Which calorie-tracking app should you count on?

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Diet Apps - Social
A 10-mile run or a tasty bun — track your calories in and out.
Table: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Calorie-tracking apps like MyFitnessPal and MyNetDiary are no fun to use. Logging all your meals is a tedious chore, and unlike fitness apps that praise you for your hard work, diet apps tend to just tell you off for eating too much.

But when you are trying to lose or gain weight, these apps provide indispensable insights into where your calories are coming from and how you can optimize your diet to get the best results. So I’ve compared the leading calorie trackers to find out which one you should count on.

Why fitness apps use calories to help you lose weight

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There's no barcode on this doughnut so it doesn't count
There's no barcode on this doughnut so it doesn't count
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Most fitness apps seem obsessed with calories. Go for a run, and your Apple Watch tells you how many calories you burned. Scan a barcode and MyFitnessPal tells you how many calories are in the food you are about to eat.

So what exactly are calories, and does counting them really help you achieve your fitness goals?

How to turn your iPhone’s Health app into an essential fitness dashboard

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A dashboard for your body: all your key stats at a glance.
The Health app can become a dashboard for your body, offering all your key stats at a glance.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Despite its heart-shaped icon, Health is an unloved app. It tends to gets relegated to a junk folder, along with other un-deletable Apple cruft, like the Stocks app.

But when you get past its garish colors and clunky user interface, Apple’s Health app turns out to be genuinely useful — if you customize the dashboard to match your personal fitness goals.

How to set personal fitness goals with Apple Watch

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Positive goals, like training for a marathon, tend to be more effective than negative goals, like losing weight.
Get creative with your goals to achieve greater results.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple Watch gives you three goals: standing, moving and exercise. But these aren’t really goals. They are actually more like targets.

A real goal is something you want to achieve — an outcome you have in mind that is so important, it motivates you into action. Starting a fitness program without this kind of goal is like going on a road trip without any idea of your destination. Maybe you’ll arrive someplace nice, but don’t count on it.

So when it comes to fitness, the big question is: What are you trying to achieve?

Fitness app data shows which states are more unhealthy than yours

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fitness-tracker
Which states are filling up these rings?

Smug Californians now have proof they’re better than you.

A couple of the most popular fitness apps in the App Store have pooled their data to figure out which U.S. states have the best (and worst) health habits. They examined a combination of workout and nutritional info among their users and concluded that the Golden State has the best habits, and Wyoming has a lot of work to do.

The fitness apps that gave me six-pack abs

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iMuscle's anatomical models look a bit leaner than I had in mind.
iMuscle's anatomical models look a bit leaner than I had in mind.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

I saw my six pack for the first time at the age of 40. Prior to that, my abs had been hidden behind a thick layer of fat that I’d built up over years of living a sedentary geek lifestyle. The only exercise I got was racing to be first in line at the Apple Store for a product launch.

Then one day, a doctor told me I had cancer and my whole world changed. There’s nothing like a brush with death to make you take your health more seriously. Suddenly, I wanted to get fit, but true to my geek heritage, I would do it using my iPhone. Abs? There must be an app for that.

Smart scale slims down even the devs who program it

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The folks at The Orange Chef prepare lunch in their San Francisco offices. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The Orange Chef's Claire McClendon, left, and Amy Wu lead lunch prep at the company's San Francisco offices. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — James Armstrong might be one of the few iOS engineers who loses weight while on a coding bender.

Armstrong is lead developer at The Orange Chef Co., the company behind a smart kitchen scale called Prep Pad. It weighs your food and, based on the nutritional profile you set, gives you a more accurate idea of how much you should eat. While working on a companion iPad app called Countertop, Armstrong beta tested his meals and realized how super-sized they were. So he cut the portions and shed 30 pounds.

“I had to buy new clothes twice,” he says.”I bought a bunch of clothes, then I had to buy ’em again — it’s made that much difference.”

Jawbone Up’s New Platform Lets Third-Party Apps Work With Your Wristband

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jawbone-up-platform-press_large_verge_medium_landscape

Jawbone has today launched a new platform for iOS that allows third-party apps to work with your Up wristband. The API is called the Up Platform, and provides access to all of your fitness data, including steps, calories, and distance traveled.

The Up Platform has already been integrated into ten iOS apps, including IFTTT, LoseIt, Maxwell Health, MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, Notch, RunKeeper, Sleepio, Wello, and Withings.

Use Your iPhone To Get In Shape And Lose Some Weight [Feature]

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The iPhone is probably the best fitness accessory around. Photo Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr.
The iPhone is probably the best fitness accessory around. Photo Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr.

There are a ton of ways to get fit and lose weight. And there are even more stupid books and fad diets that may or may not help you to slim down and get healthier. But there are really only two things you need to do: eat less and do more.

Of course, it isn’t easy. Luckily, those of a certain nerdy bent will find all the motivation they need in gadgets and apps. I have been doing just that for the past few months, and I thought I’d write a little about how to get thinner and fitter by using your iPhone.