How my Fitbit helped me get honest

Photo credit: Chanan Greenblatt

Photo credit: Chanan Greenblatt

It's no secret that a lot of writers are overweight - writing is a pretty sedentary activity, so that's not a big surprise. But, I consider myself something of a health nut. I'm a vegetarian, so lots of fruit and veggies and not much dairy, I weight lift 4 times a week for no less that 40 minutes each day, and I'm at the ice rink and taking walks a couple times a week. Despite all this, I'm 30+ pounds overweight.

I know that part of my trouble is due to a thyroid issue that I take daily medication for, and part of it is due to job stress. Even accounting for those things, it has been a mystery to me why I continue to stay stuck at my current weight. That mystery ended when I got my Fitbit.

I've flirted with getting a wearable for a couple of years without pulling the trigger, but finally, I decided to take the plunge. After consulting with a fellow weightlifter as to what he uses, I settled on a Fitbit Surge. This model is probably more hardcore than most need from a Fitbit, but when I say I do weightlifting, it's closer to bodybuilding and powerlifting level than light weight training, and the Surge is favored by people like me.

I can't say my life was instantly transformed the minute I put the Surge on. The sleep tracking feature confirmed what I already knew - I rarely sleep well, no matter when I go to bed - and the heart rate tracking during cardio exercise didn't reveal anything new either. The step tracking was more eye-opening, as well as tracking my weightlifting sessions.

The weightlifting aspect is boring to anyone who isn't a weightlifter, so I'll only say that I discovered I have changes to make to get the most out of my workouts. The step-tracking...well, I always figured I wasn't active enough during the day and while writing. I just didn't know inactive, until I strapped on my Fitbit.

The overall goal suggested by Fitbit is 10,000 steps per day. Anything less than 5,000 steps is considered by the NIH to be a sedentary lifestyle, and that "sedentary" status puts you in line for all kinds of nasty possibilities (heart disease, diabetes, blood clots and stroke).

In my first week of wearing my Fitbit, I didn't break more than 5,500 for three out of seven days; on the Saturday of that week (the only day I am not at the gym or actively walking), I didn't break 3,000. Clearly, I had changes to make.

Fortunately, Fitbit also helps me correct the problems I discovered. There are two really helpful features on the Surge on top of the pedometer: the timer and the stopwatch. What I do now is I set the timer to go off every 40 minutes, at which point, I get up and start walking around my apartment. I use the stopwatch to time my walking at a minimum of 5 minutes.

The good news is, I've already noticed positive results reflected in the numbers tracked by my Surge, as well as in myself. I get less leg cramps during the day, and my clothes are starting to get looser.

Sure, a Fitbit isn't for everyone, but if you have some kind of sedentary job, or you like to watch a lot of TV, play video games, or read, I highly recommend doing something to track just how fit or unfit you might be, even if that is to get yourself a $10 pedometer. Anything that will get you to look at yourself honestly like my Fitbit did for me. Your health and future happiness might depend on it.

A.M.