Weight Watchers Tracking of Fitbit Walk

I walked today recording my walk as an activity using my Fitbit.  I had posted recently that Weight Watchers had apparently fixed the problem they were having in double tracking steps.  To recap, previously when using an activity monitor and recording walking (or running) as an activity, Weight Watchers would double count the steps from the walk with your steps for the whole day.  During the time that I wasn’t exercising (due to surgery), this got fixed and Weight Watchers now tracks the activity and then deducts those steps from the daily total.  So, you get extra FitPoints for the steps that are in excess of those for the tracked walk.  I was glad to see that since it meant I could now tracking walking as an activity on Fitbit and not worry that the steps would get double counted.

Today, though, I noticed another great change.  One of the negatives on walking (and reportedly running) when activity was synced using an activity monitor was that Weight Watchers awarded FitPoints solely based upon steps.  The intensity of the walk or run didn’t matter.  If you walked 5000 steps at a slow pace you got the same FitPoints as if you ran 5000 steps at a fast pace.  Of course, the latter would take much less time.  But, it was the same FitPoints.

This contrasts with how it is when you manually record walking or running (that is, you don’t use an activity monitor).  In that situation, you give the length of time and intensity and the FitPoints vary based upon both time and intensity.

It bothered me that intensity wasn’t a part of how activity points are given.  I happen to live in a hilly neighborhood.  When I go for a walk there isn’t much that is truly flat.  So, I burn a lot more calories than I burn if I walk the same number of steps when I go to a shopping mall.

But, that wasn’t reflected in my FitPoints.  But, good news.  I noticed today that it is now reflected.  This what Weight Watchers showed after my walk.

fitbit-walking

I went and checked on Fitbit and found that I walked 3825 steps during the walk.  If Weight Watchers was still going solely by steps, I would have earned 3 FitPoints for the walk.  But, I earned 4 FitPoints which is what I would earn for 37 minutes of walking at moderate intensity.  So, it appears that Weight Watchers is now using the information it gets from Fitbit to determine the intensity of the activity and awarding FitPoints accordingly.

I don’t know if this applies to all activity monitors or all activities.  But, this was really good news for me since I feel this gives me much better results on my activity.

To anyone using an activity monitor:  Are you seeing intensity being a part of how FitPoints are being awarded?

When You Don’t Want to Exercise

Sometimes, I wake up and I know that I just don’t want to exercise.  Today was like that.  I woke up and was already tired.  I was also a little sore from my personal training yesterday.  But, to be honest, it was mild and not really a valid excuse.  Today was a day when time seemed to pass very quickly, but I didn’t seem to accomplish much.  I thought about exercising this afternoon, but told myself I didn’t feel like it.  And, I rationalized taking the day off from exercise because yesterday was a heavier day for exercise (80 minutes) and tomorrow will be as well.

And, truthfully, maybe Tuesdays would be a good day to have as my planned day off exercise.  I usually plan to have one day off and then maybe take off another day if life intrudes or I don’t feel well.  But, in this case, I took last Saturday off, so I really didn’t want to take today off from exercise.

Except, I did want to.  I just didn’t want to do much today.  Later in the day, I went out for awhile and took my daughter shopping.  But, then I was home and was reading.  And, I was really prepared to just do that the rest of the day and end up burning about 1400 calories.

So….what do you do when you don’t want to exercise?  One thing that helps me is to have some “rules” that kick in during this type of situation.  They aren’t inflexible, but can help me to keep from having to make a choice each day.

Rule One is:  Don’t take off a day from exercise unless you exercised the prior 3 days (unless there is a good reason — life intruding, being sick, etc).  Rule Two is:  Being tired alone is not a good reason not to exercise.  Rule Two is really huge for me.  I used to often not exercise if I was tired.  What I’ve learned is that if I ignore the fact I’m tired (this is only when I’m not sick), then I usually feel better after exercising and feel less tired.  Rule Three is:  Not wanting to start exercising isn’t a good reason not to exercise.  I usually don’t really want to start exercising.  I know there are people who really look forward to it.  And, there are situations where I look forward to it (like when I go walking in the neighborhood with my husband).  But, walking on the treadmill is not usually something that I’m actively looking forward to.  Still, I know that if I do it, I feel better after I’ve done it and I will enjoy it.

So, while all this is kind of percolating in the back of my brain (while I’m telling myself that I am not going to exercise today), I get up and take my iPad over to the treadmill.  I got my water and then read for an hour while walking on the treadmill. This was not a super intense walk, but Fitbit says I burned 288 calories in an hour.  I’ll take it.  And, I know I will end up burning somewhere a little over 1600 calories today.

Frustrating Weigh In

Today’s weigh in was beyond frustrating.  I gained .2 pounds to end up at 152 pounds.

