Bitten By The Fitbit Bug

Yep, got it yesterday early afternoon and pretty soon became quite intrigued and even motivated by the little gizmo.

I was only peripherally aware of Fitbit and a few wearable data loggers—probably by means of a walk by at Best Buy kiosk or something. First impression: how ridiculously obsessive.

Then a commenter in a post a while back spoke very highly of it.

Even more so than calorie intake, I’ve found that the traditional ways of estimating calorie expenditure are WAAAAAAYYYYY off. Using the Harris Benedict formulas that Colpo reprinted in the Fat Loss Bible, I calculated my Total Energy Expenditure at about 3,300 calories a day (that’s RMR with an activity multiplier). I’ve been using a fitbit, which calculates RMR with the same formula, and uses your daily movement and logged activities to come up with a total. Over the past 28 days, my lowest burn was 3,253 and highest was 4,334, and average was 3,773. On top of that, the RMR estimates can vary dramatically from actual burn.

Still, I’ve really embraced the entire tracking thing over the past month, and even with all the possible inaccuracies, I’ve seen major benefits. I dropped 14 pounds, and bodyfat percentage suggests it’s over 90% fat. The fitbit reports suggest that I should have lost 10 pounds, and the extra may be water loss(which can happen on any diet, though is usually greatest on low carb), or due to TEF, cold exposure (which I’ve also been doing), or some other hidden factor. My energy has been good, and I’m not battling hunger cravings (I used to get major hunger when doing IF all the time, but kinda enjoyed it), and I feel more in control now than I have in years. Calorie Counting may have lots of problems, but I currently believe it’s the most powerful strategy for altering bodyweight available.

He added:

I hear ya. I think part of the reason I’m enjoying it this time is because of the fitbit software. It makes the whole thing feel like a video game or fantasy sports league, so that helps make it fun. Also, you get to see both calories in and calories out, and the second half of the equation seems to be ignored by most everyone, especially people who feel compelled to tell you about the first law of thermodynamics.

I used a food diary a long time ago, and hated it. I also used a different piece of food logging software a couple years ago, and didn’t like that much, either.

So this is what I found for myself almost immediately after setting it up, which was about 14:30 yesterday. However, I did log all the food / drink for the whole day. It puts you in a funny competition with yourself. It’s weird, you see both calories in/out in real time and as commenter John points out, it’s part calculated, part actual measurement, and if you want, you can even log stuff like a specific workout activity. It uses it all to estimate what energy you’ve expended up to that second in time.

Kinda weird to get out of bed and learn you’ve already expended 600 calories for the day. Don’t know how it does it, but it seems to differentiate between sitting, laying on the couch, and sleep. Last night, I went to bed 5 minutes before midnight and this morning, learned I fell asleep at 00:03.

Add to that, with your smartphone, you can log food / drink in real time, and the app is killer easy for that and fun, since you’re curious about how it’s going to stack up with your daily track. Everything has been in the database so far. Plus, depending on what goal you’ve set, you can see instantly how many calories you can eat in order to get to the caloric deficit point corresponding to your goal and how quickly you want to do it. It turns it into a dynamic, real-time process where the picture is always changing, as you’re always burning energy, so have eating headroom as time goes by.

I found it motivational. Dogs got a ridiculous 4 substantial walks between early afternoon and late night because I wanted to hit 5,000 logged steps in less than half a day. Here’s some shots.

Calories – 3,192 Out

For food, I purposely pounded carbs, quite more than normal. This morning was quite different. High fat, moderate protein, moderate carb, about 960 calories: 2.5 oz crusty French baguette from Acme, 30 g butter, 90 g jack cheese, and 10 oz whole raw milk. 50/35/15 F/C/P.

Food – 1,611 Calories In – 59/30/11 C/F/P

Notice how I could have eaten an additional 800 calories and still had at least a 750 calorie deficit (my daily goal), since 2,450 is 750 under my 3,200 expenditure (not including burn between midnight and 14:30.

I woke up quite hungry, but with little appetite. Dog walk put me in the mood for that high calorie, high fat breakfast.


So, slept from midnight to 02:30, up for 15 minutes, right back to sleep like a log. Woke up at 4:30 and took the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless off. I’ve always hated a watch on my wrist for sleep, so that will take some getting used to. That said, I slept from 04:30 to 07:15.

There’s lots more, like heart rate monitoring, both at least and correlated with activity, and more. One disclosure is that there’s a few extra bells & whistles if you get the premium subscription for $50 per year, which I did. Primary reason for me is that I wanted more than just calories. I wanted macro breakdown and nutrition data.

Finally, there’s a social aspect, so if anyone has one, here’s my profile if you want to hit me up with a friend request so that we can deride one-another’s pathetic progress.

