Product Review: Jawbone UP24

Remember that New Year’s resolution you made a couple months ago?  How’s that going?  If you are looking for some motivation to get back on track, I would highly recommend a fitness tracker.  With so many options on the market, there really is something for everyone.  But, with the abundance of choices, it can be totally overwhelming to decide which one to get.  You could spend hours researching the articles online that provide comparisons on every single feature; ultimately, it comes down to what is most important to you.  After a lot of research, I decided on the Jawbone UP24 and I have loved it!  Here’s what I was looking for in a fitness tracker and how this band matches up…

jawbone-up24

Looks Good – If I was going to wear something 24/7, it had to be something I would want to wear.  I chose the Jawbone UP24 because it was one of the sleekest options, with a thin band and simple design.  There are plenty of options that are a bit more fashionable, but I wasn’t really looking for something that would stand out.  I wanted neutral and understated, so I chose the black (Onyx) color. I only wish they would offer an even more neutral light gray option.

Feels Good – In terms of comfort, the band fits perfectly and I barely notice it anymore. I used the measurement chart on their website and got a medium (my husband’s large fits him well) – it does stretch slightly over time, so keep that in mind.  It’s easy to take on and off when you need to, which I really only do when I shower (it is splash resistant, but I’d rather not risk it).  Wearing it at night while I sleep hasn’t bothered me a bit.  My only two annoyances are: it can be irritating to type on a laptop -my husband actually takes his off at his desk- and it can get caught up in sweaters or jackets as I’m putting them on.  This tracker does not monitor heart rate – while that does improve accuracy, I was never going to wear a band around my chest every day.

Easy to Use – From the time I opened the package to get this set up, this tracker has been effortless.  I simply downloaded the free app, my band synced via Bluetooth and it was ready to go.  The app is easy to navigate and intuitive.  All of the information I want to know is in one place and the goals & reminders are easy to set up.  Plus, the homepage acts kind of like a newsfeed, showing you what your friends are up to and how you & they are meeting set goals. The band itself has a button on it that you press to go into sleep mode or to turn off the alarm – it’s super simple and you don’t need to open the app to perform those commands.

Today Goal Summary

Syncs Automatically – This tracker connects via Bluetooth to the app on your phone.  No need to remember to plug it in at the end of each day or connect to your computer.  I know where I am at throughout the day just by opening the app on my phone or through the notifications I’ve chosen for it to send.  The app also ties in with MyFitnessPal to track your calories and MapMyFitness to track your exercise.  I’m not really a calorie-counter (read why here), but I do like to keep a food diary for personal accountability, so it’s been helpful to see how I am balancing food intake & movement.

Battery Life – One of the reasons I chose the Jawbone UP24 is its battery life.  It lasts a solid 7 days and notifies you when you have a day left to charge.  Plus, it only takes about 30 minutes to fully charge again.  It comes with a connector that I plug in directly to my iPhone USB charger adaptor, so I didn’t have to purchase anything additional.  One TV-show or morning commute worth of charging and you’re good to go for the week – I love it!

Sleep Monitor/Alarm – Does anyone else hate their alarm clock?  Okay, I knew I wasn’t the only one. This tracks your sleep and will wake you up at the most ideal time in the morning.  I simply set the alarm for the time I must wake up by and within 30 minutes of that time, if I transition into light sleep, it will begin vibrating to wake me up gently.  This has been magical for me as I no longer have that panicked alarm wake up anymore.  It feels natural to wake up.  I was also curious to see how many hours and the quality of sleep I was really getting each night.  This tracker has been great for keeping me on a consistent bedtime schedule and making sure I meet my 8 hours per night goal – it reminds you when you should get ready for bed each night. Then, each morning, I can see how long it took me to fall asleep, how much deep sleep I got, how many times I woke up, etc. – it’s been enlightening.

Sleep Tracking

Cost – There can be quite a range of price for fitness trackers.  Honestly, I really wasn’t looking to spend over $100 on one of these. On Amazon, this one cost $99 and if you find it on sale at Best Buy, you can get it even cheaper.  I think it’s been a great value and have no regrets.

