Category: weight management

Motion trackers and lifestyle technology

I have been recently looking at various activity monitors and apps as I am developing an interest into stress related research and wellness. Most of the research published in this field in the last twenty years suffers in fact from lack of technology to quantify more aspects of wellness and physical activity. Original studies in this field had to rely on questionnaires (reported activity/sleep/food intake), but now with the development of small portable technology measurement opportunities have improved.

In the last few years I used mainly heart rate monitors, actigraphs, and the sensewear armband to look at activity patterns, energy expenditure and sleeping patterns of athletes.

One of the most interesting tools I have come across is the Jawbone bracelet and its iPhone® app.

Jawbone seems to be a true wellness device. In fact it is capable of tracking your activity, your sleep and your meals. The Jawbone band has a built-in precision motion sensor that automatically tracks your movement (steps, distance, calories burned, pace, intensity level and active vs inactive time ) and sleep (hours slept, time to fall asleep, light vs. deep sleep and sleep quality). No information is available on validity and reliability of its measurements, and at the moment I am not aware of any study published using it.  The reviews from various bloggers and magazines (see this one on Wired) have been positive. However I still have not managed to see one in action as it has been impossible to buy one online (perennially out of stock). If I can get hold of one, I promise I will write about it.

This seems to be potentially a great product for wellness and elite sport which can allow us to understand more about activity patterns, sleep and eating patterns of our athletes/clients. If it is precise and reliable.


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Good calories, bad calories and weight gain/loss

Time goes fast and I realized the blog has been abandoned for quite a while. I have been reading recently a little bit about weight loss, mainly to update my knowledge, and also for some personal interest, having suffered a broken rib and now trying to recover some shape!

My interest was initially on rapid weight loss. So I wend back to read some old papers on rapid weight loss and performance (e.g. Fogelholm et al., 1993 ) which showed for example that 6.0 +/- 0.6% of body weight was lost in 2.4 days by fluid and diet restriction and forced sweating, and when followed by a 5-h "loading" (food and drinks ad libitum) there was no change in performance with a gradual weight loss programme. However while in experienced athletes such approach might still not produce visible and measurable reductions in physical performance, it seems clear that psychologically they are highly likely to suffer (see Hall and Lane, 2001) as well as having some impairment in cognitive function (see Choma et al., 1998).

However, while looking for some literature on dietary aspects of weight loss I came across some interesting information.

First, two interesting books I just ordered: Good Calories-Bad calories  and Why we get fat from Gary Taubes which quite rightly points the finger to carbohydrates and their abundant use as the main cause of obesity. I will read the books and then write a review, as while I am keen to read his summary of the carbohydrate issue, I am not so convinced about his views of the role of exercise on weight management. What pointed me in that direction was a great letter written by Professor Tim Noakes on the British Medical Journal’s blog. As usual Tim has written some interesting comments. Have a look at it and make your mind up!

The internet is always full of surprises and while looking for information I have been impressed by the project of a personal trainer who decided to gain weight before losing it again to learn how it feels to be overweight and then to show how his methods work in getting himself back in shape. He started in May his weight gain plan and is due to start the reverse process in November. If you are curious about it, go read his blog here.

Withings Body Scale review

I have been recently trialling an interesting new device: a Wi-fi scale. Absolutely brilliant concept: a scale which can transmit data via wireless connection to a server and have data available online via a web application or an iphone application.

After contacting the producer, I received the parcel and have been using the scale for a week and I am very pleased with it. Here is how it looks:


withingsIt has a very nice design with a durable tempered glass slab and a large backlit graphic screen. It is battery powered and very easy to use as it automatically turns on when you stand on it and it turns off within few seconds of inactivity.

It arrived in a nice small package of a total weight of 2.5 kg!

Setting it up

The scale comes with a manual in many languages, batteries and a USB cable to connect it to a PC for the initial setup. The initial setup requires downloading a software to set the scale up in your home or work network in order to be able to send the data to the web server. The process is simple, however my scale took few trials to be recognised as it filed to be connected to my home wi-fi. However after updating the firmware it all worked nicely, scale recognised and ready to go.

There is a very useful forum on the website of the company with a lot of up to date hints to solve every possible problem. Also, looking at the frequency of posts on the forum it seems that the support is quite efficient.



All the specifications are indicated here, however the most important ones are:

– The ability to decide the unit of measurement

– The possibility to have body composition and BMI analysis

– Personalised multi-user monitoring

– Software for data sharing and analysis

Graduation 0.1 kg and maximum weight 180 kg



Body Composition Measurements

The website does not specify how body composition is measured (in terms of what equations, how accurate and how valid such measurements are). I assume it is through bioelectrical impedance analysis. However it would be useful to have such data as accuracy of such measurements is crucial for its use in an athletic population. Also, I believe the normative data included in the software refer to the general population hence having very heavy muscular athletes might result in some high scores in BMI.


The software is very simple, user friendly and is also available as an iphone application. The screens are user friendly and you can manually input data as well as add comments and delete data. It is very useful to track how your body mass is changing and keep records (sadly it informs you that it is about time you start dieting and exercise more!)


The software allows you to share the information and/or to print /save reports



Support, news and other useful stuff

Withings has a very useful Blog which is an incredible source of update for accessory software needs and anything specific to the Withings scale. They have recently developed a widget for Mac users, included their platform within GYMTECHNIK, and most of all, connected the scale to Microsoft Health Vault (Very interesting product of which I promise to write something about very soon).

The scale unfortunately supports only up to 8 users, which means is perfect for a family, but a bit challenging if you are a professional working within the fitness industry with many clients and/or with elite athletes and squads. However I am sure that some customised hardware and software solutions will be available soon for such demands.


All in all a great tool with a lot of potential to be used with athletes travelling on training camps and facilitate the storage and recording of data where there is a wi-fi connection. Absolutely a great tool for a family as it allows to track everyone’s body weight very efficiently. More information on its accuracy and on the validity and reliability of the body fat measurements is warranted before recommending it to a group of elite athletes.