on July 18, 2008
My Weight Loss Coach is, by and large, a fun, creative, friendly way to get - and stay - motivated to make your life a little healthier. Your guide is a smiling, animated stick figure, who's always quite liberal with the applause and encouragement.
When you first fire up the program, it spends some time explaining how things work, and asking for things like your gender, birth date, height, and weight.
The screen where you enter your weight made me laugh. Using a sliding doctor's scale, you input how much you weigh. Weigh too little for your height, and the character on the screen gradually morphs into a beanpole. Weigh too much, and the character grows a fat gut and starts to sweat and look tired as you move the sliders higher.
From these measurements, it gives you a rough calculation of your BMI. It also asks some questions pertaining to your lifestyle, how much physical activity you typically engage in, etc. From there, it starts to formulate a plan to gradually whip you into shape.
The program breaks down into two basic parts: your "Daily Session" and "Backpack." The "Daily Session" contains 4 categories, namely, Pedometer, Challenges, Physical Activity, and Food Balance.
The Pedometer section asks you to enter the number of steps you walked during a given day. This can be done manually if you have your own pedometer, or by directly uploading the data from the included pedometer.
The Challenges section contains quite a number of little challenges, all related to better health in one way or another. It includes things like doing pushups (counting them off out loud into the DS's microphone!), walking to the grocery store, drinking a cup of herbal tea, walking 3000 more steps than usual during a 24-hour period, and many others.
Physical Activity is where you input what you've done of a physical nature during the day, and for how long. It includes things like walking the dog, lifting weights, doing housework, playing basketball, etc.
The Food Balance section is where you input what you ate during that day. Based on this data coupled with all the other physical activity you entered in the categories above, it will give you a general idea of whether or not your caloric intake is balancing out well with your physical exertion.
The "Backpack" section of the program allows you to update your personal statistics, view your progression toward goals, and take quick quizzes related to health. The quizzes are easy, but they serve to help reinforce your knowledge of healthy habits, and unlock a greater variety of challenges that will show up in - where else? - your Challenges section.
My Weight Loss Coach doesn't seem to be designed to blast the fat off your frame, like Body for Life or some sort of cabbage soup diet. Rather, it sets manageable goals and encourages you to take little steps, just a few at a time, to ease yourself into better health. It's kind of like spending forty bucks for your own live-in personal trainer, who's got lots of time to gently persuade you to make improvements.
Sure, you won't see quick and massive changes, but hopefully you'll train your mind and body to have healthier habits in general, which will be better for the long term. After all, how many people do you know who actually stick with the Atkins diet - or any other radical diet or exercise program - for the long term?
Every day, the game sets daily goals for you - walk X number of steps, do Y number of challenges, get at least Z minutes of physical activity, and keep your food intake in balance with your physical output. If you miss a goal for any given day, that's no big deal; you can try again tomorrow. As you fulfill your goals, it measures your progress by showing how far you've "walked" - the first milestone is at roughly 12 miles, which is apparently the distance it takes to get up Mount Everest and back down. This is just the first of 20 milestones. Not a bad motivator.
It also sets longer-term goals, such as having you get your weight down to a certain level within a month. Various charts and graphs let you see where you've been and how far you've come. For example: the BMI graphs. Your BMI is tracked as a line against a colored background. The healthy BMI ranges are shown in green, and as you start to get away from that healthy range (or, if you start out in an unhealthy range like me), the colors turn red.
I wouldn't call the game a miracle worker. Mostly what it does is augment and encourage your own willpower. Rather than cracking the whip and saying "Okay, from now on you're going to stop eating junk and start a 6-day-a-week weight training program," it has you do little things, like drink more water and move around during commercials on TV. How can you burn out on a program that has you drink more water and asks you to get up off the couch for a few minutes?
There are a few drawbacks and clunky parts to the package. I don't especially care for the food input system, which asks you to enter the calories you consumed by dragging pictures of food into a stick figure's mouth. Scrolling through all the menus in search of what you ate during a given day is pretty time consuming and annoying, not to mention somewhat generalized and inaccurate. More often than not, I go with the "quick" food entry, which simply asks you to take a guess at whether your daily meals and snacks were light, balanced, or heavy.
And I really don't care for the included pedometer. I've never used a pedometer before, but I can't imagine they're all this bulky and noisy. It uses a mechanical counting mechanism which clicks with every step you take. Visualize someone walking right behind you, holding a retractable ballpoint pen, clicking it every time you take a step. It's like that. I'll probably end up getting something quieter.
Additionally, I'm wondering if there's the possibility of overlap between the Pedometer section and the Physical Activity section. For example, if you spend 30 minutes walking your dog while wearing the pedometer, will the program give you credit for both activities? The game's a little unclear on this.
