This is the third in a series of blog posts entitled “Kickstart Your Diet!” that are designed to get you up and running on the LifehackrDiet. Please check out the series of posts Here. For more clarification on what the LifehackrDiet is and how you can be successful with it, please check out previous blog posts; What is the LifehackrDiet and Why Should I Care? and 3 Strategies: Quit the Gym and Be Healthier! and Secrets of Eating to Lose Weight.

Let’s Kickstart Your Diet!

Start at the beginning.
“Once upon a time…You wanted to lose weight and improve Your health and well being – permanently! You discovered the LifehackrDiet which took a different approach to losing weight and reaching your goals. The LifehackrDiet suggested that You make small changes in your life that You are comfortable with and once You had made enough of those changes (and stuck to them) You will reach Your goal; a slimmer, healthier and more active You.”

A fantasy? I say not. It will be your reality soon enough and this blog post along with others in the series will show you step by step how you can make that fantasy into your reality. Let’s Kickstart Your Diet!

Setup. Record. Observe.

This week we are going to simply setup, record and observe. What does that mean? Like any new project we need to take time to ensure our success by planning and setting up the tools we will be using. I know you are anxious to get started on your weight loss journey, but this is an important step that will help you, ultimately, be successful – bear with me on this.

 

LifehackrDiet Flow Chart


 

Overview

This blog post “Kickstart Your Diet! Observe” is the third installment in a series of three posts that are designed to get you up and running on the hardware and methodology of the LifehackrDiet.
In the blog post “Kickstart Your Diet! Setup.” we did exactly that. We went over the types of smartphones, tablets and or computers you might be using as your central information processing hub. Next up, we discussed the importance of having a digital pedometer so that all of your steps are recorded, the free apps you will use daily to store and synthesize your data and finally why a body weight scale is an important tool for the LifehackrDiet flow.
The “Kickstart Your Diet! Record.” post was focused on the minutiae of actually recording all your important information on a daily basis, from sleep to how much water you drink. All this information might seem overwhelming but very soon it will take you less than 5 minutes a day to keep your data up to date.

A Week of Practice

I’ve thrown a huge amount of new information at you in these three “Kickstart Your Diet! Setup. Record. Observe.” blog posts, but I can assure you, very shortly it will all become second nature. To help you with that process, I strongly recommend that you take a minimum of a week just to go through these actions of recording your life now, without any LifehackrDiet changes. Over the coming weeks, when you start challenging yourself with small changes to your lifestyle, the setup, recording and observing of your personal data will quickly change from seeming like a burden to being an important asset.

Observe

This blog post will describe how you can look at the data you are creating and make sense of it. The act of recording your data, looking at it, learning from it and deriving experiments from it, is a very powerful act. You are transformed from being a passenger in your body, to the driver! Instead of feeling guilty or panicking when you infringe on your dieting plans you simply look at the data and tools in your control and apply the right one to get you back on track. It is that simple.

Two Ways to Observe Your Data

Using the Fitbit ecosystem there are many ways you can observe your data. At the beginning we are just going to use two of them; Your Fitbit smartphone app and the Fitbit website Dashboard. By creating a Fitbit account (either on your smartphone or on the website) you automatically have access to all the data that is synchronizing with the smartphone app, duplicated on a private, password protected Fitbit website account. Each platform has it’s advantages, let’s take a look at them.

Fitbit Smartphone App

The advantage to having your data on the Fitbit smartphone app is that it’s easily accessed and always up to date. You can get more detail by selecting each tile on the app’s Dashboard. A detail screen will display two types of charts; one with a “expand” icon and one without.

Expandable Data Chart

The expand icon when tapped will fill the full your smartphone screen with your data chart (see fig. 1 & 2 below). If you turn your smartphone sideways the chart will have more room to display your data (make sure your rotation lock is in the off position) (see fig. 3 below). In most cases you will have a parameters dropbox at the top left of the screen and time zoom settings center bottom right or top left of your screen. You can scroll the chart of data to see your history.

Static Data Chart

The second type of detail screen is a static chart that does not have an expand icon and does not rotate it’s orientation when you rotate your smartphone (see fig. 4 above). Typically these screens have a two tone bar chart that shows you two related data points like; calories-in vs calories-out.

Once you register your Fitbit account during the initial signup process with the Fitbit app on your smartphone, you can use those sign in credentials to log onto the Fitbit website and have access to your web Dashboard. You will see the same information on the web as you see on your smartphone, with a different layout (see fig. 1 below). You can add or subtract tiles from your dashboard by clicking on the tile control icon at the top left of the screen (see fig. 1 & 2 above). You can then add tiles with a check mark.

