My Connected Health Journey

In January 2012, I was advised by my physician that, "Your trends aren't going the right direction." Essentially, he meant that although I had no chronic illnesses, I was gaining weight, and my health was certainly headed in the wrong direction.

I had always been a skinny person. For most of my life I could eat as much as I wanted and never gain an ounce. Because of this I developed terrible eating habits. Those of you who have struggled with your weight your whole lives might never believe this, but it's true: funtil I was around 30 I could eat nothing but fast food, drink nothing but soda, and never gain weight. This had very little to do with activity either. I worked many sedentary jobs that had me sitting behind a desk all day, but it didn't matter. I just never gained weight.

Fast-forward 12 years and I was standing before my doctor weighing 235 lbs. with pre-hypertension, high cholesterol, and other troubling trends. Although I had spoken to him briefly about what we did at the Center for Connected Health, my doctor never really seemed interested. At this appointment though, he asked me again what I did and I described a program we were conducting for diabetics enrolled in our Diabetes Self-management Program to help them meet their exercise goals. He looked at me and said, "That's what you need. The same diabetes management program without the medication. Why don't you do the same thing for yourself?"

I don't know exactly what it was about that conversation that motivated me, since I had heard it annually for the last couple of years. But something really clicked this time, and Ileft his office and did exactly as he said - I decided to use the same principles I used at work on myself. Before I even left the parking lot I used my smartphone to order a Withings scale and a FitBit to track my weight and calorie burn, and then when I got home I downloaded the LoseIt! app to my smartphone to track my food intake. The results over the last 8 months (as I write this) were remarkable. At the time I created this page (September 2012) I was down by 36 lbs. Here is my current one-year weight chart from trendweight.com:

Trendweight graph

An Example of the Skinny Guy

For example, in 1990 I joined the Army ROTC unit at my college. In the summer of 1991 when I was 21 years old, they shipped me to Camp Challenge at Fort Knox, KY. On my second day there, we had a platoon weigh-in. The Drill Instructors (DI) rolled out this scale and had us stand on it one by one while they recorded weights. I'll never forget getting on the platform and the DI moving the hundreds weight back from 200 lbs. to 100 lbs. Then the tens weight back from 90, to 80, to 70, to 60, to 50, to 40, then finally to 30 when the arm moved slightly. I weighed 132 lbs. He absolutely didn't believe it and yelled for me to get off the scale. Then he got on and weighed himself, and said that it came out correct. So he ordered me back on and I still weighed 132 lbs. After verifyig that I wasn't touching anything he recorded the weight. They ultimately determined that I was so under weight that in order not to kill me, I was exempted from the morning physical training cycle every subsequent day so I could go to the Mess Hall and start eating breakfast while the rest of the platoon worked out. Then, when everyone entered the Mess Hall, I was ordered to go back through line and eat a second breakfast. This went on every day until I left training.

My Tools

  • FitBit

    The most important thing I started doing was actually tracking my activity. I have evaluated probably every activity monitor on the market today and the FitBit is what suits my lifestyle. My wife and I both have one and I never leave home without it anymore. I'd post stats on this page, but FitBit doesn't support that and I don't feel like writing an app to do it.
  • Runkeeper

    Once I knew how active I was (or wasn't) I needed to do something about staying active. I chose Runkeeper as the app to track my running. Why running? Because I hate going to the gym, I can run anywhere, and it's free more or less excluding the cost of running shoes.
  • LoseIt

    Once I understood my caloric outputs, I needed to better understand the inputs. I actually tried the WeightWatchers app for a while, but it wasn't the right interface for me. LoseIt worked much better.
  • Withings

    Once I could get my inputs and putputs in balance I needed to track the results. I chose the Wi-Fi connected scale for this. I might have chosen the FitBit Aria scale, but it wasn't released until several months after I began my journey. The output of this scale is in the chart above - after processing by Trendweight.

A Note About Diet

Throughout all these months, I never considered myself to be "on a diet". In fact, my eating habits have changed very little from when I was heavier. I simply cut down on the amount of the most calorie-intensive foods that I was eating and increased my exercise and calorie burn. The most significant change for me was a move from regular Coke to diet. Throughout my life, I've never smoked a single cigarette, I've barely drink alcohol, and I've never ingested an illegal drug of any kind. Hell, I barely take the ones prescribed for me. But my one major vice was Coke. It was my "stress food." At any moment, if you wanted to know how stressed I was at home or at work, you just needed to count the empty Coke bottles. Switching to diet soda has been the single largest drop in calories out of any change I made. The rest has been about moderation, along with a few reasonable lower-calorie substitutes.

Alonng the way I did come across a few foods that have made this quest easier. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Edy's Slow Churned Cookies 'n Cream ice cream. The only lower calorie dessert thing that I find close to the original. With 1/2 the fat of regular ice cream I think it has at least 80% of the flavor and satisfaction. My favorite lower-calorie find.
  • Shirataki noodles. Another concession was reducing my intake of processed pasta, which I used to eat several times a week. Shirataki noodles are a soft Japanese noodle made from glucomannan, a soluble fiber that has a reasonable texture, but in most preperations has 0 calories. That's right - 0 calories. As in zero. They also have zero flavor, but with the right sauce, they have enabled me to enjoy pasta again.