Can a smartphone app help you lose weight?

SPOKANE, Wash. - Losing weight is always the top New Year's Resolution, and remains a top goal throughout the year for many Americans. And now, more than ever, people are turning to free smart phone apps to help them manage their weight.

KXLY wanted to know: Can anyone lose weight with a free download and determination?

Dennis Ridgley, 51, is the warehouse manager at the Union Gospel Mission. At 325 pounds, he had early diabetes and high blood pressure. Both can be cured if he loses weight.

"I am disappointed in myself, I'm embarrassed, I know in my head the right things to do, I just don't seem to be able to get myself motivated to get started," Ridgley said.

It wasn't always this way for Ridgley. Years ago, he lost 136 pounds to run the L.A. Marathon. He competed in half marathons to prepare, but a week before the big day he broke his ankle.

KXLY Fit Club

"I remember just crying because it was a think I worked hardest for in my life and it was just devastating and I went right back to food and every since then it's just been really hard," Ridgley said.

Across town, a mother of seven is going through a similar struggle.

"Did the yo-yo dieting, did the protein diet, tried some diet pills over, you know, kind of the last three years and the weight would go up and down, up and down," Jamie Myers said.

Between her children and her maternity clothes store, Baby Bump Bargains, there is little time to take care of herself.

Her weight has been up and down her whole life, but after Myers' last pregnancy two years ago the weight would not drop.

"I actually, big secret, pull some of the sweats out of my maternity store and I wear them because they're comfortable and that is so disheartening to me," Myers said.

Jamie checked in with her doctor to make sure there was no medical condition causing her to gain weight or preventing her to lose weight – there wasn't.

Myers has a weight-loss buddy, too. Her 10-year-old son Alijah is her only child to struggle with weight. He's 177 pounds, but his heart weighs even heavier because he can't keep up with his friends.

"Say you're going sledding, it's like hard to bring the sled up the hill when your friends are already up there, and you're still in the middle of the hill," Alijah said. "Makes me feel bad, so I really want to lose weight."

His goal is to lose 50 pounds so that he may run the ball in his football league. Currently, the league puts a weight restriction on that position.

Alijah, Myers and Ridgley all got the 'okay' from their doctors to begin the KXLY Fit Club. All three will download the smart phone app My Fitness Pal to track their calories and keep a food diary. Unlike well-known weight loss programs – My Fitness Pal is free.

Weight loss apps are also growing in popularity. According to the Pew Research Center: In 2011, 10 percent of cell phone users downloaded an app like My Fitness Pal to manage their health. And for most the apps worked.

Researchers at Northwestern University gave 35 men a weight-loss app, and 35 others the old fashioned pen and paper food diary. The men that used the app lost 15 pounds and were able to keep the weight off for a year. The men that used the paper and pen food diary did not lose weight.

So far, the KXLY Fit Club has had a great start with using My Fitness Pal:

"It really makes you think before you eat something 'well is it worth eating this if I'm going to have to put it in and everyone's going to see what I'm eating?" Ridgley said.

And through Ridgley and Myers, we'll really find out if anyone can find success in a free app and self determination.

"If I can do this, so can you, we can do this!" Myers said.

KXLY will follow Myers and Ridgley throughout the entire month of February, checking in weekly to see if good ol' fashioned diet and exercise with the smart phone app twist can help them lose weight. KXLY also wants you to join in on the challenge by 'liking' the "KXLY Fit Club" Facebook page. There, updates and fitness tips will be posted.

The final Fit Club story will air on February 27.