Losing Weight in the Digital Age

A Walk in the Mountains

As you might have noticed from the recent photos I’ve been posting, I’ve been up in the mountains a bit lately.  Sadly, it’s the time of year when we have to close up the family cabin for the winter and say goodbye until next spring.  That’s what we did this last weekend.  But the weekend before, when this photo was taken, we were up there just to enjoy some long walks in the crisp clean air, Jeep rides through the fall foliage, food that always tastes better in the mountains, and a cozy cabin warmed by the wood stove once more before closing time.

It’s kind of funny that I’m starting a post about fitness and dieting apps by talking about the cabin – the one place in my life that hasn’t been completely taken over by technology (at this time, we have no telephone, television, or internet access at the cabin), but it was on this latest trip to the cabin that I really got to play with my latest fitness gadget, the Fitbit One.  Have you heard of Fitbit?  It’s one of those newfangled pedometers that track your steps and then wirelessly transfers the information to your computer or smart phone where your activity level is displayed in graph form and you can easily see just how lazy active you’ve been in a day, week, or month.  Mine even has a built-in altimeter that keeps track of how many floors you climb. There is also a setting to track how well you’re sleeping based on how much you move during the night, something I didn’t care about or think I’d use, but it’s actually pretty cool.

The nice thing about the Fitbit model I have is that it’s so small that you aren’t really aware that you have it on.  You can clip it on your waistband, pocket, or even on your bra and just forget about it for the day.  If I want to check my progress, I can either look at the device itself or I can look at the app on my iPhone or the web site.  The information is all updated for me automatically.  I’ve been resisting getting one of these for a long time because I just didn’t think I’d care about how many steps I take during the day.  I already track calories, exercise, and weight through various apps on my phone and didn’t think I needed or wanted any more information about myself.  I was wrong.  I love love love my Fitbit!  For one thing, it really made me aware of how little I am capable of moving when I’m working at home on the computer.  I mean it’s really pathetic.  But having that knowledge has made me put more effort into just getting up and walking more, whether it’s in the house, around the yard, around the neighborhood, or up a hill in the mountains.  It’s fun to compete with myself and with Phil (who decided he needed one after he saw how cool mine is), but it also helps me be more realistic about what it will take to continue losing weight.

As I mentioned recently, I’m once again actively trying to lose weight.  I’ve experimented with various styles of eating over the last few years trying to figure out what foods make me feel best, and I now have a pretty good idea of how to eat to feel my best, even if I don’t always do it.  But that’s different than trying to lose weight.  Learning to eat what works for your body and feeling the benefits is a wonderful accomplishment and a great first step, but losing a significant amount of weight takes dedication and work.  Period.  For me, technology helps make the process easier and a bit more fun.

I’m not going to tell you the best way to lose weight for you, but I will tell you what works for me.  I use an app called MyFitnessPal to track everything I eat.  Yes, it’s a bit tedious.  Yes, at one time I was one of those people who said I would never count calories.  Whatever.  If you want to lose weight, you have to burn significantly more calories than you consume.  Although there’s a bit of wiggle room when it comes to the types of calories you’re consuming (some people can eat slightly more calories and continue losing fat if they are following a very low carb diet such as Atkins), the fact remains.  You have to be aware of what you’re eating.

So here’s how MyFitnessPal works.  I fill out my profile with information like my current weight, my height, and my general activity level.  Then I decide how quickly I want to lose weight (with choices from 1/2 pound a week on up to 2 pounds per week).  The app then figures out exactly how many calories you should eat in a day to lose that amount of weight.  As you enter the food you’re eating throughout the day, it adjusts and tells you how many calories you have left.  Easy.  But here’s the cool thing:  if you exercise at all during the day, you can input that information just like you input your food, but instead of calories being subtracted from your total, they are added.  Does that make sense?  We all know that the more you exercise, the more you can eat.  But with MyFitnessPal you know exactly how much more you can eat while still losing the amount of weight you’d like to lose each week.

Now here’s the really cool thing.  The Fitbit app and MyFitnessPal work together.  While MyFitnessPal is kind of guessing about how active you are during the day based on your profile, Fitbit knows exactly how active you are.  So if I’m walking around more than usual, Fitbit tells MyFitnessPal to let me eat more calories.  And I do.

