Apple’s Watching

new_shiny_toys_I’ve been a Fitbit fan since the beginning. Five years of tracking steps and movement, and I’m definitely a more active person because of it.

That said, it’s time to move on. When Apple announced the new Watch with GPS support and a future Pokémon Go app…yeah. Sorry, Fitbit. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve been saving my pennies to buy an Apple Watch, and it arrived a couple weeks ago. I even splurged for a colorful band.

My watch and I are still in the getting-to-know you phase. I appreciate the regular nudges to move around, and Apple has incorporated mindfulness into the routine as well with the Breathe app. I like that I get notifications without having to open my phone, though there aren’t many apps I use that are supported by the watch yet. That’s OK, since I’m mostly using it as a fitness tracker.

The most useful non-fitness-related app is the integration with Todoist; being able to walk through the grocery store and check items off my shopping list without opening my phone is cool. I’m not interested in browsing Instagram or Twitter from my wrist. No big thing.

One of the primary complaints from others is the watch’s size, but I have a large frame; it doesn’t look preposterous on me, and it’s smaller and much prettier than my Fitbit Surge. The screen isn’t as hard to read and interact with as I thought it would be, and I love that I can use Siri to send messages while I’m on the go.

The biggest downside I’ve discovered is an inconsistency with Apple’s Workouts app recognizing “exercise” minutes in the Activity app.

For example, if I set up a workout for a brisk walk (30-40 minutes at 3.0 mph or greater, sustained heart rate well within my target zone) and get only 10-15 exercise minutes.

Whereas if I don’t use Workouts and do the same walk (or even a less intense pace), I’ll get 20-30 exercise minutes. I’ve calibrated the watch twice now, but this happens regardless.  I’d have to run to get Workouts to recognize my activity as “exercise-worthy”, and everyone knows I don’t run unless I’m being chased by a large, hungry animal.

Until Apple can make their own apps play nice, I’ve scrapped using Workouts in favor of just walking. It’s not as exciting as logging my walks in an app, but I get a greater sense of satisfaction from seeing exercise minutes that I sweat my fat butt off for, thank you very much!

The other thing that bugs me is the lack of support for sleep tracking; I wasn’t doing that with the Fitbit because the band irritated my wrist if I didn’t take it off at night. The Apple Watch’s band doesn’t seem to irritate, so I’d love to be able to wear it all night, but the battery wouldn’t hold up. It seems like such an obvious thing, and I wish the batteries were up to the task.

But the truly terrible thing about the Apple Watch? Niantec still hasn’t released the Pokémon Go app! I’m awaiting the announcement with baited breath, ie. obsessively checking Apps for an update. I can’t wait to be able to walk my eggs without holding my phone.

I’ve been eyeing the Watch ever since it was first announced, and I’m glad I waited. They don’t have all the kinks worked out yet, obviously, but I’m pretty happy with it.

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may, a health update

May got off to a rough start with Health Month. The Vegas trip, a stomach flu (isn’t it always a stomach flu?) and the new job took their toll, and I made the mistake of trying to take on too many new goals at once. As a result, I was down to something like one health point by the end of week 1. Oh well. I finished the month strong and picked my rules for June a bit more carefully.

Since I have more freedom working from home, I’m experimenting with a part-time standing desk arrangement, which means I’m spending more time on my feet. So far I like it, although I’ll like it a lot more when I have an actual standing desk! Right now I’m using the kitchen counter which is not exactly ergonomically sound. Already this is proving fruitful for my activity level. I spend a lot of time moving around, doing light activities and taking short breaks in between tasks. Also: There may be random kitchen dancing.

No one told me a standing desk would make me a bigger dork…

Another thing that’s awesome about working from home? Lunch. Specifically, I have the time and resources to make a healthful lunch from scratch without the pressure of remembering to pack something the night before. No more soggy sandwiches, no more coordinating with coworkers for microwave time, no more frozen meals. I’ve eaten a BAS (translation: Big-Ass Salad) almost every day for the last three weeks. My new favorite lunch is mixed greens topped with some combination of grape tomatoes, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, turkey, sprouts, or green olives. I credit my mom with introducing me to the BAS lifestyle and I’m hooked.

