Losing weight is easy… according to every skinny person I’ve ever known. For most of us, it’s a lot harder. Adding gadgets won’t make weight loss any easier, but it will make tracking your progress a lot more informative.
If you’re overweight and want to start making progress, you really don’t need anything more than a calculator to add up calories and a basic bathroom scale to track your progress. But getting more specific information on multiple factors will give you a more complete view of your fitness (or in my case, lack thereof). And having multiple data points that show improvement can keep you from getting discouraged when losing weight turns out to be less “easy” than you’ve been told.
To be specific, we’re talking about hardware and software for tracking weight, exercise, and food intake. We’re not covering any particular tips on dieting or exercise methods, because frankly, there are better places than Review Geek to find diet information that works for you. But gadgets and apps? That’s our specialty. Let’s take a look at the tools we’ve found most useful.
Bathroom Scale: Renpho Smart Body Fat Scale ($30)
This bathroom scale is a step up from the standard analog dial your parents had in their bathroom. In addition to a big, backlit LCD that’s easy to see even without your glasses or contacts, this model can track up to eight different users for big families, with with a 396 pound (180 kg) maximum capacity for… um, big families.
It works fine as a conventional weight scale, but users can dig into the more advanced settings to get estimated body fat, muscle mass, and even bone weight. Further, it syncs with your smartphone so you can track your progress over time. For a scale that doesn’t cost any more than a weight-only model you might pick up at a local retailer, it’s positively packed with functionality, and the tempered glass top makes it easy to keep clean.
The Renpho was our top budget pick in our roundup of best smart scales, so if you’d like something fancier (or you’re just curious what fancier even looks like in the scale world), feel free to dig in.
Kitchen Scale: Escali Primo ($25)
Calorie-counting is fairly straightforward for packaged foods. But if you’re cooking for yourself—and you should if you’re aiming to eat healthier alternatives more often—you’ll want an accurate way to measure caloric intake on whole foods and cuts of meat. Enter the kitchen scale, a smaller, more precise scale that’s been the friend to cooks and bakers since time immemorial.
Modern digital versions are faster and more precise than ever, and you don’t need to spend a bundle to get a quality model. The Escali Primo Digital Kitchen Scale can handle measurements up to 11 pounds and down to a few hundredths of an ounce (that’s 5 kilos to one gram in metric) and does it quickly.
It can even zero out the weight of an empty plate or glass first, so you can get an accurate measure of your food all on its own without needing to clean off the stainless steel cover. It comes in nine different colors to match your kitchen decor, all for just twenty-five bucks. Not bad at all.
Water Bottle: Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth 32oz ($15)
Drinking lots of water can benefit everyone, not just dieters. But it’s especially good for us: filling up your stomach helps you feel fuller, moving water through your system burns a few calories, and getting plenty of hydration only makes the rest of your body work more efficiently.
Doctors and dietitians recommend eight glasses a day, or about 64 ounces (two liters). Grab one of these jumbo water bottles from Nalgene and finish it off twice every day, and you’ve hit your recommended amount. It’s made of toughened plastic that can take years of beatings without a problem, and an easy measurement scale on the side.
The standard screw-top cap can be swapped out with 63mm caps from Nalgene (or others) for a sport bottle top, mug-style sipper, or an adapter for clipping to exercise gear. Need a water bottle that can nag you to stay hydrated? We’ve got you covered.
Tape Measure: Perfect Body Tape Measure ($6)
If you’re exercising and dieting at the same time, you might not be seeing the specific weight loss you want as you build muscle. That’s fine—really!—but it’s hard to tell your brain that quantifiable results on the scale aren’t telling the whole story.
An alternate data point is great for motivation, and your waist line (and other various wonderful bits) works well for this. A cloth tailor’s measuring tape is the classical way to go, but these new plastic designs are especially handy. They combine a soft tape with a roller similar to a standard home tape measure, a clip that gets a perfect loop, and a stopper mechanism that keeps it from rolling back. Just wrap it around your waist (or wherever), insert the stopper end into the clip, and press the button. It will constrict around you for a perfect size and lock, so you can unhook it and read it easily without bending over.
Calorie Tracker App: MyFitnessPal (Free)
“CICO” is the trendy new phrase for “calories in, calories out.” But it’s not a new idea: weight loss hasn’t let go of that particular concept for over a century. There are dozens of apps that will help you track your caloric intake and tell you how much you need to cut down to lose weight, but we like MyFitnessPal (now owned by Under Armour).
In addition to the usual food, exercise, and weight tracking, the tool includes a database of six million foods that can be searched for and entered automatically by portion. If a food isn’t in the database, you can quickly scan a barcode or manually enter your own custom foods. And it doesn’t stop at calorie tracking, either: the system also tracks macro-nutrients for more complete fitness goals, including protein, carbohydrates, fats, sugars, and even vitamins. MyFitnessPal also integrates with accounts from popular activity trackers.
Fitness Tracker: FitBit Alta ($100)
If you already have an Apple Watch or a Wear OS smartwatch, you’ve probably got all the wearable smarts you need. But if you’re new to the segment, the FitBit Alta is a great upgrade over the standard pedometer. It tracks steps, estimated calories burned, and general activity, syncing them to your smartphone via the official FitBit app.
Unlike cheaper trackers you can check your progress on the black-and-white screen, which also includes a basic watch with date display, and message notifications from your phone with built-in vibration.
The Alta is splash-proof (not waterproof for swimming), and its bands can be swapped out with both the pricey FitBit versions and cheaper third-party bands. Unlike a full smartwatch, the battery will last for the better part of a week. Want something a little capable? The Alta HR adds a heart rate monitor for $30 more. Want to compare FitBits to hand pick the model best suited for your particular lifestyle? Check out our breakdown of the different FitBit models here.
Good tools can’t make you move or stop you from raiding the box of pastries somebody brought to your weekly company meeting, but they can help quantify your fitness goals and demonstrate how the changes you make—be it walking on your lunch break or skipping the extra beers after work—add up after time.