I want to lose weight. I want to use my effort to lose weight as a test of how new technology is allowing us to quantify ourselves and whether it has any meaningful impact. So about 2 weeks ago I purchased the Fitbit Ultra Wireless Tracker and the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. Fitbit is one of the hot new health technologies in the “quantified self” market. They both arrived within a week with their standard shipping and all in it cost me $230. Considering most diets or gyms run $50+ per month, I was real curious as to whether I could recoup the high cost of the equipment in weight loss and improved health. My results after the jump…
The Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale
The Ultra Wireless Tracker
The User Experience
I was able to set both of these devices up within 20 minutes. I have seen some people in their forum complain that the set-up is complicated, but I found the set-up straight-forward and “Apple” like. In a nutshell, the devices wirelessly connect to the internet and save your data in a secure web environment so you can track your results. The system includes motivational techniques like:
- Game theory – You earn badges for completing milestones (I just passed 50 miles walked) and if you join a group they feature a leader board so you can measure your performance against others. The good thing about it is you only have to compete with others if you want, nothing is forced on you.
- Community Support – We all know that if you participate with others you are more likely to stick with it. I joined a local NY/NJ group for moral support
- Goal setting – You set goals such as pounds lost or daily/weekly steps taken and can see how you progress against those goals. I found this to be the best motivator. I have to get at least 10k steps every day and I am still trying to break my record of 22k steps.
As someone dedicated to helping chronic pain sufferers and diabetics through my business, I was pleased that the Fitbit system is customizable to your specific health needs and can track a variety of health data for you. The basic devices that I am using capture:
- Calories Burned
- Distance (miles)
- Sleep Activity
- Lean Mass
- Food Consumed (through a well-designed food tracker)
But additional tools are available for tracking heart rate, Blood Glucose for diabetics, cholesterol and virtually anything you would want to keep track of through their custom tracker feature and personal diary. They have also opened their software up to third parties so I would expect more tools and devices to integrate with your Fitbit account over time.
As an aside, the cool thing about the scale is it recognizes who you are. I can then set up an account for everyone in my family and the scale knows who it is by the foot and synchs the data with their account.
Does it work?
For the first week, I tracked everything I ate and every movement I made. After the first week I stopped tracking food. While the Fitbit food tracker is the best one I have used to date, until I can take a picture of my plate/ food-label and have the system do the work for me, its just too cumbersome to integrate over the long haul.
With that said, I am weighing myself every day, making sure I reach a minimum of 10,000 steps and paying attention to my eating habits thanks to the first week of tracking.
In 3 weeks I have gone from 199.3 lbs to 194.6 lbs and I have reduced by BMI by .7%.
I will periodically update you all on my progress towards a goal weight of 185lbs and how I have stuck with (or not) and evolved my use of the Fitbit and similar tools.
At the end of the day in the words of the immortal Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage, what you can’t measure.” In business and in health I have found this to be 100% correct. I think there are real implications for reinventing health for both individuals and populations, but for a tool like this to have a real impact it has to be accessible (both in cost and simplicity) to a broader segment of the population. We aren’t there yet, but I am optimistic!
So how do you track your health? I’d love to hear what you are doing in the comments.