The Best Ways to Use Your Fitness Tracker
The best fitness tracker for you is the one that you wear on a regular basis to help you reach your fitness and weight loss goals. But just wearing the device won’t help you slim down. In fact, many dieters invest in a tracker only to find that the device doesn’t help at all.
So should you ditch your fitness tracker? Absolutely not! No matter which brand you bought, your monitor has the potential to guide you to successful weight loss. You just need to learn how to use your activity monitor better so that you get your money’s worth and reach your goal.
Always Wear Your Tracker
If you want to lose weight with an activity tracker, you need to wear it every day. That means you wear it even on your lazy days, your “off” days and days when you don’t plan to follow any of your exercise or diet rules. Those days matter more than your “on” days.
Why does this matter? If you only gather information on the days when you’re perfect, you’ll never learn how to address the obstacles that stand in the way of your weight loss goals. Consistency matters most when you’re trying to lose weight. If you can gather data about the number of days you take off, your activity level on those days and the events that trigger the decision to skip your health plan, you can address the issues and make adjustments as needed.
To make sure you wear your device as often as possible, it’s smart to invest in a fitness tracker that can be tailored to your fluid personal style, provides lifestyle functions that you can use throughout the day, and feels comfortable on your wrist. A device like the new Fitbit Versa smartwatch (shown in photo) works well for many women. You can personalize the band to match your outfit, receive smartphone notifications (texts, calls, and calendar updates) on your wrist, track your menstrual cycle, pay for purchases with the Fitbit Pay, and even listen to your favorite Pandora station without your phone nearby, all while tracking essential activity and weight loss data.
Plan Meals in Advance
Most activity monitor users log meals into their product’s dashboard or smartphone app after they eat. That’s not necessarily a bad idea. But if you want to lose weight, you should use the food log before you eat, not after.
Each evening after dinner (when you feel full and satisfied), take five minutes to log food for the next day. List each food that you plan to eat for the entire day and make sure the total calories do not exceed your target goal. You can also check the macronutrient balance to make sure you’re getting enough protein and fiber to avoid hunger cravings. Make adjustments as needed to reach your nutrition goals.
Then use the menu you created as your food “road map” throughout the next day. You’ll find that it’s easier to eat healthy when the decision about what to eat has already been made. It’s also easy to skip needless snacks and high calorie treats when you know that you have a satisfying, diet-friendly meal planned for later.
(Some activity trackers don’t come with a food log. If you want to lose weight, you need this feature. So, connect your device to a food app to use the food diary features.)
Separate Step Count From Exercise
Some fitness tracker users wear their monitor during exercise so that the exercise steps count toward their daily step goal. That’s not a bad idea. But it’s a bad idea if you want to lose weight.
There are two ways that we burn extra calories throughout the day: exercise activity and non-exercise activity. To lose weight faster you need to maximize both of these numbers. That means you need to burn calories from exercise and calories from non-exercise steps. Exercise steps can’t count in both categories. Exercise should be an addition to, not a substitute for, non-exercise activity.
So if you wear your monitor during exercise, set a higher step goal that goes above and beyond the steps you take during your exercise session. That means you may try to reach 15,000 or even 20,000 total steps per day.
Some fitness trackers track exercise minutes and step count separately. Set separate goals for each to reach your weight loss goals. For example, set a goal to complete 30 minutes of exercise each day, in addition to 15,000 steps. Some devices even display steps per hour on the device so that you can break your step goal down throughout the day.
Be Cautious With Sleep Data
Looking at all of the data from your activity tracker can be overwhelming. In fact, the volume of information causes some dieters to ignore their data dashboard altogether. When there are too many numbers to manage, it’s easy for all of the information to get ignored. So ditch the data that doesn’t matter — like sleep data.
Sleep data from your tracker is only helpful if it matters to your weight loss plan and if you can do something about it. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may eat more the next day out of fatigue. Poor sleep can also reduce the number of calories you burn from activity throughout the day. If that is the case, and if you can make reasonable changes to get a better night’s sleep then keep the sleep data in your dashboard. If not, then delete it and focus on the numbers that matter more.
Use Your Printer
You’re more likely to stick to your weight loss plan if you feel like you’ve made positive progress, right? Well, your activity monitor can help you do that. But you need to use an old-school technique to make this trick work.
At the end of each week, visit your activity monitor’s online dashboard and find the space where your progress is tracked. Look for a link that says “Diary” or “Progress.” This is where all of your accomplishments are stored. Print out this weekly or monthly log and post it on your refrigerator. Then when you’re tempted to skip a workout or cheat on your diet, look at your printout to remind yourself of the progress you’ve already made. Having a visual reminder of your hard work can work wonders when you need motivation.
Choose Connections Carefully
Weight loss programs that offer social support are often the programs that are more successful. Many fitness trackers connect you with online communities of other people who are trying to reach weight loss goals. Some people also use fitness tracker challenges with friends or coworkers as motivation to reach goals.
If those connections help to boost your motivation, then maintain them. But sometimes, they can have the reverse effect. Some dieters find the comparisons to others to be intimidating. Others find ways to cheat the system to become more competitive and “win” their challenge.
Remember, your fitness tracker can only be useful if you gather accurate data and if you can use the data to change your behavior and lose weight. The data alone, the wristband alone and the app alone do nothing to help you lose weight. So pick and choose the information you use and make smart changes to reach your weight loss goals.