For those who aren’t on my Facebook, I’ve decided to make my book “Anyone Can Lose Weight” free instead of USD1.00, and you can download it from this page. At the same time, I’m going to post more blog updates on weight management as this is still a learning journey for me and people keep asking me new questions which make me think “Hmmm, that’ll make a good blog post”. What’s really encouraging is that more people I know are starting to count their calories or at least rein in their eating habits, and they’re seeing pretty quick results. Losing weight isn’t a tortuous process, just read my book (which is really an edited compilation of my earlier blog posts) to find out how.
I’m a geek by nature and when it comes to weight management, it’s only natural that I seek out the latest technology to make it easier and more fun.
Obviously, you can lose/manage your weight without spending a cent at all (remember to buy new running socks though!) but it’s interesting how technology has advanced in the past few years to enable weight monitoring on a daily basis, across different platforms (PC, smartphone etc) in an increasingly seamless way. Remember what you’re about to read is purely optional, and is really catered for the geeky folks out there.
There are many gadgets and apps out there that you can use and I’m going to just focus on those that I use regularly to keep track of what I’m doing with my body. Essentially, you just need to track your FOOD, WEIGHT, and EXERCISE.
Important note: What you should take note of, when choosing your digital tools, is to try to ensure they can work with each other. There’s no point getting a cool pedometer that cannot upload to your exercise tracking app or website, or getting a digital weighing scale that keeps its data to itself. I wouldn’t recommend any gadget from fashion brands like Nike or Adidas because they tend to exist in their own ecosystem of services.
- Device: Garmin Forerunner 210.
- Websites: Garmin Connect, CopyMySports, RunKeeper
The Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch was released three years ago and has been superceded by the latest Forerunner 220. However, it remains a rock-solid GPS watch for runners and is highly recommended especially now that it’s price has dropped to about US$169 with the heart rate monitor. There are other watches from Polar and Suunto, but I like Garmin for nostalgic reasons – the first GPS device I ever used in the army way back in 1996 was a Garmin
It’s relatively simple to use, has good battery life, and doesn’t crash on you, and when you buy it with the heart-rate monitor, it does very accurate calorie tracking. That’s more than enough for me. I’ve linked to the extensive reviews by DC Rainmaker so you can find out more than the Garmin site tells you.
To upload your running data from the watch, you’d have to use the official Garmin Connect website that presents a comprehensive layout of all the data you’d possibly want – heart rate, elevation, cadence etc. However, the Garmin Connect website is pretty isolated – the social media sharing elements are weak and you can’t share the data with other fitness platforms like RunKeeper.
I like RunKeeper because it’s a very social platform (it’s well integrated with Facebook) and many of my friends use it to log their runs. For casual users, the RunKeeper app on your smartphone allows you to track your runs directly instead of using a GPS watch. (I’ve actually used it to log a long walk when I didn’t have my Garmin watch with me) It also provides simple training plans for people to gradually ramp up their fitness regime. Most importantly, when Runkeeper shares to Facebook, the link looks very pretty with a Google Maps visual embedded. I can’t say the same for Nike+ or Garmin Connect, which are far inferior for sharing activities.
To automatically copy your data from Garmin Connect to Runkeeper, use the site CopyMySports (formerly known as GarminSync) which just asks for one of your activity ID and then starts to copy over your regular exercise data from the Garmin watch. (Most of the time it works well, but recently CopyMySports has been delaying the data syncing due to its own server issues. Well, it’s a free service, so I’m not complaining.)
I’m pretty sure the gadget makers will make it easier to upload, share and sync your data in coming months. The newly released Forerunner 220 and 620 already include Bluetooth and Wifi (620 only) for easier wireless data uploads. The above processes may seem cumbersome, but you only have to do it once and it’s automated thereafter.
So with that you’ve successfully linked your exercise activities to the Internet “cloud” and it’s time to fill in the other important data.
- Website and app: MyFitnessPal
By far, MyFitnessPal is the best site/app for tracking your calories on a daily basis. The database of food dishes is constantly growing (anyone can upload, which unfortunately leads to a lot of duplicates) and the site/app is really well designed for ease of use.
You can choose to enter your daily food intake data into the website, or use their iOS/Android/Windows Phone apps. The site also lets you figure out how much you should be eating a day to lose a specific amount of weight (Remember, to lose 1kg of weight, you need to lose a total of 7700kcal over a period of time).
Over the past year, MyFitnessPal has added support for many different apps (Endomondo, Withings, FitBit, RunKeeper). I link MyFitnessPal data to FitBit and RunKeeper, so my calorie intake is synced correctly rather than rely on some random figure. At the same time, RunKeeper syncs over my Garmin calorie burn data so I get an accurate reading of the day’s net calorie intake/output.
What worries me though, is that the site doesn’t seem to have any form of monetizing its services, so it is filled with Google banner ads. I hope they figure out a proper business model soon.
- Device: FitBit Aria WiFi Scale
- Websites: FitBit, MyFitnessPal
If you’re serious about weight loss, invest in a good digital weighing scale. There are three types of weighing scale at this time:
- Basic digital weighing scales ($50 or less)
- Digital weighing scale with body fat % and BMI measurement ($120 or less)
- Digital weighing scale with body fat %, BMI measurement and Wifi connectivity ($169 and above)
The more advanced scales measure your body fat by passing a small electrical current through your body, and you have to note that the fat % measurement is just a very rough estimate and measurements can vary by several percentage points on a day to day basis.
What’s more important is that you stick to one scale and monitor how the fat % drops consistently. BMI is more consistent because it’s just calculated from weight and height.
I like the new generation Wifi scales because it keeps a log of my daily weight measurements. I wish I had this when I lost most of my 10kg over the past year so I can show off the weight chart to friends Such charts can be motivating or devastating depending on your attitude, and automatic logging takes the pain out of daily journal writing or memory work.
Available in Singapore now is the FitBit Aria ($169 SRP) which has a really high quality design and rather easy setup process (make sure you set it up with a laptop connected to Wifi, rather than a desktop wired to the router).
Once set up correctly, your weight will be beamed straight to your FitBit website account wirelessly.
Now regardless of whether you use other FitBit devices like Force, you should link the weight data to the other sites I’ve mentioned – RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. Just go into the settings page of each website and you’ll find options to link FitBit and you’ll see your daily weight measurements appearing magically.
If you’ve read this far, you might be confused already with all the technical stuff above. To keep it simple, I just have these guidelines
- Decide which exercise + calorie tracking websites you wish to rely on - I can strongly recommend RunKeeper for exercise data and MyFitnessPal for calorie counting because they both have strong websites and apps you can access anytime.
- Choose your devices wisely – do your online research to ensure they work with the websites/apps you have picked. They aren’t going to be cheap and you want to make sure the investment will last you several years.
- Go out and exercise, eat well, and weigh yourself daily to get the data in, then have fun linking the data altogether.
If you do this right, no matter whether you’re surfing the FitBit, RunKeeper or MyFitnessPal, you ought to see similar data being shared consistently across their dashboards or apps. So your weight management data is always at your fingertips.