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Quantified self: I lost 27kg from being self aware

Kwai Chi had a black pendant, slightly smaller than a matchbox, fixed to his chest when I met him. What’s that, I asked? It’s a Withings Pulse he said. He explained how it monitored his physical activity, his sleep patterns and heartbeat.

I thought that it would make an interesting guest post following Steve Davies’ recent post on wearable technology. Needless to say I have bought a Withings Pulse. I’ll keep you posted.

By Kwai Chi

Hi, I’m Kwai Chi and I’ve been trialing and reviewing a lot of cool gadgets for my YouTube channel for many years and there a is a general trend towards devices that help monitor your life and those around you.

One huge leap is the area of personal awareness from monitoring sugar levels for diabetics to tracking everything you eat.

In five months, a combination of these monitoring tools helped me lose 27kg. I have since sustained my target weight for three months as I continue to be aware of myself.

So what does it take to lose weight so rapidly? I have been fit for many years, regularly scoring in the top 2% for fitness against others in my age bracket in the Nuffield MOT test. I have eaten very healthy foods for the last few years too.

But I had somehow piled on the pounds little by little resulting in a three figure mass eight months ago.

Weighing in

Two months earlier, I had my hands on a Withings smart body analyzer which is shorthand for weight scales that also tells you how much fat you have, how warm it is in your house and how much carbon dioxide there is in the air. It also connects to Withing’s own healthmate app.

Up until then I had tried similar and cheaper scales but they were clunky to use with multiple users in the house. These scales only required you to step on them barefoot and it would work out which family member was standing on them from previous measurements.

This didn’t really help me lose any weight though so I was very pleased when Withings released another product a couple of months later.

Motivation to move

That product was the Withings Pulse, weighing only 8 grams and being the size of my thumb, I was willing to give this device a try. In essence, it is a fancy pedometer and it’s got a nifty heart rate monitor thing at the back of the device. To finish off the package it has both a sleep band and a clothing clip.

As a pedometer, the cool thing about the Pulse is its really accurate accelerometer that measures how many steps you have taken that day.

It gives you a benchmark to try and hit 10,000 steps a day (which I find personally very difficult to do with my desk job). By night, a simple swipe of the display turns the Pulse into a sleep monitor.

I almost forgot to mention that it can also track how far you have walked, how fast you have run and how high you have climbed. All of this data is synced via Bluetooth to the Withings Healthmate app.

There’s a little micro USB slot that you use to charge it up which gives you a run time of two weeks. And you can charge it up through your computer or through your normal main charger.

Quantified self

As well as pairing the data with the Withings Healthmate app, the data can be shared and synced with the Withings smart body analyzer. It also pairs up with MyFitnessPal which is basically a food calorie counter.

MyFitnessPal is a free food diary and social network where you can scan the barcode of the packaged food you are eating or type in what you are having for take out or in a restaurant.

It has a huge database so the likelihood is that what you are eating is listed making it easy to document your calorie consumption. The social element allows you to share your progress with family and friends and vice versa to help you stay motivated.

It is a combination of the myfitnesspal app, Withings Pulse and the Withings Smart Body Analyzer that allowed me to lose 27kg in five months taking me from 100kg to 73kg. I have sustained that weight for the last three months quite easily.

I had originally allowed myself to lose the weight in 12 months by losing half a kilo a week but my progress was pretty rapid. There were three key things I changed to allow for a safe yet rapid weight loss:

  1. I ate less – Limiting my calorie intake to less than 1,700 calories per day was crucial in losing weight for my sedentary lifestyle
  2. I slept more – I found that I rarely lost weight if I only had 5 to 6 hours of sleep even if I had eaten very few calories for the day. Sleeping 8 hours or more almost guaranteed weight loss.
  3. I exercised more intensely – I switched from working out for 2 to 3 hours to 47 minutes of high intensity training twice a week. This also took me to the top 1% in Nuffield’s MOT benchmark.

The hardware and software allowed me to monitor why things were happening and to track progress in realtime. These in turn allowed me to change my behavior by being more self aware.

For many years I thought I was doing the right thing but clearly I wasn’t! Today I look as trim as I was a decade ago and I have Withings to thank for it. If you are starting out, then feel free to watch my Withings review videos and also follow me on MyFitnessPal.

Be good to yourself!

About the Author

Kwai-ChiBy day Kwai Chi is marketing director and social activationist for The Social Partners. By night a YouTube partner. You can follow him on Twitter @kwaichi.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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