2013-06-24T12:46:00Z 2013-08-01T13:37:04Z EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE, EVERY VOW YOU BREAKBy Pat Colander nwitimes.com
June 24, 2013 12:46 pm  • 

The Verizon people put me on this road with the wrist band-bracelet UP by Jawbone by providing the tried and true, surefire, car-dealer-endorsed test drive. I had a free 30 days to figure out if I liked this device or not. I wasn't exactly jumping at the chance either. Like most Baby Boomers, I had toyed with this food and exercise diary concept before.

There were two apps that I had used fairly extensively to record my daily calorie-carb intake. The first was MyNetDiary Pro and the second was MyFitnessPal. Both are free and each has its own little unique skill set to recommend it. MyNetDiary Pro was very easy to use entering foods and searching foods and maybe that's just because its library had built up over time and has more stuff listed.

The name brand dump both apps use is kind of a distraction if you don't eat much processed, frozen or carry-out restaurant food. (I am hereby exempting Amy's Frozen Pizza from the category of junk food. Not only has it been blessed by my husband Jeff who could eat pizza every single day of his life even if he lived to be a hundred, Amy's has been endorsed by my vegan and very health-conscious daughter-in-law Annalise. I'm sure there are other exceptions.) The analysis, a running commentary on how you were doing eating too much or too little, explaining why this could be a problem or not were very good on MyNetDiary Pro.

What I really loved on this app were the charts for weight loss, for BMI and probably for anything else I wanted to chart. You can set up your MyNetDiary Pro to track and chart whatever you want it to track and chart. I had a basic plan to keep a food diary and try to lose weight and for a couple months I was pretty religious about it, and I did lose 15 pounds.

But the novelty wore off and I started neglecting my diary. At first, if I went out and ate too much, I skipped the day. When I neglected the diary for three days in a row I was in trouble with the plan analysis, as I should have been. Then I got into the quitting and restarting thing, but through the process I learned some things about myself, like there are just certain foods that I shouldn't ever have in the house and shouldn't buy in the first place. (Peerless Potato Chips would be a good example.) I do way too much night eating, which didn't improve with later sunsets. In general, I try to cram too much in at the end of the day when I don't feel as good as I do in the morning when it is much easier to focus.

UP by Jawbone keeps track of everything except food and vital statistics you have to provide yourself. (Like true weight. Both MyNetDiary and MyFitnessPal cautioned about lying to yourself about this particular number. The apps probably have a data analysis that projects the average number of app liars. You can password protect this information.) The bracelet looks good and comes in a bunch of colors, so the device has that subtle status-conscious, hey-that's-a-cool-toy aura going for it. UP needs to be downloaded twice a day and charged every 4-5 days via USB plug. The rest of the time the UP bracelet needs to stay on your arm so it can monitor your activity and your how much you are sleeping. UP links with other apps RunKeeper, MapMyFitness, IFTT, Withings, Wello, Notch, Sleepio, Lose It! And MyFitnessPal. Both MFP (and MyNetDiary) link to Facebook so if you would like to find out who your Facebook friends are who also have UP you can ask them to be on your team. Research shows that people who work collaboratively with their friends tend to do better with their health improvement goals.

Two of my Facebook friends Elle Hook, of Elle Salon in Michigan City and Cindy Kurman who has her own public relations company in Chicago are on UP, so we watched each other's sleep habits and activity logs. (Elle also logged her meal times but kept the details to herself on MyFitnessPal. I tried to get MyFitnessPal to link with UP a couple of times, but I wasn't able to, plus I had fallen out of the habit of logging meal entries. )

It took some time to figure out how to get the bracelet to go into sleep and wake up mode. This isn't as easy as it sounds. One side of the bracelet plugs into your headphone dock, the opposite side has a small square metal button on the end. If you press and hold the button it will either show a purple quarter moon---meaning you are ready to go to sleep---or a green flower, which means you are UP and running. If you sync right away in the morning and remember to always sync at night, you get a complete record of how active you are during the day --- how many steps taken and at what times; and how much you slept.

UP charts your light sleep and deep sleep. Heartening to know, even though I wasn't given the details, my team followed a similar sleep and activity pattern. The three of us would sleep for 5-6 hours a night Monday through Thursday, but on Friday and Saturday we tended to make up for weekday deprivation and sleep 8-9 hours. (UP assigns 8 hours of sleep and 10,000 steps per day as goals, though you can adjust the goals to anything you prefer.) Ten thousand steps per day proved unrealistic for me Monday through Friday. Normally I could get to around 5,000 without thinking about it much. If I tacked on cardio at the health club I could score another 2-3,000 steps, but the only time I hit 10,000 was if I combined working out, deliberately taking a long walk---or shopping strenuously---and running up and down the three flights of stairs in my house. Only achievable on weekends and holidays. So, 10,000 was a pretty lofty goal for me unless I made a significant adjustment to my routine. My friends seemed to be in similar circumstances on the activity scale.

Since my free trial was over last week, I have had some time to think about whether or not I was doing better health-wise with the bracelet or without. I definitely think that keeping a food, exercise and sleep deprivation record is helpful. (I'm not sure if knowing others are high-functioning and not getting enough sleep is helpful. It may not be, in spite of the emotional dividend.) I can go back to the free MyFitnessPal app and log my calorie burning and carb intake anytime. So the question comes down to is the sleep and activity information monitoring, along with other amenities---the bracelet can also wake you up, vibrate after you have been sitting for a certain period of time, give you hints about how you may be able to increase you sleep periods, get more nutrition from meals, improve your outlook by charting your moods and analyzing with other health info and dozens of things you might take advantage of if you owned it---is worth $129.99?

I've decided that UP is worth it. Plus making the initial investment ---or having a loved one makes the it for you---may provide an extra incentive to show and feel physical results. (Personal ethics suggest I should purchase Jawbone UP at the Verizon store, though the very nice Verizon people did not so much as hint at that. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not have a phone on a Verizon plan, nor am I a stockholder in the company.)

I have a purchase timetable in mind, and I'll let you know how it works out.

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