Today I want to talk about using your Fitbit or other activity tracker for weight loss and about a HUGE mistake people are making. While you're here, I'll tell you, this post contains affiliate links.
Okay so I'm not sure if you have noticed but I'm a little crazy about my Fitbit. It has played a big part in managing my weight as a Stay at Home Mom and in getting back to taking care of myself after coming out of that mom fog.
I've been using mine for years now and I can tell you it has truly motivated me to get more steps in. As a stay at home mom (and a blogger) it sure is easy to lead a sedentary life.
In fact, even before I was a mom, I had a desk job and sat still for hours at a time. I had a gym membership, worked out here and there- and I'd even get off the train a stop early just to get some exercise. But still I'd say a desk job and evening TV made my days pretty sedentary.
SO. Then. LalyDad knew I was jonesing for a Fitbit and gave me one for Mother's Day last year. Great! Woo! I'm on my path to losing weight and getting active! Right?
Eh…not at first…
For months I barely even paid attention to it. Finally my cousin invited me to a challenge group and I started paying attention to my steps each day. But that wasn't even the mistake I'm talking about. So what is it?
#1 Fitbit Mistake
So I'm wearing my wearable. I'm tracking, I'm meeting my step goal, so all is well, right?!
Not so fast Fitbit friend!
Just because you got that Fitbit smiley face or the green footprints, doesn't mean it's time to celebrate with a cupcake or an extra serving at dinner!
The number 1 mistake you can make with your Fitbit is assuming that banking 10K steps every day you will automatically make you lose weight. Just because you got 10K steps today, you do not have carte blache to eat whatever you want. Well… I guess you CAN eat whatever you want…but if you want to lose weight, that just won't work!
RELATED: 15+ Fitbit Hacks
It's fantastic that you got 10K steps and I would never want to discourage you from aiming for that. But it's not the whole picture. What if you were already walking 10K steps every day and still gaining weight before you had your fitbit? Now each day, you see that you made your step goal and you think it's all good.
It's not working for you!
Next time you hit 10K steps on your Fitbit, take a look at how many calories you have burned (that's on there too!). Have you set your current weight in the app? Have your tracked your calories today? Do you know how many calories you need to eat in order to lose weight?
If you answered no to any of those questions, then you don't have the whole picture and it will be easy to assume you are on your way to weight loss. You're not alone, it's happened to others. But you're here now! We can fix it!
How to Avoid the Fitbit Mistake
Fitbit can be a HUGE game changer in terms of leading a more active life, but to lose weight with it, you need to lay some ground work.
Here are some steps you can take to can AVOID this HUGE mistake and make that fitbit work FOR you!
Get the Numbers
First go weigh yourself and make sure your weight is up to date in your Fitbit App. At the bottom of your App dashboard, select Account, then tap your name and hit Edit Profile. There you can edit your weight and height to make sure you Fitbit is tracking things accurately.
Now you need to decide on a goal weight and determine how many calories you need to eat to get to that goal. You can use this Weight Loss Calculator. If you've never calculated this before…you might be surprised at the results. But keep in mind that you need to have a deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. So to lose a pound a week you need to burn 500 more calories than you consume each day. Think you're doing that now?!
Let's find out!
Track your food. Do it. If even for one month, just do it. If it would help you lose weight and become more healthy, don't you think it's worth it?!
There are tons of calorie calculating apps out there that you can use, including the actual fitbit app. These apps take a previously arduous task and do 90% of the work for you. All you need to do is tell it what you ate. No math, no pencils and erasers.
To log food you eat in the fitbit app, go to your main dashboard in the app tap the + button at the bottom center. Select Log Food from the pop-up then search for the food you want to log, paying attention to the portion size. You can even tap the bar code icon next to the search bar to scan the bar code from the food package.
MyFitnessPal is very popular for food tracking and syncs with fitbit to give you a clear picture of calories in and out. If you already use another app that tracks food that works too, check to see if it syncs with your fitbit too.
