The Iambic Health and Diet Manager (for Pocket PC) Review

One of the factors that made me drag my feet when deciding whether or not to fully migrate from the Palm OS to Windows Mobile was that the two software titles I considered essential were only available for the Palm OS at the time: one was Beik’s Woman which I use to track “female stuff”, and the other was Calorie King’s Diet Diary. Both programs came with desktop software, so although I would eventually lose the convenience of being able to enter or retrieve data on my PDA, I was still able to use these programs familiar interfaces on my desktop. That’s not to say that I didn’t hold out hope that one or both would eventually become available on Pocket PC, and sure enough – Woman eventually was…but not Diet Diary. Thus began the quest for a comparable program that I could use to record meals and workouts.

When I recently received an email regarding the new v2.62 release of Iambic‘s Health and Diet Manager for Windows Mobile Pocket PC (HDM), I was eager to give it a try. I knew there would be a slight learning curve as it was a different program than I was used to, but I hoped that in time I would grow to like it as much as I had Diet Diary.?According to Iambic’s site, HDM “does everything from tracking your health-related vitals (resting pulse, blood pressure, hours slept), calories consumed and calories expended, to helping you create an action plan for eating and exercising. Plus, it is easy to use.” Would Health and Diet Manager provide what I needed in order to use it regularly and as it was intended? I would soon find out…

The .cab file for v2.62 weighs in at 1.99MB, and it easily installs to an external memory card. Once the program is launched, the first order of business will be to create a new Profile by clicking “New”, vital information is entered under “Details”…  and diet goals are then chosen. One of four activity levels – None (sleep), light (sitting), Moderate (standing), and Heavy (lifting) are able to be selected from. The reasons to add as much information as possible become evident later – when determining items such as Body Mass Index (BMI) and Target Heart Rate. These figures will also serve as a baseline for future comparisons, and a password can be set to protect the stored information.

So far so good, everything actually seemed pretty similar to the Diet Diary setup I had done in the past. I liked the fact that multiple profiles could be created on the same PDA, even if it didn’t seem all that practical. Do you know very many people that share a PDA anymore? No, I don’t either.

Clicking on the newly created profile opens a daily summary page, which will function as the user’s – in this case my – food and exercise diary; now it’s time to get started…

Clicking the Menu soft key brings up a variety of choices, the most obvious being “New”.

The user can choose to enter a new Daily Journal Entry, a Meal, Exercise, or Other Activity; the user’s created profile can also be edited from here.

Creating a journal entry entails entering that days weight, and a variety of other options which the particular user may or may not be tracking.

The meal option on the menu allows you to select from a list of favorites, search for a particular food item by name, select from a list of preset Menus, choose an item from a particular food group, or a particular food’s information can be manually entered if its nutritional information is known.

When enough information has been entered to track weeks, perhaps months of use, a graph can be created which will show various health-oriented statistics. This will serve as a way to track progress; data can also be exported to Excel.

Built into HDM is a calculator that uses the profile owner’s height and weight to determine and analyze BMI. Hmmm…according to this I am eight pounds under my ideal weight, which hardly seems possible or correct.

I am terrible about checking my heart rate when working out, so the Target Heart Rate screen is largely wasted on me…for now anyway.

Up until this point I liked everything I had seen; the program was actually feeling pretty intuitive and somewhat similar to my old favorite. All that remained was to actually make a few entries and see how easy it was to track a day’s meals and activities. Here’s where I ran into my first snag…

Lunch on this day was Chicken Lo Mein, which did not return anything in the program’s database.

Spoiled. I have been absolutely spoiled by the Calorie King desktop database, where a search for Lo Mein will return no less than 37 entries – five of them specifically for the chicken version. Since there is no desktop companion to HDM, any foods not in the database must be manually entered directly to the PDA. This wouldn’t be too huge of a deal, but after a few searches for non-existent favorites, I was starting to see that accurate journaling was going to include a huge amount of manual entry. Hrmmm.

Alright then, hopefully manual entry would at least be relatively painless. Clicking on Database, and New Food Item…

For this entry, I wanted to add Beef Bulgogi, a Korean stir-fry. Once again, this was not an entry already present in the HDM database, so I got the info from my desktop version of Calorie King (which returned two results). Hrmmm.

Nutritional information was added easily enough, although noticeably absent were entry boxes for saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium. However there was a box where points, such as those used in the Weight Watchers program, could be entered.

Okay, that wasn’t too traumatic; but it wasn’t very impressive, either. Let’s take a look at entering exercise activity…

I did one hour on the treadmill going just below 4mph, and HDM returned a calorie count of 174, where my treadmill had returned a figure closer to 400. I’m not sure which figure is closer to the truth, but I do know which one I would rather see. For comparison’s sake, Calorie King’s desktop software returned a figure of 474 calories burned. Hrmmm.

I would like to say that after using the Health and Diet Manager software for a few days I became more comfortable with it and eventually decided it?would do?exactly what I needed, but unfortunately that was not the case. While I liked what the program was trying to do in theory, in practice I found the actual implementation lacking. Perhaps it was the absence of desktop software, or perhaps it was the absence of so many of my favorite dishes from the database; but for whatever reason, I still haven’t found a suitable way to carry a food diary on my Pocket PC.

The Iambic Health and Diet Manager for Windows Mobile Pocket PC is available directly from the manufacturer and other retailers. You can also support Gear Diary by purchasing it directly from the Gear Diary Store.
MSRP: $19.95, version reviewed 2.62
What I Like: Ability to enter custom foods and exercises; ability to create multiple profiles on the same PDA
What Needs Improvement: No desktop companion program; not as easy to use or as intuitive as I had hoped

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

2 Comments on "The Iambic Health and Diet Manager (for Pocket PC) Review"

  1. I am currently looking for a PDA app that will help me keep track of my everyday nutrition intakes and also my workouts. I have just downloaded both MyPersonalDiet and MySportTraining and will give them a spin. After reading your review, I don’t think I will consider HDM at all.

    Hey, that Calorie King sounds like a pretty nifty app, too bad it has no equivalence on WM. Maybe I can try running it in StyleTap…

  2. Randius, I hate to say “don’t try it at all” – I mean, there is a free trial just so you can be sure. I just know that it didn’t meet my needs in its present incarnation.

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