Gizmos, gadgets and apps

Last week my mom sent me a Fitbit—and since I decided I would write about gizmos, gadgets and apps this week, it is only fitting that this morning I accidentally left it at home.

The Fitbit is a nifty gadget worn on the wrist in a slim band, like a watch. There are various versions of it, but mine is the one that has only blinking lights in its display. Newer and more expensive versions have fancier readouts.

The Fitbit connects through Bluetooth to my smartphone, logging steps, tracking my food and water intake, and measuring my sleep patterns. It also sends a little reminder if I’m close to meeting my step goal, for instance, or if I kept my calorie intake at the level the app suggests. When I meet a goal, it awards “badges,” and it lets me set up competitions, either with random strangers, or with people I know, like my daughter, who also has a Fitbit.

losing it 20151006_175308

It takes into consideration my age, my weight, and how hard I tell it I work out in its calculations. That’s “medium” hard, if you are wondering.

Before the Fitbit, I used the app that came installed on my Samsung phone, which has most of the same features, minus the sleep tracker. I don’t sleep with my phone anyway, a fact that at least one of my children will be glad to hear.

I like my gadgets and I enjoy my technology. (Some years ago I was dead set against getting a cell phone. When I finally caved and got one, it was because I was a single parent of three teenagers and decided I needed to be able to get in touch with all of them whenever I wanted. But I digress. Suffice it to say I am no longer anti-cell phone.)

When I entered the land of the smartphone, I started to play around with fitness apps of various sorts. Most of them I found wanting. I would use one for awhile, then stop logging stuff at some point. Then months later, wish I had logged it all.

With the Fitbit, I still have to log stuff in manually. Food, for example. But what this app does that previous apps I’ve tried haven’t done is that it gives me a “budget” for my weight loss goal. It keeps track of both my activity and food I log in, and tells me where I am at any moment relative to those two pieces of information. So if I get a ton of exercise, the app takes that into account when it tells me if I am “under budget” or “over budget” for calories consumed that day.

The other cool thing is that in logging that stuff in, I can see just how bad the damage is if I have a cheat day or decide I need both cheesecake and chocolate cake in a single day. The trick with logging food is to be accurate, and honest with myself. The Fitbit has a database of foods, and allows custom items to be saved as well. To my surprise, it’s not as bad as I think when my diet goes south.

That’s encouraging, because it’s so easy to get disheartened on this journey toward better health and physical fitness. One cheat day leads to another (at least it has historically for me). One piece of chocolate cake can lead to blowing the diet for days (or in the past, weeks and months) at a time. The same is true for missing workouts. The days flash past like snow flurries and the next thing you know it’s been three weeks without a workout, and for me, when the workout goes, the diet tends to go, too. I’m like a little kid with this stuff, working hard to retrain my brain on how to act. The inner “I don’t wanna” is strong. The inner “You can’t make me” is even stronger.

So the Fitbit helps me—by keeping my diet goals, my workout goals, my sleep goals, and my drink-water goals all at the forefront of my mind, by tracking them in a single place and by linking them together.

(Funny side note: Before the Fitbit, I had downloaded an app that made the sound of pouring water every hour, to remind me to drink. It didn’t work. It just ticked me off, making me so angry, in fact, that it induced little-kid-you-can’t-make-me-drink-water tantrums of the stupidest sort. Anyhoo. Live and learn. I deleted that puppy.)

The app I used before the Fitbit also had a neat feature that would let me log my food and include a photo. That was pretty nifty, for about a week or so. Then I got tired of taking a photo of everything I was eating.

My take-away lesson from all this? Do what works. If the sound of pouring water reminds you to drink, by all means, use that app. If the Fitbit helps, use it. If you try it and it doesn’t work for whatever reason, chuck it and move on to the next thing.

Last weird side note: With both the smartphone app and the Fitbit, when I don’t have it on (like now, or when my phone is on my desk instead of in my pocket) I have this bizarre feeling that my steps “don’t count” somehow. It’s ridiculous, because a step is a step and it really has nothing to do with the gizmo. But the feeling is strong and I’ve spoken with others who have the same reaction. Some sort of over-attachment to the technology, I suppose. Like all things, the gadgets are best used in moderation.

Do you use a gadget, and app or a gizmo to track your fitness? Give me a call to tell me about it, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.