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.


Finding my (th)inner self

I'm getting healthier all the timeYesterday was one of those funny clothing days, where I walked around knowing that I looked–and felt–good. Sure, I could be a size 6 (if I starved myself for a few months), but that’s not the kind of “good” I had in mind.

There I was, walking around in my size 14 jeans (a nice change from the size 16 I was sporting a year ago), my brand-new 38D Natori “Feathers” bra from Nordstrom (because, shockingly, the 42B t-shirt bra they’d been fitting me for at Lane Bryant was WRONG WRONG WRONGITTY WRONG), and my awesome hot boots from the Clarks Outlet. I felt comfortable in my own skin.

I haven’t given up on losing more weight. On the contrary, I’m still working on it wholeheartedly–just in a manner that actually works for me. I have my “go-to” items that help to keep me on track, and they’ve become reliable staples of my diet. Let me be specific about “diet” and what that means for me:

I don’t adhere to a “diet” in the sense of a system, a theme, or some other titled designation. I’m talking “diet” in terms of HOW I EAT. No title needed. 

U.S. News & World Report recently released a ranking of 35 diets (ranging from for-profit plans to more general lifestyles, like vegetarianism), and the key foci that were used for ratings were things like ease of adherence, nutritional completeness, ability to produce weight loss (short-term and long-term), safety, and ability to prevent chronic conditions, like heart disease and diabetes. When I think about how I try to eat, I’m focusing most heavily on adherence, safety, ability to produce long-term weight loss, and preventing chronic conditions (since I have a family member with Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease).

If I were to pick a “diet”, I’d be looking hard at the list from U.S. News because their approach was logical and their methodology appears sound. To me, that’s far better than the nonsense I typically see peddled on Facebook, like people making “Paleo” cookies, the endless array of “cleanses”, shakes, and other gimmicky items that are either chemical-laden or just not right for someone looking for a balanced approach to their life. I’m a hypoglycemic (mild enough that I manage it in how and when I eat, versus with medication), and the concept of deprivation or extreme limitations just doesn’t even work. It doesn’t even make sense!

So, how have I been able to lose weight? Here are three items that are reliable, faithful helpers in my quest to continue to fit into my skin:

1. Lipton Iced Tea: drinking a glass of tea with any meal keeps me hydrated and fills me up, without being the “boring” drink that water can sometimes be without some kind of additive. During the warmer months, I buy the gigantic box of Decaf Lipton Iced Tea bags and brew sun tea out on the back porch in large plastic pitchers. Last winter, when the temperature dipped, I switched to an Arizona sweetened decaf iced tea–and I gained weight by drinking it. This winter, thankfully, I discovered that Lipton makes an iced tea bag specifically for brewing in cold water. It’s great! Now, the grain of salt is that this isn’t as good tea as, say, the Earl Grey that I brew a cup at a time with perfectly heated water in my kettle–but that’s not what this is about. This is about my being able to reach into the fridge and pour myself a glass of unsweetened decaf iced tea whenever I want, and with the ability to cold brew a pitcher in as little as 4 minutes without being beholden to the summer sun. (n.b. – I actually let it brew for at least an hour, because I like my tea strong.)

2. York Minis: these are the perfect dessert when I want something sweet but I don’t want something heavy. A handful of 10 of these makes a serving–and that’s actually a really good amount. I have a sweet tooth, and we have quite the selection of candy in the house. Somehow, though, one way or the other, there’s always some amount of York products in the house so that I have the variety I need in order to give myself a lighter (and still totally satisfying) option. It can be a challenge not to eat the entire bag in one sitting, but I find that if I count out the 10 (or sometimes 15) into my hand as I go–and then SHUT THE BAG–I can keep from going overboard.

3. Starbucks Decaf Coffee: After I gave up the sweetened syrups at Dunkin Donuts because they contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, I also started to evaluate how much I was drinking sweetened lattes and mochas. Especially during the warmer months, my co-workers and I often go for afternoon coffee walks–walking meetings to discuss work that include a stroll over to our local Starbucks store. Trouble was, having one of these fattier, sweetened drinks every day (or nearly that) wasn’t helping my waistline and was totally counteracting the value of the walk itself. Switching to regular decaf coffee, whether having it sweetened by the barista with the “classic” sweetener or by adding sugar on my own, works; and, making the latte and mocha the exception–rather than the rule–has also contributed to my weight loss.

Looking at this list, it’s pretty easy to see that none of these items fall into the category of “highly unhealthy” foods, and they’re all easily sustainable. In general, they’re also fairly affordable (and substitutes exist–especially for my caffeinated friends). Even better, I’m not sacrificing flavor; my taste buds are still quite satisfied. I have milk and sugar in my coffee, and I’m not counting how long I pour. If I have 15 York Minis instead of 10, I’m not going out for a power-walk to make up for the extra handful of calories. And if I chug my tea too fast, another pitcher is no more than a few minutes to an hour away.

Of course, this is what works for me. Different people have different solutions, but mine is based on my desire to find something that I can do for the rest of my life without feeling like I’m owned by any one company, like I have to justify myself to my doctor, or like I’m sacrificing anything. That’s big. And when you’re trying to get smaller, big can be a really fantastic thing.



Note: product links are provided for illustrative purposes. If you decide you want to purchase from Nordstrom or Amazon – go for it! Otherwise, feel free to buy these items wherever you’d like. Also, none of the companies noted above paid for me to mention their products.

