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BlackBerry user loses 50 lbs with Humana?s Weight Loss Sensei app

Humana Inc. claims that its Weight-Loss Sensei application for smartphones such as RIM's BlackBerry and Apple's iPhone are reaping results for users.

Understanding the need for on-the-go weight-loss support, Sensei released the Weight Loss Sensei application for BlackBerrys and iPhones. Sensei's program teaches consumers how to embrace a healthy lifestyle with customized meal plans, fitness tips and encouraging advice pushed directly to the dieter's mobile phone or computer.

"The mobile phone is a highly effective channel for influencing behavior, and this is a good example of that," said Mary Ellen Harrison, vice president of business development at Sensei Inc., Boca Raton, FL. "In essence we transform a mobile phone into a virtual dietitian and weight-loss coach to make it easier to lose weight."

Sensei was formed in 2005 by Humana Innovation Enterprises, a subsidiary of Humana Inc.

For Michael Schneider, a busy college student with an on-the-go lifestyle and no time for shopping or cooking, weight loss was almost impossible.

Desperate for a nutrition plan that fit with his unpredictable schedule, he downloaded Weight Loss Sensei, a virtual dietitian application for his BlackBerry smartphone.

Six months later, Sensei claims that Mr. Schneider has lost more than 50 pounds by eating the healthy options Sensei recommends at his favorite restaurants and fast-food locations.

"Consumers today are busier than ever, there are tens of millions of consumers like Michael who would never succeed with traditional programs but would benefit from a program like Sensei that uses the power of the mobile phone to garner success," Ms. Harrison said. "Michael was able to lose weight without making massive changes to his lifestyle.

"The mobile phone made it possible for him to have the advice and support he needed 24/7," she said. "His phone sends him a engaging multimedia message right before every meal and any scheduled fitness activity to remind him of his plan and motivate him to stay on track.

"This is just not possible via the internet or even with a personal trainer."

Sensei's flexible plan and virtual mobile coach encourages users to make healthy choices on-the-go.

With Weight Loss Sensei, a smartphone can function as a weight-loss coach, with a program tailored to meet individual needs, preferences and challenges.

With personalized recommendations for on-the-go dining, quick exercises and frequent motivational tips, Weight Loss Sensei helps busy dieters eat healthily in various situations.

Sensei takes a detailed account of the challenges each user faces and builds a nutrition and fitness program based on lifestyle, cuisine preference and budget.

The Sensei customer is reminded when to exercise, what to buy from the grocery store and encouraged to stick with it when confronted with various challenges.

These personalized tips are sent directly to the Sensei user through his or her smartphone.

"In essence over time consumers are encouraged to learn healthier behaviors that will help them loose weight long-term," Ms. Harrison said. "For example, they learn the wide array of meals they can order when eating out.

"They learn healthy recipes that they can continue to make long after the program is over," she said. "There is a behavioral psychology component."

Most people trying to lose weight face some challenge such as snacking at night or eating when they are stressed.

"We deliver the same types of strategies a behavioral psychologist would provide but in a very compelling and timely way via the mobile phone," Ms. Harrison said.

Instead of receiving a strategy to try during a counseling session, users' smartphone reminds them of these strategies throughout the week and asks them how they are progressing.

"You receive real-time feedback, which is very powerful," Ms. Harrison said. "Michael's success story is a great example of the power of the mobile phone to influence consumer behavior by providing just the right information at the right time to impact decision making.

"This is not possible via other mediums such as the Web," she said.