Gaining a Fitbit has me losing (weight)

Getting love from my Fitbit ChargeHR upon reaching 10,000 steps

Getting love from my Fitbit ChargeHR upon reaching 10,000 steps

A few years back, I took part in a wellness competition that pitted co-worker against co-worker, trying to see who could get the most steps. People were organized in teams, and we were given these exceptionally junky (but free!) pedometers that we clipped onto ourselves as a way to measure our movement.

It totally stressed me out. I hated it.

Here’s the thing: as a new person at my company, and wanting to take advantage of my employer’s encouragement to be healthier, the competition gave me a great incentive to get up and move myself out of my cubicle. It also gave me a sense of belonging, even if only to commiserate with fellow pedometer-wearing folk who similarly hated the clunky, clearly-worth-the-free-price devices. I bowed out after doing a couple of these competitions in a row; I couldn’t handle the stress of keeping up with co-workers who had A LOT more time to work out every day, and I truly HATED wearing the pedometer. I could never seem to find a place to wear the device where it would measure my steps accurately on a consistent basis, and woe unto me if I forgot to put the thing on, since we had to log our steps daily.

But the thing is, I still wanted to be healthier, and that’s been a constant struggle. Movement during the day can be really difficult, especially when you work in an office environment where the majority of “active” time is when you’re going between floors or rooms for meetings.

Enter Fitbit.

I have friends with Fitbit devices, and I’ve seen them sported by several co-workers. They talked about how great it was to strap the thing on and not really think about it; their steps were just recorded for them. Feedback happened when you hit a step goal that YOU set, and the price wasn’t heinous.

After much hemming and hawing over which features were most important to me, I settled on the Fitbit Charge HR. I wanted it to count flights of stairs (to encourage me to skip the elevator), and I really liked that it had a wristband more like that of a watch. Facebook friends and page followers also told me that they’d had better luck with the Fitbit Charge HR‘s wristband than that of the Fitbit Flex (something about breaking?!), so that also pointed to the Fitbit Charge HR.

So I got one. And I LURVE it.

I’ve had mine for about a month now, and it’s gotten me to MOVE more just by its being on my wrist. That doesn’t mean it buzzes at me when I’m sedentary for a stretch (which would be a nifty feature, btw); I mean that its very presence is a physical reminder that I’ve made a promise to myself to be healthier. Thus far, it has been working: I’m taking the stairs more at the office than before I got my Charge HR, and I’m more motivated to find ways to get to 10,000 steps for as many days as I can. That number is still not nearly as many days as I’d like but–baby steps. Without some kind of step counter I just didn’t have a good baseline for what a “normal” day in my life looked like anymore, and it’s impossible to measure progress without knowing your starting point.

It also helps that it’s easy to use. Setup instructions are minimal; you download the app to your phone and it walks you through everything (including getting an account set up on the Fitbit website). Once this is all set, the device synchronizes data wirelessly using Bluetooth, so the cumbersome data entry of those prior years’ competitions is never happening again. Even better, I get real-time feedback on the device and on the app.


A recent Sunday, often my most active steps day

A recent Sunday, often my most active steps day

In general, I’ve found that the Fitbit Charge HR solves three problems for me:

  1. I can’t forget it – with a clock of its own, I wear my Fitbit instead of a watch.
  2. I don’t struggle finding a place to wear it – it goes on my wrist and stays securely there.
  3. I don’t have to fuss with logging steps – that’s done automatically by the device, which sends the info to the app (which then sends the info to the website).

One area of improvement for Fitbit would be a longer charging cable; it’s designed for charging with your computer, and I charge my devices with the wall instead. (This problem was easily solved by buying an inexpensive USB Extension Cable from Amazon).

The result of my Fitbit experiment: I’m making more progress in my weight loss.

So that’s really the big test, right? If you’re starting to see that you’re passing a plateau mark, that’s a good sign. In my case, the first inkling that I’d reached a turning point was when my clothes (particularly those for work) were hanging off me. The next point that it clicked for me was when I went to the doctor’s office for my physical and she told me that I’d lost 17lbs since my exam in 2014. Sure, a good bit of that was done pre-Fitbit-purchase, but I’d plateau’ed a couple of months ago and needed help getting my weight loss going again.

I won’t say that a Charge HR can do this for everyone. Honestly, if the motivation isn’t there, there’s no amount of wearable tech that’s going to make it happen. And I’m not losing crazy amounts of weight where I’m dropping a dress size a week or something. The Fitbit is just helping me keep track of where I was and giving my wrist a gentle hug when I make my daily goal.

