Elmer Lipsey's Cal-Count Is a Meter and Goad for Reducers

updated 04/21/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/21/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

The trouble with most weight-reducing schemes, explains Elmer Lipsey, 57, is that "it's easy to know how many calories you're taking in but, until now, it's been impossible to know how many calories you're using." The difference between the two figures determines whether one is losing or gaining weight. Now, with Lipsey's Cal-Count, a battery-powered, two-ounce microcomputer, dieters can monitor themselves while they burn the calories away. They could find, for example, that they use 750 calories an hour jogging, 75 typing and 260 skiing. Sex, says Lipsey, registers at around 150.

All the user has to do is punch in age, gender, height and weight, strap the Cal-Count to his or her waist or tuck it into a shirt pocket and wait for the bad news. Bad? "Most people are shocked to find how few calories they use," says the 6', 207-pound Lipsey. "For instance, an Olympic sprinter running a 100-yard dash uses up only about 10 calories."

The device, which Lipsey's Springfield, Va. electronics manufacturing firm sells for $69.95, measures activity somewhat like a pedometer. It calculates body movement per second and converts that figure into calories according to a Mayo Clinic metabolic chart for adults. Lipsey invented a prototype of his counter to help heart patients keep accurate exercise records. But the lengthy process of getting FDA approval led him to redesign the device for nonmedical use.

Like his father, the L.A.-raised inventor was a career officer in the Coast Guard, and before his retirement in 1964 developed a dozen pieces of military hardware including a communications system for the Polaris submarine. Until now his company has focused on military projects.

The Cal-Count will be available nationwide next month. For now, Lipsey's wife, Nona, 38, rents Cal-Counts to her PTA for fund-raising bazaars. They are not accurate for children under 19, because kids burn calories at a much faster rate than grown-ups, but the Lipsey kids, Robert, 6, and Rebecca, 5, jog with them for fun. (Elmer also has three children, aged 27 to 33, from his first marriage.) "I may have another Hula Hoop," the inventor says. "But if not, I've already gotten a return on my investment." Wife Nona has dropped from a size 18 to a size 8.

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