And finally, I’ve started using arm weights a few times a week. I got my Fitbit Aria scale this month so now I can track body fat percentage. I’m hoping to build a little more muscle and improve my upper body strength.

The results? Well, there aren’t any to speak of yet, but that’s OK. I know I’m making better choices so I feel good about that no matter what the scale says.

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health update, january

January is always a challenging month for me, personally. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to start the new year in January–I’m hardly up for tackling major resolutions in the dead of winter. Wait until spring, then I might feel inclined to change my life, but this month is only good for hibernation.

In any case, I knew last week would be a wash due to Tim’s trip–playing chauffer to the girls meant no walking to and from work, and obviously I didn’t count on having a stomach virus. It was not a good week for exercise. I lost just over 10 pounds thanks to the flu, 5.5 of which I’ve gained back in the last week. But hey, that’s still a net loss of about 5 pounds, bringing the grand to-date total to 16 pounds lost. I can’t say I see the difference, but I feel better.

It’s hard to stay motivated now that it’s colder outside but I manage. This week I tried walking to Gwen’s daycare in the evenings, about twice the distance I’d normally walk in one trip (roughly 1.5 miles), but it’s very cold and a little treacherous due to ice on the sidewalks. On the upside, I’ve found it’s easy for me to walk that far now–that wasn’t the case three months ago! When spring comes it will be the perfect walk to end my workday.

Other than that, I’ve moved a lot of my exercise time indoors due to single-digit or lower temps. Tim is jumping on the “get healthier” bandwagon with me, and we’ve started playing Wii Sports in the evenings (I walk or jog in place between turns). I have yet to convince him to try Just Dance, but someday, someday. 😉

I’m still playing Health Month with success–it appeals to the overachiever in me. Despite last week’s setback, I haven’t had much difficulty following my rules, so in February I plan on tackling 6 rules instead of 3. I worry that I’m upping the ante too much too soon, but then remind myself, what’s the worst that could happen? Plus I’ve built in a bit of flexibility such that I get a free day each week.

One of the things I’ve been pondering is my motivation for continuing this project in the long term… what about it will keep me going after this has become routine? When the weight stops coming off? Or when I suddenly just don’t feel like doing it? My biggest fear is falling off the bandwagon and not getting back on. It’s funny because I’m really enjoying this new routine and you’d think the enjoyment would be motivation enough, but it’s not that simple. I suppose it just goes to show, even enjoyable things require effort.

Part of this means looking at past experiences and examining what caused them to fail, so I can make this round “stick.” A few points come to mind…

  • In the past, one failure meant total failure. Broke the no candy rule? Eat the whole bag. Forgot to exercise one day? Stop exercising for the rest of the week. I can’t let myself get bogged down with slippery-slope thoughts.
  • I have a tendency to let my actions (or lack thereof) have an unhealthy impact on my self-esteem. How much I eat, what I eat, what I weigh and how I exercise has no bearing on my worth as a person…. except in my mind. A single failure does not mean I am a failure. It’s a necessary distinction if I’m going to be successful in the long term.
  • I’m easily discouraged by big goals and I often fail to take into account the smaller steps and time required to achieve more complex things. I didn’t have the patience for “big picture” thinking in my early 20’s, but now I’m starting to understand the value of making small, incremental changes over time.
  • I have a tendency to set myself up for failure by being too inflexible. For example, forcing myself to do one type of exercise for a set amount of time every day. This is something I’ve become better at in recent months–finding alternatives when the usual routine falls through or when I simply want a change of proverbial scenery. Allowing the occasional indulgence such that I don’t feel trapped or left wanting.
  • And finally, boredom. If my mind isn’t occupied or if there isn’t a short-term goal to be met, I’m less likely to enjoy something, and therefore much less likely to continue doing it. Ever since I got a phone this hasn’t been a problem–there’s always a game to play or a show to watch, right at my fingertips. I’m surrounded by tech–“boring” can no longer be an excuse.

