Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Make 2014 The Year of Getting and Staying Healthy

What was your resolution for 2014 on New Year's Eve? It may seem like a lifetime has passed, but a couple of months ago you decided to make some healthy lifestyle changes and become a brand-new you. If all of that went out the window in week two, now is the time to get back on track. Start the spring of 2014 with a plan to be healthier and happier.


1. Ditch the list of ailments and set the stage for real change

Make a list, check it once and discover what pain or unhealthy cycle you seem to be repeating year after year. Changing unhealthy behaviors can be difficult because those changes are attached to fears that we won't succeed or that lasting change is not possible. To demolish the fear, try this:

  • Make a list of your health concerns.
  • Next to each concern, write a few words about how you'd like to feel instead. For example, if back pain plagues you, think about how it affects you. If you have trouble walking, set a goal for being able to skip (in a meadow, why not?) without pain. Work toward your goal by talking to a specialist, or beginning a spine exercise routine from Laser Spine Institute. If you wake in pain daily, it's important to think about a way to make a change that will really take hold, such as looking up resources for minimally invasive procedures. Imagine all of the activities you could participate in again if you could walk free from back pain.
  • Begin with three health concerns on the list you made, create a scenario in writing for each like the one above, take action and get ready to experience real change.

2. Stay young by rejuvenating your diet

Try this: In 2014, I'm going to eat for life and skip the fad diets." There's a difference between establishing an everyday healthy diet and dieting. Discovering the foods that serve you best and sticking with them is easier than you think.

  • Try new things. Make your regular grocery list and leave three to five blank spaces. When you get to the store, choose three to five new fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats or fish that you haven't tried before. As you walk the aisles, pick from your list to create meals centered around the new food choices.
  • Stay organized. Some of the new foods you try will become your favorites. You'll want to remember how you made these dishes and how you can continue to enhance them for optimal nutrition. Try an app like Food Planner to keep your favorites fresh.
  • Fooducate yourself. Don't want to get stuck in the diet trap! Stay on top of the good and bad trends for an even keel with the Fooducate app. This app helps you understand where your food came from and whether it's a healthy choice to match your goals.

3. Keep your brain on point

A youthful mind is one that plays games. Keep your mental skills sharp and you'll be surprised what falls into place. Give Lumosity a try — their scientifically designed brain gaming program helps you:

  • Recall and organize daily improvements
  • Keep track of several concepts simultaneously without traditional multi-tasking

By the way, I have had some practice in getting back in shape lately because I'd fallen out of good eating and exercise habits in the last few years.  Since last summer I've lost over 50 pounds and gotten my vitals (cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.) back under control. I used some gadgets and apps to help with this, and will share more information about what I did and what I used in my next post.

Fitbit Force Hands-On Review

When it was announced a few months ago, I pre-ordered Fitbit’s new wearable fitness tracking band, the Fitbit Force (I’m a previous owner of the Fitbit Flex and I liked the improvements in the Force). I’ve had the Fitbit Force for about 3 weeks now, and now feel informed enough to share a hands-on perspective about it.

What is the Fitbit Force?

The Fitbit Force is a fitness-tracking bracelet that you wear on your wrist to keep track of various types of activities, including:

  • Steps
  • Flights of steps climbed
  • Hours and quality of sleep
  • Estimated calories burned
  • Minutes of intense activities each day
  • Current time (so you can use it as a watch)

The data gathered by the Fitbit Force is synced to your computer or smartphone, using either Bluetooth Low Energy (a newer standard) or via an included wireless receiver that goes in your computer’s USB port.

There is an accompanying web-based dashboard and smartphone app that allows you to view the data, set and track fitness goals, track food intake, set silent alarms, and more.

Overall impressions

  • The Fitbit Force is very comfortable to wear, and keeps a low profile on your wrist. You can use either wrist, and Fitbit provides a way to increase accuracy by telling it whether you are wearing the Force on your dominant or non-dominant hand.
  • Fastening the Force’s clasp securely takes a bit of practice but after a few days I was consistently able to get it to fasten properly. In the first couple of days it fell off a few times while I was taking my jacket off, but once I became accustomed to squeezing the band until the clasp “clicked” it hasn’t fallen off since.
  • I have the black version of the band (there is also a “slate” version which looks more like teal to me). The design of the band is very nice and inconspicuous - it blends in fine with formal business attire, and fits under the sleeves of my dress shirts with no problem.
  • You change modes (from awake to sleep mode) using a button on the side of the Force. I like this method much better than with the Fitbit Flex, where you had to tap the band to change mode (I found that he flex changed modes too easily and it was annoying).
  • The same pushbutton is used to cycle through the LED display to view the time, monitor your progress against the various goals, and silence the silent (vibrating) alarm.
  • The silent alarms are great - I use them to wake up every day and I like the flexibility of being able to set different schedules for different days. The silent alarms wake me up by vibrating on my wrist without disturbing my wife - definitely a plus when I have to get up ridiculously early for a flight.
  • The battery life has been excellent. I am getting full 10 days on each charge, and the band warns me when I have about a day left so I can plan ahead to recharge it. Recharging takes a little over an hour. The only complaint I have is that it uses a proprietary cable instead of a micro-USB cable so be careful not to lose the cable!  (By the way - on my iPhone, which supports Bluetooth Low Energy, I have not noticed any reduction in battery life from the syncing).
  • I like the dashboard and apps, particularly the feature that lets me engage in friendly competition with friends so we can try to beat each other on the number of steps we walk in a week. Sometimes, that little bit of competition makes the difference between me staying on the couch and heading outside for a nice walk.
  • I don’t use Fitbit to log my food - instead, I use MyFitnessPal because it syncs seamlessly with FitBit and has better functionality (my favorite feature is the one that allows me to add foods by scanning their barcode). The integration of these two apps enables me to see my “net calories” (calories in minus calories burned) so I can see if I am meeting my daily calorie targets or not.
  • The Force is water-resistant and I’ve worn it in the shower and in the pouring rain with no ill effects.
  • I like using the sleep tracking function of the Force, especially when I’m traveling as it lets me know how well I slept. You have to manually tell the Flex you are going to sleep and waking up, and sometimes I forget. Fitbit has thought of this, and you can retroactively enter or adjust your sleep times via the app or the web site - this has been handy after I realize I’ve been walking around for 2 hours but never told the Force band that I was awake again.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I have no regrets about buying the Fitbit Force, and I recommend it highly. Based on my experience with other bands, the big thing I’m wondering: How will it hold up over time? If anything odd happens with regard to reliability, I’ll post it here.