The hardest part of living the Agile and Lean Life is measuring everything. It’s very true that you can manage only what you can measure, but it takes a lot of time, energy and mental resources to set the right set of metrics and then really measure them daily. The good news is that with the concept of biofeedback and smart connected devices (or IoT if you want) and many different applications, you can much more easily pay attention to what’s happening with your body as well as with your emotions or your wallet or whatever.
One of the basic devices you need for biofeedback is a smart scale. I own FitBit Aria and it works great as one of the most popular smart scales. There’s no big science behind it, it’s a scale like a normal scale, with two important additional features.
- The first one is that not only your weight is measured, but also your body fat percentage and the second sweet thing is that…
- Data is transmitted to a cloud, so you can view beautiful graphs on your mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer. You just step on the scale and in the next moment, results are transmitted online. It’s much more fun than just stepping on the scale and seeing the results.
At first, I measured my weight and body fat every day, in the morning before eating anything and after going to the toilet, in my underwear only, of course. What I’ve noticed is that I don’t get the best results by daily weighing, since the scale may show higher weight if I had a big dinner the day before (yeah, sometimes I do that). So I decided to weigh myself once per week; additionally, there’s also less pressure and stress. But you have to be consistent, really weighing yourself once a week on the same day.
After regularly using the smart scale, you can easily see the trends on fancy graphs and one thing is for sure: when you see your graph going up, you definitely get more motivated to take action and change the trend. Data visualization always somehow helps you do something when things aren’t going in the right direction in your life.
Measuring only your weight is, of course, a vanity metric. You may be losing only water or even muscle mass instead of fat. Fat is much lighter than muscles and when you start dieting, your body first starts to use energy in the muscles by “degrading” them, before even going to fat. Therefore again, measuring only your weight is not the right way to measure progress, you have to focus more on your fat.
That’s also the reason why all professional health trainers recommend that you go on a diet (or, even better, permanently change your lifestyle) as well as regularly exercise (especially anaerobically); because you really want to start losing fat, not muscles. So it’s really important that you buy a scale that also measures your body fat percentage. You want your body fat percentage to go down. For example, people who want to gain muscle mass even want to weigh more, but have a lower body percentage at the same time.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned since using a smart scale (for approximately 6 months):
- It’s really hard to lose 1% of body fat. I trained like an animal and had a quite strict diet for a month to lose 0.5% of body fat. And, of course, the lower you get, the more work you have to put in.
- It’s so easy to gain 1% of body fat. If you eat an excess of 500 kcal for 14 days (that’s like one slightly bigger piece of cake), you’ll gain 1 kg of pure fat easily (7500 kcal equals 1kg of body fat). If you’re struggling with being overweight in any way, you have to be aware that every single calorie counts. A cookie only stays for a moment on your lips, but forever on your hips. If you want to really lose weight, you simply have to be in a daily calorie deficit. Period. Of course it matters what you eat, when you eat it, your genes and body structure, but it all begins with how much you eat calorie wise, especially sugars and unhealthy fats.
- Under stress, I gain weight faster than a hippo. When I have lots of work and am under stress, I start gaining weight at least at double speed. Of course I also eat more snacks and exercise less when I’m overwhelmed with work. Organizing the PODIM conference, which is a really big and stressful project, got me to gain 6kg in a few months.
- Exercise helps me a lot in stabilizing weight. In the weeks when I exercise at least three to four times, my weight stays stable. If I stop exercising, I feel much worse as well as start gaining weight. But to lose weight, I have to focus more on my diet. Well, the fact is that you can’t ever out train your diet, and that goes even more for me.
Regarding FitBit Aria that I own, I must say it’s a good scale. Nice design, easy to set-up, made out of good materials, and the mobile/web application is easy to use and understand. The price is affordable and I’d recommend it to everybody. In combination with the multi-tracker wristband like FitBit Surge, you get even more data on how active you are and what works for you.
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But if you want an even more advanced scale, you can check out Smart Body Analyzer. Besides weight, body fat and BMI, it also measures your heart rate, the quality of air in a room, and shows the local weather forecast. You can connect to the scale by using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, while Fitbit Aria only has a Wi-Fi connection.
Here, you can find a nice comparison of different smart scales on the market.