In the previous articles, Why I’m Not Fat, Part 1 and Why I’m Not Fat, Part 2, I talked about how someone who eats professionally can avoid gaining weight. Essentially, it’s knowing that what you’re served in a restaurant does not necessarily fit into your recommended daily allotment of calories (not to mention fat grams and sodium intake, but we’ll save that for another time).
My mantra for those times when I feel the need to get my weight under control is “If you can’t measure it, if you can’t count it, don’t eat it.” Assuming that one’s weight gain, weight loss or ability to maintain an ideal weight is tied to the simple equation of calories consumed versus calories burned, it’s essential to know the number of calories that you eat each day. By following my mantra, I avoid eating anything I can’t quantify and track.
But of course the other side of the equation requires that I also monitor the number of calories burned so that I know there’s more going out than went in. (That doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean.) There are charts and resources to estimate that if you weigh X, walk (or run or bike or swim) a distance of Y, then you’ll burn Z calories. Of course, knowing the distance is necessary, or sometimes you can figure it by the amount of time you spend doing the activity. But the charts are generalizations — better than nothing, but not as accurate as I’d like.
But now I’ve started using something that helps me measure my activity and the calories burned, plus it helps me keep track of the intake, too.
It’s called Fitbit, and it’s pretty amazing. To call it a pedometer is understating its power, though, at its core, that is what it is. It’s smaller than a pack of gum or a tube of lip balm, and it clips to your waistband, pants pocket or even bra strap (I haven’t tried it in that position). It measures your movements electronically, counting your steps as you go and storing them in its memory. It has a display that will show you the number of steps you’ve taken, distance traveled and calories burned, but I rarely refer to those numbers.
Instead, I refer to the website where my data are stored to keep track of those stats and much, much more. The data from the Fitbit are uploaded wirelessly — you only have to be in proximity of the charging station, which plugs into your computer’s USB port, for everything to be uploaded and put into my Fitbit dashboard. It shows me the steps, miles, calories burned and rates my activity level. It also shows my progress in meeting my daily goals.
It also lets me log in what I eat throughout the day and keeps a running total of those calories consumed versus those that have been burned. It has a fairly decent database of foods, serving sizes and calories (also tracks fat grams, fiber, carbs, sodium and protein intake), though I’ve had to rely on old-fashioned measuring and calculating to come up with the calories for some foods it doesn’t have details for. But the nice thing is that once it’s entered, it’s kept on file for your favorites, along with other foods that you eat regularly. So, for instance, my hard-boiled egg that I eat every morning for breakfast is listed under my “most logged” foods, and all I have to do is click on it and it gets added to my dashboard.
But here’s the really cool thing: based on the goal that I set up, the Fitbit will tell me not only how many calories I’ve eaten so far each day but also how many more I can consume and not go over my goal.
For example, let’s say I’m 170 pounds. To maintain that weight I can eat 2309 calories every day.
But suppose I want to lose five pounds. Fitbit bit will adjust my recommended caloric intake to meet that goal, and it will give me the option of doing it fast or slow. If I want to go easy and lose half a pound a week, I can eat 1738 calories per day. If I need to fit into my cummerbund for a gala in a two and a half weeks, I can opt to go with 988 calories. Or, I can choose two other options in between.
I can also set activity goals. Currently, I shoot for 10,000 steps per day, or five miles, walking or running. (If you’re a swimmer or biker, you can enter in the details of your workout and Fitbit will calculate those activities into your dashboard, too — best not to wear the device into the pool). By having daily goals, you find yourself doing more to meet them.
And that’s the key — making yourself more active to burn the calories (and just be healthier in general). Perhaps you’ll find yourself incorporating some of the tricks I’ve learned to go the extra mile (or at least a few extra steps at a time). For example, I’m always bemused by the people who circle the parking lot at the mall waiting for a space closer to the door to open up. I park as far away as I can and add those steps to my total. It doesn’t have to be the mall or the grocery store — you can start parking farther away from work and walking the rest of the way, too.
Don’t take an elevator to go one or two floors, take the stairs. And just because there’s an escalator doesn’t mean you have to stand there immobilized — walk, and ask the lazy people to move over so you can get by.
The Fitbit does a lot more, too. If you wear it while you’re sleeping it will report to you in the morning how soundly you slept. (I haven’t found that all too useful myself, but you might.) And if you wish, you can share your progress with your Facebook friends. This, too, is something I disabled — I’d rather keep my information to myself — but others may find the encouragement of others to be useful is sticking to the goals.
The key is to just do it, as a popular shoe brand is fond of saying.
And now for the disclaimers. Anyone considering a diet and exercise program should consult with a physician. Although I look at this as a simple matter of math, there are other considerations, especially for those who fall into the obese category. Metabolism and other physiological factors may be at play. In other words, your mileage may vary. Also, if you experience a euphoric reaction to your Fitbit that lasts longer than four hours, call you doctor.
Also, regarding the Fitbit, I’m so enamored with it that I’ve received permission to feature it on my website as an affiliate. If you’d rather my website not be noted for the referral, just go to the company’s website through your browser. Otherwise, click here for more information.