The Fitbit: crack for geeks (review)

I got a Fitbit last week and have been using it religiously. One might (MIGHT!) say "obsessively." Two of my techie friends got Fitbits, and I heard a little buzz on Twitter. Uncharacteristically, I waited a few weeks until I actually purchased this tiny gadget instead of immediately buying one for next-day delivery. The Fitbit is SMALL. It's about the size of my Bluetooth headset that sticks right in my ear. You just slide it over the edge of your waistband, pocket, or bra strap. It's a souped-up pedometer with a clock, stopwatch, and read-outs for steps, miles walked, and floors climbed. For the hippies among us, a flower grows and shortens depending on whether you're active or lazy. You can program in a message that flashes occasionally (mine says "kick ass," obviously). Handily, it has a stopwatch function that is basic enough that I use it. It is a one-trick pony. No split times or anything else, just "during this time here is what you did." Said function can also be used to investigate your "sleep efficiency." This you do by putting the widget on a soft wristband before you go to sleep. I did this one day and discovered the thing corroborated what I already thought: I sleep like a dead person, rocket out of bed when the puppies need to pee, and then return to bed for more sleeping like a dead person. Yawn.

The Fitbit syncs to the Fitbit Web site, which lets you set goals for steps, weight loss, daily calorie intake, and so on, and you can friend others via Facebook to compete for whatever you are making public. I'm not too enthusiastic about the social aspect, but the jury is still out on whether it will motivate me or cause me to hang my head in shame. There are also mobile apps, and I am finding that between the Web site and the iPhone app I don't feel tortured and abused logging what I eat. I've tried this before via other methods and did feel tortured and abused. The iPhone app appears to have most foods I would eat, and if not there are simple means to add your own. The Web site makes it super easy to combine foods for a meal (e.g., I made "almond butter sandwich" a grouped item so I don't have to enter 2 slices of bread, almond butter, and molasses each time).

I've always been interested in how much activity is actually involved with my job, and the Fitbit finally lets me see. Or would, if I had a normal day at work, which I have not yet. I've had two shifts with it, both of which I largely spent sitting around wondering where all the patients were, but I still walked 3 miles a shift. I can't wait to see how far I walk during a busy-triage night! I like the stopwatch function for other activities as well---I start it when I walk the puppies, and I can tell when I should turn around, plus with starting and stopping the stopwatch my activities are already logged for me when I get home to my base station. All I have to do is label them ("work," "walked dogs," "ran 20 miles effortlessly as a late-night workout," and so on).

There is just something about human nature that wants MORE. I will park a block away from a restaurant deliberately to get a few extra steps in, and I have hauled my ass to the gym WAY more often just so I can add it to my log. You can manually enter activities that it doesn't track, such as if you're one of those people who can swim instead of sinking like a stone, but for me the main draw is off-the-cuff activity and not formal fitness activity, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or using an extra 30 minutes to stroll with the dogs instead of reading a book.

In summary: ironically, the Fitbit is a serious contender for me as a gadget that allows me to put very little effort into putting more effort into being serious about my fitness. And I need to be. A deadly combination of a needed medication that packs on weight, a desire to sit around doing as little as possible because of depression, and laziness causing the ordering of high-calorie delivery foods (a freaking SANDWICH can have almost 1,000 calories! I had no idea!) has added more to my frame than I'd like. I'm solidly within a normal healthy weight range, but I weigh much more than I ever have before and don't feel healthy. If the Fitbit will help me change that, hell, it's totally worth the $100. (I saved the price tag for last…good tactic eh?)