I realize it comes from ultimate depths of yuppie privilege to buy such a frivolous thing to essentially help me eat less food. But at least it comes from the deepest and most earnest desire to be healthy.
I wrote about fitness trackers back in the spring, and I expressed a concern that once I got one of these, I’d abandon it quickly like it seems most people do. Besides, I know how to lose weight. It’s the simplest equation really, that everyone should know: burn more calories than you eat. Simple! Right? Well, I’d tried MyFitnessPal for a while, and while it did help me make better food choices, I didn’t see any weight loss. And in the spring I had set a goal for myself: Lost 40 pounds. A big undertaking, but with enough determination I could definitely do it. My weight was 220 lbs, which had me admit to myself that I’d gone too far. I wanted to get to 180, which was above the BMI index’s “healthy weight” rating, but which seems plenty healthy to me (FYI, for a woman who is 5’9″, they say a healthy weight is 150 to 175 lbs, which would make me look like utterly alien).
I didn’t lose the weight, and I slipped back into excessive habits over the summer. I don’t necessarily lament that loss in momentum, because I had a great time! But, I gained 10 pounds. Now, getting to 180 meant losing 50 pounds. Ugh. So, back in September I purchased the Fitbit Flex on a whim at a routine Target run. I’d done the research before, I was 99% sure I was going with this model. The Fitbit has widely been reviewed as the most sophisticated fitness tracker out there. The Flex is the least expensive wrist wearable and has the most straight-forward, no goof-around features (like, the Fitbit Surge has caller ID. Who gives a shit!). It sets goals for you based on how active you are, and what you hope to achieve.
In my case, I’ve decided to set 40 lbs for now, as that seems more reasonable and achievable than 50. To do so at a zippy pace, I need to lose at least 1.5 lbs a week. The fitbit app sets for me a number of calories to burn and how many I can eat, with a deficit already factored in. So all I need to do is just stay under target, or “in the zone” for calorie consumption, and I’m golden.
The most surprising thing I learn from the fitbit is how much certain kinds of exercise are worth. I found out that yoga wasn’t the burner I was hoping for, and walking is my number 1 best friend when it comes to weight loss. Because I am #blessed with a flexible schedule, I’m able to get in a pretty decent walk every morning (or sometimes in the evening, or both if I’m feeling motivated!). The fitbit lets me know approximately (they’re not 100% accurate) how many calories I’m actually burning, and this is information I never knew before. It also highlighted to me how inactive I really was. So say it’s 10:50pm (like it is at the time of writing this), and I still have 200 steps to go, and 300 calories, I might start walking around my basement with the TV on to get one last burn.
It’s either motivation, or a very effective form of shame.
The fitbit also allows me to see just how damaging certain treats will be to my overall goal. Like, holy shit, that can of coke ate up a lot of my afternoon snacking. Whoops. And I love snacks. Probably a little too much. Now, I need to be a little more considerate of what I’m putting in my body. That’s not just the shaming of a wearable though, that’s plain getting older.
That’s not to say I’m eating anything “diet” or “low fat”, I’ve actually managed to find a good balance of foods I like (I can still get Chipotle 1-2 times a week), and healthy stuff (I’ve devised a super tasty and simple smoothie recipe), and walk enough that at the end of the day, I’m still sitting pretty. (Generally. There are always days that are less active than others, and days where I just would really like a Salted Caramel Mocha from S-bux. But non-fat, no whip, you know? White girls).
So how well does it work? Since September 17, I have lost 14 pounds. Does that make the Fitbit Flex a miracle weight loss device, like no other? Not necessarily. Almost 7 years ago, I had a fitness blog where I recorded every food and exercise I did, and I lost ~25 pounds in about 3 months. That was just good old fashioned perseverance. But I also didn’t have a job then, and barely went to school. I had a ton of time to sit around and do bullshit like that.
Not only does it tell me how many calories I’m burning (saving me the effort to log exercise into MyFitnessPal and hoping the calories are accurate), but it gives me guidelines on how many steps I should take, and how much water to drink. I’m probably healthier and better hydrated than I’ve been in years.
The Bottom Line
Why the fitbit flex is great: It helps me visualize the amount of food I eat, the calories I burn, and motivates me to meet goals in steps, hydration and calories. With its help, I have stayed focused and on track of my weight loss goal and I’m already 14 lbs in, with 26 more to go (And 26 sounds way less scary than 40). Plus, it has a super integrated app and online dashboard. When I meet my calories burned goal for the day, the wristband does a little happy vibrate dance.
Could be better: It would be great if I didn’t have to log every single thing I ate, and it just KNEW, you know? I’m not sure I totally trust it to accurately track calories burned for activities that aren’t walking, running or hiking (e.g. I did some moderate yoga for about 40 minutes one day and the tracker barely made a blip). Some people I’ve talked to about fitness trackers say they’re only interested in the sleep tracking capabilities. I’m here to tell you right now that while yes, it’s interesting to see how much you actually sleep at night, there is very little, I’ve found, you can do with that information. The fitbit offers no help on how to help you get a deeper sleep. You may find you have uses for that information that I do not.
Do I recommend it? Yep, if you’re someone like me who has struggled to maintain a fitness routine, or watch your calories, or lose weight or whatever, this might be the device for you. But, like all things that are difficult in life, you have to put in the work, you know? Be diligent about logging calories and find the time to do some exercise (at least 30 minutes every day), even if it’s walking around the block 5 times. If you are already pretty active (i.e. you ride your bike to work or take regular breaks to walk through the skyways) I’d say skip it, unless you’re curious. Knock yourself out.
It does help to have basic handle on good nutrition. I’m just saying. Stop eating foods designed specifically for dieters, and obviously fatty foods with no nutritional value. You can eat real, rich, flavorful food and still lose weight, but the key is portion control and everything in moderation. Weight loss is intimidating but at its essence it’s extremely simple.
And hey: You can do it.