I have always been heavy in some form or another. When I was a kid, it was just by a little bit — maybe five, ten pounds. In college, I put on the Freshman 15 eating ice cream sandwiches with chocolate milk. When I got older and my metabolism started to go, the pounds began to add up. Soon I was excessively heavy, to the point that I was concerned for my health, but a combination of depression, neglect and apathy kept me at status quo for years.
The birth of my first child didn’t change that. The birth of my second didn’t either, but it was a wake-up call when a close friend of mine died, and he was just a few years older than me. That’s when I decided I had to do something about my weight or else I’d never see my kids make it to college. And that’s when I turned to my iPhone to get it going.
The Tools of the Trade
Knowing myself the way I do, I knew that it would be technology that would solve my problem. I like gadgets, and the more cool interconnected toys I had, the better off I would be. That’s why I started off with the first part of the process, a scale.
I chose the Withings Wireless Scale WS–30, a slim, white piece of equipment that syncs to my iPhone and using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Every morning that I step onboard, it tells me my weight and syncs with the Withings Health Mate App. Admittedly, it’s not the easiest thing to setup, and there were some issues on and off with getting the process rolling. But now that it is, the scale calculates my BMI and tells me my weight every day. Plus, it’s smart enough to tell if I’m on the scale or if it’s my wife, and it can sync with both of us.
The simple system goes like this: you’ll lose weight if you expend more calories than you take in. My wife is working on losing the weight she put on from our second child, and she decided to use Lose It! to get the job done. Now it costs $40/yr for the premium features, but those include things like custom recipes and app syncing — which brings us to the second part.
I subscribed to Lose It! Premium, and started logging my diet. By connecting the Withings app with Lose It!, I was able to sync my weight and BMI to my diet, and that gave me more data. As it turns out, that’s key to success.
You can log calories without using any kind of app, but all of my previous attempts to do so failed. With Lose It!, I can see how many calories I have left for the day, a number based on how many pounds I want to lose and the amount of time I want to lose them in. Were I to want to lose a quarter pound a week, I could eat more calories than if I wanted to lose three. It’s math.
Of course, I also needed to know what calories I was burning, and that’s when I bought an UP band, and mated that with the UP by Jawbone app. For the uninitiated, the Up band tracks your sleep, movement and food, all in one place. Now it doesn’t work well for me with food, but it did work nicely for logging my daily steps, and that’s a big leap forward.
Again, the Up app connects to the Withings Health Mate app and Lose It! as well. That means that all three apps work in harmony, each one logging a different portion of my process. I record food with Lose It!, get daily reports with UP and let Withings Health Mate run in the background. It’s pretty sweet.
Tweaking the System
I’ve been pretty happy with the results, but I do think it could use some work. The UP band is great for an alarm — particularly for quick naps — but it irritates my wrist sometimes, which is a problem when I’m writing. It also has to be plugged in to sync, which is awkward and difficult to remember to do. My wife had similar problems, and since she wore her band on the arm she uses to carry our baby daughter or push a stroller, she wasn’t getting accurate measurements. She opted for the Fitbit One.
In addition, there are now other options out there. The Nike Fuelband comes to mind, Fitbit has the Flex, plus there’s the Withings Pulse, which is brand new. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the rumored iWatch — the device that everyone says Apple is making, that also has yet to surface. The rumor is that the iWatch has all of the features of the UP and Fitbit, but the benefits of working with iOS. We’ll see if that comes to fruition.
For me, the UP band is working now, but I may transition to the One or Flex, depending on how well the alarm functions work on each. The Pulse is also tempting, but again, I’m not sure about any alarms, and waking up to a soothing vibration is so much better than a jarring horn.
So what has this combination of tools and apps done for me? Well I’m down 30 pounds so far, and I’m on track to hit my goal weight by November of this year. My wife is also down — although I’m certainly not dumb enough to publish her results here — and she’s happy with her progress. Overall, it’s been a good experience.
For someone like me, I needed the extra motivation that the tech provided. I still have a ways to go, but I am moving forward, and that’s enough for me.