Does an Apple Watch help you lose weight?

What do devices, like Apple Watch and FitBit actually do? Will they give you motivation to lose weight? Will they help you keep it off?

Let’s start with what they can track. The list is pretty impressive:

  • Activity (calories burned, steps taken)
  • Heart rate (intensity of exercise, resting heart rate, HRV)
  • Sleep (deep, REM, light, wake time, blood oxygen levels)
  • Personal metrics (resting metabolic rate, skin temperature, blood glucose levels, levels of strain and recovery)

But how does all of this affect your results? And how can you use it for motivation to lose weight?

Wearables are helpful for setting up your plan. Tracking your progress. Making decisions about when to change your plan. Let you know when you can push harder. Or when you need to pull back.

Sounds great. What’s the drawback?

They don’t make you follow through. And depending on how you interpret the data, can demotivate you and set the stage for a backslide.

You might selectively track data that doesn’t challenge you or move you forward. The numbers can become meaningless. Or a constant reminder that you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do.  

So what’s the difference between your Apple Watch or Fitbit helping you with the motivation to lose weight versus feeling like a nagging mother-in-law who thinks you’ll never be good enough for her baby?

The difference is your mindset. Why you decide to wear it. How you choose to think about the numbers. Intentionally viewing the data to motivate you. To provide the feedback you need to keep going. 

Another important note: The calorie burning info from wearables is inaccurate and incomplete. Even so, they provide a consistent measurement to use as a barometer for improvement. But don’t expect to measure calories in and calories out with any degree of success – I actually recommend NOT counting calories.

motivation to lose weight
Photo by Blocks Fletcher on Unsplash

Which wearable you use is less important than using it the right way. As data to inform your future decisions. Not to lament what you didn’t do.

Set yourself up for success. When you create your plan, use your wearable to get a baseline (i.e., look at what you want to track and then measure where you are right now). Don’t make the mistake of jumping right into setting goals and tracking info without a true look at your current habits. That can lead to your desire outstripping your capacity.

Then set your goal and track the info. If you use the data correctly, it can help you follow through consistently. That’s how your wearable becomes motivation to lose weight.

Only 9 min, 53 seconds to go

It was one of those workouts. I wanted to stop but had noticed lately that more and more of my workouts ended at 20-minutes. I needed to push through, not make excuses.
It was one of those workouts. I wanted to stop, but lately my workouts had become shorter. I needed to push through, and stop making excuses.
Do you ever get out of your healthy routine, justifying it with the better-than-nothing argument?

I’m all about squeezing in what you can in the time you have. That’s different. If I was honest, I’d been slacking.

What’s the difference between letting yourself off the hook when you need it and making excuses when you don’t feel like doing something? It’s blurry sometimes, right?

Three possible answers come to mind:
Self-compassion: maybe you realize you’ve been pushing too hard or your body is simply saying “enough” right now. Or maybe it’s one of those days where you don’t make the healthiest of choices and you forgive yourself and move on. You’re human, it’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day.
Honesty: you admit that you’ve taken your eyes of the prize and you’re no longer focused on the bigger picture. It’s possible that your motivation was external and you need to build an internal bias towards healthy habits. Or, you realize you don’t want it as much as you thought you did.
You’re in a rut: I mean, how many walks around the same neighborhood can you take, right? Your routine is stale, your food choices have become dull. You still really want to achieve your goals but you’re bored out of your mind.

Given our culture of pushing to succeed without regard to personal needs, being kind to ourselves feels like we’ve gone soft. But there’s a great deal of study on the benefits of self-compassion. One way to think about it is to ask yourself, “how would I treat my best friend in this circumstance?” Go and do likewise for yourself.

Honesty is a tricky one. It’s easy to blame external circumstance (one’s schedule, family dynamics, the weather…). For me, my strategy of fitting in what I could turned into shorter workouts as a habit rather than a necessity. Once I recognized it, I was back to it. That was easy. But if circumstances have changed, internal or external, that’s a deeper dive. Get support.

The easiest one of these to accept, and correct, is the rut. Get creative with your exercise and food choices. Track your results and compete with yourself. Using something like the Polar M430 gives you tons of data and even comes in orange! (Okay, I may be the only one excited by that.) Or maybe you just need a week of active rest, completely out of your norm but still moving a lot.

So when you find yourself slacking, ask yourself a few questions. Once you identify what’s really going on you can determine how to move forward.

It feels good to have answers (and a plan!), rather than make excuses.

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