Apple Watch, New Year’s Resolutions, And Losing 50 Pounds

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Last New Year’s Day I decided to start eating healthy, exercising daily, and filling the Activity Rings on my Apple Watch as a way to get in shape. I broke my New Year’s resolution by January 4, but I started again on April 1 and ultimately lost over 50 pounds in 2016.

Apple Watch didn’t lose the weight for me — it took a lot of dedication and really changing my lifestyle – but the fitness tracking features and Apple’s Activity app helped quantify my effort without me doing too little or going overboard. Apple Watch has absolutely been an effective motivational coach that has pushed me toward my goal of being more active. Below I’ll detail my experience and share some of what I’ve learned along my journey.

Apple Watch Activity Rings show you Move, Exercise, and Stand. Move is how many active calories you’ve burned based on heart rate data, Exercise is how many minutes your heart rate has been elevated from an activity as simple as a brisk walk, and Stand is how many times you’ve stood up and moved around for at least one minute of any hour.

Move, Exercise, and Stand are represented by three rings that close when you complete a goal. Move is a customizable goal that you can change at any time, Exercise is a fixed 30-minute goal but you don’t have to workout all at once, and Stand takes 12 different hours to complete.

Activity Rings as visual indicators of my progress throughout each day have been super effective for me. I’ve tried other fitness trackers before but nothing has proved as friendly and motivational as Apple Watch. Part of what makes Apple Watch work for me is that it has appeal outside of activity tracking features: it’s a nice watch, it has Siri and Apple Pay, and it’s closely integrated with the iPhone. I wore mine for about a year before actually taking its fitness tracking features seriously.

Achieving my weight loss goal still didn’t happen overnight. Losing the first ten pounds was the easiest then it got tougher, but creating a workout routine with Apple Watch dramatically helped.The advice for setting your personal Move goal is this: complete 30 minutes of exercise that you can consistently repeat daily then look at your Move number near the end of the day and make that your daily goal.

For example, I started with 30 minutes of elliptical (15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon before I could complete a full 30-minute session) as my base workout. The workout burned around 300 active calories and I burned another 200 active calories a day without exercising so I set my Move goal at 500.

Your Move goal could be lower or higher based on what workout you consistently complete, but the key is finding something that pushes you to move more without being too difficult to make part of your routine. Starting small is okay too. I gradually increased my Move goal up to 800 each day before hitting my goal of losing 50 pounds and reducing it back to 500, and there’s no way I could have started at 800 without being discouraged.

Losing the weight took a combination of both diet and exercise, of course, and food tracking with Apple’s HealthKit feature really helped. I use MyFitnessPal to log my meals. It helps you set a daily calorie goal and automatically subtracts calories burned from exercise measured from Apple Watch. If your calorie goal is 2000 and you eat 2300 calories in a day and burn 350 calories from exercise, then you’re still in your goal.

HealthKit support means data that you input in MyFitnessPal can be shared with Apple’s Health app, too, which can become a wealth of information as you collect more data. Dieting has been much tougher than exercise for me, but I don’t think I would be motivated to do one without doing the other. Because I was logging workouts with Apple Watch and completing my Activity Rings, I felt motivated to improve my diet as well.

It been a junk food eater for 25 years (and growing up on Southern cuisine hasn’t helped), but in April I gave up soda and sweet tea for water and unsweet tea and started drinking my morning coffee black. I also traded snacking throughout the day and oversized fast food meals at the end of the day for consistent and more considered breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

The trick to dieting for me has been to go easy on myself. I used to eat junk food all the time and occasionally have a healthy meal but that didn’t make me healthy. Now I try to eat better every day and enjoying junk food in moderation doesn’t define my diet. Meal logging sounds like a lot of work, but you probably eat the same foods routinely plus MyFitnessPal and similar apps have nice databases of nutritional information for lots of foods.

This has also helped me be more thoughtful about my eating habits. If I couldn’t put a number on my eating habits, I might severely overestimate how much I’m eating and diet all wrong. Instead, I can see when I have room for a Pokémon Go frappe without missing my goal. It’s the same story for Apple Watch fitness tracking. It’s key for me to be able to gauge how much effort is enough without going overboard and thinking I have to do something unsustainable to be healthier.

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