Congratulations on your decision to start your weight loss journey. Taking the first few steps is sometimes the most difficult part, but you are past that stage now. You are determined to bring in lasting weight loss. You want to turn into a new you.
You cannot manage what you do not measure.
Thankfully, technology is on our side, and today numerous gadgets and tools aid us to keep us on track while we embark the weight loss journey. I list the most vital of these in this post.
Our body is like an engine. It uses calories for fuel to do work. Any excess fuel is stored as fat. If there is a fuel deficit, the fat stored in our body is burnt and we loose weight. While this presents an overly simplistic picture of the whole process, you get the general drift. Weight loss occurs when there is a calorie deficit. Your intake must be lesser than your expenditure. Sounds simple enough? It is, but you must keep track of your calorie intake/expenditure with reasonable accuracy. If you rely solely on guesswork, more likely than not, you would end up disappointed.
Fortunately, calorie tracking is in your fingertips these days. Literally. There are many apps that help you keep track of calorie tracking. All you need is a kitchen scale and a smart phone or a tablet. Apps like MyFitnessPal has a huge database of food and their nutrition information. All you need to do is to enter the serving sizes of the food you consume and the app keeps track of your calorie intake. Enter your exercise details and your energy expenditure is tracked too.
While this may seem obvious, I would recommend that you get a scale which also measures body fat percentage. Body fat analysers send a small electric current through your body (don’t worry, you wont feel a thing) and estimates your body bat by measuring the impedance. Note that this just an estimate and there are numerous question marks over the accuracy of body fat estimated by these scales. However, these scales are convenient, inexpensive and are good enough to give you a ball-park idea of how much body fat you have. Serious athletes should go for advanced body fat analysis techniques such as a DEXA scan or under water weighing. You can get a basic body fat analyser that just displays your weight, body fat percentage, and maybe a few other pieces of information such as this one or get a fancy one which syncs via wifi / bluetooth such as the one form Withings or from Fitbit.
An activity tracker is a wearable device that typically keeps track of the following:
- Daily steps walked (pedometer function)
- Floors climbed (using a barometer)
- Distance walked (estimate based on steps, stride length)
- Sleep pattern (Yes, you wear the device even while sleeping)
- Daily calorie expenditure
- Other parameters such as heart rate, perspiration etc.
An activity tracker keeps you motivated by urging you towards achieving your goals (10,000 steps a day, 2500 calories expenditure etc) and usually has several visual motivators to help you keep track of how far you still have to go. In addition, almost all of these sync to your smartphone and have dedicated apps and websites which display fancy graphs. Today, the market is flooded with activity trackers. Popular ones include Fitbit, Withings Pulse, Garmin Vivofit etc.
HEART RATE MONITORS
While activity trackers provide an estimate of your overall daily energy expenditure, a heart rate monitor estimates (with a greater degree of accuracy) your energy expenditure during exercise. In addition, heart rate monitors, as their name implies, measure your heart rate continuously during exercise. This also gives an indication of your fitness levels, with improvement in your overall fitness, you are able to perform the same exercise at the same intensity at a lower heart rate. Some heart rate monitors also talk to gym equipment such as treadmills and elliptical trainers and you are able to see your heart rate on the machine’s display while exercising. Polar is a manufacturer of heart rate monitors with many models available.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
All these gadgets can be a bit intimidating at first, but every one of these is a worthwhile investment. To start off, you can just get a kitchen scale and use the MyFitnessPal app to do calorie tracking. Once you start to add more technology into the mix, you can keep track of additional parameters and ensure that you are progressing towards your goals.
Additionally, most of these gadgets have social features allowing you to loose weight with friends, and have friendly competitions, making weight loss fun. Also, most of these gadgets talk to each other, presenting you with an overall picture of your fitness.