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The 17 best weight loss apps and gadgets

Looking to lose weight? Here are the best apps, fitness trackers and other tech that can help.

Angela Lang/CNET

Losing weight is not an easy endeavor for most. It often requires significant lifestyle changes, including exercising or altering your diet in order to do it.

Those changes might seem daunting, but they can be easier to handle with the help of apps on your phone, wearables and other smart devices. 

Before we start, we want to acknowledge that many factors -- including stress, hormone levels and genetics -- can affect your weight and any efforts to change it. Technology cannot change all of the factors that affect weight, but they can offer support for two main pillars that help many people change their weight: Food consumption and exercise.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

The best weight loss apps

There's a seemingly never-ending list of iOS and Android apps that can help you track your food consumption and activity so you can make changes that will affect your weight.

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Calorie-tracking apps

Let's start with food. Lifting weights and cardio are important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but eating a balanced diet is just as, if not more, beneficial. 

One way to do that is by cataloging your meals, which helps you keep track of how many fruits, vegetables, grains and meat you eat. It can also find ways to change the number of calories you eat.

Out of the hundreds of food-tracking apps out there, one of the best is MyFitnessPal. It simplifies the process of tracking your calorie intake, whether you are cutting calories for weight loss or adding more for weight gain. The app is free and available on iOS and Android.

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The MyFitness Pal app

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You start by telling the app about your current weight, goal weight, gender, height, birth date and daily activity level. Then the app will calculate how many calories you should eat each day.

Once you're set up, it's time to log your meals. Food can be entered in manually, chosen from a user-generated catalog of more than five million items or even scanned with your phone's camera. You can even set reminders to ensure that you never miss logging a meal. The app can also connect with many popular fitness trackers from Fitbit, Garmin, Withings and others.

MyFitness Pal also shows you a breakdown of your macronutrient intake, such as fat, carbs, and protein. Those are important metrics to track if you're hoping to build muscle, trying to stick to a low-carb diet or are focused on eating balanced meals.

Another popular option is Lose It, also available for iOS and Android. It offers similar features to MyFitnessPal, but also includes a cool feature that can analyze a photo and automatically log the meal.

Fitness apps

Combined with a balanced diet, or on its own, exercise is well-established as a tactic for losing weight. If you're just starting out with exercise, or are looking for ways to track the progress you are already making, there are plenty of apps to help.

Guided workout apps

You don't need to sign up for a gym to lose weight. There are dozens of apps that offer guided workouts and coaching, all for free.

The Nike+ Training Club app is one of the best because it offers more than 100 free guided workout videos for beginners all the way up to seasoned vets. The app also offers four-week training programs at a variety of fitness levels for getting lean, more toned, or stronger. Nike Training Club is available for free on Android and iOS.

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The Nike+ Training Club app offers 100-plus free workouts

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Another option is Fitbit Coach, a free and paid workout platform owned by Fitbit that offers guided video workouts and customized fitness plans. The app was recently revamped to include hundreds of new workout videos and integration with Fitbit trackers.

You can do the basics for free, or upgrade to a premium Fitbit Coach membership -- which gives you access to unlimited personalized workouts -- for $40 a year.

If you want a fitness class environment from home, try ClassPass Live. This service streams prerecorded fitness classes to your TV, via a Chromecast. You wear an included heart rate monitor during the classes, which tells you if you're pushing your body too hard or not enough. ClassPass Live costs $79 up front for the Chromecast and heart-rate monitor, plus $19 per month for access to unlimited classes.

Run-tracking apps

If running is your go-to choice of exercise, it's essential to keep track of your workouts. Keeping a log can keep you motivated, track your progress, help you understand how many calories you burn and even offer guidance.

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The Strava app

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Apps like StravaRunKeeperNike+ Run ClubMapMyRun and Runtastic can be helpful for runners with years of experience and newcomers alike. All of these apps use your phone's GPS to track your pace, distance, elapsed time and calories burned. They can also give you vocal updates about your pace and speed after you reach a certain distance.

Here are some of the unique features from these apps:

  • RunKeeper allows you to set workout reminders.
  • Runtastic has a "Story Mode" feature to make runs more entertaining.
  • Nike+ Run Club hosts numerous challenges that puts you head-to-head (virtually) against other members of the app's growing community.
  • Strava has built-in social social features so you can compete with friends and strangers.

Games that can help you lose weight

What better way to stay in shape than to play a game? Apps such as Zombies, Run! and Fitocracy offer a fun and entertaining way to stay active. Zombies, Run! is one of the most interesting fitness apps available today. Not only are you told a story while running, you're living it.

The app gives you "missions" to complete as you run, like dodging imaginary zombies and picking up in-game supplies. Your mission takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, which means you'll sometimes hear and be chased by zombies. The game doesn't end once your workout does: The virtual supplies you picked up on your run can be used to help strengthen your base and community to survive the hordes of zombies.

Zombies, Run! is available for free on Android and iOS with additional in-app purchases.

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The Fitocracy app makes fitness into a game

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Another app you may want to check out is Fitocracy, an MMORPG-inspired fitness gaming app and social network. Each time you log a workout you earn points that will help you level up. The idea is similar to a game like World of Warcraft, but rather than controlling an orc or an elf, you are the character.

The app also explains how to do many different workouts, from simple exercise moves like a plank or pull-up to more complicated ones, like a stiff-leg deadlift. These videos are especially helpful if you're a first-time gym-goer. You can use Fitocracy on the web or with the free Android and iOS apps.

Fitness trackers for weight loss

There are literally hundreds of wearables out there that help you keep tabs on how much you move. Knowing your daily activity level and how many calories you burn can help you shed pounds.

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The Fitbit Charge 3

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Activity trackers are becoming smarter, more accurate, easier to use and (at least in some cases) more affordable. Almost all of these trackers can track things like steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and sleep. A majority of them will even measure heart rate and show you notifications from your phone.

Here are some of the best fitness trackers you can buy now:

  • The Fitbit Charge 3 tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, floors climbed, heart-rate and sleep. It can also display incoming calls, text messages and calendar alerts from your iPhone ($1,000 at Amazon) or Android phone.
  • The Garmin Vivomove HR is good for people who want a watch that can track multiple sports and activities, but want something that looks stylish too.
  • The Apple Watch Series 4 is the most expensive of the bunch, but comes with plenty of health-focused features. It encourages you to move and take deep breaths throughout the day, can track just about any workout and has a built-in EkG.

Smart scales

You've heard of smartphones, smartwatches and maybe even smart socks, but did you know there are also smart scales? 

These scales, depending on the specific product, can calculate your body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and weight. You can then view your measurements over time in the company's mobile app.

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Fitbit's Aria 2 scale

Fitbit

If you're already invested in an ecosystem, such as Fitbit, you should buy that company's scale, so that all your devices "talk" to each other. If not, the Eufy Smart Scale and Fitbit Aria 2 are the best choices.

  • The Eufy scale lets you set a weight goal and helps you track your progress to getting there. It can also measure your body's percentage of body fat, muscle and water.
  • The Fitbit Aria 2 tracks your weight and body fat percentage over time, syncs wirelessly with Fitbit's mobile apps and integrates with the company's wearable devices.

This article was originally posted in January 2014. It has been updated with new recommendations.