The Prodigal Fitbit Daughter.

I had been a happy FitBit wearer for three years. It motivated me, gave me beautifully geeky tracking tools, created new friendships, and fed my obsession with statistics.

Yet, at the beginning of October, I replaced my FitBit with an Apple Watch.

And then, on December 22, I found myself 126% overjoyed because I convinced Apple to give me a full refund for my Piece-Of-Crapple Watch (even though it was way out of its return period), and I bought myself a new FitBit.

Here is the story of that massive life turning point, if you happen to care.

I am an Apple person. I have a MacBook Pro, Chris has bought me every new iPhone since the 4 (except this year because what was the stupid deal with the 8 and X? And what if I wanted a 9??), and we have a couple iPads in the house. I love Apple products. So this year, instead of getting a new iPhone (8 or X, 8 or X, how can I make that decision?), I decided to try the watch. It was the first year that the watch had cellular, and I dreamed of being able to run, and track my runs, and answer texts and calls, without my giant iPhone 7 Plus strapped to my arm.

And after all – it’s Apple, so it has to work even better than a FitBit, right?

I almost changed my mind due to the heart rate monitoring. Although Apple said they gave this watch the feature of being able to let you know if you had heart issues (sounds like it’d have to be pretty accurate to do that), it also said it only checked your heart rate every ten minutes (how is that helpful.) For someone who had become accustomed to her FitBit checking her heart rate continuously (and for someone who has an illness that can be partially managed by tracking the heart rate and adjusting life to “fix” it when needed), this every ten minutes bit seemed stingy.

But surely Apple was better than FitBit. How could it not be? IT’S APPLE.

I’m sure the Apple watch is just lovely for people who use it for other things. Or for people who are not used to the supremacy of FitBit. But if you’re a FitBit loyalist and think you can get the same brilliantly simplistic tools out of Apple, you will be disappointed.

The first weekend I had mine, I could not get anything I wanted.

…It was checking my heart rate even less than it advertised – sometimes going 45 minutes between checks.
…The cellular didn’t work most of the time.
…The app I used to track runs (MapMyRun) didn’t get along with the Apple Cellular, and the app Apple preferred you to use (Nike+) didn’t get along with my app, which had all my historical data in it.
…The heart rate monitor would be wildly inaccurate, giving a reading of 220, immediately followed by 53. How are they supposed to be able to let you know if you have unusual spikes in heart rate if a.) they hardly ever measure it, and b.) when they do, it’s insanely wrong? FitBit figured my calorie burn based on my heart rate, whether accurate or not, and I loved that. How possibly could Apple even think they were doing that?
…The information the watch offered was both way too detailed to be useful and not giving the easy details I was used to, and therefore was not in the least bit motivating.
…The apps I use while I run, such as Spotify and Audible, did not have watch apps. So no music or books on tape while running.
…I had to charge the watch every…dang…day.

The only benefit I’d seen from the watch was the ability to text from the watch. And that was not worth what I’d paid for it and what I’d given up for it.

But I had made this decision, and I wanted it to work. I spent at least eight hours on the phone and on chat with Apple support that first weekend, methodically walking them through all of the problems with the watch interface. I had thrilling conversations such as when they told me to change a privacy setting so they could do a test…

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And…

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For some reason I believed them when they told me that it would get better, and that the heart rate data was accurate, and that the data was saving even if it didn’t show on my watch that it was.

I spent money on at least eight apps just trying to get the simple interface that FitBit had always given me so effortlessly.

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Most of the apps were wildly information-overload with little actually useful information. I’m not a car. I don’t need five odometers. I want graphs.

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One App even had a man who got fatter and skinnier throughout the day based on your activity – not the feeling I was going for.

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The app called Healthview nearly gave me what I wanted,

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But not a single app in the world could take the ugly Apple Watch heart rate data and give me the nice, simple, daily graphs that FitBit gave me.

