Thursday, May 09, 2013

Rich O 2.0 Part 3- What's Been My Biggest Help (Or Using Your Smart Phone For More Then Angry Birds To Help You Get Healthy)

So I've talked some about my diet and exercise plan to get healthier and my tact being hitting a net caloric goal of calories in from food less calories burned thru exercise and activity. For me the magic number has been 2050 net calories. Below that means more weight loss, above that, well, not so much. A daunting task to keep track of accurately. So I put on my thinking cap and I realized I already had the most important tool to get this done!

OK I want you to reach into your pocket or belt holster or pocketbook and tell me if you find an object about 4 1/2 inches long x 2 1/2 inches wide (get your minds out of the gutter). Go ahead, I can wait...If you're like a growing percentage of the population you'll probably find an iPhone or Android or some other form of smart phone. Well for a lot of people the "smart" is a misnomer. They simply aren't used very smartly. Most of us don't get past email, texts, photos, games and social media (oh, and phone calls). There is a slew of practical, useful apps out there that can make you more productive including many to help with fitness and weight loss. As I've said before I'm a geek at heart and I like numerical evidence of how things work so for me using my phone to track everything I did was a perfect match. I looked around a bit and some trial and error and found what worked for me. All 3 apps and/or websites are free to use but there is one additional piece of hardware you need and to make all 3 synchronize in perfect harmony it will probably cost you about $7-$10 for premium service. This is not the order I discovered these apps but in retrospect this is the order to get them and to synch them

screen shot FitBit app
First is the Fitbit One (or whatever the most current model is). It's what's known as an activity meter. Think of it as a pedometer on steroids. I got my Fitbit One at Amazon. It's primary function is to track your daily activity counting steps and floors climbed The preset goal is 10,000 steps and 10 floors a day. It's not as
easy as it sounds. For me 10,000 steps is just under 5 miles. On a work day, along with my morning walk, I usually hit 15,000 steps. It also calculates, based on age and weight, the number of calories you burn hitting you goal. I generally put it in my pocket when I go to work and carry it all day. On my days off it's a nice reminder to get up and get moving. You'll feel guilty if you don't hit your goal, trust me. What it really does is it forces you to do all the cliches you've been hearing for years like "park further away and walk" or "take the stairs and not the elevator". But you know what? It's true. You burn calories in everything you do and Fitbit allows you to track and get credit for this. It can also be used independent of a phone app on your computer, can track sleep and exercise and calories so if you just want to start simple this is the one for you. But there are better options for tracking exercise and calories

Screen shot DigiFit app
Digifit is the first fitness app I used. I was walking and looking for a way to track how far I'd walked. I had seen a commercial where some dork used GPS tracking technology and his bike to draw a heart around the city so I knew it existed. There's actually quite a few of them. I settled on Digifit (which to also confuse things
markets itself under several different names) as it tracked a variety of outdoor activities and indoor cardio as well with some accessories. The free version works based on GPS so it tracks how far and how fast you've done your exercise then based on age and weight (kind of like the cardio machines at the gym) gives you a calories burned number. Beautiful. The premium version allows you to connect to external devices and other apps including Fitbit! I ended up also purchasing a heart rate monitor strap (hrm) as I wanted more accurate reading especially when I was using the elliptical or stationary bike at the gym. With Digifit and Fitbit synched it gives you the best idea of how many calories you burn between actual exercise and just keeping busy. For example if you wear Fitbit for a walk, jog, run or hike it counts your steps but ignore the calories burned for that specific event so you don't get a double count. Brilliant. But how do we know how many calories we've eaten without checking every damned label?? Well for that we have...

Screen shot MyFitnessPal app
My Fitness Pal is a calorie counting website/app with a massive, massive database of foods both general and specific, covers foods found at the grocery store, chain restaurants, as well as lets you input you own recipes. This is a powerful tool! Ya know the expression what you don't know may kill you?? Well if it's food we're talking about it just may be true. Pop quiz- Which has more calories 4 tablespoons (I'd say about the average amount most people use) of my awesome homemade Caesar dressing or an Egg McMuffin sandwich? Sadly Mickey Dees wins that one 300 to 320! How about 3 Miller Lite (288) versus 2 Buds (290) versus 2 Blue Moon (368)? It all adds up. Knowledge is power! You will be prompted to give your age, weight and goal weight and it will set a daily net calorie goal for you. To use it you simply start typing in the food item (or scan a bar code) that you are going to eat, select the number of serving and BAM it's added to your daily total giving you a snapshot of what you have left for the day. As it's net calories it subtracts calories burnt through exercise so it gives you a real life number. Exercise calories can be entered manually of course but there is a better way...

So I chose each of these programs/apps/devices for they're versatility, accuracy, the fact all 3 work together harmoniously and all 3 have an iPhone app as well as full websites . There are other activity meters out there but none other then FitBit that works with DigiFit and MyFitnessPal. So here's how I used all 3 to get in better shape!
1) Buy a bathroom scale and weigh in once a week. Daily will drive you nuts. Buy a kitchen scale as portion control and understanding potions is key. Meal prep is also key as "winging it" has a lot more pitfalls then a well thought out meal. Also I cant swear this "system" works for specialized diets like Paleo, clean foods, juicing, etc but rather for a balanced eating plan. Most importantly be honest. Lying about what you ate does you no good. Sweat the details and include everything including condiments and drinks (veggie toppings etc you don't need to worry about too much) including the milk or cream in your coffee. I almost always enter breakfast and lunch items in the night before as I always know what I'm having for those meals. Being regimented and disciplined can only help

2) Get your FitBit and download the app. Get the paid version of Digifit and get MyFitnessPal. Now for best accuracy connect the apps together as such FitBit to DigiFit, FitBit to MyFitnessPal. If you do it any other way the calories burned will be inaccurate (its all based on algorithms etc anyway so nothing is 100% accurate). Set up of each is fairly simple.

3) OK so here's what I do. Any activity I do involving steps (walking, jogging, running, hiking) I carry my Fitbit and record the workout using Digifit. Digifit intuitively doesn't give you double credit for the calories but still allows you to keep track of your workouts and give you credits towards your daily step goal. The calorie information is then synched to MyFitnessPal and you get you net calorie total (food less exercise). I also carry my FitBit with me every waking moment so I can track what kind of activity I'm producing during mundane tasks like work and cleaning my house. Any workouts I do at the gym I record manually (or as I bought a heart rate monitor its recorded automatically). All 3 apps give you places to track your goals and weight, measurements, etc and they synch up with each other! As a system it gives you a nice snapshot of your day in food and exercise. What I mostly love is the checks and balances. If I don't feel like going to the gym then smaller dinner. If I wanna go out for a few beers then I exercise a little harder. Pretty simple if you ask me

Like I said, this has worked for me so far. This was built for someone who takes on things the way I do. I've been to a lot of websites reading about weight loss and health as a "journey". For me it's not a journey but a goal and I'm attacking it like any other goal I've set. When I was power training I had a mindset, a zone, a place I "went to" that helped me achieve being the strongest S.O.B. in the gym. I'm too beat up to lift like that anymore but I'm going at this the same way. There's a learning curve and a discipline to make it work but it's all very doable. By using this system I've been able to track my exercise, activity and diet towards a healthier me!

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