Motivating – Ultimately, the whole reason I wanted one of these was to keep myself motivated and accountable to move more, sleep consistently and eat healthier.  And, honestly, it really has helped with each of those.  The buzz every 30 minutes of non-movement reminds me to get up from my desk and keep moving throughout the day.  My competitive nature makes me want to take the stairs, park further away, and go on more walks to get more steps in.  Not only can I see how I compare with the friends I am connected to, but I can see how I am meeting my goals each day – that keeps me far more accountable than some overarching resolution.  Whether or not the step count is exactly right, I really am moving more each day and that’s a win for improving my health.

Daily Steps

Have you been considering a fitness tracker?  What features are most important to you?

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Unwinding

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop on this cold, rainy day, drinking an almond milk latte and writing in the middle of the afternoon.  I am thankful for days like this… for days to relax, to do what I love and for being myself again.  I finally obeyed doctor’s orders and left my job;  I have a few more days off before I start a new adventure on Monday!  These two weeks have been wonderful; I have been tackling house projects, reading, traveling & finally getting a chance to completely unwind.

I’m hopeful for 2015.  Even though it’s only one month into the year, I’m keeping up with my goals and excited for what is to come.  I am loving how my new Jawbone Up24 is holding me accountable… I have kept a daily food diary since Jan 2 and I am taking my pup for a walk or run nearly every day.  In just the past week, I’ve lost 5 pounds – I’m sure the drop in stress levels helped quite a bit.  I’m also feeling the improvement in my health.  I’ve been on my new health protocol to bring balance to my hormones, vitamin D, iron & electrolyte levels for 4 months and really noticing how my body is healing itself.

During my free time, I’m hoping to write a few more blogs to share over the next couple of months.  While I have some topics in mind, I want to know what you want to hear about.  Help me out…

A Health Challenge: My Goals

Auld Lang SyneWe are almost halfway through January and I wanted to check in… how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?   I’ll be honest, I’ve failed already.  But, I’m not giving up quite yet!  

I recently organized a health challenge for my office and have also decided to participate.  The challenge runs 12 weeks and started yesterday.  The competition is based off of body fat percentage loss since that is a good indicator of both fitness and health and more accurate than BMI.  Plus, you can see your percentage loss, weight loss and inches loss at the end, which is so encouraging.  Y’all, my current body fat percentage puts me in the “overweight” range… I have got to get back in that healthy range! I’ve known for awhile what I should be eating and doing to get my body healthy, I just haven’t had the self control to do it. As I sat down last night to think through my goals and make a plan, I knew that many of you also have some health resolutions this year and might want to see what I’m doing.  If you haven’t made a resolution yet – it’s not too late!  Here are the five things I am focusing on for this challenge, why they are important and some simple action steps to follow if you are interested in adapting them yourself:

  1. Increase Nutrients – With all the packaged and processed foods in our restaurants and grocery stores, we are no longer getting the nutrients our bodies are starved for.  We have essentially become malnourished as a culture.  The blog 100 Days of Real Food has some great meal plans and recipes to avoid processed food.  I will be focusing on eating real food with real health value to my body.  I will aim for 5+ servings of vegetables per day and a high protein, high fat diet to keep me full and give my body energy instead of relying on cheap carbs to do so.  Basically, I’ll just be eating lots of freshorganic produce and protein.
  2. Eat Clean – It is important to eliminate the toxins in our environment and foods that are causing harm to our bodies.  In order for the nutrients we eat to work effectively to help our body, we need to make sure we are not poisoning it at the same time.  I always look for these on food labels when grocery shopping or on a restaurant menu:
    Hormone-Free
    Antibiotic-Free
    Preservative-Free
    Pesticide-Free (Produce)
    Cage-Free (Eggs)
    Free-Range (Chicken)
    Grass-Fed (Beef)
    Wild-Caught (Fish)
    Non-GMO
    Nitrate-Free
  3. Eliminate Inflammatory Foods – While losing weight/inches/fat would be great, my main goal is health.  I want to get my hormones balanced, be pain-free and increase my immune function.  My adrenal levels are currently way high, which is inhibiting all of those things and causing me to gain weight.  Eek! The only way to fix it is to change my diet: I will be avoiding grains & cheap carbs, soy (as always!), sugar (except for a couple of special occasions & some dark chocolate here and there) and vegetable oil (I use coconut oil instead… and no, it doesn’t taste like coconut).
  4. Drink More Water – A couple of months ago, I read the book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water and learned so much about how dehydrated I am (I plan to write a review about the book soon!).  Drinking lots of water has tons of benefits, including losing weight & detoxifying the body.  Per the book’s recommendation, my goal will be to drink at least 64 oz of water per day, plus an extra 16 oz for any coffee or tea I drink since those beverages work to dehydrate us.  Also, less alcohol… red wine is healthy, right?
  5. Get Moving – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate exercising.  I can commit to eating well all day, but commitments to exercise always fail.  Recently, I watched an interesting documentary about exercise and I really want to put the routine into practice.  It will only take 3 minutes a week… surely I can.  I’m going skiing soon and my trip to Europe this Spring will entail lots of walking, so I need to be in shape. I woke up this morning and worked out for the first time in years, so I’m off to a great start. Please, ask me next time you see me and hold me accountable!

