Follow-up to how I lost over 40 pounds using HealthKit and Apple Watch

The emails and tweets about the weight loss I’ve experienced using HealthKit and Apple Watch have been heartwarming, to say the very least. It was probably the most difficult piece I’ve ever written, just because I was putting myself all out there for everyone to see. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would even post it. Finally, I looked at the screen, hit publish, and walked away.

That review has led to a lot of interesting questions from readers, so I thought I would try to answer some of those in another piece, instead of individual emails. I suspected when I was writing the Apple Watch review that there were a lot of people in my situation, and it appears I was right.

While I’ll do my best to answer the questions, I have to say that I don’t know if any of these are the correct answers. I know what worked for me and that’s what I’ll talk about out here. The “fitness experts” can probably point out 100 things I’m doing wrong—I don’t care.

Goals

Some have asked what goals I set for my weight loss. That’s really easy—I didn’t set any. Actually, I had to set one goal because all of the apps I tried wanted a weight goal. I thought: “If I could be ridiculous and be any weight, what would it be?” That’s the weight I put down in the apps. Ten months later, I am now less than five pounds from achieving that goal.

The reason I didn’t use an achievable weekly or monthly goal is that I didn’t want that goal hanging over my head all the time. That doesn’t serve as motivation for me, rather a constant reminder of how overweight I am.

All I wanted to do is try. Every single day. I’ll have some good days and some bad days, but I didn’t care, I’d just try.

I looked at each day in tenths of pounds. If I was down by even one-tenth, that was great for me. If I was up, I looked at what I did the day before that may of caused it. I didn’t feel guilty or beat myself, I just tried to do better.

As I said in the initial review, much of this journey for me has been about knowledge of what exercise and food does to my body. I make decisions based on that knowledge and see where it takes me. It’s been a lot of trial and error, and I’m still learning each day.

Food

This was a big one. Which foods do I avoid altogether?

The simple answer is none. I eat whatever I want, knowing there are consequences for eating the wrong types of foods. That’s where the knowledge comes into play.

I refuse to go out with friends and not enjoy a beer and burger. I’m just not going to live my life that way. That doesn’t mean I’m going to eat three burgers, but I’ll enjoy myself the same way everyone else does.

I’m also not going to skip a meal the next day to make up for it. You body needs protein, so I eat.

What it does mean, however, is that I may have a yogurt for a snack instead of a bag of chips. I may eat a chicken breast and salad for dinner instead of a Big Mac, and I’ll have some fruit at night.

While I’ll still eat anything, some of the foods I try to stay away from are sugary drinks and fast foods. No hard and fast rule there, just something in the back of my brain all the time.

There were a lot of questions about MyFitnessPal and how tedious it was to enter all of the food items. Let me be clear: if it was tedious, I wouldn’t be doing it.

MyFitnessPal has millions of items in its database, so you don’t have to enter things manually, you do a search and pick the food item. If yours isn’t there, pick something close. Using MyFitnessPal is an approximation of the food I’m eating every day. I don’t count the number of strawberries I eat, I just say, “Yeah, that’s about a quarter of a cup.”

It would be very easy for me to quit what I’m doing to better my life. I think we look for reasons not to workout or reasons we should have a burger. We want to succeed, but we look for reasons to fail.

I try to take that temptation away, but allowing myself to eat what I want. I don’t crave bad foods, because I eat them from time to time.

Workouts

Questions about were workout regime were more detailed in some cases than I could answer. I’m not a fitness guy that knows what he’s doing—I just walk.

My fitness routine couldn’t be simpler if I tried. I put on shoes and I walk. I have a set course that I walk now, partly because I know it won’t hurt my aging, beat up knees, and partly because I like it.

I didn’t start out walking three miles a day. I walked maybe half a mile. The walk was the same every day—go to the end of the street, turn right, walk half a mile, and stop. One day, I turned left and walked a mile and half up and a mile and a half back. Then I turned left every day from then on.

Some days were hard. Some days I couldn’t do the full three miles. I didn’t care—two miles or one mile is still better than sitting at home. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go three miles, who knows.

I don’t know how to explain how my biceps are growing at such a fast rate, besides to say that I’ve never had to use them before. All of this exercise is new and is causing my muscles to grow rapidly. I don’t know what to say about it.