Why was this frustrating?  I knocked it out of the park this week in every way.  It is by far the best week I’ve had in over a year.

I averaged 7804 steps a day this week.  The prior week when I lost 1.4 pounds? 6018 steps.  I burned 104 calories a day more this week than I did the week before.  To put in perspective my average calorie burn per day for the first quarter of the year was 1500.  I was at 1726 per day average for this week.

My food intake this week was less than last week and was about 4 calories a day more than my average for the first quarter.  That tells me that I was not eating more to compensate for the higher calorie burn.

I did great on exercise.  I exercised for 453 minutes during the week which works out to just over an hour a day.  I actually took last Saturday off entirely.  Also, one of the 6 days I exercised was light exercise bike riding.  Still, it was a lot of minutes and I burned a lot of calories through it.

For those following Weight Watchers, I had 27 of my weekly points left.  I ate an average of about 29 points a day (I get 26 daily points).  I earned 37 activity points for the week, none of which I ate.

Of course, what matters in the end was the calorie deficit.  This week, Fitbit says my calorie deficit (based upon recording food at MyFitnessPal) was 601 calories a day, compared to 404 calories a day for the week before and compared to 380 a day for the first quarter of the year.

601 calories a day should theoretically equate to a loss of 1.2 pounds!  Now, I don’t usually lose as much as the calorie deficit should equate to.  I think there are 3 basic reasons for that overall:

  1. I may not always accurately weigh and measure food.  Maybe the calorie counts are based upon a level tablespoon and I round the top.  Maybe I don’t weigh something that I eat often and I get it wrong when I record it.  That kind of thing.  I do always track.
  2. Sometimes calories counts of restaurant food or packaged foods aren’t accurate.  I’ve read the articles saying that these counts can be really inaccurate.
  3. Calorie burn information given by Fitbit or my heart rate monitor may not be accurate.  They are basically estimates based upon height, weight, and age (and heart rate where available).  I have a higher body fat percentage than most people of my height and weight, so I burn fewer calories.

So, I understand if the math says I should lose .6 pounds and I lose .4 or even .2.  But, this week was more extreme than that.  I gained .2 pounds on a week when I had a 600 a day calorie deficit.  I don’t think that the 3 factors above account for that.  For example, I may not always be accurate in my recording, but I did nothing different this week.   I didn’t eat 600 calories more a day than I recorded.  I also didn’t eat a lot of processed foods this week.

So, I really think it come down to 2 things.  On Friday morning I was showing about a .2 pound decrease on the scale for the week.  That wasn’t much, but was something.  Friday, I exercised a lot and then the scale jumped up a little on Saturday morning.

First, sometimes weight loss seems a bit delayed.  Last week I lost 1.4 pounds which was more than was predicted by my calorie deficit.  But the week before that I lost .2 pounds which was less than predicted.  The two basically balanced out.  So, maybe this week’s loss is simply delayed a bit in showing up on the scale.

Second, I markedly increased my exercise this week.  Everything I did was aerobic exercise.  On 5 of the days it was walking — either outside or on the treadmill.  One day I used the exercise bike.  I am familiar with water retention after starting a new strength training program, but I didn’t do that.  I did a little research online, though, and I did see some reports of temporary weight gain after starting or increasing aerobic exercise.

My working hypothesis is that this is due to the great increase in my aerobic exercise level and that this is water retention.  If so, I should expect it to go away sometime in the next week or two.  My plan is to keep on doing what I did this week and see what happens.

I am about to go into several weeks of having a lot of family related eating out occasions.  Next Saturday is my birthday and I am planning on going to Carabba’s that day (same place I went last birthday).  Then, 8 days after that is our son’s 21st birthday.  The week after that is Mother’s Day.  A couple of weeks after that we will be going to a family wedding out of town which will mean at least one night away from home, maybe two.

Given all of that, I am really wanting to stay on track with both eating and exercise and particularly wanted to do well this past week and the upcoming week to go into that period in a good place.  I do think I was doing the right thing this past week, so I plan to just stay the course.

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Weigh In – A Star for Me!

Finally, I got another 5 pound loss star at Weight Watchers.  I ended up having a terrific weigh in.  I lost 1.4 pounds to get to 151.8 pounds.

4-11-2015 Weigh in

I know, I know, some people aren’t happy with anything less than a 2 pound loss, but this is a terrific loss for me, particularly so close to goal.  I was just ecstatic.  I’m only 3.8 pounds away from not having to pay to attend to Weight Watchers meetings (5.8 to goal).