Overall, though, I would recommend this program to people who need that extra motivation and lots of little hints and suggestions to improve their health. There's nothing mysterious or magical about what you need to do to lose weight - eat less, exercise more. Not all of us are predisposed to do either. This game will help.
on July 22, 2008
I just started using My Weight Loss Coach a couple of days ago. It has started me walking and eating better, but I have noticed several flaws:
- First off, the clip that attaches to the pedometer was a little hard to get on and the instructions were not that clear. With a little muscle work, however, it did finally snap on.
- Secondly, the pedometer is large (far larger than the Weight Watchers one I already have). As a result, I have been wearing it backwards on my belt so it's not as noticable. This may have, however, created another problem. The pedometer has reset during the course of the day. I'm not sure if it's me that's resetting it or the pedometer is resetting by itself. Anyway, I just got back from a 40-minute walk and found that I only logged 1200 steps (during the set up you learn that the pedometer should log 500 steps for every 5 minutes of walking). I just may start using my Weight Watchers pedometer instead and manually logging in the steps each day.
- Thirdly, the music is annoying, but you can turn it off (thankfully).
- Lastly, using the detailed version of logging in your food intake is not very accurate and a little confusing. For example, last night I ate a Lean Cuisine pizza for dinner. This pizza, of course, does not have the same calories, fat, etc., as regular pizza. The detailed food intake log, however, only has a selection for regular pizza. Also, you find pretzels under sweets instead of the more accurate snacks. I'm going to try using the quick version of logging food intake instead to see if it is anymore accurate. I will have to say, though, that it is fun to watch the food choices hit the stick figure on the head and the stick figure eating the food.
All in all, however, I will say that My Weight Loss Coach has started motivating me to walk more and eat better. I'm just not sure if I'll continue using the program.
My Weight Loss Coach DS is an awesome idea. It comes with a free pedometer, that you can plug into your DS! It lets you track your steps each day easily. The rest of the 'game', though, is a mixed blessing.
The game is broken out into a number of areas. Each day you plug in your pedometer so it knows right away how many steps you took wearing it. I already own a pedometer which plugs into a computer, and I have to say my other one is much better. This one just counts total steps. The other one actually tracks them by hour and by intensity - so you get an instant graph of how active you were each hour, which were quiet steps, which were energetic steps and so on. It's much more helpful.
You can input other activities you've done, but it's a very kludgy interface. You choose an icon of what type of general thing you did - housework, team sports etc - and then manually spin a clock dial to point at an interval. It won't even let you check the box if it's under an hour worth of effort.
Then there are challenges - both food and activity related, both short term ("do now") and longer term ("do by tomorrow"). Sometimes the items are easy - hide the salt, clean out the fridge. Sometimes they are more complicated, like go out jogging. However, sometimes they are just non-doable for some people. Go jogging and don't come home until you spot an animal? Go bake some bread from scratch? Organize a team sport and get your family and friends to play? I can easily see some gamers getting frustrated by these types of challenges because they simply don't have the supplies or ability to do them in their environment.
The DS will say something like "do 20 lunges" but give you no idea how to do them. You have to go find your manual and look it up. With other activity DS games I have, they explain the activity to you and have animated demonstrations.
Even some of their "coaching tests" seem not quite kosher. They rate you down if you drive a car to the corner store rather than walking. Some of us don't have "corner stores" within safe walking distance.
For daily food tracking, they don't use calories or carbs or other normal units. They use "energy units" which means the things you're learning will be completely unhelpful in the real world. Also, the interface is again extremely tedious. Let's say you ate a serving of turkey. You have to go paging through the general food types, find the poultry area and drag down a poultry item. It then separates into different types of poultry - turkey, chicken and breaded chicken. You drag one of the turkey items onto the person. You have to do that with every single food you eat, all day long.
I definitely appreciate what it is trying to do, and I imagine most people would find it cute for a week or two, but I really don't see most users going through that tedious interface for more than that.
Finally, the game is very much set up for completely sedentary people. Its idea of activity is to stand and sit 10 times. If you are not in the "obese" range, I am not sure their activities are really going to help you become more healthy. Even for obese people, I think there are many other better options out there to help you improve your health.
Still, if you really love your DS and don't own a pedometer, this isn't a *bad* choice. I am all for people using whatever works for them. If you don't mind this interface and enjoy the little challenges, then have at it! Being active this way is far better than being inactive.
on July 9, 2008
I was excited about this game coming onto the market since I had first heard about it. I purchased it a few days ago, and was eager to check it out. The first problem I found is that it assumes you keep normal day hours. I work from 11pm to 7am, so my day doesn't start until about 4pm usually. Therefore my workout times, and the times I eat my meals differ from the average. The day always resets itself at midnight regardless of what time you may actually eat your meals and work out. I was able to get around this by keeping track of what workouts I had done, food I had eaten, and entering it into the game after midnight. They could have really expanded the food options as well. This game does not take up a lot of space on the cart it is on, and it would not have been that hard to program the options. It would also help if you could view your balance of physical activity with your food intake as well. You can only view the balance when you enter in your food intake.
This game needs some improvement, but it has kept me motivated in my fitness pursuits, which is what I bought it for to start with.