My weight training is more to tighten things up, than anything. I didn’t really think about building muscle, I thought about losing weight and, as a result, maybe getting flabby.

I went to a second hand sports store and bought a curl bar, some weights and some dumbbells. I do that for 10 minutes a day. Nothing major.

Apple Watch and HealthKit

I couldn’t be happier with my Apple Watch and HealthKit. I did a lot of the heavy lifting in this weight loss journey before the watch came out, but it’s been great for me.

Everything I need to see is available on my wrist, whenever I want to see it. Am I meeting my goals? Maybe I didn’t workout today1 and that’s affecting things. No big deal, sometimes life gets in the way. I’ll workout tomorrow.

Apple Watch and HealthKit provide me with valuable information. I need this info to see how what I do on a daily basis affects my body. Without that, I would be lost.

I really wish Apple would focus some its attention to people like me. We’re not all skinny fitness gurus. Some of us just need to know there is hope for us. That’s all. Hope.

People have asked if those two Apple technologies have really helped me lose over 40 pounds. I am responsible for losing the weight, but I couldn’t have done it without the information provided by Apple Watch and HealthKit. I believe that in my heart.

Apple Watch and HealthKit changed my life.

Embarrassment

This may strange to those fit people out there, but I was embarrassed for people to know that I was working out. If they know that, they’ll assume you’re dieting, and then the questions start. If you fail, then you have to face all of those people again. I wanted no part of that.

Until a month ago, I walked in my jeans and a t-shirt. I didn’t want anyone to look at me and see someone working out. I was just a guy walking with his iPod, listening to music. Nothing to see here.

When people started to notice my weight loss, I started explaining things a bit more, but I still kept a lot of it to myself. I was still embarrassed.

Friends offered to take me to their gym, which was very kind, but my first thought was “are you kidding me?”

There is no way I’m going to a gym with all of those fit, muscle-bound people. Never. Well, not yet anyway. I know the problem is mine, not theirs, but it’s something I’m not quite over yet.

I may go to the gym at some point in my life, but right now, I’m happy sitting here with MyFitnessPal and my walking shoes. I’m doing things on my own terms, in my time, and for the right reasons.

I’m good with that.

The Future

I have no idea what the future will bring. I’m going to keep going until I hit the weight doctors say I should be. I have under five pounds to go to reach my ridiculous goal set 10 months ago, and 15 pounds to reach what doctors say is good.

I have no set goal for when I should get there—I’ll get there when I get there.

One day at a time. One meal at a time. One walk a time.


  1. Actually, I didn’t workout today because I was writing this. 



  • Struckpaper

    Respect.

  • JDSoCal

    A guy who wears that beard should never be embarrassed by the rest of himself. J/K!

    Great job Jim!

  • James Hughes

    If you don’t mind me asking, how much do you weigh and what is the weight doctors say is healthy? No need to answer if you don’t want to, I’m just curious.

    Thanks for all the info too. It’s nice to see someone put themselves out there for the benefit of others. I didn’t think I’d buy an Apple Watch, but now I am not so sure.

    Most of all, keep it up and I have a lot of respect for what you are doing man.

  • davekaplan

    I do almost the exact same thing but I use a walking treadmill at my desk. And I lose weight

  • gglockner

    Great job, Jim. I had a similar situation and I understand completely. The next big goal is to keep it off – you worked hard to lose weight, now you need to make sure it’s gone forever.

  • LTMP

    I am in the same boat as you, particularly when it comes to working out. A friend talked me into seeing her personal trainer for 1 to 1 at her studio. With no one there but my trainer and me, there was no shame or embarrassment. I found myself working out harder than I ever had since my teen years as a gymnast. It isn’t cheap. In fact, for me, it is a big financial burden, but it is worth it. I’m not doing anything that I couldn’t do at home or at a regular gym, but here’s the thing… I do it. Three times a week, for 1.5 hours, I work my body until it hurts. I know I would never keep that up at home or at a gym.

    • So awesome, congrats!!

      • LTMP

        No. Awesome is doing it on your own. I bow before the beard.

  • Moeskido

    Very encouraging.

  • Peter Hewson

    Keep it up Jim and that embarrassment will turn to pride and you won’t be able to not talk about it. Your health matters and people are listening.

    • I’ve come to see how many people are listening. Truly amazing to me.