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I adored those graphs. I loved seeing those periods of red and knowing that I had run, and run well. I loved seeing every day stacked on top of the ones before it.

This was Apple’s idea of a weekly heart rate graph:

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HOW is that helpful??

And the weird daily bar graph just wasn’t the same.

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It did nothing to satisfy the desires of my over-analytical needs. And it just made my heart cry out for its old companion.

But I had paid a lot of money for that watch and I had missed the return window trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, so I tried my best to have a good attitude about it, and to convince myself that I liked it, that it was useful, and that I did not miss FitBit as if it were my soldier husband who was gone on a twenty-year deployment.

It was grocery shopping for Christmas that finally did me in. Noah and I had a lot to buy, and we were in the grocery store for a record long (for me) 45 minutes. As we walked up to the checkout line, I glanced at my watch. It hadn’t taken my heart rate the entire time.

Which meant I got no calorie burning credit for ALL THAT SHOPPING.

And if you can’t have an app tell you that you burned calories, did you even burn calories at all?

I quickly went into the raw data in the health kit of the phone (as the techs had taught me to do, when they were proving my data was there all along), and “AHA”’ed with malice.

 

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My data was not there. The watch was useless.

I threw the groceries in the car in angry passion and immediately called Apple support. I told them their watch didn’t do what it was advertised to do and I just wanted to go back to FitBit SOOOOOO bad and please please please give me my money back.

The very kind and understanding Apple Senior Support Specialist put me on hold to confirm what the advertising said. She came back and said “Well they’ve changed the advertising to no longer say that it checks your heart rate every ten minutes. Now it says that it checks it regularly while you’re sitting, and occasionally while you’re active.”

(What even is the use of that?!)

She put me on hold again.

By the time that I had driven home, unloaded the groceries, cleaned out the Thanksgiving leftovers from the fridge to make room for the Christmas groceries, she returned with The Best News.

“The sales department has agreed to let you return the watch as a one-time courtesy since it doesn’t do as it was advertised at this time. You will get a full refund.”

I had tried not to allow myself to dream of this moment. But I had, and in my dream, I imagined that I would feel some sadness toward losing the Apple Watch.

But that imagining was wrong.

I whooped with joy and immediately got online, ordered myself the top of the line FitBit Ionic watch (I had given my former Altra HR Chris), set it to be picked up at the local Target, went to Target on the Friday before Christmas, and had my new FitBit Watch on as I drove to FedEx to ship my worthless Apple Watch back to whence it had come.

And I had $130 left over.

I am overjoyed to be reunited with my pleasing graphs and charts and my FitBit friends and challenges. The Ionic can do nearly everything I used my Apple Watch for, except better. AND now my FitBit system is significantly upgraded to be able to GPS track my exercise. The only two things I lost were the ability to talk to Siri (I can do that on my phone) and my ability to text from the watch (which I rarely used.)

And I am SO happy.

So, FitBit, I am sorry for ever leaving you, and for ever doubting that Apple could do it better. It was wrong. You are my Fitness Father. It won’t happen again.

The Running Disease.

“Let’s get the white elephant out of the room first. So you’re running now.”

I had lunch yesterday with my friend Jamie, the occasion upon which that accusation was made.

I leaned in and lowered my voice.

“Do you want to know how bad it’s gotten? It’s like really, really bad. Chris arranged for the kids to spend the night at my parent’s Sunday night to give me a break. When he told me, my first thought was ‘We could get up early and run together on Monday morning!’ Not ‘I can sleep as late as I want!’, but ‘I’ll get up before daybreak!’ – and I did. At 5:30 in the morning. And we ran west. And I DIDN’T EVEN TURN AROUND TO WATCH THE SUNRISE.”

It’s time to get the white elephant out of the room here, too.

I don’t know how this happened to me. I’m shocked, confused, perplexed, and worried that I may have been abducted by aliens and returned with the brain of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

I ran for 27 days straight.

In those 27 days, I ran 118 miles.

Before those 27 days, I had run all of six miles this entire year. And close to zero miles last year.