I’ll post again in about 30 days after I’ve gathered much more data.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Jackie D on May 3, 2015 at 17:10

    I’m so tempted to get one, but absolutely hate having anything on my wrist (don’t even wear the girly bracelets I love because it bugs me when I spend most of my work day typing). My kingdom for one I could just glue to my body somewhere.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 3, 2015 at 17:15

      They do have the hang on body kind, and they monitor everything mine does except heart rate.

  2. el-bo on May 3, 2015 at 23:46

    good for motivation, but not accurate enough if you really are looking to manage a smaller, consistent calorie-deficit

  3. Mike on May 4, 2015 at 03:40

    If you don’t care about food logging and sleep tracking, there are bunch of free/cheap activity trackers for smartphones – I use one called Pacer on my iPhone – works well, seems accurate enough for my needs. My only goal is to ensure that my average steps a day is well above the 10,000 steps and keeping an overall eye on activity trends – can log other activities such as cycling et al.

  4. John on May 4, 2015 at 07:49

    As stated in the thread leading to this post, myfitnesspal seems to have a much more comprehensive database. I’ve even been plugging in specific store brand stuff from my local grocer and they’ve got it (Publix Frozen Japanese Blend vegetables, etc). I’ve set it us so Fitbit imports the data from MFP.

    It seems fun, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to drop money on one of those bands – I’m losing 1lb a week while maintaining strength via my initial calorie/macro calculations and food selections. Maybe if I become more active through the day, though.

    (I’m not the John that wrote the above comments – I’m the other John from that thread).

  5. John on May 4, 2015 at 08:25

    Did you see Stephan’s latest post on LDL? Quite interesting

  6. Richard Nikoley on May 4, 2015 at 09:16

    John. Hadn’t seen it yet. I normally drop by every couple of weeks or so, unless someone tells me to.

    The comments are even more interesting. Here’s the one I posted, awaiting approval.

    Well well.

    I love the pure exercise of iconoclasm, of challenging beliefs that reach bromide and slogan proportions. Stephan, you’ve always been good at that, and the fact that you are now saying “wait a minute” with respect to those things you were posting about way back is testament to your underlying honesty. This is independent of being right or wrong. Honesty finds a way.

    Personally, I suspect it’s rather a U or J curve thing, where most people are in reasonable ranges. Probably, the standard industrial health BUSINESS wants the range of “probably OK,” to be as narrow as possible. It’s unrealistic to hold them to higher standards than auto-manufacturers and marketers. It’s their business to sell drugs. OTOH, just as in cars, you really have to benefit the consumer long term (economics is all the same, whether cars or pills).

    I also suspect that modern lifestyles and food engineering serve to either push people out of normal C ranges they would otherwise have, or, exacerbate somewhat out-of-normal that in an HG setting would not be any problem. Chronic widespread inflammation is–to my opinion–probably the most underlying factor and C exploits this. So what if treating C is treating a downstream symptom. Would people complain about a drug with low side effect that reduced MI 50% independent of other factors?

    My HDL remained near 100 and my LDL went way down by focussing on feeding my gut, primarily beans.

    Finally, it’s really difficult for me to see what Stephan politely suggested in terms of the marriage of LC and Paleo in terms of super high C in so many as anything more that irrational denial and justification.

    Keep on clashing with icons, Stephan.

    • John on May 4, 2015 at 09:54

      You mentioned something I didn’t see discussed – the “whats driving LDL up” question. I’ve always thought of statins in terms of symptom treatment while ignoring the cause (inflammation). If you could lower MI and all cause mortality with LDL reduction independent of a root cause treatment with little to no side effects – well that will make me rethink some of my beliefs.

      Stephan says in comments that LDL and downstream effects appear to be the driver of inflammation – the opposite of what paleo preaches.

  7. John on May 4, 2015 at 18:06

    First of all, congrats on getting that Boat Shoe badge! It’s certainly been motivational for me, as I’m walking far more now than I was a few months ago. I do find myself going out for walks, simply so I can hit that earn a daily badge again. It also drew me in over time, as when I first set it up, I was just using it as a pedometer. After a couple months, I logged my sleep a few times. Then, I started logging food, and really started to see results. It also seems like a lot of people start off with a basic model, and upgrade to one of the heart rate monitor models over time.

    It’s interesting that yours can tell the difference between sitting, laying down, and sleep. I wonder if the Charge HR could detect an increased calorie burn from cold exposure?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 4, 2015 at 23:12

      I just ordered the Surge, overnight delivery, as Bea wants my Charge HR. No doesn’t detect cold, but it’s on my list of suggestions, as well as being able to log cold water exposure in time submerged and water temp. Ray Cronise could help them with the equations, probably based on BMI.

  8. Sidney on May 6, 2015 at 21:17

    I just hate entering the foods I eat. Gave up on myfitnesspal after 3 days. What a chore. Will eventually get a 2nd or 3rd gen Apple watch since all the kinks will be ironed out by then. Apple with its health kit app is going to have some really cool health and fitness implementations for iPhone and apple watch.

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