  • Adnams Drinker

    Thank you so much for your articles – I’m in my mid-forties and could do with losing a couple of stones in weight (about 28 pounds for those not familiar with UK measures). Like you I’m an owner of the amazing Apple Watch and the day I read your first article on Zite, it inspired me to immediately get off my backside and walk down to the supermarket for the bottle of milk we needed, rather than getting in the car. There and back again was only a total distance of 1.2 miles, but hey, it’s a start – and it was fascinating, motivating even, to see how many calories the Watch said I’d used.

    Could you explain a bit more about how you interpret the data in HealthKit – what’s displayed on the Watch is immediately useful, but the Health app just looks like a mass pile of data at the moment.

    Anyway, thank you for your inspiration and good luck with losing your remaining five pounds!

    • 1.2 miles is about double what I started with, so that’s great. Do a distance that you can maintain and you’ll be more willing to do it every day.

      I track steps, distance, workouts, weight, active calories, resting calories, protein, dietary calories, carbs, heart rate, body fat %, and body mass index.

      Seems like a lot, but MyFitnessPal inputs the data for a lot, as does the watch and the Withings scale.

      I use it all as info for understanding. I walked this far today, but I ate 10 pizzas—doesn’t look good for tomorrow’s weigh-in :)

      Or, I had a decent day of eating, worked out for 30 minutes and lost half a pound. Good weigh-in.

      Good days, bad days. They’re all going to happen.

  • Stuart Dootson

    Good on you, Jim – I started the same sort of journey (with my wife) last September. Since then, I’m down just about 60 pounds, with maybe another 50 to go. Just eating sensibly (although almost all fat and refined sugar has been removed) and walking more – as well as ‘normal’ clothes, I have the added disguise of a dog, who also appreciates the much longer walks!

    The main thing for me is how much better I feel in myself, and how that’s translated to playing football (soccer football, that is) – although I’m approaching 50, the last few months feel like they’ve taken 5-10 years off my age…

    • Wow, that is incredible, good for you brother! I’d love to get back into playing football. It’s been a long time though :)

  • Mark Cormack

    Similar story for me Jim. Since I picked up my iPhone 6 last year I’ve been trying to slowly beat my walking totals each day. This has expanded exponentially since I got the watch.

    When I was last weighed at the doctors this time last year I was 17.5 stone. I went to the doctors last week and a combination of slowly increasing my activity to hitting my daily 10,000 steps/being able to do a slow 1.2 mile jog and taking a little more care not to drink full fat coke and watching what I eat (a little) has seen my weight drop to 14.7 stone. I am incredibly happy with this result already but have 1 & 1/2 stone before I get to the weight I should be. For the first time in a long time this goal feels achievable.

    I don’t beat myself in for bad days, I just track what I’ve done. I know when I’ve let myself down and try to work harder the days and weeks after. Like they say this is a marathon not a sprint.

    I’ve been overweight for 20 years-ish now and worse I tend to be a yo-yo dieter when I do try to lose weight. This is the longest consistent period of weight loss I’ve had and I’m putting it down to a consistent awareness and relative action, not a drastic spurt of mad dieting.

    I’m incredibly pleased and happy with how my lifestyle is changing thanks to the capabilities (and encouragement) given to me by the Watch and Healthkit related functionality. Thanks Apple!

  • twalk

    Thank you for these two posts, especially today’s. I’ve never seen somebody articulate so well why I cannot maintain a workout regimen for any substantial amount of time. I don’t find it particularly difficult or time consuming, even though those are my two most common excuses to avoid exercise. But really it’s exactly as you said: working out is embarrassing for me. It’s not so much embarrassment for how I look now or how I look exercising, but embarrassment for the very fact that I am exercising. And I have also found it does not seem to be something people who are already fit or just exercise regularly understand, which makes it all the more difficult to talk about.

    I know it’s irrational. I know it’s probably just being self-conscious. I know it’s stupid. But it has been an unshakable feeling, and it has prevented me from losing weight for years.

    After reading your review yesterday, I decided to go out for a walk today: yes, in jeans and a t-shirt, with my iPhone listening to music to disguise what I was really trying to do (scary how similar). Didn’t quite get to 2 miles (1.89), but it’s a start. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go back out tomorrow, but tonight I see this post and find it reassuring to know I’m not the only one. It has given me the conviction to stick with it, ignore the embarrassment, and get healthy.

