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A Bit of Fitness

March 26, 2012

I was a skinny little kid.  My mom used to get a hard time because people thought she didn’t feed me enough.

So, when I found myself in my late 30s and overweight, I really couldn’t believe it.  I don’t even know how it happened, really.  I had always been fit and active.  Then pregnancy and parenting took over.  After the first, I could still keep up the pace.  When you have just one, you can carry that little kid in a backpack or push her in a buggy for a long time.  It’s easy to keep the pace.

But that second baby really slows one down.  At first I could still keep it up.  Big sister in the buggy, baby in the Moby then on to my back when she got bigger.  But eventually the big sister doesn’t want to ride in the buggy.  And the whole thing is a lot of effort and slows one down so much that one doesn’t feel especially excited about getting them all bundled up in the cold, wet northwest.

By the time the third child was born in our family, I was sunk.  The pace of life was so intense that I couldn’t even take note of my own needs.  Sleep faltered as I spent my “work” time generally between the hours of midnight and 2 am every single night.

And there I was, in my late 30s, overweight.  So, I set myself to work.  Exercise 3-5 times a week was my primary change.  I already had a really great diet.  I have been a “whole foods” and “real food” eater for so many years.  The traditional American diet is not part of my adult life.  Yet, I craved sugars constantly.  And while I was satisfying those cravings – because I couldn’t not, they were as urgent as the need to breathe and more pressing than the need to sleep – with very healthful options, I was still taking in way more sugars and calories than were optimal for me.

Long story short, I found myself with a diagnosis of “insulin resistant.”  That explains the sugar cravings.  My body was begging for sugar, which was not getting into the cells.  The more I restricted calories, the worse the cravings became and the more my body wanted to hold on to the weight.  The more I restricted calories, the more sugar my liver dumped into my blood.  Ugly stuff.  A bad path for sure.

In working with a dietician and my doctor, I did a few things to get on the road to wellness.  I added some supplements and made some pretty drastic changes to my diet, which would probably not work for everyone.  I tried to prioritize sleep (and am still working on the discipline to make this more consistent).  And I started a fitness routine that was inspired by this nifty little gadget called The Fitbit.

The Fitbit tracks my steps, miles, calories, etc.  And because the Fitbit software recommended 5 miles a day, I started to make sure that I walked or jogged a minimum of 5 miles total every single day.  It was a remarkably easy way of keeping myself focused on my own health, of helping me to justify prioritizing myself, and of helping me track my workouts.  I couldn’t get lazy or forget because my every move was being tracked!  Day in and day out.  I couldn’t just work really hard on Monday and coast and then lose track of my next planned workout.  I had to work hard every single day.

For the most part, it worked.  Since last June, when I started using the Fitbit, I have lost about 30 pounds.  I have also been through 3 Fitbits.

I have a love/hate relationship with this tiny device.  I LOVE that it is so small, so easy to use, and so subtle.  I can wear is everywhere except in water.  It tracks my steps, miles, how strenuous my exercise is, and how much I sleep.  It really helps to keep me focused on my fitness and health priorities because it collects all of the data that I need.

The downsides are:

I can’t turn it off (and have to instead make it “sleep” when I am in a plane or a car or some other place where I am getting jostled enough for it to think I am working out when I am not).

Its imperfect in data collection (though pretty darn good for how easy it is to use).

When I am away from my internet connection for more than a day (or I forget to sync it one day), it sometimes won’t sync at all and I lose the data that I collected previously.  And, I will say, I practically live for those weekly emails where I see what work I have done toward my weekly goals.  So, it’s frustrating when I don’t have the data to complete the picture.

Most importantly, the darn thing has broken on me twice now.  (I swear, I am so careful with it.  It is so precious to me because I feel like it is incredibly useful in meeting my fitness and health goals.)  I have a love/hate relationship with customer service from Fitbit as much as I do about the product.

I LOVE that they keep giving me a new one when the old one breaks.

I hate how hard it is to get in touch with them.  They have no one in the office on the weekends and they only do communication via email (so far as I can find).  (Also, the tech support is a little bit lame, but that’s typical of most tech support in my experience.  Tech support people tend to think that I am a total idiot and want me to go through every basic step that I have already done to trouble shoot.  I can read a manual.  I can press a reset button.  I have an advanced degree, for pete’s sake.  Maybe if I were really smart, I would just assume that all tech support will behave this way and not waste energy being annoyed by it.)

And when the Fitbit breaks, I am without it for several days or a week while they research my complaint and send me a new one.  Now, this is not such a big deal in the big picture, right?  They are sending me the new one, after all.  But I feel like I am sinking without a life preserver when I don’t have my little Fitbit.  (Addicted?  Why, yes, I am.)

Now that I am experienced with this feeling, I decided to try something new.  I realized that I spend about 2 miles every day moving around the house, in the neighborhood, through my regular day, and about 3 miles  of dedicated workout on the treadmill or outside.  The workout is usually intervals, with jogging and brisk walking.  So, while Fitbit-less, I just made sure to do 3 miles every day on the treadmill, according to my treadmill display.

What did I learn?  That my 3 miles on the treadmill don’t necessarily match with my 3 miles with my Fitbit.

I get more “miles” on my Fitbit when I take more steps or more vigorous steps.  So, if I jog at the same speed that I walk on the treadmill, I get more “miles” on my Fitbit.  The treadmill doesn’t care how bouncy and vigorous I am.  It just counts the miles that the treads roll.

What’s better?  I don’t know.  But I realized during this period of inactivity that I benefit from setting a goal of 3 treadmill miles a day, because sometimes I was getting more “miles” with my Fitbit just by putting a little more spring in my step and not doing the miles.  Is that so bad?  Maybe it’s better that I focus on that energy that I am using rather than waiting for the belt to roll by a certain number of miles.

My strategy for now is to keep up the 3 miles on the treadmill and see how that affects my daily averages from my Fitbit.  We shall see.

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