Weight Loss & Travel: How I Stayed on Track, Even at BlogHer!

Me, with my Happy Meal dinner at the BlogHer closing party

I’m lovin’ it: in moderation!

BlogHer’14 was the third of four conferences on my calendar for this year – all out-of-town jaunts that had the potential to put my weight loss goals in jeopardy. For each conference, I set a very simple goal: net neutral. What that means is that I wanted to come home and have my weekly weigh-in be no worse than where I was at the prior weigh-in. I weigh myself weekly, first thing in the morning every Sunday, and I track my progress in MyFitnessPal, so I have a way to see how I’m doing week over week. Little things, like the usual monthly hormonal fluctuations, have played havoc here and there; but, for the most part, I’ve been moving in the right direction.

Conferences can screw with all of that.

First off, my regular schedule is completely disrupted. I’m not sleeping nearly as well, and my usual level of activity often turns into the sloth-like drudging from salon to ballroom and elevator to hotel room.

Second, the food is often far saltier and fattier than what I cook at home, and the quantity is so large that it’s hard to track calories. There’s food everywhere and snacks tend to be abundant, so it’s tricky trying not to eat all day long.

For the first two conferences I attended this year, I either lost weight or came back net neutral. When I came home from BlogHer’14, I had actually lost weight. It seems improbable – or maybe even impossible – but it definitely happened. It’s not HUGE weight loss, but that’s not the point. In general, weight loss of 1-2 lbs per week is safest, and I kept pace with that.

Want to know how I managed to do it? It’s a simple formula:

How to Lose Weight While Traveling

Really, all you have to do is EatDrink, and Move. Seem a bit crazy? Here’s how it works:


Travel presents some seriously bad food options. You eat when you can, and the choices aren’t always the healthiest things out there. That doesn’t mean you should only ever eat salads – but don’t mainline bacon cheeseburgers and chili-cheese fries, either. Balance out your protein and carbs and try to eat at least one healthy meal per day. Most importantly, listen to your body: if you feel sick, like you’ve eaten too much, PUT DOWN THE FOOD AND BACK AWAY SLOWLY. I know, I know, sometimes it’s just so good that you don’t want to leave anything behind. But really, if you find yourself consistently feeling ill from the amount of food you ate, you’re probably overdoing it. I still sampled local delicacies while in San Jose – such as the Kouign Amann at Philz Coffee (DIVINE PASTRY OF THE GODS) – but I didn’t have one every day and at every meal. Pacing and moderation really saved me from feeling like I was going overboard.

My breakfast at Philz: coffee and pastry

The ultimate Philz breakfast: an XL iced coffee + a chocolate Kouign Amann



One of the funny things about BlogHer’14 was the distinct scarcity of water. Having IBS, I don’t drink a ton of alcohol or caffeine – dehydration can trigger illness and caffeine is definitely one of my triggers – so I rely heavily on water as my go-to drink. If you’re hydrated, you tend to overeat less; I’ve seen this during my regular day, too, that I may feel hungry when in fact I’m just thirsty. That’s not to say that I didn’t have any alcohol; I had several glasses of tasty eppa Sangria at various parties, as well as a mimosa at the opening night Expo party that had only a passing flirtation with orange juice. At one point, I had a water bottle stashed in my conference tote and just walked around with it, so even if I never found a water cooler, I had a way to keep myself covered. Whenever water was offered, I took some; and when it was only for sale, I bought a bottle and drank it right down.


Knowing that my conference days would be jam-packed with meetings, where the majority of my exercise would be going from floor to floor on escalators and elevators, I had to find some way to counteract the slothitude. For the longer of my two New York-based conferences, as well as for BlogHer’14, I brought workout clothes and my sneakers, and I got myself up at the crack of dawn on two mornings to hit the hotel gym’s treadmill. Even if it was a small workout (say, 45 mins), it was better than nothing at all. I really had no idea how much movement I would get on any given day, so making time to move was crucial. Whenever anyone else was up for a walk around town, I went for it and was willing to walk for miles.

On the last night of BlogHer’14, McDonalds sponsored an EPIC closing party that featured more of that free-flowing eppa Sangria, a selection of McDonalds Happy Meals, and music provided first by DJ Rashida and later by Rev Run of Run-DMC. I don’t remember exactly what song DJ Rashida put on that got me to drop my Happy Meal mid-chew, but once I got to the dance floor, I didn’t leave it until Rev Run left the stage a good 90 minutes later. I DANCED MY BUTT OFF. Rev Run had us partying so hard to such an amazing selection of tunes that if I gained any calories from my cheeseburger and fries, they all sweated right off in his hour-long set. Take your chances to move when you can, really. I did.

Apps at the eppa Sangria Soiree

Tasty treats prepared by Whole Foods for the eppa Sangria Soiree on opening night


So, what’s the ultimate lesson?

These tips I’m suggesting, things that worked for me, aren’t so dramatic that they require that you starve, abstain, or run a marathon every time you travel. And none of these are things that you shouldn’t be doing any other day of the week if you’re in the same boat I’m in as far as weight loss goes. What they do show, however, is that you can still have an insanely good time – eating Happy Meals, drinking sangria, eating pastries – and still lose weight. Moderation, Hydration, and Movement are the keys to having a fun trip where you can bring home the memories but not the extra pounds. I know for me, that’s yet another highlight of my time at BlogHer that I won’t soon forget.