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Can a fitness band help me lose weight?

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Can a fitness band help me lose weight?
Ah, Summer! The perfect time to blow off steam and get some healthy rays on your skin. Trouble is, with the pandemic and all the restrictions in place during the past two years, the extra weight snuck on us like a mean tax inspector you totally forgot about. “Your taxes are way overdue, sir!”

I’m talking about personal experience here, not trying to shame anyone (but myself). My perfect weight gravitates toward the 160-170 pounds mark, and when I decided to check how I was doing earlier this year, I was shocked by the result - 210+!

And it’s not about vanity, it’s about health. I kinda liked my body even when it was (obviously) puffed like that Michelin tire guy. I just didn’t feel well - I was short on breath and my joints were starting to ache.

So I thought to myself: You’re a tech-savvy guy, there must be a way to shed this excess weight in an efficient way. High-tech weight loss, so to speak. So I decided to check out if a fitness band can help me lose weight.

I’m pretty obsessive (people call it attention to detail in their CV papers), so I’ve done my fair share of reading (mostly scientific papers). Here it goes.

Two ways to lose weight


Our bodies are really clever and efficient! Evolution made sure that we utilize every possible nutrition and store any excess. Your body’s ability to conserve energy is phenomenal. It’s a great thing and also happens to be the main reason why we tend to gain weight so easily in modern society.

We just have an abundance of food and we can eat anytime we feel like it. And our bodies won’t let all these calories go to waste. So we start to put on some pounds, right? How can we reverse this process? Well, two options - eat less and exercise more (spend more energy). I’m not reinventing the wheel here, it’s the most boring answer that you’ve already heard over and over again. But it’s true.

And because our bodies are so efficient, physical activity can help with weight loss (speed up metabolism and also burn some calories) but not by much, unless you overwork yourself to exhaustion. Regulating your food intake is a far more potent way to manage your weight!
 

In order to “burn” the calories in a slice of pizza, for example, you need to run for about an hour or walk for an hour and a half. It’s crazy, nobody has the time to lose weight on exercises alone! You need to implement both methods for best results, they complement each other really well. So, where do fitness trackers fit in?

What a fitness band can do


Modern fitness trackers can do a lot of things - count steps, take your heart rate, detect workouts and calculate calorie expenditure, and remind you to move around. You can also log your calorie intake, set goals, ect.

So, it’s the perfect tool to attack this weight thing from both sides, right? I took one of the fitness bands laying around and set my goals. I turned on the activity reminders, set a goal of 10 000 steps a day, and installed a food tracker/calorie counter.

I took the band off only when it needed to be recharged, and tried to stick to my goals. I figured I’d do one month like this and see my progress (or the lack of it) at the end of the month.

What a fitness band can’t do


The fitness tracker is an external motivator. It can’t make you go to the gym if you don’t want to. It can’t stop you from eating that slice of pizza we were talking about earlier. It’s the easiest thing to ignore and unlike your girlfriend, it won’t constantly torment you about being lazy and unfit (even with all the reminders set on!).

Fitness trackers also can’t really show your metabolic rate, as there’s no way to actively measure it. They can’t show your body fat percentage (just estimate one), and there are times when your weight would stay stable, even though your body fat would go down. So, fitness trackers are not perfect, far from it! But what actually happened with my plan and my weight after one month?

Experimental results and conclusion


The first few days were the toughest! I never thought doing 10,000 steps would be such a problem. Couple it with the food regime and you’d guess that I was pretty miserable. When I did hit my goals, though, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

Logging in my calories was even tougher. Not only would I spend a good amount of time trying to figure out what exactly was on my plate and how many calories did it contain, but most of the time I was well over the limit.

I soldiered on and started to feel better sometime around week 2. Physically, I mean. Psychologically, keeping up with the plan and having it always linger on the back of my mind was tiresome, to say the least.

At the end of the month, I weighed myself. I was 13 pounds down and under the 200lbs mark. It worked! So what are the takeaways here?

Main takeaway: 

  • Fitness bands can HELP you lose weight but they can’t MAKE you lose weight!

Observations:

  • Doing a weight loss plan and employing a fitness tracker to help you is nice and it works but there’s a big caveat. As with all “plans,” and “diets,” it’s a temporary solution. Unless you make a lifestyle out of it, your results won’t last.
  • Figuring out food is a chore. You have to weigh it, find it in a database, deconstruct it (most of the time), it takes time and it’s a huge drop-off factor. There are some apps that let you take a picture and estimate the calories on your plate but they’re wildly inaccurate.
  • Walking is by far the easiest and most sustainable way to keep your body active. I tried HIIT, weight training, running, but all these had a much lower effort/result ratio. Tracking your steps really helps build and maintain healthy habits!
  • When choosing a fitness band, comfort is a huge factor - I ended up using a three-year-old model just because it was light and comfortable. 
  • Complicated metrics won't do you any good, just stick to steps and calories.

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