Can a fitness tracker make for a fitter you? Well, that depends on you, and what you expect from it.
I first signed up for the tracker trend a couple years ago, alerted by my mega-fit niece, Michele, who is a trainer/coach, about this new glorified pedometer technology. FitBit was the only game in town and I bought the first clip on version. I tracked my daily steps, distance, calories burned, flights of stairs climbed and “active” minutes and was immediately hooked.
I am goal oriented so loved the idea of setting and attaining a daily goal (mine was the typical 10,000 steps per day, 25 flights of stairs). It made me feel that if I attained my goal I was contributing to fitness, heart health and weight loss. Typically, I lost my first tracker and FitBit replaced it for free. After I lost the second clip on, I knew I needed to upgrade to a wristband so I purchased the Flex ($99). I like immediate gratification so it didn’t work for me. I wanted to look at the device and get an instant status update and with Flex, you have to check your FitBit phone app or computer to see how you are doing.( All of this info syncs to your computer so you can check your activity level and results over time and keep track of the wandering direction of your scale.)
A further upgrade led me to the FitBit Force. It was slightly more expensive but infinitely better for me. I wear it 24/7, even in the shower, and can see my status at any time. I confess, I just love waking up in the morning to see that I’ve already burned 350 calories, just from getting my beauty sleep!! Then there’s teeth brushing, face washing, dog walking etc. All that calorie burning adds up.
Unfortunately, some people had a negative reaction to the rubber wristband of the Force and it was recalled. I’m not giving mine up. Here’s why:
I like the motivation of a goal, seeing how much a walk or exercise class does to get me there, and how many calories I have burned on the way. It gives a vibrational buzz when I reach 10,000 steps. Not like a Margarita buzz, but a buzz nonetheless.
So I was flummoxed when I saw the Today Show story last week of the women who (gasp!) claimed “my fitness band made me fat.” Really?? My guess is that she gained weight by relying too much on the fitness tracker and playing it fast and loose with the Calories In/Calories Out feature.
If you use the Food Plan feature (I don’t) it theoretically tells you how many calories to eat to meet your weight goal. You are updated throughout the day. As you log in food you have eaten, it tells you how many more calories you can eat to stay In the Zone: within 50 calories of deficit goal for time of day. Of course, the accuracy is only as good as the information input.
I tried setting it up for fun, putting in my current weight and a goal weight. I chose the medium intensity program which is a loss of 1 lb. a week or a deficit of 500 calories. According to this, I could consume 777 calories today! Wow, like that would ever happen. The assumption here is that all calories are created equal, in other words, that the consumption of 100 calories of sugar would have the same affect on the body as 100 calories of protein. This is a major fallacy. What IS true is that I have been eating a lot more than 777 calories and losing weight because I have been confining my diet to fruit, veggies and protein with an occasional glass of wine thrown in so I don’t die of deprivation. I don’t have time to look up and record every morsel that makes it way into my mouth. I just need to know they fit into one of those categories.
What blew me away was that the woman in question threw away her tracker and began to lose weight again. Which means she stopped trying to beat the calorie in/out system as established by a tracker that doesn’t take into consideration her age, body type, hormonal level, quality of caloric intake and metabolic rate. She could simply have cut back on the number of calories she was allowing herself instead of relying totally on her tracker. Hey, we’re adults, we have to take some responsibility for ourselves!
Trackers are not nutritionists and my trainer niece thinks a better way to curb the cals is using a free app to track quantity and quality of them. She recommends Lose It and My Fitness Pal to her clients.
There are so many trackers on the market now from the no frills Smart Health Walking FIT for $25 to the Samsung Gear Fit Smart Watch, a Dick Tracey-esque band that does everything from tracking your heart rate to phone and email functions for $150. Options in between are various FitBit iterations from $49 to $99. Skechers Go Walk for $65 monitors sleep and activity and connects to IOS devices. NikeFuel ($99) is a sleek, rounded cuff band with LED time display and a reminder to get your ass moving every hour. Garmin’s version ($130) offers a couple of interesting innovations: a red Move Bar that alerts you when you’ve been inactive for one hour and Light Up alerts for every 15 minutes of activity. It also has the advantage of low battery usage, needed a charge only once a year. UP by Jawbone is the most pricey at $150 and the coolest looking, though it doesn’t measure up to Dick Tracey.
My husband’s friend, Charlie, told him how HE is benefiting from his wife Annie’s tracker. She is so determined to meet her 10,000 steps a day goal that she leaps to take out the garbage and do other chores he no longer has to do! In fact, he suggests every man buy his wife one. MEN!
A sure sign that trackers have catapulted from function to fashion statement is the announcement that Tory Burch has collaborated with FitBit on a elegant gold metal hinged bracelet version, sure to be a sell out at $195. Our ever- trendy Tory has also created a pendant option for those who don’t want to advertise that they are tracking their every move. Gotta have it!