One Year Review of Wellness Stuff

Those who know me closely know that I’ve lost a fair bit of weight in the past year. Truthfully, the motivation for doing this didn’t initially come from within, and I didn’t expect that donating almost all of my clothes would be the end result. Rather, I have a few simple tools (both hardware and software) to thank. This is a short review of those couple of things that made the biggest difference, in order of importance.

Apple Watch

First and foremost, my Watch.

The Apple Watch is easily my favorite product that I’ve gotten in the last couple of years, and it’s what started me down the path of running more. Since I got the stainless steel Apple Watch, I wanted to make sure that I took maximum advantage of as many features as I could. I like getting my money’s worth from things.

I had had fitness trackers in the preceding years (several Jawbone ones), but none of them were ever as motivating as the Apple Watch. Something about having the three activity rings right on my Watch face just made me want to fill them every day. It helps you summarize your day like the photo below. More details here: http://brez.link/2bBIiAY

The Activity app on Apple Watch

I’m now at the point where I’m taking brisk walks every time I have a break at work, and telling my Watch to start an walk in the Workout app beforehand.

I didn’t expect the wellness features of the Apple Watch to be my favorite thing about it, but that’s how it ended up. I’m excited about the Activity watch faces and the new Breathe app coming in watchOS 3 this fall.

If you’ve been on the fence about an Apple Watch, consider this my recommendation.

Withings Body Scale

As it turns out, there is an entire ecosystem of health devices that can feed data to an iPhone, all communicating with the phone using a framework called HealthKit. Withings makes a whole slew of them, but the most important one for me is their scale. They make a few models, and I actually have an older one, but that’s okay. The main thing that it does is transmit my weight every morning over to the Health app on my iPhone.

The Withings body scale and its app

Since getting the scale in January, I’ve got a graph of my weight that gets updated every day that I’m at home. It also measures my body fat percentage through my feet via some voodoo whose explanation I haven’t researched, and records my body mass index.

Smart scales are absurdly expensive compared to the $35 scale from Amazon, but heck if they’re not useful. Once you have one, you can’t go back. Recommended.

A Treadmill

The treadmills in my apartment’s clubhouse are my exercise command center. Due to having been treated for melanoma in the past, my dermatologist would hit me with a brick if I regularly went running outside. Or at least, I’d have to do a whole bunch of prep work with mineral sunscreen, find a hat appropriate to working out, and trust that the armband I have for my enormous iPhone 6s Plus will actually keep my phone on me. And then in the winter I would, you know, do nothing.

The treadmill has grown on me to the point that I like it though. I can control my exact pace and time on it (I run for 30 minutes, or about 4 miles, a few times a week). I also have a workout playlist (which I change only very infrequently) that I have timed to the exact points when I typically increase my pace.

My cavemen ancestors ran from freaking leopards and stuff every other day to stay fit. I run on a machine in an air conditioned basement. Modern living.

Lose It!

The last tool is a software based one. I have a bit of a problem with an app centering itself (and even naming itself) primarily around the concept of weight loss specifically instead of wellness generally. That said, my workplace periodically does wellness challenges in which we have to record things, and this is the app we use. I also have almost a year’s worth of food habits built up in it, and don’t want to change.


This app lets me track what I eat. I now do this so habitually that almost everything I even semi-regularly eat has an entry that I can add almost instantly. There is also a bar code scanner in the app, so I can add many new foods quickly. I use this information mainly to keep myself more honest than I was in the past about portion sizes. I think it’s the least scientific part of my setup in terms of real data, but setting a weight goal in here and then eating fewer calories than it suggested seemed to help.

I usually skip days when we travel or have some kind of family celebration. A billion kinds of food set up buffet style is a pain to track. My scale usually tells me that I’ve temporarily gained 2 pounds after days like this, but it always goes down again, so I don’t mind.

Wrapping it up

One doesn’t necessarily need all of these things to lose weight, or maintain weight, or even to exercise. It’s funny that in the developed world, staying fit is more easily done when we construct an environment around ourselves to do so. That said, these are the tools that have helped me get into the best shape I’ve been in in years, probably since high school, and I recommended any one of them.