Losing Weight with Fitbit & HealthVault

In early March, I visited the doctor after days of headaches. While nothing was found, he was unhappy with my blood pressure and weight. Should nothing change soon, blood pressure medication would be in my future.

This is how I discovered that my weighing scale was broken and I was 13kg heavier than I had previously believed. It was time to purchase a replacement scale and some kind of exercise tracking device.

So after several days of comparing fitness monitoring products from companies like Garmin, Jawbone, & Withings, I settled on a Fitbit Flex wristband & Fitbit Aria wifi-aware weighing scales which were both compatible with my Microsoft ecosystem (Lumia phone & Surface) and my wife’s iOS equivalents. If one has a modern smartphone with MobileTrack compatibility (such as the Lumia 640 or iPhone 5S) then the Fitbit software does not require a Fitbit device. However, the metrics are better when combined with one.

Losing weight is simple logic – eat less & exercise more. The Fitbit Flex automatically tracks my walking, hiking, or running exercise (& climbing in other models if, unlike me, you live or work in multi-storey buildings or in the mountains). On the other side of the equation, it also provides the facility to log your food intake. Finally, the Aria automatically updates my weight & body fat each time I step on it (and it does recognise different family members).

The Fitbit app allows you to set a goal & select how aggressively you wish to pursue it,  providing four plans  with their daily calorie impact – Easy – 250 , Medium – 500 , Hard – 750 , or Harder – 1,000. You can also create a custom setting. In my case, my doctor’s goal was to lose 18kg in just under 3 months & I needed to pursue the Hardest plan to meet this.

Over the last couple of months, my regime has settled toward eating 2,000 calories and burning 3,500 each day. The burn is achieved by walking more than 11km daily through a combination of 3km walks and Fitbit recommended hourly “250 step” breaks from desk-work. This gave me a 1,500 calorie deficit and an average 0.2kg daily weight loss. And it still allowed me to sneak some chocolate into the program. I learned that doing nothing, I consumed 1.5 calories per minute but walking increased this to 10 calories or more per minute.

So how did it work out over the last 4 months? I have dropped 22.4kg (49 lbs or 3.5 stone) so far. Blood pressure is down from 140/100 to a more reasonable 119/85 yesterday — dropping from regular Stage 1 Hypertension to alternating Normal & High-Normal.

As one gets lighter, it does get harder; all the quick wins come early. I lost 4kg (9lbs) in the first week alone but I was unable to lose 4kg in the 4th month. As one loses weight, one burns less calories just being alive.  In the beginning, I would walk around 8km (5 miles) per day but now I need to walk at least 11km to achieve the same burn rate. This takes 2 hours per day so I may have to switch to more intense activities such as running, cycling, or a return to Aikido to burn more calories in less time. Alternatively, I can simply choose to eat less.

I do feel fitter and my pace is much faster; before, my wife had to slow down on hill climbs to let me catch up whereas now she has to concentrate on keeping up. Father’s day was spent replacing 42″ (107cm) jeans with 38″ (96.5cm) and many belts have been retired. The headaches are gone.

My dog needed and benefited from this regime too; she lost 2kg in the same period despite having the appetite of a small horse. Be warned, the dog slows you down. We learned to retrace a route as she was less distracted on the second lap.

Fitbit does not track Blood Pressure but the Fitbit app does interact with many third party products. I used Microsoft HealthVault for tracking medication and other measurements such as Blood Pressure. Fitbit can be configured to push activity, diet, and weight measurements across to HealthVault.

Finally, I am no cook and diet does play an important role and I definitely benefited from marriage to an expert diet chef who found subtle ways of replacing many foods with more healthy equivalents. Some important changes for me were no added sugar or salt, more fruit, & much more fibre. But, sometimes, the most important decision of the day was choosing to spend the last 70 calories on a Whiskey shot or a digestive biscuit!

So this next section is the view from the the perspective of Alison, my personal Diet Chef ….

So Niall loves food period. He is a wonderful husband for a chef to have. He doesn’t mind if he gets beans on toast or I’m trying out some weird recipes with loads of herbs and spices and he never complains that I don’t like peppers and things he loves.

Niall had a mission. I don’t believe in ‘low fat’ this and am really anti sugar free artificial sweeteners. I believe in real food. The kind that grows and isn’t artificially created. It does not have to be organic it’s great but not necessary, and it can be frozen and it can be fast. Life is fast paced and usually food has to be too. In short what I did was use lean meats, lots of veg in the forms of veg with dinner and soups and in salads. White bread was not totally excluded but more often replaced with whole meal Irish soda bread. Breakfast was muesli or other wholegrain cereal and Niall ate a lot of fruits. Orange juice was often squeezed fresh at home.

Herbs are the most underrated things to liven up boring foods- fresh herbs that is. Processed foods went out the window. There simply were no pizza nights. We discovered the if we broke out and went for a mixed grill of sausages and rashers, we paid for it – we had to walk off calories for days, they just seem to stick around unwanted. Fish is fantastic – it is really low in calories but expensive to buy. Eating out usually had consequences because you can’t control what goes into your food quite as well as making it yourself.

No one ever went hungry. No one felt they were denied anything, but by knowing how many calories you had eaten and how many you had burned during the day you could decide what and how much extra you could have and knowing the data helped control if you would have a glass of wine or some ice cream or both.

Note 1kg = 2.2 lbs , 1st = 14 lbs , 10km = 6.25 miles
1 lb = 3500 calories , 1 kg = 7716 calories
Phones with MobileTrack compatibility – https://www.fitbit.com/eu/devices

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