Fitbit Website Dashboard

I have a favorite spot (on my Fitbit account website) which is a little hidden. It lets me see much of my data displayed together and I get lifetime stats as well. It’s called the “Profile Overview” and you can get to it by selecting your profile avatar at the top, right-middle of the page. It takes you to your Fitbit Profile and by default you are in the “Overall” view. There you can see a 30 day view of your stats and to the right of those charts there are a series of boxes, one of which is titled “My Achievements” (see fig. 2 above). This is the only place I know of, which gives you your all time totals for steps, flights of stairs (Fitbit One) and distance.

Looking at Your Sleep data

Open your Fitbit app and you will see the dashboard. Scroll until you see the quarter moon icon and then press on it. The detail Sleep screen will show you statistics on your last nights’ sleep (see fig. 1 below). You can see more detail by selecting the the Sleep Pattern chart and then dragging your finger across the chart. A pop up label will give you more detail about your sleep (see fig. 2 below). If you turn your smartphone sideways you will get a larger view . You will also be able to analyze your sleep pattern over time by selecting the timeline parameter buttons at the bottom (screen vertical) or top (screen horizontal). Now you can see your sleep duration over a week, month, 3 month or 1 year time span.

Sleep – What to Look For…

You want to start looking at your data from a macro to a micro level. On your smartphone expand the sleep pattern chart and tilt your device sideways so that it fills the full screen (see fig.3 & 4 below). Now select the largest data set, (in my case I have a year and a half) yours might be a week or a month. By touching the data bars you will see details like bed times, wake times and dates. Is there a pattern that appears?

For example, I sleep less in the winter months because I have to get up early to make the kids’ lunches and get them off to school on time. During the summer months I get to sleep in an extra hour, but my average bedtimes don’t adjust accordingly. This is clearly something I really need continue to address.

As I focus in on my weekly sleep data I see that I get slightly more sleep on weekends, but that is only because I sleep later, not go to bed earlier, as I should. Sunday nights I go to bed much later than other days of the week and then Monday nights I’m tired so I go to bed earlier; What’s up with that?! Clearly I need to make a conscious effort to go to bed earlier on Sundays…

When I look at the sleep data on a night to night basis I recently found that I would become restless around 3-4:00am pretty much every night (see fig. 5 below). It didn’t take long for me to realize that was because my pooch Zoey (a 50lb love-bug) would sneak up on the bed to cuddle up to me.

The routine goes something like this: She sneaks on the bed and slips in beside me, I trying to push her off, she digs in deep with a low center of gravity, I repeat this several times, I give up and turn over to get back to sleep. I started putting her in her bedside cage and closing the door (key factor here), and although she whimpered a couple of mornings, she is now content staying off the bed all night long. I no longer have that early morning disturbance.

These are just some examples of my sleep patterns that I need to be vigilant about and continually adjust to improve my health and wellbeing.
Once you see the problems, acknowledge them, you are a step closer to addressing any underlying patterns, one small change at a time.

What patterns do you see in your daily, weekly, monthly and eventually, annual sleep patterns?
How can you address your bad sleeping habits and encourage your good ones?

 

Looking at Your Body Weight and Fat Percentage Data

Go to the Fitbit Dashboard on your smartphone and scroll until you see the weight scale icon and then tap it. The detail weight screen will show you statistics on weigh-ins. You can see more detail by selecting the the weigh-ins chart and then tapping your finger anywhere along the data line. A pop up label will give you more detail about your weight. If you turn your smartphone sideways you will get a larger view. You will also be able to analyze your weigh-in pattern over time by selecting the timeline parameter buttons at the bottom (screen vertical) or top (screen horizontal). Now you can see your weigh-ins over a week, month, 3 month or 1 year time span.

Body Weight and Fat Data – What to Look For…

You want to start looking at your data from a macro to a micro level. On your smartphone expand the weigh-ins chart and tilt your device sideways so that it fills the full screen. Now select the largest data set, (in my case I have a year and a half) yours might be a week or a month. By touching the data line you will get more details like your weight and the date (see fig. 1 & 2 below). Is there a pattern that appears?

Looking at the year and a half of data that I have collected on my weigh-ins, I lost my weight pretty fast at first and then I actually gained a little back before I continued my weight loss at a slightly slower rate (see fig. 1 below). One fact that you will become very familiar with, is weight loss or weight maintenance is NOT a straight line. You will always have (slip) ups and (hard earned) downs (see fig. 1 & 2 below). Your weight is like driving a car; you think to drive straight you keep the steering wheel completely still, but the reality is driving straight is composed of a series of corrections (left and right), the result is you appear to be driving straight.