My tight shorts aren't so tight anymore.

My tight shorts aren’t so tight anymore.


In the past month, I’ve dropped an inch or two from my waist, to the point where my “tight waist” shorts now barely hug my hips. I’ve lost 3.5lbs, about one pound per week (which is a totally healthy amount to lose per week). All in all, it’s pretty incredible.

I can’t wait to see what the next month brings.


Product Review: Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves

{Disclaimers: 1) I am not, not do I claim to be a doctor. Before you attempt to use this product, check with your primary care physician and/or specialist health care professional to be sure that it’s right for you. 2) I received this product for the purpose of testing and was allowed to keep it as a courtesy for posting a review. I received no other compensation for this review. In other words: this is MY opinion and not a company-paid PR piece. Take that for what you will.}


Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves

If you’d asked me a year ago whether I wanted calf sleeves, I’d probably have given you more than a little side-eye. It wasn’t until my triathlete dh started showing off his calf sleeves that I learned of their value for workouts. Prior to that, my sole exposure to these was knowing them as “compression stockings” (or similarly named items), worn by patients with lymph edema on their lower extremities.

DH wears high-quality calf sleeves during his workouts, so when I was approached with the opportunity to review Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves, I was curious about trying them out for myself. I will say that the product information on the Amazon product page is somewhat lacking for textual information, so it’s vital to review the pictures, including this one, with a size chart:


Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves Size Chart


Unfortunately, the size chart didn’t start things off on the right foot; what I consider “top of sleeve” would be the highest point of my calf (or, alternately, the girth, which other manufacturers use as a key measurement). Also, the sizes listed can’t possibly be in centimeters, else there’s no way I could’ve fit even the XL sleeve on my women’s size 14 calf. Things didn’t improve dramatically when my sleeves showed up with no packaging other than a plastic bag marked with an “XL” sticker. (I can only hope that this was due to my getting these for a review; if this is how they send out products purchased by customers, that’s not a good thing.)


The tests:

I took my calf compression sleeves out for two different workouts–a 5K walk inside on the treadmill at the gym and just under 5K outside on a cold Sunday morning. They were also washed in between the workouts.


The results:

Both workouts went well enough. In the gym-based workout, I wore them with the same climbing capris that I used for last year’s marathon walk, and I was able to keep a nice clip going on the treadmill without my shins kicking up any measure of fuss about my speed. I didn’t overheat, and the sleeves stayed put without feeling like I was having my blood supply cut off. For my outdoor walk, in 30-35ºF, I put them on under thinly-lined track pants, since the temperature at the end of a walk typically feels about 10ºF warmer than the actual air temperature. My thighs were slightly chilly as I set out, but this wasn’t the case at all for my calves–they were a perfect temperature and, again, very comfortable without any concern of feeling too constricted.

Unable to find any information on proper washing instructions, I hand-washed them on a day in between the two workouts. They felt exactly the same after air-drying as they did when they first arrived (no pilling, no snagging, and no easily detectable degradation of elastic quality).


Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves

The Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves, with my track pants pulled up to show how they fit as “cold weather” gear


The Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves look and fit much like a footless women’s knee-high stocking, in tights-level weight, and I found them generally comfortable to wear before, during, and post-workout. The trouble is, without knowing that I was wearing the right size (thanks to the screwball size chart), and not knowing that I was applying them properly (due to the lack of ribbing, markings, or any other indication that definitively shows which way should face front), it’s hard for me to know that I was using them properly. That’s more than a little bit disconcerting.

The price point is considerably lower than that of most calf compression sleeves ($19.99 versus the $50.00 or so that I’m used to seeing), but other manufacturers’ sleeves–including the ones dh and his fellow triathletes purchase–have packaging, ribbing, markings, and various other indications designed to increase the likelihood of correct use. The Light Step sleeves are also marketed for general use, from fitness to therapeutic needs, which suggests they’re designed for no specific application.

It’s hard for me to recommend the Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves; it’s unclear to me that they did much to help my performance and they seem designed as a generic alternative calf sleeve. Perhaps a future revision of the product and packaging will move the Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves forward, but for now they leave me with the impression that these sleeves aren’t yet ready to go the distance.


Where to buy:

Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves are exclusively sold through As Light Step does not yet appear to have a formal website of their own, you can connect directly with Light Step through their Facebook page.