    Thanks, Jim.

    • Stick with it, you won’t regret it. Make sure the distance you go is sustainable. Don’t force yourself to overdo it or you’ll find a reason to stop—at least that’s what I would have done.

      I started with half a mile.

  • Wilco10815

    Way to go Jim.

  • deepknight

    I have a similar story, I have had weight issues for years, and with the release of Health last fall I decided to get serious and I’ve been at it ever since. I’ve never been a runner, but I started out walking and recently began jogging. I’ve lost 25 lbs so far and feel much better. Track my food and workouts. With Apple Watch, it’s now even easier to do. I too credit Health with all of this, I would not have done it otherwise.

  • John David

    Both you & Peter Cohen have been inspirational to many of us out there who struggle with these issues everyday.

    Thank you for sharing not only the details in how & what you’re doing to achieve these goals, but in also writing about the human side of it with your thoughts & feelings.

    So damn proud of both of you and I wish you continued success as you move forward.

  • Michael Roselius

    “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.” – Jerry Seinfeld

  • Richard Glover

    This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Respect and admiration.

  • bill679

    Thank you, Jim. You have given me hope.

  • Paul Burns

    You.go.man.

  • Jack Carson

    Hey Jim

    How much did Apple pay you to write these articles?

    • You must not follow Jim very regularly or pay attention very well.

      Jim is nothing but impartial about Apple. He just appreciates the great products that they make, just like many millions of other people obviously do.

      It’s not very complicated.

  • Bronwyn

    I wanted to say congratulations on getting so close to the ridiculous goal!

    One of the only kinds of exercise I like is biking. It’s useful play. I get outside and go fast and get to GO somewhere, DO something. Often I don’t want to stop. It hasn’t made a big visible difference yet, but I can feel the improvements to my muscles and wind, so I’m getting somewhere.

    I got a tracker app because I got curious about how often and how far I was actually riding. 40km is a regular week, 60km+ is a good one. And I’ve ridden about 370km since early May!

    Now, if only I could figure out a good nearby bike day/weekend tour that would be new territory!

  • HowmaNoid

    Inspirational! I need to love my couch less.

  • Robin Thomson

    I too have found the Apple Watch combined with HealthKit and MyFitnessPal have spurred a significant improvement in my weight loss targets. This maybe become one of the watches great selling points as more stories like yours and my own experience emerge. It is just brilliant having the thing on your body all day recording good data fed into those three rings and the companion apps chosen.

  • minimoose

    Very motivational information. I’m sure you’re helping a great many people with your articles about this subject. You should be proud for that in addition to what you’ve achieved for yourself.

  • twitboydk

    Great article. And I agree. If yo don´t get to working out today – you´ll do it tomorrow. People need to take it easy with the fitness. I went to a concert with a friend and he couldn’t even have a beer cause he had a spinning class the next day??? That stuff is wrong :-)

  • Alan Sprecacenere

    There is no way I’m going to a gym with all of those fit, muscle-bound people. Never. Well, not yet anyway. I know the problem is mine, not theirs, but it’s something I’m not quite over yet.

    This kind of reasoning is something I’ve seen a lot of people doing, including myself.

    What I can say is that, once you hit the gym for a while, and once you see your body changing shape, slowly becoming a normal body (less hanging fat, wide shoulders, more balanced curves) you understand those muscle-bound people. And it becomes a game that motivates you to do better. That’s the same kind of game the Apple Watch tricks you to do with its activity circles. If you have a chance, try going to the gym. You can always stop if you don’t like it :)

    Also, think that all those people are there for the exact same reason as you: to feel better.

    • Steven M. Artsis

      Thank you so much for your wonderful review of the Apple Watch and Congratulations on your weight loss. It makes me feel good to know that the I-Watch helped you to become more healthy. Steven

  • JohnOCFII

    Great Job! Like so many in their 40′s and 50′s, the metabolism has slowed, and the beer and burgers just get more tasty. Some extra pounds have crept on. Like you, I’ve started walking. I also started dropping some carbs too. I’m so glad to read your story. There are many out there who need to know that doing a little bit is OK — so much better than OK, in fact. We aren’t all shooting to look great in spandex — maybe I won’t have Six-Pack Abs, but hopefully I can shrink the keg into a growler. :)

  • marco1959

    Your story is far more inspirational than the latest workout buzz from a fitness expert: you’re just a regular guy who started in our shoes and is using good info day by day to help himself become who he wants to be. Much respect, Jim.