What I was happy about was that I had the week not start out that great, but managed to come up with a plan for the rest of the week.  Last Saturday was a family occasion and we ate out.  I ate over 1900 calories (53 points) for the day.  Then, Sunday, we went out again.  This was a more ordinary eating out, but I barely had a deficit for that day.  When Monday morning rolled around I had no calorie deficit for the weekend and was in the hole by 500 calories.  I needed to get back to a deficit and I wanted to do well enough that I hoped I could get at least below my previous low of 153 pounds.

First, I planned to eat toward the minimum for the rest of the week.  I really worked hard on the fruits and vegetables to eat foods that were lower calorie.  Then, I really worked on exercise.  I really turned up the volume of exercise and walked a lot, both outside and on the treadmill.  Friday, it was raining outside and I wanted to be careful with my knee not to walk too many days in a row, so I used the exercise bike.  So, I was really happy to get up this morning and see that was going to have such a great loss this week.I plan to try to follow a similar exercise plan this week, but spread my calories out more evenly over the week in terms of eating.

Fitbit Charge HR First Look

At long last, my Fitbit Charge HR arrived.  This is a first look, very early review.

Fitbit Charge HR Box 2

Fitbit Charge HR box

I ordered it in late January and it just got here.  If I would have settled for black I would have had it months ago, but I wanted the plum (purple is my favorite color).

I must admit I had mixed feelings about buying and extensively looked at other alternatives.  On the one hand, I’ve loved my Fitbit One and it is a key part of my weight loss plan.

FitbitOne

I sync MyFitnessPal with it so that I can always see what my calorie deficit is.  I use it to see my calorie burn and steps.  I use it to see how intense my activity is (Fitbit tells you that).  So, having a Fitbit has been key to my weight loss.

For awhile I had a Fitbit Force since I wanted a wrist based tracker (I’ve always been afraid of losing the One, which I carry in my pocket.  Also, sometimes I forget to change it from one pair of pants to another).

Fitbit

I enjoyed the Force a lot, but it was recalled.  After the recall, I went back to using my Fitbit One and I’ve been waiting since then for the Force replacement.

Fitbit came out with 3 new trackers around the end of 2014.  The Charge is basically very similar to the Force, but is not supposed to cause the skin irritation that happened with the Force.  The Charge HR is also similar but has a heart rate monitor on the back of it to measure your heart rate throughout the day.  The Surge is sort of a gigantic Charge HR, but it has a GPS in it and some added exercise features.  I looked at it and it was just too huge for me.

So, why was I conflicted about buying the Charge HR since I love my Fitbit One so much?  Two reasons.  First, I read the help forum at the Fitbit site. I highly recommend doing that to anyone thinking about buying a Fitbit.  And, do the same for any other brand of activity monitor you might buy.  I’ve found that to be a great way to find out the limitations and problems of devices.

The problem with the Charge HR (and the Surge) is that, according to posts in the help forum, many people find its heart rate monitoring to be less than ideal.  Specifically, many people find the heart rate monitoring to consistently measure very low when doing higher intensity exercise and while doing non-step based exercise.  For a lot of people, they find that the Charge HR and the Surge do fine when measuring heart rate the other 23 hours or so of the day (the ones without heavy exercise).  Other people have problems even then.

I researched this endlessly and don’t feel this is a problem with Fitbit so much as a problem with wrist based heart rate monitoring.  It just doesn’t seem to compare well with using a chest strap.  Maybe technology will improve in this regard, but right now I think a chest strap will probably still be more accurate.  But, most of the day I don’t wear a chest strap.  I liked the idea of having a wrist based tracker that would measure my heart rate during the non-exercise part of the day and possibly I would get a better measure of my daily calorie burn.  So, for me, I decided the Charge HR would be OK if it measured my heart rate fairly accurately when I wasn’t exercising.  I would use my Polar H7 chest strap with Digifit when exercising.

The second reason I hesitated to buy the Fitbit Charge HR was that I find Fitbit (the company) to be high handed in how they treat customers in terms of changing things.  The Fitbit dashboard is where data from the Fitbit is displayed.  Fitbit has had a habit over the last year of suddenly changing the dashboard and removing functionality with no warning and not being very responsive to feedback.  They have been slow to respond to customer complaints.  For example, used to if you added an activity (for example, a walk) and you realized you made an error you could edit the activity.  For example, you put in a wrong time for when you started the activity.  Now, you have to entirely delete the activity and put it back in which is a total PITA. Fitbit said months ago they would restore the functionality, but they haven’t. Also, Fitbit changed the font on the web-based Dashboard to be very thin and light.  Many people complained that it was hard to read, particularly for anyone middle-aged or older.  Fitbit said they would look at it, but never changed it.

Still, I have enjoyed my Fitbit products.  The one problem that I had with a product that didn’t work correctly was handled fine by Fitbit (a full refund).  And, bottom line, was that I didn’t find any other activity monitor that had a heart rate function that I felt would be more accurate than the Charge HR.  So, I ended up ordering the Charge HR (former Force owners – I had returned my Force for a full refund – got a discount on a new activity monitor which I did appreciate).

