'Living in the future' moment: Fitbit + Withings

This year has marked my final surrender to the immutable truth that when you're in your 30s you have to get a lot more purposeful about your health, fitness, and diet. Otherwise, you'll wake up in your 40s and 50s with a bunch of problems that are a lot more challenging to reverse at that point.

So, I've gotten a lot more strict about what I eat (vegetarian) and a lot more disciplined about my workouts (elliptical and weights). But, as I've been doing this, I found that I needed to track what I was doing in order to see my progress and check what was working. I started logging stuff in Evernote (a note-taking program for computers and mobile devices) but eventually I decided that there must be a better way to automate this, so I started looking for software to help. 

I found a bunch of different computer apps, web sites, and mobile apps that could do many of the things I was looking for, but I eventually decided to use something I already had: Fitbit.

Fitbit is actually a piece of hardware. In fact, it's a handy little gadget that tracks your physical activity and the daily mileage you walk, jog, and run and puts it into a handy graph on the Fitbit website for you to see the peaks and valleys of your activity throughout the day. You can also use it to track your sleep patterns, again outputed to a nice chart. 

I've had the Fitbit since December and have been using it as a tracker but I forgot about the fact that the Fitbit website will also let you track your daily diet, log other exercises and activities, and even track your weight and BMI. I mostly wanted to log exercises and nutrition and the Fitbit site worked great for both since it already had a lot of things in its database and it was easy to add new stuff that wasn't there. That made it easy to compare daily nutrition and daily fitness in a set of easy-to-track graphs.

Not long after I got that going, I decided I also needed to get a better scale and so I got the Withings Body Scale (pronounced "why things"). Withings (below) is rated highly for accuracy and it also tracks Body Mass Index (BMI), muscle mass, and body fat. Plus, it can wirelessly upload the data to its private website and an iPhone or Android app. Withings can also automatically post your weigh-in to your Twitter account in order to help motivate (or shame) you into staying on track. In fact, that's what Withings is most known for, but you won't see me auto-posting my weight to the Internet anytime soon, and the Withings scale is excellent even without the Twitter gimmick.

The only problem was that I had pretty much consolidated all of my data into Fitbit's private site and so now I was going to have to copy and paste from the Withings site into the Fitbit site or manually enter the data into Fitbit. That wasn't too bad, but it also wasn't very 21st century. Then, I started poking around on the Fitbit site and made an awesome discovery: Fitbit can import Withings data, with your permission. 

So that's when I had the "Living in the Future" moment. These digital sensors were automatically tracking all of this health and fitness information and I had this great set of charts and graphs that I could access in real time on the web or a smartphone.

Neither of the two solutions are perfect—Fitbit can only sync when it's near your computer and the Withings readings for muscle mass and body fat can be inconsistent—but they definitely provide some great feedback to help you stay on track in taking care of your health, fitness, and nutrition.