  • Good for you! It’s hard to lose weight, I know from first hand experience.

  • Thank you so much Jim. I really admire the courage to start this and even more so the courage to share.

    You’ve inspired me to start down this path, starting today. I just read both of your blog posts (again – I read them a few weeks ago and have been thinking about it ever since). Now I installed My Fitness Pal. Starting this morning I’ve started keeping track of what I’m eating – there was already a breakfast and a lunch I ate before getting MyFitnessPal up & running so I just wrote those down on paper so I wont forget, but now they’re going in.

    And I’m heading out to walk around the block with my dogs, since I’m home during lunch break from work.

    Thanks so much again, good luck.

    As far as not going to the gym – this reminds of a thread I just read on reddit (/r/fitness or something), some girl said she is embarassed to go the gym because everyone is so fit. One response was great, the guy said “here is what I do in the gym. I lift. I look at myself. I think about myself. Then I life and then think about myself some more”.

    He pointed out how many “I”‘s that sentence has – and his point was that everyone in the gym is so self involved that they don’t really notice or care about anyone else there….I bought it at least.

  • JC

    Jim, It’s great to read about your weight loss story. Good luck in your healthy future! P.S. I’ve just spent a week-long “walking” vacation in Eastern Europe with my Apple Watch and by day 2 I was hooked on keeping track of steps, stairs, distance, etc. It was a lot of fun to track our walks!

  • wplantz

    This is no place to feel embarrassed (but I get it). I respect anyone that wants to take charge of their health. And I’m happy to hear that Apple Watch and HealthKit is helping.

    In a way, though, I can relate. I used to be a varsity runner in high school running consecutive 5-6 minute miles. Now, by comparison I am lucky to run two miles in 10 minutes. Not the same thing but with so many running apps that boast social sharing features, I am just left feeling embarrassed.

    The Apple Watch and HealthKit is helping me in many of the same ways. I sit at a desk all day so having gentle reminders to stand and walk around on days I don’t jog are great. Being able to see my heart rate has opened my eyes to just how out of shape I really am and that I need to take it easier on my runs. The awareness and information both provide is fantastic.

    Keep up the great work, Jim!

    Oh, and an occasional burger is completely necessary to life!

  • Thea

    Thank you for this. I would like to get an Apple Watch, though I may wait for v2. I’ve been using a FitBit Charge HR for my own fitness tracking, though compared to an Apple Watch, I think there’s some appeal in having a device that pokes you to stand, go for a walk, etc. (Maybe I could set my FitBit up to do that, I’m not sure…haven’t bothered to look.)

    Regarding the embarrassment, I am 100% with you, but for different reasons. I’ve realized that a big part of me wishes I could lose weight in secret, not tell a single soul, and meet my goal without anyone ever knowing. However, it’s such a visible change that such a dream is impossible, and if I succeed I will inevitably have to face the comments: “you look so good!” and “where’d the rest of you go?” and “congratulations!”

    It’s this inevitable praise which gives me anxiety. Logically I suppose it should be motivating, looking forward to showing off my “new” self…but I only anticipate feeling uncomfortable and awkward, politely dismissing such comments, and wanting to get out of the conversation or change topics as soon as possible.

    Why? Because I don’t want or need other peoples’ validation that I’m finally fitting into societal norms. If they say I look good when I’m 60 lbs. lighter, then that means I looked bad before. If they congratulate me on a job well done, then that means I was screwing up for decades beforehand. If they say they’re proud of me, then that means I did it for them, not for myself. If they start treating me differently, then it’s not because of who I am, it’s because of how I look. All of these things irk me enough to give me a lot of anxiety about achieving my goals. It’s taken a lot of willpower to tell myself not to care about what people will say, and only focus on doing it for myself, reminding myself every day that it’s for me and me alone.

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to vomit emotional baggage…I just wanted to thank you for acknowledging that embarrassment is a big part of working out, for whatever reason, and I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  • Audwin Mumford

    Excellent piece! I’m in 100% agreement on losing the weight my way, on my terms and in my own timeframe. I too am an Apple Watch/MyFitnessPal user…just picked up the watch yesterday and moving away from Fitbit. Good luck on your future goals as I work on mine.