While I should be doing a full update for measurements and everything, I’m really not feeling it at the moment. And so I didn’t do an update on Wednesday. But someone asked after a previous post if I was going to post about what I was using for resources — websites, apps, etc. — and I wrote this up last weekend, so if anything might jive for others, I might as well share.
I tried out a bunch of apps, and very few resonated with me. I tried weight trackers, nutrition ones, stuff about exercise, and a raft of others. In the end, I’m only happy with four of them, and right now, I’m almost down to using only two for two specific elements.
The first area is almost unrelated — I like to jumpstart my brain with some puzzles in the morning. Not “physical health”, more “cognitive health”, I guess. I subscribe to an app called PUZZLE PAGE, and each day it gives me 7 new puzzles or so. Basic crosswords (more kris-kros puzzles than traditional crossword), sudoko, etc., plus some other ones for pattern recognitions, quote falls, etc. It has an option to sync across devices through cloud saving, but I find it too hard to play comfortable on a phone screen. I also have Quote Slide which I have been playing for years, as well as Picture Cross, Puzzledom, Ludo King, Rikudo, and, for a long time, Family Zoo. But mostly I only use those for variety now. Puzzle Page is my mental app of the day. I’ve tried Lumosity, a few others, but this one suits my interests better. All of them are available on iOS, I think, although I was doing them on Android.
In terms of nutrition, I bopped between two apps. The gold standard for most people is the app MYFITNESSPAL by Under Armour and I upgraded to Premium for the first month trial. You enter what you eat and drink, and it tells you the nutritional count for the day.
Samsung has a similar app called S-Health. And since I was a pure Android user when I started the journey, I tried it out. Unfortunately, it only works on the Samsung phones, NOT my Samsung tablet, and I do tend to use the tablet more than my phone.
Both of the apps come with extensive lookup databases, and with the similarities between the two, I think they must have pulled from the same database at some point. You can also add in fitness times, exercise types, etc., and it will give you your calorie count for the day. There are also blogs that are linked or links to exercise programs. Both aim to be ALL-IN-ONE. But for me, the main point was education…I needed to get a better understanding of the food choices I was making, while keeping it relatively simple. I kept track for a couple of weeks and it really helped. I did not renew for MyFitnessPal at the end of the month, wasn’t needing it as much by then, and I always had S-Health for backup (at least at the time, I’ve now switched to iOS for my phone).
My dietician has me on a simplified diet and as long as I remain within that, I don’t need to access the nutritional info of every piece of food going by. For me, most of the challenge was more about certain food choices (too many carbs, not enough veggies and fruit) and when I was eating (skipping breakfast, messed up schedules). I changed that, and my weight adjusted. From time to time, I look something up, but I’m not in it daily. I might decide to go back into it at some point to get me “restarted” / refocused, but it isn’t my “go to” app. And because of that, I don’t need the premium subscription. Both “basic” versions work just fine.
The fourth app runs on my Android tablet and it is a pretty basic weight tracker. You can do it in the other apps, but I wanted something just simple and easy to use. You put in your starting date and weight, your goal weight and ending date, and it will chart your plan to get there on a linear scale. The other apps do that too, but they also will add in a bunch of caloric info that I didn’t want cluttering up the interface. By contrast though, the weight tracker I use (MONITOR YOUR WEIGHT) is not particularly health-friendly — if you put in that you want to lose 10 pounds a week for 10 weeks, it will dutifully chart it out for you. 100 pounds in a week? Here’s your chart. Neither of those would be healthy plans, but that is not what the app is for — it’s just charting your info for you, it doesn’t check to see if you’re an idiot or simply unrealistic. The other apps do — both will limit your weight loss to under 2 pounds per week…they simply won’t chart anything else. And usually won’t let you set a date and goal in any other way.
The app I use ignores all that, it’s really just a graphing program, and will let you enter your weight each day or at whatever frequency you choose to enter, and plot it against the goal. It shows you the raw data (plot points), a green line to show your “goal” (i.e. straight line from starting point to your goal), and an orange line to project your likely weight loss path at your current rate of progress (extrapolating from your entries). If you want to export the data to Excel, you can (simple CSV format). Pretty simple with few bells and whistles.
I looked at some of the exercise apps, and I may want something at some point for tracking, but most of my stuff is so individualized, the big “generic” apps don’t really fit my program very well. I find myself tracking things more in Excel than anything else. I have a bunch of exercise videos and I’ll blog about those in the future once I get the basement set up properly.