I eventually paired my fitbit with my Favorite Diet App, which has a food logging component, and together they really helped me balance both sides of the equation.
Next: Live Your Life
Would you consider doing something counter intuitive for that one month of tracking your food? DON'T check your fitbit stats. For a month. Just live your life the way you always do. I mean – WEAR your fitbit, make sure it stays charged and tracking- just don't look at your step count every day.
Once you go for one month, doing your normal daily activity you can see where you are at. Look back on the month and see what your average week day and average weekend are like. Were there days you already got 10K steps without trying, or is every day well below the goal? What did it take to get to 10K?
Did you lose weight this month? If so, how much? If not then look at the numbers. You now have everything you need to CHANGE your behavior.
Remember: Change Nothing and Nothing Changes!
You can see that over the past month you've been eating, say, 2,000 calories every day, and on a typical week day you walked around 6K-8K steps and it shows you how many calories you burned too. If it's not creating a deficit, then you won't see weight loss. Or if it was a 100 calorie deficit per day, that's going to take you 35 days to lose a pound!
What can you adjust? That is up to you. You can set a higher step goal, you can eat fewer calories, or both.
As a follow up, if you ARE creating a deficit and still not seeing weight loss, consider the fact that every body is different, and no technology is perfect. Although the fitbit is one of the most accurate tools out there for measuring activity and calories burned, it's possible that it's just a bit off for you. If you've tracked the numbers above pretty well, you'll be able to say to yourself, okay I need to bump it up even more. The fitbit can still be a relative guide for you. You just will know that your step goal is higher. Try adding activity for another month, compare to last month and go from there.
Now you've got the whole picture though so you're on your way to a better you!
Need more guidance in using Fitbit to achieve weight loss goals?
If you are brand new to using your Fitbit or if you've been making this mistake, be sure to grab my new book for a step by step guide to using your fitbit to reach your goals!
Ridiculously Helpful Resources
Weight loss is not easy. Although we all “know” what we need to do, it is not always easy to put it into practice. So much of what we eat is mindless, routine or habit. Here are a few things to check out to help!
Ultimate Fitbit Buyers Guide– Now that you know how to avoid the big mistake, if you don't already have one, and you want to get started compare the different models here. Then check out Fitbit 101 to get it all set up!
Weight Loss Apps– I have two main weight loss apps that I have used and LOVE. One guides you to better lifelong habits, while the other involves specific meal plans and daily exercises. It depends on what you are looking for.
Mindless Eating – Did you know that the size of your dinner plate can make you eat more or less EVERY DAY!? Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink is an easy read about the many, many MANY ways that our everyday decisions impact eating decisions. Every page had something totally surprising for me.
Slim By Design – Did you know that by just putting your cereal boxes and other snacks in a cabinet rather than on your counter you could help you lose weight? Or that people who sit facing the buffet eat more calories in a sitting than those sitting by the window?! Slim By Design is Wansink's follow up book, another easy read, this time with super cool Check Lists for each area of life (home, work, school, restaurants and grocery store) of big and little changes you can make slowly over time that will help you mindlessly lose weight. Like…do you think you'd weigh more or less if you have a TV in your kitchen? It's all in the book. And you have the power to make these changes.
Nutrition Data – A free online food database, I love Nutrition Data for the extra information it gives you and I love the visual aid of the triangle they use. It shows you at a glance if a food is pretty balanced, if it's more fat, protein or carbs. Neato.
Super Tracker – If you regularly cook meals at home that don't have nutrition data listed, you can plug your ingredients and servings into Super Tracker's Recipe Calculator (or Spark People's or MyFitnessPal's recipe calculator) and it will help you in your food tracking.
So…were you committing this Fitbit Weight Loss Mistake? What else is helping or hurting your efforts? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
It's tough to know if you're doing enough exercise to lose weight but if you get your fitbit set up right from the start, and see where you are starting from, it will make all the difference.