I became obsessed with making sure I got to run…finding the opportunity to run…sometimes running twice a day…and making compromises to find the time for my new problem.

(This could explain the recent lack of quality and quantity of blog posts.)

I was well aware that running several miles every day wasn’t exactly recommended by health professionals, but what it was doing for my Dysautonomia drove me to it anyway.

Although seeing all of my steps on my FitBit was the first driving force, most of my obsession with running in the past month has definitely been its impact on how it has made me feel. Despite my creaky legs and blistered toes and swollen foot (the one that had two surgeries and a bone removed and I swore would keep me from running ever again), my health has greatly improved. And on the days when I have struggled with Dysautonomia symptoms, the only thing that has helped was going out and running.

In the August Alabama heat.

It makes no sense. But it has worked.

…until I inevitably hurt my knee and had to take a couple of days off. Then got The Illness of The Century and had to take a couple more days off. But I’ve ramped back up, taking it a bit more in moderation now, despite the fact that I still desperately want to run every day.

Insane, I tell you.

I’ve known for a year now that exercise was on the list of things that makes Dysautonomia better. But if I had ordered that list in the sequence that I was willing to partake, it would have looked like this:

1. Eat more salt.
2. Eat more often.
3. Take medication.
4. Cut out soft drinks.
5. Reduce caffeine.
6. Drink more water.
7. Exercise.

However, in order of how much they’ve actually helped, they have proven to be:

1. Exercise.
2. Drink more water.
3. Take medication.
4. Cut out soft drinks.
5. Reduce caffeine.
6. Eat more often.
7. Eat more salt.

So it only took a year for some synapse in my brain to snap and make me actually want to attempt the thing that works the best.

And in so doing, I have gotten to see many things I wouldn’t have ever seen otherwise, like this bridge a little past the end of the Lakeshore Running Trail.

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And this grisly murder scene in a parking lot.

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Or this….Nazi Symbol? on the Jefferson County Courthouse???

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And this amazing downtown loft and courtyard, of which I am now endlessly jealous.

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It’s helped me in my Studies of Birmingham Graffiti, finding an elusive Naro tag (who is no longer with us, based on the giant “RIP Naro” tag that Daze put on the Red Mountain Expressway).

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It’s also provided more quality time with my husband, on those rare opportunities we’ve been able to run together.

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(One weekend we sent the kids to my parents and had a Friday night 5 mile run and Saturday morning 8 mile run, with a couple of date meals on either side.)

(That’s right. Even my dates are now scheduled around running.)

Chris was able to take me on some of his favorite routes and stretch my endurance tremendously, and now I’m interviewing live-in nannies so that we can run together every day.

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(Okay not really. But a girl can fantasize.)

I’ve been bitten by the bug so hard that I used my only free time in Nashville to…run. In the afternoon Nashville no-shade heat.

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THEN I went to bed early so I could get up early and do it all over again. In the delightful morning breeze.

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But now I fully understand why Chris likes running other cities – you see things, angles, and details that you’d never see any other way. I’ve already shown you what I saw in Guntersville, but in Nashville, I saw the sun rising over the Ryman Auditorium,

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The city waking up through the rails of the walking bridge,

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The sun and clouds reflecting off of downtown Nashville and looking rather like a fried egg (over easy),

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And the fact that Nashville shares a similar feature with Birmingham – a river of rails running through the middle,

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Except that, instead of tearing down their grand central station like we did, they turned it into a breathtaking hotel.

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Although the impact to my quality of life has become far more important than the impact to my weight, I’m happy with the results from seven weeks of FitBit and 158 miles in my running shoes.

Before and After Weight Loss July to August

(And yes. I’m totally wearing Toms. Because I’m a hypocrite like that.)

But running. I’ve fallen in love. And I’ve fallen hard. And you’re likely to hear more about it. So I apologize in advance.

On Buying the Children a Virtual Hamster Wheel.

