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bannerOne of the hardest things about following through on a New Year’s resolution to lose weight is figuring out just how many calories you’re consuming on a given day. There are plenty of calorie tracking apps on the market today designed to help people do just that, but a new app brings some much needed attitude to what is usually a clinical experience.

Carrot Hungergeekwireapp is a free app for the iPhone that helps motivate users to track their calories and stay on target with their weight loss goals by, well, taunting them. Using the magic of text to speech, the app will gleefully call its user a “meatbag,” and chastise them for eating too much – or too little – in a given day.

That’s just one part of Carrot Hunger’s punishment mechanism. If users go over their calorie goal, they will “anger” the program, which turns red and shows users full-screen advertisements as retribution. (It’s possible to turn them off with an in-app purchase as well.) People who need serious motivation to stay under their calorie limit can switch on the app’s “autoshame” feature, which will automatically post a tweet whenever they eat too much.

In another twist, users can even pay a 99 cent “bribe” to keep the app from counting a particular meal — one of the most, um, creative uses of in-app purchasing we’ve ever seen.

When users first start up the app, they’ll be asked a battery of standard questions about their gender, weight, height and age so the app can develop a calorie counting regimen for them. Users can set Carrot Hunger up to maintain their current weight, or go up or down a pound or two every week. After that, it’s just a matter of keeping the app fed with information.

Users can manually enter the names of foods that they’re eating, or scan the barcode of whatever they’re chowing down on to measure how many calories they’re taking in. (People who want to enter items more quickly can pay $1.99 for access to a row of recently-entered items as well.) Carrot Hunger will then provide them with feedback throughout the day on how much they’re consuming, and warn them if they’re getting close to their daily limit.

herophone2As with any calorie counting app, that functionality comes with some key drawbacks: the app isn’t very good at providing exact counts for home-cooked recipes or restaurant meals that don’t have easily accessible nutrition facts. That means you’re left guessing about how much pasta is in your carbonara, or approximating based on the more mass-market dishes available through Carrot’s database.

People who want to get the most accurate counts possible will find themselves doing a lot of measurement, since that’s really the only way they can track exact measures of how much they’re eating. It’s possible to estimate how many ounces of peanuts made up a couple of handfuls, but it won’t be as exact as weighing them out.

In the future, I’d love to see Carrot Hunger adopt one of my favorite features from MyFitnessPal – support for calculating nutritional information on recipes entered into the app. MFP will take in a list of ingredients, and figure out roughly how many calories are in the whole recipe, and then divide it up by servings and even save the resulting entry for re-use later.

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The app even tells users how much they’ll need to work out to burn off what they’re eating.

The app can be set up to remind users at certain times to enter their food consumption, so that it’s easier to keep up with what’s going into your body. In addition to timed notifications, users with iBeacons can also set the app up to notify them whenever they get within proximity of a certain beacon. That way, they can tuck the beacon away in their kitchen, and always get remeinded of the app’s presence, even when they’re just stopping in for a snack.

Thankfully, the app also provides a needed nudge if users aren’t eating enough calories. Too many calorie tracking apps that I’ve seen counts any amount of being under a daily limit as a good thing, which is definitely not the case.

I haven’t been able to keep up with calorie tracking apps in the past, just because they’ve been so fiddly, and frankly un-fun. Between Carrot Hunger’s execution and its sense of humor, this is the first calorie tracking app that I can really see myself using long-term.

Carrot Hunger is available for free from the App Store.

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