My office-mate, Leslie, is just about the greatest thing ever. We’ve been resolved to eating responsibly this January, and I think she can read my thoughts. Normally, we split a can of Progresso Lite soup or something equally conscientious and responsible for lunch. This morning, I was too busy and uninspired to grab some cans from the pantry before leaving for work and was pretty sure we’d exhausted the supply she brought in last time. I decided that when lunch time came, I’d order us some light salads from the restaurant down the street. When eleven o’clock rolled around, I asked her what she’d like on a salad if I ordered in, and she said, “Oh! I forgot to tell you — I was tired of soup so I made us both some salads this morning. They’re in the fridge.” Best. Office-mate. Ever.
She’s also pretty terrific because she even puts up with me then driving her nuts asking about how many grams/teaspoons of this or that does she think she put in the salad so I can log it in my FitBit account. (She gets extra points because my whole big plate of salad and dressing turned out to be only 108 calories. And delicious.) Seriously, I take her for granted. It takes a special brand of kindness to put up with me, let alone be my friend. Leslie wins all the good karma.
MEANWHILE…I HAVE A FITBIT!
After pining after those sporty wristlets for over a year, I finally have a FitBit Flex to call my own. And I love it. (Mostly.)
To be clear, I actually didn’t love it at first after I got it. It has a bit more of a learning curve than I remember my WiiFit meter having, but the payoff is worth it.
For starters, using my old Wii pedometer-type instrument, it was a clip-on that gave wildly different activity readings depending on where I had it clipped on my person, and there was no way to tell the system where I’d been wearing it that day. If I had pants with a belt loop or pocket, I preferred to wear it there, but on days when I was in a dress, it had to stay clipped to my bra. I never knew what reading it would give or how accurate it would be. While it was still definitely a good step up from a cheap plastic “non-smart” pedometer, it lacked a lot. Also, I had to interface with the much-in-demand WiiU in our living room to log anything, which I had little opportunity to do. So, I weighed in when necessary, guessed wildly at my step counts, and ended up using MyFitnessPal or Atkins’ app or something else on my phone to calculate activities and log food. I did it faithfully, but it sure was a lot of effort.
What I love about the FitBit and its software is that I can sync my device and get all of the following up-to-date readings: Step count, active minutes, logged food (they have their own food database built-in…but more on that in a minute), sleep efficacy (spoiler alert: my sleep is terrible), up-to-the-minute calorie burn for the day including basal metabolic rate PLUS tracked activity, and more. On top of that, I can even tell it which wrist (dominant, non-dominant) I’m wearing it on so it can become more effective with tracking my gait.
It did take me a while to get the hang of it, though. The website doesn’t have nearly enough instructions at the ready the first time you log in, so you’re guessing at how a lot of stuff works, including the actual device. The device came with exactly zero instructions and no manual in the box. So unless you already know someone who uses it and can help you through learning what stuff means, it will probably take you a while to get the full benefit of both the device and its app.
Also, the first week or two I was getting used to using the Flex, it was still getting used to me, too. I’ve noticed that it seems to be getting more intuitive about things as I build up my database of personal routines, foods, etc., into my account the longer I’ve worn it. The calorie burn seems to be more reliable, my food favorites are easier to find now that I have a lot of them in there and can speed through the logging time of most of my conventional meals, and I’m used to the interface now.
Logging those Zzzzzzzzs…
When I first got it, I was super excited about the sleep monitor (I have a rare sleep disorder and was looking forward to the insights this would bring), but after I logged in a few times I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have sleep reports, and it seemed to be trying to sell me a premium subscription in order to track this. Luckily, someone in a Facebook group was able to clue me in to the fact that I hadn’t been telling it when I was going to bed (you have to do this weird tappy thing and I’m still not very good at it and have to try a bunch of times before it registers). Once I learned how to do that, my sleep log started popping right up there on my dashboard and I was happy.
So, I’m happy with the sleep stuff, happy with the more reliable activity tracking, and generally pleased that the food database actually exists. The complaint I have with the food database is that…well, it’s not very big. I mean, it’s not nearly as thorough as others I’ve used as apps on my phone, like MyFitnessPal or Atkins (which are both free also).
And moreover, I’m kind of concerned that FitBit’s biggest response to this widespread complaint on their forums is, “Well, just link it up to your MyFitnessPal account and then import your food logging from there into our app.” Which, on the surface, is at least good that you CAN link it up to your MFP account, which has a lot better food database and a highly superior bar-code-scanner recognition percent, but at the same time the major draw for me in getting the expensive FitBit was having ALL THE PARTS in one place, and it seems to be spending more time piggybacking off of other apps (MFP is only one of many it offers account syncing on) than on making its own product database better.
For example, their base of Kroger-brand items is pretty terrible, at least at this moment in time, and for the stuff I buy. I live in a small town. The only chain grocery store we HAVE is Kroger. So it would be nice if the foods I buy weekly were already there, but often I find myself in a hurry and just select something that sounds similar (if I don’t have the nutrition data for my own item packaging with me) or something called something else or a different brand that has similar-enough nutrition info and then making up weird portion sizes out of it, like “.885 servings” or “1.13 servings of 1 cup” or something weird like that to make the wrong product at least a closer match to my real product by supplying a false serving size (compared with the serving I actually ate in the other brand). Also, when they do have the brand and product of something I bought, it’s usually got outdated nutrition information. Like, about 50-75% of the time. Maybe it’s just ten calories here or 3 fat grams there, but when you’re measuring things religiously throughout the day, you kind of want confidence knowing that what you’re logging is actually matching what you ate, particularly when the program is using your input data about calories eaten at various points during the day to tell you how much to plan on eating later in the day.
But at the end of the day…
Honestly, I’m still very happy with the FitBit and am enjoying it more every day. I’ve been steadily losing weight again ever since I started actually wearing it round-the-clock and logging everything (5 lbs in 3 weeks!), so it’s certainly useful.
I guess I just hope the developers start working on the food database to make it more on-par with other apps out there. I know they just expect it to eventually thrive based on user-added-entries, but honestly, I just don’t feel like adding new foods every time it says “Item Not Found” on the scanner, which is many times a day. I know many people out there are experiencing that, too (again, forum searches abound with that gripe), so maybe FitBit could spend some of its budget on hiring a guy to sit around and manually scan-and-enter food products and serving info into their system. After all, that might sound like a boring job to get paid to do, but I feel like I’ve paid them for the privilege of having to do it myself at the present time.
So…right now FitBit is earning my “Good, not Great” rating. It has the potential to be great, but it’s going to take a lot more on the nutrition logging end before I can be done with MyFitnessPal and dual-app logging.