if you try to learn just through videos.
- Bicycling.com Beginners Forum
Free. Biking community forum to help new bicyclists.
- Fitness on YouTube
Free. Thousands of videos showing fitness and exercise techniques to get you started.
- The Walking Site
Free. Getting started walking and links to training programs to get you up to 60 minutes of walking at a stretch.
- The Runner\'s World 8-Week Beginning Runner\'s Training Program
Free. 8-week program to get you running 2 miles at a time. Again, you must be able to run for 1 minute without stopping at the beginning of this program.
- BeginnerTriathlete.com - Triathlon Training for Beginners
Free. Includes a very conservative 7-month program for real couch potatoes to get up to running a 5K (baseline: walk for 10 minutes).
- Cool Running's Couch-to-5K Running Plan
Free. A schedule for beginner runners. You should be able to walk at a fast pace for 30 minutes before you start this program.
- Couch to 5K Podcast
Free. A podcast going through a 9-week program to get you to a 5K. You must be able to run for about a minute at a time when you start this program.
- Workout Tracker for Palm OS
$20. Palm-based workout log with graphing. Windows conduit available to sync data.
With all these tools at your fingertips, is there any reason not to get started on your New Year's Resolution to lose weight in 2009? The holidays are over, all the gyms have sign-up specials, and your yoga pants are languishing in the drawer! Get moving!
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