Your weigh-in chart is a series of what I like to call “Data Stories” that appear like a refrain in a pop song. When I look at my weigh-ins on a weekly basis, I definitely see a pattern; I seem to weigh less on Saturday/Sunday and then bloat up Sunday/Monday (see fig. 2 above).

My assumption is that this is caused by end of my weekly cycle; I walk the most Tuesday-Thursday with Friday being a close second and I have eaten home prepped food (low salt/fat) all week. Often we will go out to dinner on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday night which means I will consume more salt than I do at any other time during the week and as a result retain more water. So between burning the most calories during the middle of the week, keeping my food consistent and then retaining water it “appears” that I weigh less on the weekend because I often weigh more on Sunday/Monday and then shed retained water during the week (see fig. 2 above).
The important thing to understand here, is these (and your unique cycles) are the cycles of your lifestyle and not reasons to freak-out because of perceived weight gain. Make small changes to the bad habits you observe in your data and reward the good habits. As long as your weight is generally moving downwards, you are moving towards your goals.

What patterns do you see in your daily, weekly, monthly and eventually, annual weigh-ins?
How can you address your bad data stories and encourage your good ones?

Looking at Your Activity and Exercise Data

This data can be found in two places on the Fitbit dashboard; the Steps tile (foot steps icon) and the Exercise tile (stop watch icon). Let’s start with the steps data by tapping on the footsteps icon on your Fitbit dashboard. Tap on the footsteps bar chart and then turn your smartphone sideways to expand the chart. Now you will have access to duration buttons which allow you to see your stored data in various time scales from a day to a year (see fig. 2 below). The data dropbox allows you to see your data as steps, calories, distance, active minutes and depending on which Fitbit you have, floors (see fig. 2 below).
The second way in which you can observe your exercise data is by tapping on the stopwatch icon which will take you to the Exercise summary (see fig. 1 below). This is where you have manually input your (other than walking/steps) exercises like gardening, running, working out etc… Currently this view only displays the last month in the chart and then lists the corresponding activities below in a scrollable list.

Activity and Exercise – What to Look For…

I have a year plus of data to view so I can zoom out and then zoom in to see the patterns in my activities.
I am, like many of you, considered a “Weekend Warrior” because I do most of my (non-walking) exercise on the weekends (see fig. 1 below). I like to go to two yoga classes, paddle, climb, hike and generally be active. This pattern is clearly displayed in my Fitbit’s Exercise summary screen; Saturdays and Sundays are consistently the days when activities are listed. This is not necessarily the best approach for my body and increases the chances of injury. So observing this pattern, I have tried to start going to more yoga classes during the week on Mondays and Wednesdays. I also want to try to make opportunities during the week for other exercises so that my body is more prepared for the weekend madness.
Because I use a treadmill desk while I work, my average steps/distance/calories etc… is consistent during the year ranging from 5.81 to 7.39 average miles per day (see fig. 2 below). When I zoom in to the data there are clear patterns that appear. My weekends are the lowest step count of the week because I focus on doing other activities, Tuesday through Thursdays are my strongest days for walking with Monday and Fridays coming in clear second place for distance/steps.

I have really focused on walking consistently as my tool for burning calories and my walking desk is key to that success, but I know this is not going to be a viable solution for many of you reading this.
Your patterns could look quiet different to mine and you are going to find good and bad patterns that you need to tweak, until you find a balance that works for your lifestyle. Consistency is one of the best tools for your weight loss journey. Please be sure to read 3 Strategies: Quit the Gym and Be Healthier! for ideas of how you can make everything you do in your day/week an opportunity to exercise and lose weight.

What patterns do you see in your daily, weekly, monthly and eventually, annual activities and exercise?
How can you address your bad data stories and encourage your good ones?

 

Looking at Your Calories Eaten/Calories Left Data

Go to the Fitbit Dashboard on your smartphone and scroll until you see the knife and fork or plate icon and then tap on it. The detail Food screen will show you a chart of your week’s Calories-in vs out. You can quickly see if you are burning more calories than consumed or visa versa, by looking at the daily relationships between the gray bars (calories-out – exercise) and the gold bars (calories-in – eating). The ideal relationship is for the gray bars to be taller than the gold bars so that you are consistently consuming fewer calories than your are eating (see fig. 1 below).

