So A. bought me (at my request), a FitBit Ultra for my birthday. I’d read about them a few times from some of the alpha geeks (ahem) that I follow on twitter and the like, and my interest was piqued by the (rather lackluster, I thought at the time), coverage in Fitness For Geeks (I now realise that there’s not much more he could have written – the tools work fine, and you can download the data for your own analysis, not much need for hacking. Or is there..).
Its a very nicely thought out device, it ‘just works’, and the fitbit website has a decent dashboard to graph your steps, calories, miles traveled, even sleep patterns if you use the included wrist strap at night (which I have been, mostly). There is even a Perl Module to grab the data from the website (I plan to use the sample script to download my own data; after all; if their service is free, and they’ve sold me the Fitbit, how long can it keep going (this is perhaps a flaw in the Quantified Self model, but more on that below)? They do have premium subscriptions, and regularly announce new products, so it seems likely for a while, but, anyway, its my data, so..
The only complain I would have is that the Fitbit needs a cradle to Sync and charge, and a small sync deamon. As detailed on this page, the security is a little lacking, possibly due to the decision to allow any cradle to sync any fitbit (it can do this wirelessly). I was expecting to be able to buy spare cradle’s, but, not that I can see, which precludes me having one at home and one at work. Bit annoying. Fitbit obviously realised this as they’ve launched the FitBit Zip, a version of the Fitbit that doesn’t require a cradle and can sync to phones (perhaps via NFC? Or wireless, like their scales..)
The open source community seems pretty active (particularly the OpenYou project) around the device, which means a non fitbit.com client can’t be far away, should this worry you, or require you to use tools you don’t approve of.
So, its been over three months now, so what have I learned? Well, first of all, its noticeable that time with a toddler at the weekend means I have no problems making the 10,000 step daily target, and that I struggle to do so on a work day, especially if its been one with more coding! So far so fairly obvious.
I notice that, when I do make the 10k target, I feel tired, so that if I was expecting do be doing a lot more running around, I need to be in better shape!
The sleep timer has showed me that, far from the insomniac I thought I was, I’m asleep within 5 mins, on average, and awake at least once in the night, something I’ve got no conscious memory of.
Since getting the FitBit, I’ve also found something that looks to be an open source equivalent, with even more sensors, the EZ430-Chronos watch from TI. This has accelerometers, temperature monitor, integrated wireless for heart monitor etc, and a wireless interface to a PC. There’s plenty of Open Source code for it, too, with uses from a fitbit-alike, to using the wireless as a door opener and RFID personal item finder! I’ve added it to my Gadgets list, but as I’ve not done anything with the RasberryPI I’ve got (yet), I’m not rushing out to buy it, even at the insanely cheap price of £35! I mean, you can’t buy many normal digital watches for that!
Of course, once you start getting reports on your calorie burning, you start to wonder how much you’re consuming. I tried a couple of Apps and websites, including the Fitbit one, but finally settled on MyFitnessPal.com, as it has iPhone/iPad, Android and web clients, all of which are best for different things. The Android client, for example, has a barcode scanner which makes entering purchased food easily. All of them allow you to enter meals you’ve made yourself, but that’s quite laborious. Fortunately, other people have often done something similar, so you can use that, and guess (which I also tend to do with the portion size). This means my recording is not quite as accurate as it could be, but hey, its better than nothing. MyFitnessPal also links with the FitBit site, so you can feed the movement data from the Fitbit into their site to get an accurate report of how many calories you can consume without going over your consumption ‘limit’.
I’ve found I’m a lot more aware of my eating habits since doing this, and have tended to eat slightly less, and certainly hold back on more food if I’m near my limit. Its also made me realise my portion sizes didn’t need to be as big as they were, so I’ve been able to cut back a bit. Overall, that’s lead to a weight loss of 7kg. Not huge, but hey, its in the right direction, and I think, sustainable.
All of this is a good example of ‘The Quantified Self’, something I’ve read a fair amount about in Fitness For Geeks and ‘64 Things‘.
An example of the Quantified Self approach is this OReilly conference talk summary, or you can go to QuantifiedSelf.com.
Basically, its using data about how you live your life to do more of what you want to be doing, and take better control. Lets see what I’m still doing in a year!