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.

Goodbye to 2014 & Hello to 2015: goals met and remade

At the start of this year, I set out with the inauspicious goal of losing 10 pounds and reading 21 books. The 10 pounds isn’t bold because I aimed for 20 pounds last year and didn’t get there, so I assumed that resetting the goal might make it happen…or at least put me closer to the target. The 21 books idea was based on the notion that I should continue my attempt to stay literate, even as my commute makes it impossible to focus on anything but driving.

I’m proud to say that I was able to make it happen on both counts; my last weigh-in of 2014 (on Sunday) was 10-1/2 lbs lower than my first weigh-in of the year, and as of December 30, I managed to finish 22 books! I can’t describe how happy I am to have been able to meet these goals, not just because it’s nice to have met specific numbers, but also because they’ve gotten me closer to where I want to be.

First, the reading.

I love to read. No, let me restate that: I LURVE to read. If I could spend whole chunks of a day ignoring the world, curled up on the couch with a cuppa and a book, I’d be happy to do so. Driving to and from work, often surrounded by drivers who consider motor vehicle operation laws as mere suggestions, I can’t even consider audiobooks; I’d never be sure that I could pay attention enough to absorb the material. I turn NPR up to keep my road rage down, and if I have to ignore Morning Edition or All Things Considered while I deal with the crazy drivers, I can always read it online at some other point – assuming it’s a story or piece that I really wanted to hear. Audiobooks are a whole other issue and, frankly, it may be all the commuters focusing more on their audiobooks than the road that keep me from listening to them myself. *cough*

This Fall, I did manage to resolve my e-reader angst and bought an iPad Mini 2; I’ve been devouring Kindle books like there’s no tomorrow ever since, and I have several Kindle-d friends who gave me tips to help add to my tally. Great suggestions: the Kindle Daily Deals email list and the Kindle First email list; the Daily Deals are Kindle books offered at steep discounts, some just for that day and some over the course of a week or month. The Kindle First list gets you one copy of an unreleased Kindle book the month before it becomes available to the rest of the world, and if you have Amazon Prime, the book is free. (I got sucked into a free trial of Prime during the Christmas shopping season and now I’m totally addicted…DANGEROUS.)

I know that buying a tablet HAS altered my printed book-buying pattern; I’m becoming far more selective about what I buy in print now. On the other hand, we’re currently in a storage crisis in our library, and with the impending room shuffle (to get ds out of his miniscule room into one that’s larger), the fewer items we acquire to go on already overstuffed shelves, the better. Once things have settled into their new homes, more paper books can be bought. And, frankly, some of the ebooks I bought I wouldn’t have considered buying in paper form. Others…YES. The links below are to the versions I read (paper or plastic).

The list of what I read in 2014:

Then, the weight loss.

Weight has been an issue for me perhaps my entire life. It seems that way, at least. The fat kid with glasses turned into the chubby girl with contacts turned into the chubby woman who’s gone as high as 230 lbs (when pregnant) and has been as low as 140 lbs (senior year in high school). None of that range matches with what the federal guidelines for BMI indicate are “healthy” for my height, but BMI can kiss my fat ass. Seriously. At best, it’s an imperfect measure to help identify when someone gets too heavy, but since BMI for can be completely inaccurate as a health assessment for elite athletes, I know it’s not nearly as good a measure as body-fat composition or total weight. Since total weight is the easy one to measure, that’s the one I’m focusing on.

I started this year just over 214 lbs, and I’m finishing it just south of 204 lbs, for a total loss of about 10-1/2 lbs. And sure, that’s still damn heavy, but I’m fitting into size 14 jeans far better than I have in ages, and some of my size 16’s fall off me. My shirts are looking better…and, as dh will tell you, I’m constantly fussing at my wardrobe because so many styles acquired over the past few years of gaining have been designed for covering up, so now they look like balloons on me. It’s a good problem to have, I suppose!

People ask me how I lost the weight, because when you tell people you lost weight, they instantly want to know the trick. Did I drink shakes? Do some plant-only diet? Do a carb-free diet? Go gluten-free? Work out six days a week? Do this-or-that workout?


Here’s what I did:

  • I walked or worked out when I was able to make it happen, including weekly training walks of 7-9 mi.
  • I ditched the sweetened tea that I drank during dinner as soon as it was possible to start brewing sun tea, and I drink that with dinner rather than just drinking water.
  • I stocked the house with York Minis, because a handful of those is full of satisfaction and lower on fat & calories than some other desserts. It made it possible for me to have dessert on any night – without dessert always being as heavy as my beloved “ice cream o’clock”.
  • I switched out my afternoon lattes or mochas for hot/iced coffee with milk and sugar (or, if at Starbucks, their “classic sweetener”). Pumpkin Spice Season was a little tough, not having Pumpkin Spice ALLTHETHINGS, but my hot or iced coffee never made me feel deprived – and I still was avoiding the faux sweeteners that I don’t like to consume.
  • When I traveled, I worked out at least one day of each trip (sometimes two or three times, depending upon the length of trip). Walking, walking, walking. I was all about it. I ate my way through BlogHer and STILL lost weight!

What’s on tap for me for 2015?

As much as I’m possibly setting myself up for trouble, I’m going to keep the same weight goal – taking off another 10 lbs – and upping my book challenge to 23, to beat where I ended this year. Follow along at Goodreads, if you want to get in on the challenge; I love to see how my friends are doing!

This isn’t a resolution; these are goals, things that I want for myself. If you have goals that you want to share, feel free to comment below. And if you don’t have specific goals, that’s fine, too. I can say this, though: complaining without action rarely yields results. So, if you want to hit even the barest minimum of goals, the barest minimum of action will be required.

What action are you willing to take?