Saturday, 23 August 2014

Greenbelt , Personal


It's time to present the questions for last week's answers.

treehouse.jpgLast week Martin persuaded me to do a short talk at Greenbelt. It's not a topic I would've thought presenting in public, but here goes. This is the text of what I'd intended to say. The full seven minutes were recorded for posterity so later in the year we'll find out what I actually said.

"You look incredible!"

People are friendly at Greenbelt but I wasn't expecting this.

I've many friends here that I only see once a year and I'd forgotten: this time last year there was 50% more of me. I've changed.

Mostly people ask the same questions:
"Are you well?" Yes, Very healthy thanks.
"Are you trying to lose weight?" I guess so.
"What's your secret?"

One of those friends suggested I take a few minutes to answer the last question publicly.

So here goes: "How technology can help you lose weight faster than you might imagine."

gtv-schedule.jpgBMI is a scary concept isn't it? In December last year I was obese. To join the minority of people in this country who are a healthy weight (only 1 in 3 of us!) I had to shed four stone. One stone seemed an insurmountable challenge. Was change possible? Could it fit with my life?

It started with a hunch. I've never been particularly inactive (I walked 500 miles recreationally last year) but I felt I just needed to get out a bit more.

The latest mobile phones can track motion, so perhaps an app could help. The first I tried was Nike+ Move. It awards you Fuel for your activity, and you can compare one day with the next to see how you're getting on. I got hooked on trying to improve my weekly average and soon topped the UK leaderboard. It was amazing what an extra half an hour's walking in the morning did.

The problem is, I didn't always have my phone in my pocket.

Various companies have fixed this: they've taken the motion detection electronics and squeezed them into wristbands, clip-on gadgets or little widgets that nestle in your pocket. One birthday later I ended up with this: a FitBit One tracker.

It's really quite a simple device. It's a pedometer. It counts steps. So far I've taken 7,410 steps today. Since I've also told it my height, it can estimate how far I've walked: 3.06 miles. It's also got an altimeter, and it reckons I've climbed the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs.

The gadget synchronises with an app on the phone so I can see these figures there too, and I can compare one day with the next. Each day I try to walk at least five miles and climb ten flights of stairs.

It's got another trick up its electronic sleeve too. And it's and age old one. Having told FitBit my age and weight, it can convert my day's activity into an estimate of the number of calories I've burned: 1,385 and counting.

I use the app to keep track of the calories I've eaten, and the theory goes that so long as I burn more than I eat I'll lose weight.

If you tell FitBit what your goal weight is, and how hard-core you want to be, it'll give you a budget so you can see how many calories you've got left each day. Too few? Go for a quick walk found the block. Too many spare? Eat cake.

You can even hook it up to digital bathroom scales that record your weight automatically so you don't even have to track your progress. (Side note: don't weigh yourself in my house, although I'm surprised at just how many visitors do.)

Is it really that easy? I tried it for two weeks in January. It seemed to work.

Eat less. Exercise more. Who knew? Why did no one tell us?

Of course we all know the secret. The trick that FitBit and others pull off is that they bring all the critical information together in one place. Information is power.

After four months I'd lost four stone. I'd changed. I'd joined the healthy minority.

I'm reluctant to say FitBit is the secret. It's not a panacea This device did not make me lose weight. I did it myself. But at times it's been hard work.

It's hard counting calories when eating out, though many restaurants publish nutrition information online.

Trying to track calories consumed at a festival is futile. This weekend I'll be queuing at Cambrian Organics with everyone else.

But come Tuesday I know what I need to do to get back on track.

So if you - like I did last year - feel you could spare a pound or two, there's three things I'd ask you to remember.

Information is power.

Change is possible.

You are incredible.

Posted by pab at 17:00 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!