My favorite things: A look at fitness tools

January 7, 2014

In my weight loss journey, I have figured out a system that works for me, which is a mix of consistent exercise and a reasonable diet. I’m often asked about the tools that I use, so I have outlined a few of them below.

Education

Men's HealthTime and time again, I have returned to a guide Men’s Health produces, entitled The Abs Diet: The Six-Week Plan to Flatten Your Stomach and Keep You Lean for Life. In fact, whenever someone asks me for advice regarding their first initial step, I refer them to the book, which comes in both male and female versions.

Abs DietAt my heaviest, I paid no attention to nutrition labels or serving sizes, nor did I have a concept of what certain nutrients (protein, fiber, etc.) could do not only for my body but in aiding weight loss. Not only is the book a quick read, it really helped me to understand what I was eating on a daily basis, and how to make simple adjustments to my diet, which included two daily fast food runs and multiple servings of soda.

The book really gave me solid foundations, from learning how many daily servings of fruits and vegetables to consume daily to how many times a day I should be eating. The answer? Six meals a day! Who could ever complain about being hungry with a plan like that?

To this day, I still count on their guidance. Their Eat This, Not That series frequently helps me to make better decisions, from preparing to eat on the road, to smart swaps that save calories. I’m the first to say that MH helped save my life!

Fitness tracking

Fitbit

My initial weight loss came from walking. At my heaviest weight, there was no way to start with vigorous activity. Along the way, occasional 20 minute walks became 45 minutes, and walking gave way to cycling. I started with small goals using a basic pedometer (10,000 steps, or 5 miles daily).

Then, I discovered Fitbit, which uploads your activity and maintains it with a fantastic interface. My friends and I are addicted to seeing our number of steps, our most active daily minutes and adding other variables, such as our heart rate, meals, water consumption and even our mood. There’s also a sleep tracker that can show you down to the minute how many times you wake up during the night. It has made me half man, half machine!

fitbit-weekly-statsSome days, I feel as it Fitbit is encouraging me to be more active just by being present on my body. I joke that if I could have the device implanted into me, I’d be okay with it. There’s something so validating about meeting your daily goal, and finding ways to be even more active because of it. I’ve been known to skip the elevator at work to take the steps, or jog in place to meet or exceed my goals.

They send you weekly stats, which help you see your level of activity over time (and how you stack up alongside of your friends). I am at the Apple level where as soon as they release a new product, I am talking it up on social media and buying it immediately, and it has been worth it each time, from weight scales to trackers and integration with other products. The company has also been super responsive to any issue, which has bred my loyalty as a customer and advocate.

This tool has become my best friend, and an appendage to my body. With it, I have never been more engaged or in tune with my body and fitness on a daily basis. Oh, and my average daily steps today? 20,000 steps a day on average!

Calorie Tracking

Lose It

Since coming to understand what calories and nutrients mean, calorie trackers such as Lose It! have become extremely addictive to me. Best of all, the website and app are free!

loseit-screenLose It! really helps me to stay on track. It has a huge database of foods, both basic (fruits, vegetables) to supermarket and most restaurant items, if not approximations. It just requires honesty on your part when entering the values.

The app has helped me to structure my day. There is a serious come to Jesus moment that happens when you mindlessly eat a doughnut at work, only to enter it moments later. Over time, understanding that taking a 350 calorie hit equals a serving of chicken, rice and vegetables will help you consider which food item would make you feel fuller, and provide more nutrition.

You set your desired weight, and it helps to create a calorie plan based on those goals. You also get to see your nutrition at a glance and how you accumulate fats, carbs, sodium and sugar over the course of the day.

Like Fitbit, you can also add your friends. The only downside is when your friends make fun of you for your food choices, i.e. – having late-night queso and chips (Yes, I am looking at you, Craig!).

I also love that Lose It! and Fitbit integrate together, sharing data about my fitness and calories, meaning I don’t have to enter data into multiple sources, and get the best of both worlds!

End

In conclusion, regardless of what tools you use, I have found that knowledge is power. Hopefully this starts someone on the right track!

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