This is a guest post by Julia Kozerski. Enjoy!
“What’s that thing on your arm?” I get asked this quite frequently and I love explaining the technology and sharing my experience with it.
A little background first: I grew up a “big” kid. My parents both worked tirelessly to provide for myself and my two younger sisters. For us, food was a requirement to live, not something we necessarily needed to understand or enjoy. The key word was “convenience.” Pre-processed, frozen family-sized meals were a staple and second and third helpings were the norm. Oh, and we washed it all down with endless amounts of diet soda and sugar-laden juice. Because of this, that “big” kid turned into a bigger teenager and then into an even bigger adult. Shortly after my wedding in July 2009, I stepped on the scale and read the number “338.” I weighed three hundred and thirty eight pounds at age 25. At 5’9” tall, my body mass index (BMI) was 49.9% and I was classified as “morbidly obese.” I knew I needed to change my lifestyle or I was going to die.
I began my weight-loss/healthy-living journey the very next day, December 14, 2009. I woke up, stepped on the scale (again it read “338” pounds) and I snapped a “before” photo of myself (I am a photographer by trade, so I couldn’t help myself). My next step was to inform myself. I went to my computer, logged on to the Internet, went to a search page and typed in “How to be healthy?” I read diet reviews and learned about healthy foods and exercises. I remembered, as a young teen, my mom and I had tried slimming shakes and diet bars. I’d follow their “plan” for a day, but ultimately woke up the next day, feeling frustrated that I wasn’t “skinny” yet and give up. Ultimately, I knew I didn’t need a ”diet.” I needed to overhaul my lifestyle. After researching, I decided that calorie counting was right for me – this was mainly because I didn’t have to restrict certain foods (there is no way I was giving up cheese and bread!)
The first week I made small changes. I threw out most of the processed food in the house and replaced them with fresh fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables. I also cut out fast food and soda. My exercise was limited to free exercise videos I could find online. They were small steps that added up. At the end of my first week, I lost 13 pounds. For the first time ever in my life-long struggle with weight, I felt encouraged that I could make positive change towards improving my life and my health. I set small goals for weight-loss, 2 pounds per week, and a larger goal of weighing under 300 pounds (299.9 lbs. to be exact.) I was determined to move forward, not backwards, and promised myself a gift for such a monumental milestone.
While I’d been researching health and fitness online, I stumbled upon several “on-body management systems,” like the BodyMedia Fit. I’d also seen them make appearances on shows like The Biggest Loser. At the time, I was accurately portioning food and counting calories, but I could only guess how many calories I was burning throughout the day. I was determined to continue my progress and vowed that, if I reached my first milestone, I’d reward myself with such technology.
A few weeks later, I celebrated my first major goal – for the first time in many, many years, I weighed under 300 pounds. I’d purchased my on-body management system a few days prior so I had it ready to strap on my arm the second I stepped of the scale.
Over the course of the following 11 months, I lost a total of 161.5 pounds. I went from a pant size 28/30 to a size 8. (I thoroughly documented my physical transformation in several photographic series, exhibited on my website. I kept a record of my daily caloric intake on my online food log and also effectively and accurately tracked my calories burned. This worked for me. It kept me honest (with myself). The food log helped me stay on track, not only with calories, but I could also watch my nutrients, as I chose to limit my daily sodium intake to reduce my chances of high-blood pressure (which runs in my family). The calorie burn monitor was integral to my success. Initially, I was shocked to see how inactive I really was. But the system recommended how many calories I needed to burn in order to reach my weekly weight-loss goal and so I tried my hardest to reach, if not exceed, the minimum. The band was a nudge (or rather a squeeze on the arm) to move more. The step counter was something that was of great interest to me. Walking became a big part of my exercise routine and at times, I’d challenge myself to walk a certain number of steps per day. I made it a fun and healthy “game.” Overall, the monitoring system helped me understand myself as well as my eating and exercising habits. It told me in simple, concise data and facts what I needed to do, how many calories to eat and how many calories to burn, to get to my chosen goal. And, for someone who made this personal transition on their own, it was a solid, impartial support system.
To this day, some two years after my initial loss, people sometimes ask me “Did you have surgery?” or “Did you take a magic pill/potion?” My response is always met with a roll of the eyes. In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. I am living proof of that, thanks to this amazing technology.
As I maintained my initial weight-loss, I continued to wear my armband. Logging my food became natural and seeing all of the information right in front of me, on my computer screen, helped me keep an eye on my eating and physical activity. I knew how far I’d come and I promised myself I’d never go back.
Recently, I decided to begin actively losing weight again. It was so easy to go back into my BodyMedia account and adjust my personal goals. The armband is strapped to my arm 24/7 (aside from when I take it off to charge it when I’m in the shower) and I still log my food. Even after so long, this technology still works. In fact, in the first month, I’ve lost another 13.5 pounds! My on-body management system has become my best friend. It is there when I celebrate a good week of loss and is also there when I slip a bit. Either way, it simply tells me why (without judgment). There is no public weigh-in to be nervous, anxious or embarrassed about and there are no special foods you need to purchase. Just simply eat what you want and record it, honestly. If you stick to your individually chosen goal/plan, you will be successful. (Oh, and did I mention that it can be tailored to your personal eating plan? Maybe you follow Atkins or zig-zag your calories, whatever your chosen routine, it all works with this system. It is easy to customize.)
Besides improving your healthy, active lifestyle, another perk of this system is that you can share your story with others if/when they ask you, “What’s that thing on your arm?”