The thing I like best about using these tools for losing weight is that I can eat however I want and exercise as little or as much as I want and still maintain steady weight loss.  I already know that if my calories are restricted, I feel better and have better appetite control if I’m eating a lower carb, higher fat whole foods diet.  So I generally do.  But I still stay within the calorie limits I’m given.  If I don’t feel like exercising at all for a week, I don’t.  But I know to eat less because MyFitnessPal has it all figured out for me.  It works.

There are lots of other ways technology makes getting in shape more fun for me.  I’ve never been a natural athlete and even though I know I feel better when I move more, it’s always a struggle.  While some people are happiest while outside being active, I really like to be indoors, alone, reading.  So whether it’s sharing my Couch-to-5K progress via Twitter and getting encouragement from both friends and strangers around the world, joining a 30-day Plank challenge on Facebook, or tracking my daily steps using Fitbit, it all helps this couch potato be a bit more active.

I’ll probably talk more about dieting throughout the month because I do have more to say, but for now I thought I’d share the basics of what I’m doing.  I’d love to hear whether you’ve embraced all this technology when it comes to dieting or exercise or if you think it’s all a bit much.  But really, I’d love to know if any of you are using a Fitbit.  And if so, do you love it as much as I do?

  1. Phillip X

    I love my Fitbit! 😀

    8:14 pm  Nov 4th, 2013
  2. Marla

    I love my fitbit! I belong to the Sparkpeople website/app and it also syncs with fitbit. basically , SP and MFP are the same. I think on SP you can join challenges/teams for motivation. good for you ! enjoy your fitbit!

    9:18 pm  Nov 4th, 2013
  3. Yolanda

    I love my Fitbit. ??????????

    9:23 pm  Nov 4th, 2013
  4. Julie

    I LOVE my fitbit!

    9:39 pm  Nov 4th, 2013
  5. Susan

    I can’t believe how obsessed with adding steps I’ve gotten with my Fitbit! Just to make it more fun, I’m virtually walking the Pacific Coast Trail by adding my steps to this great site. http://www.walking4fun.com There are several other trails, but this happens to be closest to me. It just makes it more fun. 🙂

    4:00 am  Nov 5th, 2013
  6. Winnie

    Great post! I don’t have a fitbit but I do have a BodyMedia Fit and I love it. I don’t really input my calories into the app- I mostly just use it to track my activity and I do find it motivates me to be more active 😉

    6:46 am  Nov 5th, 2013
  7. Kate

    I just got my fitbit in the mail yesterday, so I’m not quite in love with it… yet. 😉 The sleep tracker is pretty cool, though! I’m super excited to see what I learn from it. I’ve used myfitnesspal off and on over the last year, so It’ll be nice to be able to sync some of the info and use it as reinforcement of good habits!

    7:18 am  Nov 5th, 2013
  8. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl

    I have a Nike Fuel Band and I’ve been wearing it for over a year now and I have to say it has made me workout every single day out of that year, no regrets and it’s great motivation! A definitely great thing!

    7:37 am  Nov 5th, 2013
  9. ducksandbooks

    I’m doing Weight Watchers and they have a thing called Active Link that is similar to Fitbit (but doesn’t collect quite as much data) and I LOVE being able to “earn credit” by being more active, or look like a lame-o on my data charts when I’m not active. Technology is GREAT!

    9:50 am  Nov 5th, 2013
  10. AmyL

    I love My Fitness Pal! Been using it consistently for over two years now. Would love to have a Fitbit – one of these days!

    12:22 pm  Nov 5th, 2013
  11. Renee

    Good luck! I am just starting to work on my “gelato in Italy” weight loss. So far, not going so well! But I need to just really focus and stop eating poorly when I do eat. And move more! What a great idea to use the Fitbit. Will have to look into that! (Btw, the cabin seems like an amazing place! What a wonderful escape!)

    9:35 am  Nov 6th, 2013
  12. Jennifer

    I didn’t realize that Fitbits synchronized with MyFitnessPal! I might have to get one now! I have been tracking my calories with MyFitnessPal for several months and I like it, but I have always distrusted their exercise tracker. The amount of calories burned seems so arbitrary. Thanks for sharing!

    8:19 am  Nov 8th, 2013
  13. dave

    My wife and I have lost 100lbs since the beginning of the year using a fitbit and mfp.

    8:49 pm  Nov 9th, 2013
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