Warning: the CWG site, on occasion, wanders from wine and food into “off-topic” posts, this is one of those. This one is long too…
Personal wellness devices are a hot topic these days on technology and fitness websites. Most people have seen one of their friends or coworkers with a rubber ‘doo-hickey’ on their wrists spouting off about the virtues of knowing how long they slept for and how many steps they took. With a fitbit here or a fuel there these things are proliferating North America in 2013. My first personal encounter with one was the Jawbone UP on the wrist of one of my bright consultants and once addressing this odd thing the ‘seed’ was planted, I was thinking about electronic wellness devices.
So a little about me to write the correct picture, I use to be athletic, some may even say an athlete (they are kind). I say ‘use to be’ as over the past few years I have been more consumer than exert-er. Consumer of wine, beer, steak, buttery things, savory things, scotches and what not. My body was more minivan than it was formula one racecar. The word spare-tire was created for what existed around my former waist. So I went from being a competitive ice hockey (I put ice there as some people actually need the clarity) and soccer (for those same people) player who also competed in everything from rowing to squash, to a non-athelete. While it was very difficult for me to admit it, I was fat. Further this, the numbers did not lie as I am 178cm (5’9″) and i use to weigh 81Kg (179lb) in my competitive days, but the scale sure looked like 92 Kg (202) in the hotel back in mid June of this year. Yes the scale confirmed I was fat and that children, is not phat, I was very much the uncool version of the word.
With the stark realization that the scale between my feet was not lying to me I decided to do something about it. The seed had grown to a full out tree and I realized that being a competitive person meant I needed more than a new wardrobe to spur me on to losing weight, getting fit, and maybe extending my life by a few years. Since part of these wellness devices drawing power is the social aspect I knew that the people around me would get sucked in and I’d be able to compete against them, the plan was hatched. Upon my return from that business trip I realized I had been beaten to the punch as a friend had already started wearing a Jawbone UP and had bought a wifi enabled scale that integrated into the UP world called a Withings ‘Smart Body Analyzer’. The race was on, sort of. The scale that day I stepped onto said 91.3 Kg (201 lb), I went out immediately and bought a Jawbone UP from my local Apple store as that was the only place that sold them.
The Jawbone UP is a rubber bracelet that using a motion sensing device to track your steps and sleep. If you search it online you will find many many articles about the good and bad of the device (honestly it seems every tech site has a review up in the past few months). While they have two major contributors, Nike Fuel and Fitbit, the people around me had decided this was the device best suited to them, and again, there is a social aspect to this that cannot be ignored. When I say social I mean they can see as little or as much as you care to share, which is quite beneficial. I chose to share all the defaults, which means my sleep and my activities. With six total friends in my network, having them see when i sleep in, or do a third of my activity is more than enough to get me moving.
If the lack activity was one of getting me motivated, getting the wifi scale from Withings furthered this. Weighing in every morning and broadcasting in your UP application the weight and fat % is downright influential. As shown above there is no hiding from your weight, and while it fluctuates normal for everyone, the trend lines paint a clear picture to all your friends.
So with these two devices I was ready to reach for the stars (and maybe my toes a few times). Well I will follow up below with more details on the good and the bad, what I did and so on, but first off let me state my goal: I wanted to hit 81.6 Kg (180 lbs) by August 23rd, 2 months and 2 days after I got the Withings scale and 2 months and 4 days after I weighed the 92 Kgs (202 lbs) in that fateful weigh in. Tough goal? Yes! Realistic? I really was not sure, it was ~ 10 Kg (22 lbs) in just over 60 days, and even though I was fat I knew it would be tough to do. So the results must be clear as I type this on August 21st, but if you need the visual, I provide to you the following:
So I obviously made the target of 81.6 Kg and in all reality, by the time I got on the scale on June 21st I was already down to 90.3 Kg, so it is more like I dumped 9 Kg from my fatty frame. Still I’d say that 9 Kg or to be accurate 19.3 lbs in 61 days is probably considered good. So what did I do and who did these tools help me get there? Read on…
First let me isolate what I did NOT do. I did not diet (So this is the Food portion). No dieting at all. Did I watch what I ate a bit closer? Yes. Was I cautious about alcohol consumption? Yes. Did I diet? No. In the past 61 days I have done a 10 day trip to Australia to both Sydney and the outback (Cobar), I had two business trips to Vancouver, one to Winnipeg as well as one to Prince George. On these trips, for the most part, I ate and drank to excess at least 50% of the time. Was I always pleased with my eating choices? Not overly, but part of my evenings are filled with spending time with local teams and 100% of the time I had no cooking time or ability, so everything was eating out. Add to this as well, while not on a trip I went through selling my condo and living in a temporary setting while still doing several dinners at friends houses, all of which led to normal eating. As I indicated, I was more careful with food choices despite all this, this meant cutting out the snacking in my offices, eating something relatively more healthy for lunch, and dropping out all things not wine, vodka and water, with an emphasis on water, in terms of beverages. I found this awareness really did influence me to make wiser choices something I was not sure would happen. So to summarize: I made better choices, cut out some booze consumption, but I DID NOT diet.
