My Weight Loss Coach (Nintendo DS)

Gaming Software
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Interactive/Gaming System Workouts

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My Weight Loss Coach for Nintendo DS

I bought this today, along with a second-hand DS I am not going to Weight Watchers this summer due to a conflict with my summer job (I get out later and won't make it to the meetings in time) so I wanted something to keep me on track. The program comes with a pedometer that attaches to the DS, which was very neat. It also comes with a short manual, but there were the things the manual does not mention which I later found out the hard way! For example, it mentions that you can only store one profile (a disadvantage if you share your DS) but there were some details about entering data that I found out on my own, which I will explain below.

The initial set-up took half an hour. There is a short quiz about yourself where you input weight, height etc and a cute little cartoon stick person walks you through this. When I said I was female, it changed into a girl stick figure They also ask you to try a few things during the set-up, such as drinking a glass of water and doing a one-minute challenge. The program remembers where you left off, so if you go back later into something like a game, it will skip the instructions if you've read them already. You can go back and edit any of the sections, but you cannot backtrack to read text screens, so make sure you fully read each screen before you advance.

There are two main areas of the program. The daily check-in is where you input your data for each day. The program seems to reply on the calendar built in to the DS. So, if you close your day at 9 pm, it will not let you access certain areas until after 9 pm the next day. This detail is not mentioned in the manual; I found it out on my own. Also, there are two areas of the daily check-in that are related (food entry and exercise entry). If you close your day having only completed one of these areas, you will not be able to input information into the other. So when you exit these areas during your check-in, be sure you do NOT select the 'close my day' option!

Here are the areas of the daily check-in:

PEDOMETER. You can plug in the pedometer and have it collect your steps. You can also enter them manually if you wish to. I was relieved to find this feature because I worried that if the pedometer ever broke or got lost, I would not be able to use the program. Not so. If you enter this section and it can't find the pedometer, there will be arrows you can use to enter the number yourself. Also, it seems you can go into this area as many times per day as you want to. The program will count your steps toward various goals. When you reach a goal (the first one was 'climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest) it will give you a little cartoon picture which you can access in the scrapbook feature. After you enter your profile, the program will set a daily target for you. Mine was 6000 steps.

FOOD. There are two ways to enter food. The detailed way gives you a picture of your little stick figure, then graphics for various categories e.g. fast good, pale vegetables, coloured vegetables etc. If you click on one of the symbols, various food items from that category will spill out, and you can feed them to your stick person. The quick way (available after your first day, where you entered everything the long way) prompts you with 'what did you eat for breakfast' and a selection of likely foods. But you cannot access all the categories, so if you ate something for breakfast that they have not designated a breakfast food, you can't put it in. For this reason, I prefer detailed entry. The program will give you a target for the day expressed in flowers which equal approximately fifty calories. It will attempt to 'balance' this with your activity level, so you'll need to complete both this section and the activity section every day. If you do balance your day, it will give you steps toward your goal as a reward.

ACTIVITY. You can also input exercise into your daily report. It has different general categories like light exercise (e.g. walking the dog), workouts (anything VFers might do with a video), team sports, solo sports etc. You choose one and then move a slider on a little clock to show how long you did it for. I liked having just general categories so you didn't have as much to wade through as you do on sites like SparkPeople. When you put these types of things in, it converts them to flower units and adds them to your progress toward your next goal.

CHALLENGES. This is the only area of the daily check-in that you can access at any time, even after you have closed your day. This area gives you little challenges to do for points toward your next goal. Some of them are 24-hour challenges (e.g. put your salt shaker away for the day, call a friend and invite them to go walking with you) and some you are required to do immediately (stand up and sit down 10 times, raise and lower your arms ten times). You get points toward your next goal for these, and as you do more, it will unlock coaching sessions on various topics, which you can access from the backpack. It will notify you when you have done enough challenges to get a new coaching session. There is a limit of six challenges a day. When you access this section, you can check on/close a 24-hour goal, or choose a new quick or long one.

The second area is the backpack, and you can access it any time. It has a tips section, a few trivia games (true/false, multiple choice etc) and you can unlock more questions and a few further game types as you play more. It also is where you can access the coaching sessions should you earn one, and where you can update certain areas of your profile (weight, etc.) You can also go here to erase your profile if you want to start over or let another person use the program for awhile.

So basically, you go in every day and plug in the pedometer, enter your food and exercise, then close your day. Then you can use the games, do a coaching session if you have earned it, do a challenge or two, or play a trivia game. It's pretty easy to use once you have everything all set up.

So the pros, I thought it was fairly well-done, overall. The stick person is entertaining, it's motivating and the pedometer gizmo is kind of neat. The cons are, the games are fairly limited, and there really isn't much to do except log in every day and input your stuff, which I suppose you could do just as well with any other kind of log. Also, there is no way to add foods or re-categorize them. It seems to list cereal as a grain, not a breakfast food, and it did not offer oatmeal at all. And some of the features are a little bit fiddly. I would have appreciated a warning, for example, about entering both the food and the exercise before you close the day---maybe a message popping up if you try to close before you've entered both of them. I lost a day's worth of activity data because of this and did not get all the checkboxes filled in because of that.

I do think it will keep me motivated, for the summer anyway. The Sparkpeople website, which I was using before, sometimes takes me ages to use as a tracker because there are too many options and I get lost or distracted. This is a little more streamlined and most of its options are generic enough to be quite flexible. For example in the fitness section, it saves a lot of time to just have team sports as a category, rather than listing every single one.

If I use it for a month, both the game and the DS will pay for itself in the fees I would have spent on Weight Watchers meetings, so I am going to give it a go. I think it is quite compatible with the exercise options most Vfers use because it has general categories, and then you simply enter the time spent. So if you do 3 ten-minute add-ons or one 30-minute video, or a class at the gym, all of these can easily be accommodated within the options they give you. I like rotations, but get bored following them. This gives a general structure (30 minutes of activity, 6000 steps and a few challenges) in which I can work with any type of activity from any instructor.

Some more food options would have been nice though. I would rather a system where instead of putting in actual foods, it asked you to rate your day on a scale, or to use points or markers of your own choosing.

Would I recommend this game? I don't know. It is a little basic in some areas. But if you want some extra motivation, enjoy using a DS, and don't currently have a logging system that works for you, it would be fun. And if you really enjoy pedometer tracking, this is very nice complement to any sort of plan you might have for that.

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