Websites / Email Feeds / Blogs
I also initially signed up for some good websites. The info was good in the first few weeks particularly, keeping my mind focused on my learning, but over time, some of the articles started to seem more like click-bait headlines / pop articles than useful advice.
Everyday Health has a number of email feeds to choose from and one is called Diet and Nutrition. Some recent articles include:
- 9 steps to lower your BMI (basically about accuracy, scales, and having a plan);
- 7 foods that spike blood sugar (white rice, white bread, sodas and other sweet drinks, red meat, fast food, packaged foods, whole milk…duh!)
- 9 Foods to avoid if you have Type 2 diabetes
- 7 Easy Breakfast Ideas for Type 2 diabetes
Some diet tips, some recipe suggestions, etc. But pretty basic. After a week or two, they seem rather juvenile even. And after a month, it’s the rare article that contains something useful.
Another feed is called Living with Diabetes and contains similar articles:
- Diabetes Breakfast Mistakes
- Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for People With Diabetes?
- What is Hyperglycemia? How to Prevent, Detect, and Treat High Blood Sugar
- 9 Healthy Fruits for People With Type 2 Diabetes
Some are still pretty basic, but I find it is at least a slightly higher ratio of useful information in there.
A third feed that I chose was Men’s Health with articles like 7 Best Foods for Men Over 50. The rest of the topics are pretty varied, and while there are some useful things hidden in there, there are a LOT of articles that I’m not interested in (vacation spam, problems with urinary infections, how to control a Herpes outbreak, etc.). Heck, even Readers Digest Read-up has some interesting articles in it (The Most Popular Weight-Loss Products on Amazon!).
But the better ones are pure health-related like Healthline: Diabetes. The content might not be much better than the Everyday Health, but the ratio of soft articles seems lower (Is It Safe to Donate Blood If You Live with Diabetes?; Can 6 Weeks of CrossFit Help Ease Diabetes Symptoms?).
I don’t know if there are any startling “nuggets” in there, but it’s what I have been using. Doing this article helped me to realize that the ratio of useful info to pablum on some of them was so low that I unsubscribed. If I find anything else out there that works, I’ll share.
One extra thing
As an aside, I also have a Fitbit HR. I have had it for some time, and I love the premise of it. But four things are holding me back from fully embracing it, each individually minor. First, my knees are giving me problems. So I’m not capable of 10K steps right now. That shouldn’t stop me, I can still do whatever I can do, right, and track it.
Second, I find it very uncomfortable to wear, partly related to all watches. When I type, I like to keep my desk a bit higher, and let my wrists rest on the desk. It works for me, no carpal tunnel problems, etc., but if I rest on the desk, the watchband starts to dig into my wrist. And then I take it off to type, which I do at my desk all day long, forget to put it back on, which means it doesn’t record all the other steps I take when I’m not wearing it.
Third, the charger for it is not a simple mini-USB, it has it’s own VERY short cord (about six inches) and a weird shaped dongle. I usually only charge connected to my computer at home (I’d charge it at work but we’re not allowed to plug USB devices in, even to charge). I carry the cord, but then I forget to charge, as opposed to other devices that naturally line up when I finish for the day. It charges with a slightly different setup, and that extra “step” means it ends up running out of power before I remember to keep it up to date.
Fourth, there is a problem with this model of Fitbit that is endemic to the series. There is no separate “pairing” option on it to turn on Bluetooth and you need to use BT to synch to your mobile device. When I synch, even if I did a synch yesterday, it takes FOREVER to synch properly. Sometimes it doesn’t connect and it takes awhile to do that; other times it just seems to pause half-way through; other times it just takes forever to transfer every single bit of data. I wouldn’t particularly care except that if the power has run down, synching is the ONLY way to set the time. A couple of weeks ago, it took THIRTY MINUTES. Searching the internet have turned up tons of anecdotal tips and tricks, including starting a synch, wait a minute, and then completely reboot the phone and do it again. By rebooting, it guarantees that the BT link is severed on both ends (the sending Fitbit and the receiving phone) whereas simply disconnecting the BT setting leaves the Fitbit somehow lock-blocked. Some people just use the health apps on their phones and use that to track by estimate how many steps they take, but evaluations of these techniques show wide variations with reality.
Like I said, I love the premise of it all…nutrition and weight apps, e-feeds to keep me focused in a larger community, and an e-device to gather health data. And some people have gone that route whole-hog with great happiness. While I like tech, I only use it when it works well and helps. I haven’t found that sweet spot.
The only real tech solution that is working GREAT for me is a digital diary of sorts. In other words, this blog!