Writing those out makes it seem a little less daunting than it did yesterday.  Instead of focusing on what I can’t have, I’m going to focus on all the yummy foods that I can eat…. here’s to bacon, avocados, raw cheese, BBQ, sushi, colorful salads, nuts, fresh juice, sweet potato fries, fried okra, dark chocolate, and (in case you forgot) bacon.  Cheers!  *Water glasses clink*

Who else wants to join me?  What are your goals?

Tips for Staying Fit During Thanksgiving

With a holiday so centered around a tempting buffet of food, lazy days watching football and pies galore, it can be hard to not feeling like the stuffed turkey after Thanksgiving. Here are a few tips on how to stay fit and healthy during your Thanksgiving holiday:

Eat Breakfast: We tend to save up our appetite for a big meal, but you’ll end up overeating if you do.

Chew Slowly: Focus on your loved ones and enjoy the dinner table conversation. Give your body time to process how much you’re eating so you don’t eat too much.

Drink Water: Our bodies often misinterpret being thirsty as being hungry; staying hydrated will help you eat appropriately-sized portions.  And, remember, that all those liquid calories in alcohol can really sneak up on you too.

Exercise: Take your family to the Turkey Trot for a fun fitness outing, shop til you drop during Black Friday sales, or, if you’re traveling, try these easy exercises you can do in the car or an airplane.

TurkeyTrot

Buy the Best: Turkey can be an incredibly healthy part of the Thanksgiving spread.  Make sure to choose pasture-raised, organic turkey to feed to your family so that you can avoid the contamination risks and toxicity that are in conventional meat.

Choose Wisely: Remember, Fats Don’t Make You Fat, Carbs Do!  Load up your plate with turkey and veggies and check out these delicious options for healthy side dishes:

Don’t Skip Dessert: It’s okay to splurge a little.  If you’re like me, trying to stop eating any dessert is likely to make me abandon my diet altogether. Limit yourself to one piece of pie and try this yummy, healthy version of whipped cream instead.

Transform Your Leftovers: The benefits of bone broth are astounding, so make a hearty turkey and vegetable soup that will last all weekend.

Remember the Primary Ingredient: Gratitude! If your Fall has been anything like mine, it is likely that stress has taken its toll on your body; and if not already, the upcoming holidays sure might.  Gratitude has been proven to have great health benefits so cherish the time with your family and friends, relax, and remember all that you have to be thankful for this holiday season.  As I look forward to Thanksgiving next week, I am reminded of all that I have to be thankful for, especially for my health.  I am so grateful for all that I have learned and for the incredible healing, especially with the chronic pain I used to suffer from, that I have experienced this year.

What are you thankful for this year?

The Truth About Exercise?

Tennis ShoesRecently I watched a program on PBS called The Truth About Exercise with Michael Mosley that addressed some surprising new research and challenged many of the things I had ever heard about working out.  Y’all, I hate exercising.  I will do whatever I can to avoid it, especially when life gets busy… or I’m tired, or stressed, or lazy, or just having too much fun to not have fun.  If you’re anything like me, I think you’ll find some hope in what this program had to say.