Product Review: Kenmore 7.3 cu ft gas dryer w/sensor dry (Model #91372)

Once upon a time, we had a Samsung gas dryer that liked to leave brown marks on clothing for no discernible reason. It was a pain in the butt to get repaired, since most repairs were costly and required waiting on the ONE Samsung repair guy to get the part from the ONE boat that came to New England from Korea. So I decided to go to Sears to get a new dryer. When it gets to the point when you can’t get your husband to wash his brand new work shirt because he fears what the dryer will do to it, YOU NEED A NEW DRYER. {for the saga on what buying the dryer was like, go to the post about buying & receiving then dryer, then read the follow-up post about what happened after I pushed for decent customer service}

One thing that I noticed out of this experience was that few people, if any, ever reviewed dryers outside of the couple of reviews that were on Sears’ own web site. That’s not super-helpful. So, here’s my review of the dryer I bought, in case anybody else wants to buy one. Note also that this is a white-labeled LG, which is also top-rated by Consumer Reports. Figure that if you buy the LG version of this or the Kenmore version of this, it stands to reason that the performance should be within a minimal margin of error.

Kenmore Dryer Model 91372

This dryer currently retails for $1299.99 and we paid $999.99, a mere $40 under the price listed on the Sears web site as of February 16, 2013. Depending upon your state regs, you may or may not have to tack on the cost of professional gas installation; delivery and installation fees above and beyond that are typically things you can get out of if you manage to hit Sears at a time when they have a free installation offer running.

My four key dryer requirements are: performance (must dry well), size (must have excellent capacity), speed (must not take 2hrs to dry a load of delicates), and ease of repair.

We chose this model so that we could have something roughly equivalent in size to the Samsung we were replacing and with similar features, such as the sensor dry. Please note that ALL of the comments below are based on the dryer’s performance FOLLOWING the replacement of the problematic vent flap.

Performance: GOOD. The dryer’s sensor dry settings work quite well when you set the dryer to the “Extra Dry” setting. Leaving the sensor setting on the default middle dry setting seems to leave a few more clothes in the damp / not quite dry state than you’d have if you just bump it up a notch. The time sacrificed for this is minimal; it seems to be maybe a handful of minutes longer to get dryer clothes. We typically stick to the “Casual” setting, which appears to be somewhere between what we know as “Delicate” and “Permanent Press” and that’s our general go-to setting.

Size: EXCELLENT. If you stuff your washer, the dryer can handle everything you put in and then some. it has a cavernous interior with a bonus light that helps you spot that one random child’s sock you’d rather not have to come back for after you made it all the way upstairs with a full load of dry clothes. The one caveat I have here is that the dryer has issues with very small loads. It just doesn’t catch them in the sensor nearly as well because items may not touch the sensor. Super small loads should go in on the time dry settings and just be manually controlled for temperature and time.

Speed: GOOD. Loads finish generally close to the time initially indicated when you set the dryer up, and we haven’t found many cases where we’ve needed to add time or re-run cycles.

Ease of Repair: EXCELLENT. Sears services everything they sell, and it’s easy to set up an appointment with a Sears home technician over the phone. The Sears tech who came to our house to diagnose the problems I was having with the dryer when I first took delivery was friendly, courteous, knowledgeable and thorough. Having had trouble servicing our Samsung dryer, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that serviceability is a key component of any major appliance purchase for us.

The controls are easy to figure out and operate; as you can see from the picture below, you can control with the knob and then tweak (where allowable) with the settings buttons on the right-hand side of the control panel.

Kenmore dryer control panel

{click to enlarge}

One thing that differs here from what I was used to on the Samsung is that you have to turn the dryer ON before turning the knob or pressing a button; the dryer also turns itself off immediately after a cycle ends. Our prior Samsung dryer used to turn on the second you moved the knob and it displayed “END” when it finished. This is just behavioral changes for us; when we see the control panel is dark, we know the cycle is complete.

Overall verdict: I like this dryer A LOT. Once we got the vent flap issue sorted out, I saw the performance I’d wanted to see all along. The dryer meets my expectations, which is apparently a lot to ask of appliances in an era of (expensive) disposable technology. It’s easy to operate, and if I have service issues, I know exactly where to turn and have every bit of faith that they’ll handle it professionally and quickly.

Where to buy: this dryer is available from Sears and I purchased mine via While it may not be on display at your local Sears, you can always order it there. Given my issues with online purchasing via Sears, I recommend either calling or visiting your local store and giving some nice human being the commission.