I hit my target weight today. I’m five-six, and the healthy weight range for a male my height is between 134 and 156 pounds. I’ve been as heavy as 180-something before, and back in January, when I bought a Fitbit and decided to lose the weight, I was 172. Today I’m 140, and as a reward my Fitbit has re-calibrated my daily calorie allotment—I can eat more now. Of course, when my weight nudges above 140 again, I’ll automatically be put back on my diet for a day or two until the weight settles back down.
Let me tell you why I wanted to lose the weight in the first place. I was pretty slender until I hit my thirties, and then, due to a slower metabolism and the deferred consequences of neglecting my health for years, I started to gain. By the time I turned forty-one last November, I was a good thirty pounds overweight. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a fatty liver. I would get winded walking up a hill, and I could feel a near-constant pressure in my neck. I snored—ask my wife, I snored. I also have Crohn’s disease, and the extra weight wasn’t helping with that.
Yeah, and also I hated the way I looked. Maybe it was the least motivating factor, but it bothered me just the same. I think we all carry a mental image of what we looked like when we were, say, nineteen, and when we picture ourselves, that’s what we see. I knew I didn’t look nineteen anymore—I have my share of gray hairs, and a person’s complexion evolves over time—but the face I saw in the mirror no longer corresponded to what I pictured in my mind’s eye. If you’d asked me where I most wanted to lose the weight, I wouldn’t have said my stomach, but my face. I just didn’t look like myself anymore. The actual shape of my head was different—rounder, puffier—and that changed the appearance of my facial features. Besides all that, I had a family to help take care of and a job that kept me on my feet. I didn’t especially want to die of a heart attack at age fifty. I had my reasons.
Why am I sounding defensive? I think there’s a need some of us have to justify losing weight, as if we’re concerned other people who aren’t dieting will think we’re judging them when we’re not. Then there’s the added perception that a person who wants to lose weight actually wants to lose too much. It’s the same way some people think about drinking or smoking pot—that it’s not possible to do these things in moderation. Wanting to lose weight can also suggest personal insecurity, and we like to pounce on other people’s personal insecurities.
I’d tried losing weight before, with no long-term or substantial success. I’d get on a jogging kick, or decide to switch from beer to wine. Maybe I’d lose two pounds, keep it off for six weeks, then gain it back. The problem I had was not being aware of just how much I was over-consuming on a daily basis, with no reciprocal amount of physical activity. I ate whatever I wanted without a care, and the result was that I was taking in double the calories I was burning off.
What changed things for me was buying a Fitbit. I’ll try not to make this an advertisement, but what can I say—using a Fitbit worked where other things did not. All a Fitbit is really (and there are other brands of similar devices on the market) is a smart pedometer. You clip it to your belt or put it in your pocket, and the Fitbit registers your activity level and sends the information to your account online. Along with your step-count, the Fitbit records how many miles you walk, how many minutes of strenuous activity, steps climbed, etc. Depending on how active you are—and the Fitbit sets goals according to how much weight you want to lose—you can consume more or less calories, which you input manually (and on the honor system). It’s all a rough estimate, but the overages tend to match the underages, with the result that every day you can see at a glance how close you are to maintaining a balance between input and output. As long as you stick to your goals, both in terms of eating and exercise, you should start to see results pretty soon, provided there are no other reasons for your weight gain beyond eating too much and not being active enough.
One additional benefit of the Fitbit was making me realize I didn’t need to “work out” as much as I thought I did in order to have an active day. I always used to have the mindset that I lacked time to go to a gym or make a conscious effort to exercise at home. Wearing the Fitbit, I realize how many opportunities there are to boost my activity level just in the course of a regular day—taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking instead of driving, that sort of thing. Duh, I know, but I’m dumb like that.
I think the reason Fitbit works is that there really is nothing to it. It only produces a good result if you put the effort into eating better and getting some exercise. I know someone who is unhappy with his Fitbit, but it’s because the only thing he does with it is put it in his pocket—he doesn’t exercise, and his eating habits haven’t changed. Clipping it on doesn’t magically cause you to lose weight. What it fosters is a greater awareness of what your body is up to on any given day. Some people don’t need those kind of reminders—they’re just naturally in tune with their physical health—but apparently I do. I’m glad I paid attention this time.