You will notice that your grey bars are not all the same height, even though you are under a calorie budget, what gives? (see fig. 1 below). Your calorie budget is based on your statistics (height, weight, age, sex, activity level and food plan) but if your calorie burn for the day is higher than the baseline, you will push up the total calories burned bar (gray bar). Theoretically you could consume more calories and still loose or maintain your weight for the day, but unless you have really exerted yourself and absolutely need to replace those calories, it’s better to look at this occurrence as a gift, and try to maintain your consistent calorie consumption. In the next day or two you will see the payoff at your morning weigh-in.

Looking below the week Calories-In vs. Calories-Out summary, you will see a scrollable list of your daily meal summaries (see fig. 2 below). On the left side of each summary there is a color coded dial that indicates how well you kept your calories-in below your diet plan’s threshold. Yellow indicates that you are “Under”, green tells you that you are “In The Zone” and red indicates you are “Over” based on whether you are under, in or over your daily calorie budget, as set in the Goals feature when you initiated your Fitbit app.
The detail view of calories-in vs calories-out on your smartphone only shows you a week view bar chart (see fig. 1 below), but if you log into your Fitbit web based Dashboard you can see a two week view when you click on the “Quick View” button when you hover over the corresponding tile (see fig. 3 below).

Calories Eaten/Calories Left – What to Look For…

As I scroll down my list of daily calorie summaries, I see that I am pretty consistently below my budget (see fig. 2 below). Every so often on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday I creep through my calorie budget and find myself perched over and looking down, a little surprised. Did my over indulgence make a difference to my overall goals – no! As I have mentioned many times before, consistency in your calorie intake, weekly habits of calorie burning activities and not freaking out, will ensure that any indiscretions are insignificant in reaching your goals.

That said, are there days during the week when you consistently take in more calories than you burn? What are the reasons? Can you burn more calories on those days to make up for the increased consumption? Can you make adjustments to the type of foods you are consuming on those days?
Whatever the answers are, you can now see your lifestyle in weekly chunks and that is the start to addressing the underlying habits. Be sure to check out 3 Strategies: Quit the Gym and Be Healthier! and Secrets of Eating to Lose Weight to learn more about making small changes to your lifestyle that yield huge results.

By making small changes to your lifestyle (calories-in and calories-out) you are in-charge of your weight-loss and wellness and you have the piece of mind that you have control over reaching your goals.

Looking at Your Water Consumed Data

The Fibit smartphone app only allows you to input today’s water consumption, there is no functionality for observing your consumption over time. The Fitbit website Dashboard does have limited water consumption statistics. Log on to your account in any web browser and go to the main dashboard. Find the water “Left to Drink” tile and move your cursor over the tile until the “Quick View” drop box appears at the bottom of the tile (see fig. 1 below). Click on the “Quick View” button and your past month’s water consumption statistics will appear (see fig. 2 below). You will see your total weekly water consumption and your daily average. Near the bottom of the tile you will see bar charts that represent your daily water intake against the goal you have set for yourself. Drag your cursor over the individual bars and a pop-up will appear with more info.

Water Consumed – What to Look for…

Looking at the single month of water consumption data, do you see any cycles revealing themselves? I do!
The days when I consume the most water, and sometimes almost double my goal/usual amount, are significant and play perfectly into the “Data Stories” I have discussed before in this post and others. Can you guess what I did on the days I consumed the most water? This scenario probably applies to you too!

Those are the days when I broke my consistent eating habit and went out to eat! I consumed more salt than I usually do and therefore drank more water (see fig. 2 above). Do you want to make a bet that the days after I ate out, my weight went up? Yup, every time by varying degrees. I know this is going to happen, so when I see my weigh-in the next morning I smile at the consistency of my data stories and then get on with my day. Knowledge is power, understanding is calming.
What data stories do you see in your water consumption statistics? What can you make small changes to for positive results?

 

What We Covered

In Kickstart Your Diet! Observe. We covered;

  1. The two main ways to observe your data.
  2. We took a look for patterns in sleep data and discussed how you can address bad habits.
  3. We took a look for patterns in Body Weight and Fat Percentage data and discussed how you can address typical “Data Stories” that reoccur.
  4. We looked at Exercise and Activity patterns and learned that consistently burning calories is one of the most important habits to develop.
  5. Looking at Calories-in data, it was important to keep our intake over time consistently below our calories-out levels so that we kept our weight-loss goals on track.
  6. Our water consumption often echoes the “Data Stories” that we find in our other data streams.
  7.  

    That concludes the OBSERVE section of the Kickstart Your Diet! blog posts. Please check out the other Kickstart Your Diet! blog posts to continue with your LifehackrDiet.

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