Do-it-yourself online weight loss programs?
February 8, 2011 7:24 PM   Subscribe

What would be useful about weightwatchers online: the fact of having committed to tracking your weight and being more conscious about what you're eating each day -- being forced to acknowledge the program you've set for yourself, instead of just letting it slip away like most good intentions. But. The recipes and points etc. are not for me. I want to eat my own things, not their version of "banana bread" or low fat chicken recipes or whatever. I know *how* to lose weight in terms of food choices. I just want a support or tracking system. Does this exist?
posted by Tylwyth Teg to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
My Plate. Tracks the caloric value of any foods you input. Free registration gets you a personalized way to track exactly what you asked for.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:28 PM on February 8, 2011

Livestrong's MyPlate lets you set daily Calorie and nutrient goals and view your over/under. The food database is quite comprehensive.
posted by djb at 7:28 PM on February 8, 2011

I like FitDay, which I've used both free online and bought the PC version. You can enter your own recipes and save them for easy entering later. You can track food and exercise and set goals related to particular nutrients (less salt, more calcium, etc.).

I see they also now have an iPhone app and a "premium" online version, though I know nothing about either.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:30 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might like sparkpeople or caloriecount, and/or loseit (which is less community/support oriented, but syncs with a handy iPhone app).
posted by argonauta at 7:33 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't be so quick to dismiss WW. I recently lost 40 pounds with them and have kept it off, pretty easily, for several months using what I learned from using their program. You don't have to eat any of their products, any of their recipes, or anything lowfat at all. I rarely did. I went to meetings, too, and never felt pressured to buy their products or use their recipes. The points system is a very well-designed, highly scientific way of measuring the components of the foods you eat, and forcing you to be accountable for what you put into your body.

As a bonus, the eTools has a great recipe builder where you plug in the ingredients for any recipe you want and it spits out the points.

It really does work.
posted by ORthey at 7:37 PM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Livestrong's MyPlate lets you set daily Calorie and nutrient goals and view your over/under. The food database is quite comprehensive.

Thirding the recommendation of MyPlate. It's great to eat what you want and track it easily - I've lost more than 10 lbs, though slowly (and slowly was my plan to make sure it actually sticks.)
posted by rainydayfilms at 7:41 PM on February 8, 2011

Seconding ORthey's endorsement. You can eat anything you like on WeightWatchers.

I've tried sparkpeople before, but honestly, the fact that it was free made it less motivating for me. YMMV.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 7:55 PM on February 8, 2011

hotcal. love it. and it's free.
posted by violetk at 7:55 PM on February 8, 2011

MyPlate is part of LiveStrong, which is pumped full of low-quality farmed content for SEO. While it does have some useful functionality, it's borderline spam, really.

I highly recommend - in spite of its stupid name - the free and highly useful SparkPeople. It does calorie counting, exercise tracking, has communities and groups if you want to take advantage of them, has a kick ass recipe calculator, has an iPhone app, and is free. (I've lost 11 pounds using it.) (This time, that is. The holidays were fattening!)

I don't know anything about Weight Watchers because I was never willing to pay for it, but I do know from other areas of my life that sometimes shelling out cash for something does cause a corresponding increase in one's motivation!
posted by goblinbox at 7:57 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lost 50 pounds in 2007 using CalorieKing. Cost something like $50/year (but goes down to $20/year after 3 years), but I like the lack of ads that a lot of the free sites have, and I need the thought that I'd be wasting the money if I didn't use the site to push me along. I'm back using it now, to continue to lose weight.
posted by telophase at 7:57 PM on February 8, 2011

If you want something more skewed towards the nerdy/science end of the spectrum and do not care about online tracking, I heartily endorse Cron-O-Meter.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:01 PM on February 8, 2011

I'll ditto Sparkpeople. It has a free app for Android and iPhone that's pretty handy and it offers a lot of charts and visuals, groups and forums.

We lost 75 lbs altogether on Weight Watchers without using most of their recipes. Part of it was just going and learn about lifestyle changes and friendship with the other members, as well as journaling. I bought a couple of their cookbooks and barely used them, so I didn't care for their recipes either. I would go again if I could afford it. HTH!
posted by Calzephyr at 8:09 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sparkpeople is what I use, and it is awesome! They offer recipes that you can use, along with menu ideas, but you can also enter in your own foods and track that way (which is what I do). Love that it's free, and that it also gives you workout advice, charts, and generally good nutrition advice.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 8:13 PM on February 8, 2011 There is a little gadget/pedometer you can get (I do have it, and love it) but the website is incredibly functional even without that. You can track food, activity, weight and a whole bunch of other stuff. The forums are not as active as some of the other sites, but for me the interface is simple enough to use that it's a much better option. It has a trainer option to that gives you goals of how many calories to burn, etc.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:27 PM on February 8, 2011

Seconding Fitbit. I love my Fitbit so much. It has really changed my life. And not in a "I found the one true path" sort of way. But in a "Gosh, now I really understand what I'm doing and the various ways I can make changes and how my choices fit together." Plus, if you can get other people in your life to get them too, you can compete. I'm beating my brother in "very active minutes" (I do formal gym-type exercise, and he doesn't), but he's taken more steps than me on the pedometer measure, so that's motivating me to go for a five mile walk tomorrow. It's awesome.
posted by decathecting at 8:51 PM on February 8, 2011

I'm another voice chiming in for MyPlate. I didn't ever find it offensively spammy and it really helped me to keep track of (and be mindful of) my diet and exercise.
posted by chatongriffes at 8:51 PM on February 8, 2011

I use, and find it the way it's set up to be very close to the WW online tracking site. (Sparkpeople's interface gave me the irrits, it feels a bit too busy. Loseit is pretty spare.) I sometimes use their forums and it's refreshingly free of pseudo-nutrition gibberish about lemon fasts or whatnot, which drove me mad when I used the WW forums. (That, and the constant chitchat about Dear Husbands and That Time Of The Month etc.)

