Mobile Software Helps Student Drop 50 Pounds

Weight loss programs abound, but they can be complex and expensive and must be followed to a T.

Michael Schneider said the process became easier -- and less expensive -- for him by using a Blackberry Curve smartphone running a customized Weight Loss Sensei application from Sensei Inc. that provided information on proper diet and exercise in real time as he needed it.

Schneider said the tool helped him lose about 25% of his body mass over six months, dropping from 205 pounds to 155 pounds -- a big change considering that he is five-feet, nine-inches tall. It worked well partly because he was always carrying the mobile device, he added.

A sophomore at the University of Miami studying economics, he noted that he is always on the run, and not always sure where he will be eating.

Sensei Inc., which was created in 2005 by Humana Inc. and Card Guard AG.

"I had tried Weight Watchers and the Atkins diet and they never really worked," he said. "But Sensei was really cool because of the BlackBerry access. It laid everything out and was easy to follow."

The Sensei program recommends food to buy at the market for daily meals at home, and can be altered on the fly if the user must eat out. In that case, a user could consult Sensei's database to find the location of nearby fast food restaurants along with a list of five recommended meals that are less fattening. If the user didn't like those choices, five more would be provided, according to a Sensei spokeswoman.

"Just about everybody has a BlackBerry or iPhone, so the mobility portion of Sensei makes it really easy to get information," Schneider said. "It tells you when you have to exercise, so I always knew that. I've become such an exercise freak."

The Sensei spokeswoman said the mobile capabilities are designed to provide information to users -- like college students -- whose lives are often hectic. She added that the software, which can be accessed on desktop or mobile devices, was designed by behavioral psychologists who realize the value of positive reinforcement. By comparison, some weight-loss programs that require regular "weigh-ins" can be very a negative experience, she said.

Sensei won't divulge how many customers it has, but calls itself an emerging player in the market.

Sensei last week unveiled the second generation of the Weight Loss Sensei application, which is being offered in the BlackBerry App World online store for a promotional fixed price of $9.99. (App World requires purchases be made with PayPal accounts.)

That fee compares to $15 a month for other mobile users or $11.25 a month for desktop computer users, the spokeswoman said.

Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, launched its App World in the U.S. on April 1, with about 1,000 applications. More than 2,200 applications are now available in the online marketplace. There are now a total of 68 health and wellness applications in AppWorld, including Weight Loss Sensei and a calorie tracker from Livestrong that's priced at $2.99.

The Sensei application works on a variety of smartphones on networks from AT&T, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, but the $9.99 promotional price only applies to BlackBerry App World, the spokeswoman added.

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