Next up was how do I take these neat little devices that can do as little or as much as I’d like them to do and make them work with my new found interest in not being fat. Well for the UP I decided that 12,000 steps a day and not the 10,000 suggested would probably be sufficient for me. I did this knowing that an aggressive goal like 10 Kg is difficult to get to without proper exercise and diet (which I was unwilling to really do). Another thing I decided I wanted the UP to do was tell me whenever I was inactive for 30 minutes while awake. So every 30 minutes my wrist buzzes and reminds me that fat does not melt off without activity. This feature is very useful and easy to ignore at the same time. It is useful because it reminds you to get up and do something which is actually easy enough to do 60-70% of the time. It is also easy to ignore if you are in a meeting, as it is just a single buzz and it is relatively gentle. Other than those two adjustments, I allowed UP to report everything I did when I sync’d , and I linked the UP to my Withings application/account and to RunKeeper application/account. I tracked activities and my sleep, but outside of a good visualization the real value for the UP band is the constant movement it motivates you to do. A note for those with an interest in sleep and sleep tracking: the UP does a very good job, but it is not perfect, it is however a great tool to give you insight to how you sleep and sleep is very important in your overall well-being.
The Withings wifi scale was easy to use and really needed nothing more than connecting it to wifi and UP then being very diligent on when and how often you weighed yourself. In my case every morning while i was home, either before or after dog walk. I found the body fat % fluctuated too much to be considered accurate, but its variances could only ever be truly observed if you underwent caliper measurements regularly. The resting heart rate for some can be very enlightening as it is a good indication to the healthy status of your heart. What I can tell you is my heart rate dropped as I got healthier. You should know your resting heart rate and you should know how it relates to your health, this tool helps make it easy for you.
The last tool I used was RunKeeper and it became a much bigger tool for me later on in this two month process. RunKeeper is a great application which is free and helps you track your running, walking, cycling and so on. It uses the GPS in your phone to map for you, it can tell you your split times, it can do intervals. Overall it is a great tool if you decide to run to get in shape.
So what activity did I do that complimented my new found interest in my eating habits? I ran and walked while doing pushups and situps every day. The walking was easy, I have a dog, when I am home I walk him in the morning for 30-45 minutes and in the evenings for the same. That walking alone would aid most people in losing weight and is simply a great way to get outside and be active. The running was not as easy, as to be honest, I do not love running. While I like the results of running the actual running has never been high on my list of fun things to do. However, the results are hard to beat: run and you lose weight (well fat at least). I averaged in the last month 20 kms a week in running and it was the difference between moderate weight loss and drastic. The pushups and situps did a great job at the flabby bits that should not be while adding good strength. Amazingly I was not injured once in 61 days, which for me is maybe a first. Despite being on the wrong side of 40 outside of a few ibuprofens on achy days I got through the past 2 months without any major going wrong.
So to summarize as this has been a long winded post: The Jawbone UP and Withings Wifi scale helped me stay focused and interested in getting fit. They are merely tools that you can either use or ignore, but they cannot get you walking, running or swimming by themselves. Without them I doubt I would have made my personal goal, and as such, I plan on continuing to use them on an ongoing basis to remind me not to get fat again. I am very happy that I feel better, look better (was not hard) and hopefully I will live a few days longer because of them. Finally, beyond my gratitude towards the tools is the thanks I have for all those around me that dealt with a near obsession on this project, without them and that social aspect, I am not sure I would have succeeded. Cheers.