However if you've got the cash, WW is pretty worthwhile at least for a few months. The accountability of weighing in is a good motivator, especially at first where you feel like you're doing everything right but not seeing results yet! I've never eaten "diet food" (bah, low-fat) but both WW and Loseit have worked for me when I need to take off my holiday/exam weight.
posted by jaynewould at 9:10 PM on February 8, 2011

I go through fits of using WW online, and never have cooked any of their recipes. It would be easier to track if I did, of course, but I like to cook so I either enter the nutritional info when recipes have it, to calculate points value, or I use their recipe builder function myself, entering only the ingredients that count (things with fat, calories, not spices). It's pretty quick most the time. I agree that the accountability factor of it helps me, and I like the ability to enter my exercise and earn extra points; I'm totally externally motivated, so this works for me.

As an aside, there have been some good and active threads on's home cooking board re Weight Watchers-recipes that work well on the plan and are also "foodie endorsed". That has been really helpful for me. That, and the Wasa cracker/Laughing Cow cheese combo.
posted by purenitrous at 9:16 PM on February 8, 2011

I have been doing WW for over a year, and you don't have to use their recipes. There's no pressure to at all. It's not like Slim Fast or Jenny Craig where the food is the program. WW gives you recipes as a supplement. Points are just another way of counting calories (which is what you want to do anyway, right?). The nice thing about WW's new points plus is that fruit and veggies generally don't have any points, so if you're hungry at night, you can grab a banana or apple and still be within your points count for the day.

And WW online is nice because it saves your most common foods, so once you enter things once or twice, you don't have to keep re-entering it again.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:22 PM on February 8, 2011

I'll add one more online tracking tool to the mix: I've also tried Fitday, SparkPeople and DailyPlate, but I like FatSecret the best for its ease of use and comprehensive food database. I also like that it has an Android app called Calorie Counter that syncs with the website so I can log in and track my food and exercise from my phone when I'm away from the computer.
posted by platinum at 11:25 PM on February 8, 2011

What about joining the metafilter team on health month? You can't do a fine grained tracking of your food there, but you can set goals like "eat X portions of vegetables a day" or "exercise for Y minutes a day" or "don't eat sugar", or "don't snack between meals" (or you can use one of their suggested goals as a placeholder and tell yourself it counts as something different). Then you get points for checking in each day, points for the goals you kept, you lose a "life" point for each goal you missed, and the TEAM gets points for how well you are doing, so there's a social incentive too.
posted by lollusc at 1:33 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use an iPhone app called MyFitnessPal, where you set your height, weight, goal weight and date that you want to achieve your goal weight. It then calculates how many calories you should consume to reach your goal.

It has lists of foods with nutritional values that you can add throughout the day for each of your meals, or you can put in your own recipes. Serving sizes are adjustable and there's thousands and thousands of food choices. It also has an exercise tracker to determine how many calories you've burned, ie, 10 minutes jogging - 25 calories.

It's really easy to keep track, charts your gains/losses etc, and you can create a network with friends who also use it. AND I seem to recall it was free... but even it wasn't, it was such a small amount of money that I don't remember paying, and it's helped me a heap.
posted by indienial at 1:53 AM on February 9, 2011

Seconding the people who have said that the WW online tool works perfectly well with your own favourite recipes. It actually makes quite a decent online personalized recipe book, with the points-tracking as a bonus. It's pretty good to be able to ask, "hey, what was that great recipe we had in the middle of the week a couple of weeks ago?" and be able to look it up right away.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:12 AM on February 9, 2011

Wow, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and experience, everyone! Being a total novice to online diet management, I am really grateful for all these ideas to check out, and I'm sure this will be a useful thread for others, as well. I'll keep checking in to see if more info emerges. In the meantime, all of these are really "best answers."
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 5:22 AM on February 9, 2011

Here's what works for me on Weight Watchers: standing on a scale in front of another human being who is rooting for me. I don't stay for meetings and don't limit myself to their products or recipes (although I found a mac & cheese on there that is AMAZING). If you go the WW online route, it's worth going in for a weekly / bi-monthly weigh in because you're paying for it anyway and the looming specter of accountability helps focus you on your goal.
posted by motsque at 5:29 AM on February 9, 2011

Agree with the above...WW works even if you don't use their recipes/food. Also, the WW recipes are hit-or-miss, but I have a few I make all the time that are actually good. (Plus I tinker with them!)
posted by JoanArkham at 6:30 AM on February 9, 2011

If it's the "available anywhere" portion of "online" that is attractive, you can roll your own with Google Docs (or Dropbox + a program).

I set up a spreadsheet where I have a sheet of foods and for each day (in a monthly sheet) fill in just the name and the amount, and it auto-fills the calories, protein, etc. I like this more than any online method I've used because I hated having to search a lot to add foods. This way takes a little more hands-on, but it's another option.

It draws heavily on the VLOOKUP function for the auto-fill, if you go this route.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:30 AM on February 9, 2011

MyPlate worked for me--lost 20 pounds (and have kept 15 of it off for a year now). I haven't compared it to other services, so I can't say it's the best, but it did give me more awareness of the caloric content of the foods I was eating, and I felt "rewarded" for the exercise I did.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:39 AM on February 9, 2011

Some people just take photos of what they eat every day and store them in Evernote. It keeps them accountable without needing to type or calculate anything.
posted by squasher at 8:30 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

another vote for loseit. especially if you have an iphone. it is very community driven if you use the website. my favorite thing is the 105 page forum post of before/after shots. VERY motivating.
posted by thisisnotkatrina at 7:44 AM on February 10, 2011

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