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A Weekend Romance... With My FitBit

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Monday, June 18, 2012

I am unabashedly in love with my FitBit andI'm not ashamed to say it.

Let me also make one thing clear: This review is a rave and I am not being paid or compensated for it in any way. However, should FitBit ever come across this review, I would not be adverse to getting any perks or beta testing any new products :)

I am not one to get up and hit the gym in the morning or be determined and dedicated enough to head out for a run everyday. I climb the stairs a lot throughout the day... usually because I've forgotten something that I have to run up/down to get. I teach yoga twice a week and putter in my new vegetable garden for a couple hours at a time. I am currently in a summer bowling league which is all sorts of retro fun. But actual regimented exercise? Not my forté. Did I mention that I also tend to sit at a computer for 8-12 hours a day, six to seven days a week? So for me, getting this little device was about information. How much am I actually moving? How many calories do I really burn in a day? How much do I consciously have to increase that to reach my goals?

For those of you who don't know what a FitBit is, it's a small clothespin like device that is, for the most part, unbelievably savvy. It's a smart pedometer, calorie burn counter, distance calculator, and elevation tracker. It measures your sleep and awards you with a growing (and shrinking) flower to reflect your activity levels. The website that it's attached to is free (unless you opt for the premium features) and among the many cool features that it boasts is a dynamic caloric intake calculator. Absolutely brilliant.

I won't go into "how" it works but if you want to see it in action, you can watch FitBit's two minute "infomercial" online:

My brand spanking new fitBit arrived on Thursday afternoon via FedEx. The company has had some customs issues in the past and since I am in Canada, suggested that it may be two to four weeks before I might see my FitBit delivered. In the US, FitBits are easier to find. Delivery normally takes a day or two when ordered off of but I understand that it is also available off of and in a couple large department stores. I ordered my FitBit the previous Friday, received a shipping announcement from the company on Tuesday, and even with a customs delay marked on my FedEx tracking site, received it just after lunch on Thursday. Not bad at all.

The small device (it comes in Plum or Blueberry) took almost no time to charge and within an hour I was set up online and already heading out of the house with it securely clipped to my bra. (They suggest to wear it there for women but you can also wear it on your belt loop or pocket)

I had an issue not checking it every few minutes the first couple days. It amazed me to watch the numbers increase as the hours went on. Unlike other pedometers I have tried, this one seems to be far more accurate. For the most part it understands when I'm actually in the car and not moving under my own volition though it will count a step or two if you hit a large bump or are on an uneven country road. It will tell you how many floors you have climbed which include any elevation so if you walk up hills on your route it will take that into account as well. It is a wireless device so each time you are within fifteen feet of the base station that is plugged into your computer, it will upload it's information to the FitBit site so you can check your progress on your computer or through the FitBit app on your mobile device. That fifteen feet doesn't have to be a clear path either, I find that my device updates on the site when I am also standing in my livingroom which is directly below my office upstairs so it works well through floors/ceilings and walls.

The fitbit device is helpful all in itself but it is really the free tools on the website that make it so special. These are image grabs from the FitBit Dashboard online:

You can view your stats by day, week, month or year. These were my basic stats for Friday. As you can see it's very straightforward and I earned my first two badges - a 5000 daily step badge and a 10 floor daily climb badge.

The FitBit dashboard also breaks down your day in charts for calories burned, steps taken, floors climbed and time active:

Notice that I was sedentary for over eleven hours?? And that is EXCLUDING sleep. Wow.

One of the best features of the website though is the dynamic calorie tracker. Although their actual food tracker is, in my opinion, rather shameful in comparison to SparkPeople's tracker, it does work with a few other sites such as My Fitness Pal. However, their own food tracking aside, the site will calculate your daily caloric needs based on how many calories you actually consume throughout the day, how many calories you actually burn during the day, and what "food plan" you've chosen. I've personally chosen the "Harder" food plan, which has a goal of losing two pounds per week. You can also set it to lose 0.5 pounds, 1 pound, or 1.5 pounds per week if you wish. The more calories you burn in a day, the more you can eat. Now that's math that I like! Subsequently, the reverse is true. If you don't move much through the day, the calorie allotment stays low. Here is what it looks like online:

Since I was quite active on Friday, the site allotted me 1862 possible calories although I only ate 1543.

On Saturday, I was slightly less active so It allotted me about 1630 calories and I came in "within goal" at 1594 calories.

Sunday I was treated to an incredible dinner at a friend's home that was cooked by a friend of ours that could only be referred to as an "aspiring chef". I estimated my calorie intake as there was no way to know for sure and obviously had no problem indulging for a day...

Today, as I have been hardly active at all yet, they have allotted me 1467 calories which is both based on my food plan, and my calorie burning history so far. This number though will inevitably increase as soon as I get up from my computer and start moving through my day.

You can also view this information in a handy "Calorie In/Calorie Out" meter:

If you are doing a particular activity throughout the day that you want to track, the FitBit also has a handy dandy timer which will highlight the time period and calories burned/steps taken/etc on your dashboard. This is called an Activity report. I was curious on Saturday to see how many calories/steps that I expended while shopping out our local farmers market so I set the timer immediately when I stepped out of the car and stopped it when I finished. Here was my report:

I could also view this time period as to elevation climbed, the pace I kept, or the speed I went at.

This is also a really useful tool for when you are doing activities that the FitBit can't track as easily because of decreased or unusual body movement like stationary cycling, yoga, etc, or for activities that are water based (swimming, scuba, etc) The FitBit is water resistant but not waterproof! In other words, don't try to track calories in the shower with it or decide to accidentally run it through the washing machine! If you do practice yoga or cycle or enjoy an activity that the FitBit can't properly register, all you need to do is use the timer for the period of time that you are active and then plug the proper activity (from a great drop down list) into the site for that time frame. It will update your calories burned accordingly.

The other amazing feature of the FitBit is the sleep tracker. This clever little device can actually tell when you're sleeping or awake through the night. Just hit the timer when you are ready to sleep and stop it when you wake in the morning. You will receive a report as soon as you upload the data that looks like this:

Isn't that cool?

The only major problem with FitBit is that SparkPeople isn't compatible with it. However, as I find that as I still prefer to track my food through SP, I don't have to double my efforts on FitBit - I just take my total calories burned from SP and enter the number into my FitBit dashboard or app, per meal or per day. This way it only takes up an extra second or two from my day and I can take advantage of the dynamic calorie calculator without extra hassle as someone was clever enough to enter a One Calorie Food and a 100 Calorie Food on the FitBit Food Log dropdown list.

The main benefit of having this little device attached to me night and day is that I actually WANT to get up and move more to see the numbers go up and get the emails that grant me my daily badges. It has brought my attention to my daily activities in a way it never has before. No longer do I sit and whine or procrastinate getting up and running downstairs for a glass of water, taking that walk, or bouncing on my rebounder. Now I do things simply to watch the numbers go higher and higher. Admittedly, we shouldn't need devices to motivate us in this way but I admit that our brains work in funny ways sometimes and I will take whatever motivation I can get!

They say that "what you can measure, you can manage" and I can't agree with this statement more. When your attention is brought to something, it can be almost effortless to make a change. Especially if it's fun.

My FitBit just said "High Five, Michelle". Oh that's right. It types at you too. Nothing like a little friendly motivational but silent chatter through the day to get you moving :)

Oh and since Thursday? I've already lost a pound and a half.

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