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Using Technology to Trim Your Waistline

Rapid changes in technology have inundated consumers with options for adding tech to their lives. From getting a loan, to having someone round up your groceries for you to pick up later, tech gadgets are picking up the pace of life in ways never before imagined. And so it was for me in December 2016 when I decided to make the switch to a healthier lifestyle and use technology to help me do it. Was there a more opportune time to do so with the clichė “New Years Resolution” right around the corner?

With the only half-realized resolutions of two previous New Years’ behind me, I renewed my annual goal: Get under 200 pounds, and stay there. I was somewhat disheartened by my previous failings. This former All-American Swimmer who weighed in at 165 pounds from junior year of high school to junior year of undergrad had managed to balloon to 240 pounds and felt every pound of it in my daily life. I had hit my breaking point. I decided to make 2017 MY YEAR to finally reach that goal but realized I had to do something I had never had to worry about before – laser focus on diet and exercise.

Exercise was always my strong suit, but over the years, my eating habits had become unhealthy as I was far too often passing on the healthy food for the harmful. So, being a “Millennial” who had used technology for everything else, I decided to put the technology to good use to reach my goal. Here’s a look at the technology and applications (better known as apps) I employed to reach my goal.

MyFitnessPal (Free): MyFitnessPal is a free smartphone app and website that tracks diet and exercise to determine optimal caloric intake and nutrients for the users' goals. The app offers a seemingly inexhaustible database, listing over 5 million different foods the user can put in manually or scan UPC codes from the product to log intake. To start, you simply enter your current health statistics, and what your goal weight is. From there, you can log your Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks as it tallies up your current caloric intake. Entering your activity from housework, to walking, to full-blown gym workouts, this app can calculate and subtract any exercise you achieve from your daily intake. At the end of the day, the app declares, “If every day were like today, in 5 weeks you would weigh XXX.” I found this particular feature extremely useful in goal setting, and in motivating me to stay on track!

SWORKIT (Free): It is very challenging for someone without much experience planning and executing an exercise plan to know where to start. Enter SWORKIT. Originally an idea that was pitched on the popular ABC-TV show, “Shark Tank”, this is the perfect smartphone app for anyone who says, “they don't have enough time” to get to the gym or to exercise. Opening the app, you are able to see 4 categories: Strength, Cardio, Yoga, and Stretching. Simply choose one of the categories and set the amount of time you have to perform exercises (the default time is between 5 and 60 minutes), and begin! The workout is preplanned for you and your proficiency level is factored in. A personal trainer will even demonstrate the exercises if you are unfamiliar with them. SWORKIT is an excellent option to use as a full course workout routine, or even a short 5-10 minute workout to get the blood pumping if you’re feeling sluggish at work.

Fitness Device/Tracker : A myriad of fitness trackers have hit the market over the last several years. I’ve tried several and found the FitBit device to meet my needs. In my weight loss journey, I began by purchasing a “FitBit”, and while it was an entry level model, it is an invaluable monitor and motivator for activity. Now while exercise is a relatively small portion of overall weight loss (compared to diet), it is physically impossible to lose weight without taking in fewer calories than you burn -- a caloric deficit. Simply put: Calories In – Calories Burned = Net Calories. There are 3,500 calories in each pound of body fat, therefore, in order to get to burning those calories, you must implement exercise into your daily regiment and TRACK your habits!

The FitBit is a wristwatch like device that tracks your activity and monitors your heart rate to calculate with near precision, how many calories you burn each day. The device tracks your movement including the steps you take, the stairs you climb, and your heart rate. When coupled with the MyFitnessPal app (mentioned above) you have a real time visual of how you are doing on a daily basis with how many calories you are taking in and burning away through activity. As someone who never spent much time worrying about what I was taking in, I liked the visual of exactly how much I could “afford” when heading to a family dinner or casual night out.

With a little help from a few microchips and algorithms, I finally was able to keep my resolution and meet my goal. I lost 40 pounds in 9 months with a healthy dose of new technology and plenty of resolve. Of course, adaptation is the key to any program for good health. When something that used to work doesn’t anymore, then its time to turn it up or try a new program. I hope that by sharing this information, it will help expedite your search for a plan that suits you and your goals and puts you on a path to well health.

Joseph Katich. Program Manager - Time Waits For No One -Medical Radio Show - WSPD 1370

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