How Fitbit Helped Me Lose 15 Pounds

I’ve had an almost lifelong battle with weight control. Sometime in my early twenties, I lost 80 pounds, reducing my body mass index (BMI) from 35 to 22.8. Although BMI is far from a perfect indicator, over 25 is generally considered overweight while over 30

Larry Magid

obese. My weight has gone up and down since, although it’s never been as high as it was then.

Before I continue, I want to point out that I’m writing from my own journey and I’m not giving any medical or health advice or suggesting that everyone should track their calories or body weight. I consulted my doctor about my current weight loss program and suggest you consider doing the same. Also, IMC’s recommendations are general guidelines that may not apply to everyone. On its BMI web page, the Centers for Disease Control states, “In general, a person with a high BMI is likely to have body fat and would be considered overweight or obese, but this may not apply to athletes. A qualified health care provider should perform appropriate health assessments to assess an individual’s health status and risk.

I did pretty well for most of the pandemic, and for a few months I stopped weighing myself regularly. But when I stepped on the scale on May 12, my weight was 165, with a BMI of 26.1, which put me in the overweight category. The reason I know the exact date and weight is because I use a $30 Eufy C1 smart scale that connects to my phone via Bluetooth to track my weight and BMI along with other metrics. Although I’m just below my goal, my BMI is now below 24.

The math behind weight control

While there are all sorts of theories about what foods to eat when trying to lose, gain, or maintain weight, the USDA, along with most other expert sources, agree that “you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume to lose a pound.” weight. In other words, you need a deficit of about 500 calories per day to lose one pound per week or 1,000 calories per day to lose 2 pounds per week.

The math is simple, but knowing how many calories you’ve consumed or burned is much more complicated. Many people underestimate what they consume and overestimate the impact of exercise, but that’s where Fitbit and other smartwatches and smartphones can help.

I don’t know of any technology smart enough to automatically measure everything you put in your mouth, but Fitbit, the Apple Watch, and other smartwatches are able to estimate how many calories you’ve burned. That’s because they can track your movements with your pulse, and if set up correctly, they know your weight, height, and gender, all of which play a part in determining how many calories you burn when you are sitting or sleeping (basal metabolic rate) and when you exercise. The calculations aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty reasonable. As I write this article at 8:30 am my watch is telling me that I have burned 545 calories so far today, which is very close to what’s BMR calculator says I should burn for 8.5 hours of little to no. exercise. After I finish the column, I plan to go for a brisk walk, which Fitbit has previously calculated should burn between 300 and 400 calories, depending on how vigorously I walk. Walking faster or climbing a hill will increase my heart rate and burn more calories. The watch will know all of this by estimating my steps, tracking my distance via its GPS, and keeping track of my pulse.

Later, I’ll spend maybe 45 minutes on my indoor elliptical. There’s no distance traveled for the GPS to measure, but if I remember to tell the watch what exercise I’m doing, it’ll estimate the calories based on time and heart rate.

Even if you don’t have a smartwatch, you can get similar information from your Apple or Android phone. The Apple Health app and the Android Fit app do a pretty good job of tracking calories burned while walking, running, or biking.

Again, none of these measurements are perfect, but they are probably better than anything you would find based on your own observation, and over time they are close enough.

Calories Consumed

The Fitbit app has a way to enter everything you eat, and it has a database with calories and other nutritional data on just about every type of food I’ve entered into it. . The trick is to remember to enter everything and enter the right amount. If I want to be as specific as possible, I would weigh or measure each ingredient before entering it, but that’s usually not practical. Sometimes I override the app’s calorie estimate based on the food’s nutrition label. Again, this is an estimate and not an exact science.

It gets tricky when you go out to eat and you don’t know what ingredients are in your food. The Fitbit app has nutrition data for most major restaurant and fast food chains, but I tend to eat at lesser-known local establishments, so I estimate how much I ate during the meal.

Other factors

I have my Fitbit set to lose a pound a week and – on most days – I had that 500 calorie deficit needed to lose at that rate, but even if I stay within my goal on any given day, my weight may be higher or lower than me expect when I step on the scale the next morning. If I’m gaining a pound, it’s not because I ate 3,500 extra calories the day before, but it’s probably because of fluid retention which may have more to do with sodium than with calories. For example, last night I went out for Chinese food and ended up gaining almost two pounds from the night before. I’m 100% certain that I didn’t consume 7,000 extra calories, but even though I consumed more than I burned that day, that weight gain certainly wasn’t excess. of body fat and will disappear within a few days if I reduce my sodium level. And, despite the numbers, I lost less than a kilo per week, which is good because the trend is in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

I realize this article may be making me feel obsessed, and there are a lot of people who better not be so specific when it comes to tracking their diet and exercise. But I’ve actually found keeping track to be quite easy and effective enough to keep me on track. And, as I get older, the stakes are higher when it comes to health. My father died at age 61, probably from complications related to his obesity.

It took me much longer to lose the weight I wanted than when I was younger, but tracking the calories consumed and burned helps me reach my goal. That said, I am aware that most people who lose weight gain it back, and I am humbly aware of my own past weight control setbacks.

Larry Magid is a technology journalist and internet safety activist.

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