Day 101 – Smart Weighing

And another toy arrives!

Yesterday a card left in the mail announced that there had been nobody to sign for delivery. So this morning before work, I made a quick detour via the local post office.

After a quick dash back to the car I ripped the shipping satchel and the bubble wrap to briefly peek into the box. I wanted to make sure that if battery purchases would be needed I could make them during the day.

All this adds up to the delivery of my brand new FitBit Aria Wifi-enabled Scales!

So Simple, So Smart
So Simple, So Smart

Now I can just step onto the scales in the morning, wait a few moments, and then my weight and body fat percentage will zip through the Wifi back to my dashboard before I make it halfway up the hallway.

No more short-term memory needed!

As soon as my foot makes contact with the scales they kick into action.

Apparently it can also recognise who steps on the scales and identify up to 8 people using the system. I have no idea how it works this out, but there must be something in the measurements that can serve as a signature of sorts. I am curious, but not curious enough to research it right now… as long as it works!

As soon as I got to my dashboard it congratulated me on all the weight I have lost since July when I set up the account. Apparently none of the measurements I manually entered in that period count towards badges. The software has wisely decided that it cannot trust the user to be truthful about their weight.

Packaged very Neatly
Packaged very Neatly

Before all that, the set-up took some doing though. The instructions are fairly terse, and my Wifi networks are password protected or invisible.

First, I started from my desktop machine. Log in to FitBit account… check. Enter name for new device, and enter my initials for the scales… check. Disconnect from Wifi, and connect to scales Wifi to continue setup… uhm… what?

Apparently, integral to the set-up process is a connection to the web server inside the scales to set up its connection to the network.

I feel a little odd using the phrase “web server inside the scales”. This world we live in is a magical place indeed.

Anyway, I decided to switch to my phone for the rest of the process… which failed. I could connect to the scales, but switching devices halfway through is apparently not the way to go.

Okay, I don’t want to enter my complex FitBit password on the phone. Let’s try the downloadable app…

… misery!

I got the set-up app installed on my laptop, and connected to the scales, and it said it was sending network details, and… hang. Again. And again. And again.

I tried every permutation I could think of. Maybe the open guest network? Nope. Maybe if I enable the Wifi on the modem and use that? Nope. Searching the FitBit forums for help suggested turning off the firewall, using 802.11b, using… Nope, Nope, Nope.

And then I found an unboxing video that made it all look so easy and seamless using nothing more than a mobile.

And Connected!
And Connected!

So I went back to square one, opened the browser in my phone, meticulously copied my complex password… and followed the instructions.

And home run first try!

I have no idea what is wrong with the PC-based installation options, but it’s very poor that none of those earlier attempts provided error messages or feedback that was sufficient to indicate what the problem was. Clearly there was nothing wrong with any of the technology involved because it worked first try when I stuck to my phone.

But now all is forgiven.

It works, and it is remarkably easy.

All my measurements end up timestamped in the dashboard as well, so I can even weigh myself multiple times a day without getting a confusing graph. And getting body fat numbers is equally interesting and dismaying.

Now I have another goal to strive for!

I have no idea what the various body fat percentage ranges on Wikipedia actually equate to in practical reality, but I’ve settled on a 15%-ish target for now, from a current 20%-ish.

I’ll do some more research later.

Day 81 – Weights and Measures

I blogged earlier about the FitBit Flex I got for my birthday, and it has been a tremendous help in monitoring my physical activity and my sleep. I tap it into sleep mode before I go to bed, and tap it awake in the morning, and then it tells me on my account exactly how restlessly I might have slept.

It was a revelation to discover that I didn’t sleep as much as I thought I did, and it has been a help in making me more aware of when I stay up too late or wake up too early (and how often it happens… it remembers everything!)

Today, I ordered the Aria scales made by FitBit as well. Basically the same principle applies; I step on the scales, they check weight and body fat, and then send all the details to my account for tracking.

So far, I have been successfully tracking my weight through manual entry, but $150 seemed like a small price to pay for the extra convenience for something I do daily.

2013-10-05 - Weight Graph

When I started tracking my weight I was at 87kg. I did some research to pick a target weight, and although BMI is a terrible measure for someone with the amount of muscle I have in my legs, the top-end of the healthy range is 76kg, which seems like a good target.

I set the weight target in my FitBit account at 75kg, but at least at the moment I’m going with the assumption I’ll allow for a reasonable band between 75-77kg. If I drop below 75kg, I need to eat more to get back above it, when I rise above 77kg, I need to watch what I eat. That should be manageable.

In my earlier post about weight I talked about the importance of weighing daily and not panicking over the bumps along the way.

When I look at my monthly graph I can tell exactly where Wednesday is.

Wednesday is our night with friends and food and board games. And we always eat more than we should. But we just don’t care… we’re such rebels!

Between my weight measurement on Wednesday morning and Thursday morning I typically gain about a kilo. Which I then lose again without any extra special effort over the following 2 days, because most of that extra snack-weight just doesn’t get absorbed by the body at all… it just… travels through, so to speak.

But as you can see in the image above, if you keep measuring every single day and only focus on the long-term trend, you’ll be less likely to lose heart. Despite the Wednesdays and other slips along the way, my graph has a fairly steady downward slope.

