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My FitBit Digital Weight Loss Adventure: Chapter 2


Measurement is key to a successful weight-loss program, and technology makes it easy.


Last week, I asked the question, "Can a FitBit and an iPhone Help Me Lose Weight?"

So far, the answer is yes.

I dropped 3.7 pounds between June 21 and June 28.

I'm down to 203.5 pounds, and my pants feel a little looser.

This felt like an outlier week.

On Friday, June 20, I had a bacon cheeseburger and fries from Shake Shack for lunch. All that sodium probably resulted in excess water retention, which had me coming in a bit heavy Saturday morning.

I also got in an awful lot of exercise.

According to my FitBit tracker, I walked 74 miles during the week, which is probably unsustainable.

For the near term, I don't want to dip below 50 in any single week because, as I'll discuss below, walking is a productivity booster.

The Power of Measurement

I've been using my Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone with the MyFitnessPal app as a mobile calorie counter.

This has been absolutely key to staying on track, because I know in real time which foods will put me over my daily caloric limit.

Here's what I'm looking at so far today:

In the evening, I sync my FitBit, which gives me an estimate of my net intake for the day.

MyFitnessPal's nutritional database is fairly comprehensive. There is very comprehensive data on packaged and restaurant chain food, but even with fresh foods, I was able to find substitutes that give me a satisfactory read on how much I'm consuming.

However, if you perform any kind of calorie counting, a food scale and measuring cups is an absolute must. It is very, very easy to overdo it with calorie-dense foods like oils, cheese, and alcohol.

For example, a tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories, so if you pour it from the bottle for just a second too long, your caloric intake skyrockets.

I eat a whole head of broccoli with garlic and oil about 4 times a week. I used to pour at least three tablespoons on, and I'm cutting it down to one and a half at the most. That's a savings of 180 calories per serving. Over the course of a month that's nearly 3,000 calories, or about four-fifths of a pound.

Talk about a revelation: it wasn't just fried chicken and mayonnaise that was making me overweight. Olive oil -- a healthy food -- was a huge part of the problem!

The $200+ I spent on my FitBit One and Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale was money well spent. But the cheapo $6 food scale I picked up from Target (NYSE:TGT) is an equally important part of the equation.

Integration Seems Like the Trend, but I Like My FitBit

Apple, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) are making big pushes in health monitoring hardware and software. Smartphones specifically are increasingly emulating the functionality of third-party hardware devices like the FitBit and Jawbone. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Apple iPhone 5S have built-in pedometer capabilities.

However, I like my FitBit One quite a bit.

The battery just goes and goes and goes. I didn't bother recharging it for six days, and it still had plenty of juice left.

And sticking it in my pocket is a positive affirmation that I'm taking the right steps to improve my health.

But the big plus is that I can avoid getting sucked into the mobile Web. Once I pick up my iPhone, I'm tempted to check email and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and whatever else.

FitBit's App Update

This morning, FitBit announced a significant update to its iPhone app (Android users will have to wait).

A feature called MobileRun uses your iPhone's GPS to track workouts with real-time statistical updates, and allows users to control iTunes playlists inside the FitBit app.

FitBit also expanded its nutritional database, which now includes over 350,000 foods. You can even scan bar codes to record data.

So what's this all about?

As I noted above, Apple, Google, and Samsung are making huge pushes in fitness hardware and software, and it is vital for anyone playing in this arena to build complete platforms to retain users. If FitBit is seen a fitness hub and not just a step-counter, it has a much greater chance of long-term success.

I'd like to see FitBit make a bigger push with its social media capabilities.

The more people interact, the more likely they are to stay. It's what keeps people on Instragram even though there are superior photo-editing apps such as Snapseed out there.

The Benefits of Walking

As I noted above, I consider my time-consuming walking schedule to be a productivity booster.

When I'm on a 10-mile walk, I'm not just on a 10-mile walk. I'm listening to podcasts that improve my knowledge base and keep me entertained. My main hobby is photography, and my walking time also doubles as my shooting time. So I'm getting a lot of things done. Plus, I'm sleeping better, which means more energy and less stress.

Stanford University released a study this year that showed walking improves creativity.

A study published in The American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that walking can offer similar health benefits to running.

There is also a growing body of work showing that sitting down is an assault on your body's well-being.

Thankfully, we may be seeing an increase in walking meetings, which were famously favored by Steve Jobs.

Want a cheap, effective corporate wellness program? Tell your employees to go out and take a walk. They'll be happier, more productive, and maybe just a bit healthier.

The Next Step: Strength!

Since one of my goals is to do 100 push-ups in a row, I downloaded an app called Pushups Coach from Maxwell Software.

Pushups Coach has a daily program to gradually build up to a set of 100 push-ups.

I couldn't get through the first workout:

The first set was easy. The second set was a bit tougher. I started feeling real muscle fatigue in the third set, but managed to get through it.

On the fourth set I did seven, failing to squeeze through the last rep.

And on the fifth, my body said no más! after the second rep. My shoulders just locked up. Two days later, my upper body is still sore.

I'm fairly sure I'll be able to do my 32-mile walk around Manhattan within a month or two.

This 100 push-ups thing, though? I'll be happy if I can do it before 2016.

Read the next update to this series here.

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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