This is how it looks from the side.  You push a button in the lighter area to switch between things like time, steps, calories burned, and so on.

Fitbit Charge HR Side

The display is not on all the time.  It stays on several seconds after you hit the button then dims.  Also, you can tap the top twice and will see one stat you’ve chosen to display when you tap.  I’ve set mine to display heart rate.

 

Fitbit Charge HR Wrist

The clasp is more secure than the one that I had on the Force which is nice:

Fitbit Charge HR clasp

On the underside, you can see the heart rate monitor sensor and the charging port:

Fitbit Charge HR Bottom

So far, the Charge HR is comfortable to wear.  I don’t usually wear a watch, but this feels fine.   I am actually currently using both my One and Charge HR since I want to compare them.  To do this, I linked the Charge HR to my existing Fitbit account and set up a separate account for my One so I could wear both and compare.

Right now, the Charge HR shows for the day that I’ve walked 615 steps and burned 754 calories.  The One says I’ve walked 802 steps and burned 772 calories.  The calorie burn is fairly similar, but the steps are not.  When I had my Force, I did feel it didn’t register as many steps as the One, which I carried in my pocket.  For example, the Force wouldn’t register steps if I was pushing a grocery card.  Still, it was more accurate than the Charge HR is so far.  I’m still working out, though, how tight I need to wear the Charge HR on my wrist so I’ll see how it does over the next few days.

I also wore both the Charge HR and my Polar H7 heart rate monitor while doing some light walking on the treadmill (at about 2.2 MPH).  I know the Charge HR won’t be good for high intensity exercise, but I wanted to see how it did for a lower intensity walk.

When I was using my One, I would use a Polar H7 (or a Wahoo Blue) chest strap which sends data by Bluetooth to the Digifit app on my phone.  Digifit would record the workout and then send the calorie burn data to Fitbit.  Fitbit would then use the Digifit calorie burn data instead of what the One had come up with.  I felt this was more accurate since it was using my actual heart rate.

I wondered how this would compare to the Charge HR.

On the one hand, the calorie burn data was very similar.  The Charge HR said 143 calories burned, while Digifit said 156 calories.

Digifit 4-9-2015 Summary

Charge HR 4-9-2015 walkOn the other hand, the heart rate data was quite different.  Above, I have the graph from the Charge HR heart rate monitoring.  Here is the Digifit chart:

Digifit 4-9-2015 walk

(Not the big dip and spike was just an error from the chest strap briefly not having good contact).  The Fitbit Charge HR says my average heart rate was 105, while Digifit said 118.  Truthfully, I felt the average should have been in the middle.  I felt the Polar H7 was reading a bit high, perhaps due to the chest strap not having great contact for this walk.  At one point, Digifit was reported 120s heart rate while the Charge HR was reporting in the 90s.  I manually took my pulse while that was going on and that said my heart rate was about in the middle between the two.

So, I want to try using both of them again when I’m sure I’ve got good contact on the chest strap.  I also want to try them while doing something non-step based like the exercise bike.  I don’t think the Charge HR will do well for that at all.  For things where I think the chest strap will be better, my plan will be to not use the Charge HR at all and just rely on the chest strap.

Right now, I haven’t decided yet if I will keep the Charge HR.  If it proves to be reasonably accurate on heart rate during the non-exercise part of the day, then I will keep it.  I don’t mind using a chest strap during higher intensity exercise.  On the other hand, I am a little concerned with the fact it is measuring so many fewer steps.  But, this may get better as I figure out the best way to wear the Charge HR.  And, it may even be more accurate than the One.  Sometimes the One can record steps even if I am sitting if my leg is moving. So, maybe some of the lower step count is the Charge more accurately not counting “steps” that the One is counting incorrectly.

Oh – one other thing.  For a long time, many have wanted to be able to have more than one activity monitor attached to an account.  Some people might not, for example, want to wear a wrist based tracker to a formal event, but would feel fine using something they could put in a pocket (or attach to a bra) such as my One.  In the past, though, you couldn’t have both on them on your account at once.  Just recently, Fitbit has made it where you can have more than one tracker on an account and Fitbit will automatically track whichever one you are using.  Another feature, if you have an iPhone, is that if you forget your tracker but have your phone, you can set it up to use the steps from the iPhone.  That would have been great the other day when I went on a walk and forgot my One (I changed into shorts and forget to transfer the One to my pocket).  I had my chest strap on and I got my calorie burn info but didn’t have step info.  Now, that wouldn’t happen because I had my phone with me and it would have taken the steps from the phone.