At the moment I’m at 82.8kg; when I pass through the 80kg marker I intend to have a little party to celebrate. Which will show up as a bump to 81kg the day after 😉

On the exercise-side of the equation, I’m still trying to rebuild a solid gym routine. At the moment I’m back to about 4-5 classes a week. I hope to end up with something like:

  • Mon – Weights in Pump class
  • Tue – Cycle class
  • Wed – Pilates Reformer
  • Thu – Weights in Pump class
  • Fri – Cycle class
  • Sat – … probably rest, maybe Pilates …
  • Sun – Yoga

I’ve found in the past that an even mix of strength, cardio and flexibility classes seems easiest to keep up week-on-week.

Day 26 – Weight

I’m trying to lose some weight at the moment. Not that I am overweight, but I’d just like pants to fit with a little less muffin-top around the waist, and perhaps partly out of some vanity over the fact that I know with my gym routine there are some pretty good abs under there somewhere; I just can’t see them.

None of that is important for this post though.

I weigh myself every day as part of my routine: wake, shower, weigh, dress. It’s something I read somewhere some time ago; the only way to lose weight consistently is to create a feedback loop and graph your progress. And to not panic with fluctuations.

Weight Graph pre/post Melbourne
Weight Graph pre/post Melbourne

Over my recent Melbourne trip I could have easily panicked; as you can see above, there is a measurement gap while I was in Melbourne (packing scales is too OCD even for me). And… a jump.

I weighed 86.3kg the Tuesday morning before flying to Melbourne. I weighed 88.0kg the Friday evening after returning home. I could have easily panicked and chocolated away my sorrows. But this Sunday morning, I was back to 86.3kg.

There are many factors that’ll go into a jump like that; morning vs. evening… mornings are always lighter than evenings. I prefer the mornings because it seems to me that should be the most reliable moment because I will never have eaten just before weighing. Other fun fact: you lose somewhere around 200-300g overnight through breathing in O2 and breathing out CO2 with water vapour.

The biggest reason not to panic though is that from day-to-day you’ll eat completely different things. And food weight has very little to do with long-term body weight.

Pistachios
Pistachios

Losing weight is about tracking kJ (calories) in the food you eat vs. about 8700kJ/day burned for the average adult. The labelling of food with kJ numbers here in Australia has been helpful in changing some habits already; that delicious Pecan Pie I used to occasionally get at Michel’s Patisserie accounts for about 5000kJ all on its own while a just-as-filling (to me) sausage roll is under 2000kJ.

And this morning, with my weight returning to normal, that got me thinking…

How do the calorie content and weight of foods relate?

White Rice
White Rice

Most sites with comprehensive food databases only return numbers in calories, alas the world of food skews non-metric. But, the Calorie King website is one of the few exceptions as far as I can tell.

After using their handy calculator to put in 100g to get comparable measurements, I arrived at the following information:

  • Snickers = 2090 kJ
  • Pistachios = 2328 kJ
  • White Sugar = 1618 kJ
  • White Rice = 543 kJ
  • White Bread = 1108 kJ

On the whole, the numbers were a lot closer than I expected. And I was more than a little surprised by the number for white sugar. Surely sugar would be jumping way off the scales (pardon the pun) for energy rich-ness?!

Sugar
Sugar

After some thinking, it occurred to me that measuring by 100g is probably not the most useful way to think of this when trying to make decisions about what to eat when you want to lose weight.

What is probably much more relevant is how full food makes you feel. Being hungry is only very loosely related to energy intake. Being hungry has more to do with volume.

Some more research later, I found a handy table on The Metric Kitchen (look under heading “Other non-liquid ingredients”) that illustrates the point well. For 1 cup of volume, the weights of various ingredients vary from 60g all the way up to 300g (I don’t usually eat table salt by the cup though).

Snickers - Eaten
Snickers – Eaten

So, another round of lookups on Calorie King later, and the same list of ingredients translates to the following:

  • Snickers = 3360 kJ (my estimate based on 3 bars fitting into a cup)
  • Pistachios = 2864 kJ
  • White Sugar = 3235 kJ
  • White Rice = 859 kJ
  • White Bread = 499 kJ

I think that looks a lot more likely; although a normal chocolate bar at around 1000kJ is about the same amount of energy as a slice of bread, the bread will be a lot more filling for the same amount of energy consumed. Or put another way: if you eat till you feel full, you’ll need many more chocolate bars than slices of bread.

I also found the flip-around that bread and rice do interesting; by weight bread is twice as energy-rich as rice, but by volume it is almost exactly the other way around.

Anyway, the point I was trying to get to before I failed miserably to stay on track with my rambling narrative is that to gain 1kg of body fat from the calories contained, you’d have to eat over 2.5kg of steak. So, if you gain 1kg over the course of eating a steak dinner, no more than about 350g will stay with you (I’m trying to avoid being explicit here, so think this through to your own level of comfort).

Which means that while I was in Melbourne, probably eating more extensive meals through unhealthy hit-and-run lunches and wine-and-dine with colleagues in the evening than I normally do at home, it looked like I gained almost 2kg, but most of that was only temporary added weight.

The best thing to do is to weigh regularly, disregard the bumps and jumps, and plot a graph so you can see the long-term trend matches your goals. There will be heavy days, and there will be light days. Just breathe and keep going. I rely on the graph my free FitBit account keeps for me (see first image above), but there are many more Android/iOS tools that can easily do the same job with minimal effort once you set up a weighing routine.

And that’s the end of my rant I think.

I hope this was an entertaining read, regardless of whether the subject-matter does anything for you.

Also, the pictures for this post came out really well I think. Tripod and shutter-timed shots to get nice sharp images. It seems even when I’m not writing about photography, I still end up writing about photography. 😉