I’m happy to say I’ve reached the point where this new lifestyle is not a huge physical challenge for me. I feel much stronger than when I started this process back in October, and it’s nice to see a noticeable improvement. At some point I’ll want to step it up, but for now I want to continue enjoying the experience without pushing it.

The real challenge is a mental one. Committing to my goals while at the same time accepting the occasional failure and moving past it (better yet, accepting that an indulgence is just that–a worthy indulgence, not a failure!) It’s hard. Getting past that annoying little voice in my head that says “I don’t wanna!” from the moment I get up until the time I go to bed. I suppose what I’m really trying to figure out is where that voice is coming from so I can shut her up… or at least get better at ignoring her.

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fat girl with a fitbit

Remember last October when I started up that exercise routine? And was doing really well and enjoying myself? And then I got knocked up and promptly forgot all about it? Yeah.

I knew I’d need some particularly powerful motivation to get back on the wagon this time. I remember from Ellie’s early days how easy it is to sit around with a snoozy, snuggly baby on my chest.

Then I came across Fitbit and was immediately intrigued. I love me some tech-geeky gadgets; even better if they come with statistics and charts and graphs. I debated with myself… it was expensive, at $100 for the fancy tracker, but I could justify that easily enough. A membership to the local rec center costs $400 a year and I wouldn’t use it every day, not to mention the hassle of having to arrange for childcare, finding a convenient time to go, etc. And I do need to lose a significant amount of weight somehow. Although I’ve yet to encounter major issues as a result of my weight, I know it’s just a matter of time. I’m still relatively young and I have a sneaking suspicion my thirties and forties will not be as forgiving on the health front.

So in short, I decided $100 was a small price to pay for the improvement of my health and clicked the “Buy Now” button.

After a month with the Fitbit, I’ve not been disappointed. It’s a huge motivator–the Fitbit is always with me. If I sit on my ass all day, it knows. And I aim to please my future robot overlords, so I’m always looking for excuses to add steps or floors to my daily totals. At first I was totally beat by the end of the day–if you’re not already living an active lifestyle, 10,000 daily steps is a challenge–but now I find I can’t sit still for very long before I have the urge to get up and do something. It’s a refreshing change compared to the no-energy-to-get-out-of-my-chair feeling I had before.

Another part of this personal project involves tracking what I eat. I’ve done this before, usually without much success. I tend to get obsessive with these things, to the point where one failure equals total failure and epic disappointment. Drama queen, me? Never. But I’m finding it’s not as difficult this time. I’m more forgiving, which I think comes from knowing exactly how active I’ve been. And thanks to Fitbit’s goal program, I realized I actually need to eat more than I thought I did… if I eat too little, my body brings my already snail-like metabolism to a screeching halt and causes all sorts of problems. So this is helpful in ensuring I get the nutrition I need so I can keep my metabolism trundling along. The best part is the food tracker that tells me how many calories I’ve “earned” as a result of my activity level on any given day. If I move more, I get to eat more–awesome.

One of the things that makes Fitbit unique as a fitness gadget is the ability to track not only your daily activity but your sleep patterns as well. In my case, it’s particularly important because we’re often up and down with Gwen at night. I was surprised to find that even on our “bad” nights I’m still usually getting a solid seven hours of sleep. Not bad for having a two-month-old!

The results speak for themselves–I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last month and I feel so much better. I have quite a way to go, but I think I’m going to be able to stick with it this time. The real challenge will come in just under two weeks when I go back to my desk job. I have a feeling it will not be nearly as easy to get my steps and floors in, but I’m already making plans. I’ll cover my current exercise routines and how I plan to stay active in a future blog post.

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