Mar 14, 2013

Plugging In to Win. Tapping In To Online Resources for Lifestyle Change.

One thing has become quite clear to me on my journey, and that is that we are not alone or at least we do not have to be.

Even though our journey's are very personal to us as individuals, and no two journeys are the exact same, we are never actually alone no matter how much we are stuggling and no matter how much we feel as if we are isolated from others.  

With the advent of applications geared towards helping us succeed, and endless support options available to us through different websites and social media outlets,  sometimes it is worth the time investment to plug-in in order to win.

One of the biggest helps for me in my success thus far has been a combination of social media and applications, as well as my friends and family.   The reason that I reach out in both socal media groups and in special interest forums is for support, encouragement, celebration, and most importantly real talk: accountability

I decided to talk today about the pros of using technology to assist us in living a healthier life.  I have broken it down into three categories: Support, Road Map, Reality - highlighting one specific application or website in each.

While we each have found our own way in life, I do see trends in success stories.  First of all- the need for a support system.  We cannot succeed if we do not have people in our corner.  Be it friends and family, or even people you only know through special interest groups, reaching out and making our goals public is the first step in gaining more accountability. 

The caveat here is that you have to be willing to be honest and to accept honest criticism and real talk when you start to approach slipping.  All motion, even backwards, needs to be reported in order to make full use of the support.  If you just need cheerleaders, then make that clear when informing people of your goals.  There is nothing wrong with saying  "I am going to lose 25 pounds this year and I want my goal to be made public, however I am asking for only positivity and encouragement on my journey."  Likewise, if you need some pushing in order to stay the course don't be afraid to ask for that either.  "I am going to be training for my first ever 10k race and I will need some help staying motivated an in training.  please feel free to push me if you see that I am slacking!  It takes a village to raise this runner!"

 The fear in making our journey more public is that it turns the focus on ourselves.  We have to walk the walk and talk the talk as well as be willing to be called out on our actions if they are contradictory to our goals. 

Spotlight on website: Facebook
Facebook is a not just for checking in on ex-boy/girlfriends and high school prom queens (I kid, I kid!); it is a great platform for finding support too. 

If you do not want to put your goals out there for the entire facebook community to see, you can create a closed group and invite specific people to it so that they can see your progress and what you report out. Or if you want to reach beyond your friends list, you can create an open page and allow anyone and their mother to read what you have to say. This way, you have the control you want over who sees what, and you can find support for yourself from untapped resources - namely likeminded people! 

 I have used this feature over the past few years for motivational and weight loss groups, and it is a wonderful tool for keeping what you want people to see in front of the right people. 

Using facebook as a support group or even as a goal specific blog is a wonderful idea, and you can switch between your goal page and your personal page quite easily.  A great example of how  apage has helped someone promote health and fitness as well as chronicle her journey is the Fitness Is My Habit page.  On it, she chronicles her successes, her slip ups and engages her readers to participate in the journey.

It is nice to know where we are going on our journey.  Setting realistic goals and tracking them is important.  It is also nice to get some guidance along the way, maybe helping us to make the trip a little more efficient as well. 

I do not think that everyone needs a coach out there, or even a training plan per sey,  but I do think that we can all help a reminder of staying the course.  A reminder of doing the little things day to day that help add up to the biggest lifestyle changes. 

Spotlight on application:  Fig
While you can resort to a notepad to track habits or goals, there is a nice neat little application called Fig that helps you track them all in one place. 

Fig touts itself as being the "personal and enjoyable way to pursue your wellness aspirations."
I agree with it's self evalluation.  Fig allows for you to create your own wellness plan by quickly selecting activities from common goals from six categories such as eat, move, refresh, connect, feel, and go further.

There are over 300 activities that are pre-entered for easy selection, or you can even create your own very custom activity.  Fig allows you to track your progress on each activity and will send you email reminders if you are falling behind on any of them.   The green partial circles represent your progress and if you complete or overachieve you get the gold stars. 


You can invite friends to for teams (privately) and then you can cheer each other on to success! 

It is a free application and is available for download on Android and Apple devices. I like the simplicity and ease of use of this application for habit development and keeping me on track in the multiple areas of my life.

A road map.  A destination.  All of these are good things however without knowing our starting point and where we are today, we will never fully be able to move forward.  Sometimes GPS is a good thing to have not only in our car but in our lives in general.

I believe whole-heartedly in tracking my progress in any number of ways, and now more so than ever.  I personally needed to find something that let me be flexible in what I wanted to see in reports as well as functionality.  I found that and I think that this site/application could benefit everyone regardless of how intensive one wants to use it.

Spotlight on website/application:  My Fitness Pal
My Fitness Pal is hands down the best webstie/application that I have found and used.  I have tried, Spark People and Weight Watchers Online and none of these are as easy to use or as customizable as My Fitness Pal is.  I like that this is a website with a very easy to use application companion. You can use either as standalone, or both together for full functionality.

What I like about it is that regardless of what targets it gives me with regards to calories, I am able to customize the food log to be how I need it to read, with the macronutrients that I want to see.

I am concerns with fuelling in two stages - for my workouts and for the rest of my day.  I am following a high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate vegan lifestyle so for me I am most interested in fat, proteins, fibers, and carbs.  I have altered my food log to read out these macronutrients. 

Also, I altered the names of the meals - of which you can have up to six total - to show morning, afternoon, evening, and then the pre-workout, workout, and post-workout windows since my nutritional goals are different for these periods of time. 

So it is pretty easy to start.  You sign up for membership (free) and you then start setting your weight loss/gain/maintain goal.

Enter in your statistics and then based on this information, MFP calculates a calorie goal for you to hit daily in order to stay the course of your goal.

Throughout the day log into the website or the application and log the foods you eat and the exercises you perform.  You gain more calories by working out since the caloric deficit for weight loss is already built into your calorie target. 

After you log in and complete your food and exercise journal for the day, you will see a note on based on today's performance what your weight may look like in 5 weeks. 

You can also get progress reports on your food intakes and your weight loss to see how you are doing on average.  This is key as it helps to see patterns emerge.  Going over too often or under too often and you can get into trouble, so this helps right the ship if it starts to go off course.

You can find your friends on MFP too, which is great as it lends to support and accountability.  You have privacy options for your food log and profile, so if you are afraid of people seeing every single thing you eat, you can make your food log private, so no one can see this level of detail except for yourself.

There are forums on the website as well, so you are able to reach out and connect with others with similar goals as yourself for furthered support.

In todays technology fuelled world I really do think that it is with the time to plug-into the websites and applications out there to help us succeed in fostering the best, healthiest lifestyle possible.  If you have time to play Angry Birds then you have time to tap into the other functionalities of technology! 

So, what are some of your favorite sites and or applications to use to stay on track?

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