Within a day of Chris and I buying our FitBits, the kids split up.

Ali was Team Daddy, and Noah was Team Mommy.

They began cheering us on accordingly, attempting to keep their opponent from getting ahead (okay only Ali tried to sabotage me), and constantly asking to see the leaderboard to gauge how well their Chosen Athlete was performing.

Noah discovered that my FitBit has a flower on it that shows my progress (along with all its other important information), so he began pulling down my shirt at inopportune times whilst saying, “Mommy – I need to see your flower!”

(He also rotated that with requests to see my Blue Lady, the indicator on my phone of how much water I’ve consumed.)

They began to spark an interest “extersizing”, as Noah coined it, enjoying racing at the park, walking (as long as a stop at the candy store was en route), and were more than happy to sit on the basement couch and watch cartoons while I ran on the treadmill.

It only took a few days for them to realize that they were missing out. That they were not getting to experience the full measure of the excitement of this contest.

I was racing Noah one day when the knowledge came to him – quite suddenly, as if an apple had fallen onto his head.

“Mommy…you really have to get me a FitBit.”

“Why?”

“I don’t…..know.”

Ali realized soon after that she also wanted to have her steps recorded. Because steps not counted are no steps at all.

After three weeks of asking consistently, I “gave in.”

In other words, I recognized that it would make them even more motivated to allow me to exercise and so I let them each use their savings to buy themselves the cheaper FitBit version, the FitBit Zip.

Noah picked blue, Ali picked pink. And instead of a flower that grows upon activity, they have smiley faces that grow in grin girth as they take more steps.

I had to do a bit of work to set them up, such as actually measuring how tall my kids were, as it uses height, weight, and age for its analysis. But when I attempted to enter their birthdays, it spit me out to the Terms of Service – apparently FitBits aren’t allowed to be used by people of such a young age.

So I lied and said they were 14. Very, very short fourteen year olds.

My conscience was overcome with TOS-Breaking Guilt, but my children’s eagerness to exercise helped me live with my misdemeanor.

As soon as I got the FitBits functional, they wanted to immediately go try them out. Which was handy since I also wanted to get some exercise.

Kids Using FitBits

The day those kids realize that half my actions on their behalf are actually 100% selfish is the day they cut me out of their wills. But for now, I’ll let them sing my praises. And I’ll enjoy the beautiful success of my evil plans.

I don’t let them wear their FitBits all the time to keep them from getting dropped in a toilet, but they get plenty of steps when they are in possession. At the end of every activity, they compare steps. Then Ali huffs in frustration and runs a few laps around the house. She has even taken up jogging to make up for the sad disadvantage of Noah’s much shorter legs.

Kids Using A FitBit

(Seriously – one loop around the block gives him over ONE THOUSAND more steps than her. Little legs work harder than we realize.)

Fortunately for Ali, though, he prefers laziness at almost all times – even if it means losing to his sister.

Jogging Stroller and FitBit

They’ve had their FitBits for almost two weeks, and it is without a doubt one of my Top Ten Wins of the Year. Ali is regularly walking/jogging 3-4 miles with me and is constantly wanting to know which of my grownup FitBit friends she’s beating (sorry grownup FitBit friends), Noah occasionally asks, “Can you check my cawerwie burn?”, and the amount of complaining on long hot walks has been nearly cut in half.

Kid Using a FitBit

And it only took two more weeks for Noah to realize, as if an apple dropped onto his head, that he still didn’t have it all.

“Hey Mommy, I need you to buy me a phone so that I can have a Blue Lady.”


Disclaimer: Before any child experts find my blog and accuse me of permanently giving my children a body image issue, neither of them have any concept of losing weight, weight in general, or any other framework to connect exercising to appearance. They are simply the product of an accountant and engineer marrying and reproducing, and therefore enjoy anything that has to do with benchmarks and numbers and charts and graphs. Also, they know that exercise has made their Mommy feel better and maybe even fun again, so clearly it has to be a good thing.