There is obviously a relationship between weight loss and exercise – we’ve all seen the inspiring stories about people who started crossfit or trained for a race and shed the pounds.  Then, we also hear that exercise is not really sustainable for losing weight, that it’s about what we eat and maintaining a healthy diet.  And, truly, eating right does work for everyone. But, there are other benefits of exercise to consider as well:

  • “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy…” – Elle Woods.
  • Lowers blood pressure and risks of stoke & heart attack
  • Lowers your risk of diabetes. This program showed how 90 minutes of walking the night before a terrible-for-you breakfast reduced fat deposits from that meal by a third. The enzymes (lipo protien lipase) released during exercise stay in the system and make fat go to be burned by muscles rather than into our fat stores. This prevents damage to our blood vessels and also the deep fat in our organs (fat around our waist) that’s really dangerous.

Let’s be honest, though, for all that hard work, most of us are really looking to lose weight.  Unfortunately, it does not give many the fat burn they really want.  In fact, it has now been scientifically proven that people respond very differently to the same amount and type of exercise.  15% of the population see huge physical benefits from exercise, while 20% of the population see absolutely no change.  Those 20% are called non-responders and, unfortunately, it’s genetic.  Then there are the other 65% who are somewhere in the middle of that range.  Exercise is not one size fits all… exercising more may not help you, and that, combined with our busy lives, is certainly not motivating us to get to the gym.

Professor Jamie Timmons, University of Birmingham (UK), performed clinical studies of non-responders and set out to find a form of exercise that helps everyone and is sustainable enough to fit into our busy lives.  They used two main tests to measure the health benefits – 1. Insulin Sensitivity (Insulin removes sugar from the blood and controls fat – I discussed this in detail a few weeks back; sensitivity is a measure of how quickly it works) and 2. VO2 Max (how much oxygen your body is able to use, which is a huge indicator of the future health of your cardiovascular system).  Studies suggest that short spurts of highly intense exercise is what can improve these two: 20 seconds of the most intense exercise you can handle, followed by period of rest, repeated twice.  Do that three days a week.  This can be cycling as fast as you can on a stationary bike or sprinting down the street.

How can this possibly work?  That crazy intense form of exercise breaks down the glycogen stores in the muscle and that’s the key signal from the muscles to say “I need more glucose to burn, NOW!” to the blood.  Unlike walking or jogging, where you are only activating 20-30% of your muscles, this intense exercise is activating 70-80% of your muscles, which creates a much larger sink in glucose, causing your body to get more sugar out of the blood to burn.  In fact, they saw results in these two crucial areas in just 2 weeks.

After the show’s host, Michael Mosley, participated in 4 weeks of this protocol, they tested his insulin sensitivity and VO2 Max. He had an overall improvement of insulin sensitivity of 23%, which is remarkable, but in line with what the clinical studies are proving.  Michael also learned that his aerobic activity did not increase at all which proved (along with a genetic test) that he is a non-responder to exercise.

A couple other interesting things I learned from the program:

  • Most of us spend 12 hours a day sitting and not moving.  Being active increases your metabolic rate. Moving throughout the day is how we were designed, so that’s obviously best for our bodies.  Dr James Levine, Mayo Clinic, an obesity expert, says that the best way to burn fat is to increase your NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  No need to sweat, but make a more conscious effort to constantly move.  Our bodies idle when we sit for an hour, gunk builds up: blood sugar and fat elevate. In order to keep the fuels moving through your system, you need to be moving every hour, not just exercise a couple times per week.
  • We may feel like our muscles are what get tired and that’s why exercise exhausts us, but, actually, it may be our brain.  Michael Mosley did a test in a low oxygen chamber and he got tired very fast as soon as his brain realized that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.  This measured how hard he thinks he can push his muscles. But when probes were applied to his head, putting pressure on the part of the brain controlling his legs, it allowed him to push himself to keep exercising. Our subconscious brain is protecting itself – it triggers a shutdown before you are actually in “danger.” But, your brain can learn that this activity is not threatening which is why it begins to feel easier after training.

If you want to learn more, I highly recommend watching it for yourself here.

Do you think these experts discovered the truth about exercise?  Could you commit to this 3-minute-a-week exercise routine?  Who wants to try it with me to see if it works?