The Fitbit Makes Me Move

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So the first full month of Fitbit tracking has ended. How did I do? Not bad, but I think it’s important to note where I started.

I activated my Fitbit on March 9. At the time, these were my stats:

Walked: 1,200 steps per day
Consumed: 1,931 calories per day
Burned: 2,005 calories per day

This would explain why my weight rarely fluctuates. I burn only a little more than I eat, and I live a very sedentary life.

My goal for April: Move more and sleep 7 hours a day.

Tracking my progress on the Fitbit definitely made me feel more accountable, which in turn forced me to increase my activity levels and decrease my serving sizes. By the end of the month, these were my stats:

Walked: 2,515 steps a day
Consumed: 1,575 calories per day
Burned: 2,399 calories per day
Lost: 2 lbs.

As for the sleep goal, well, the results were less than stellar. In March, I averaged about 5.5 hours of sleep a day (damn you, sunlight). In April, I raised that up to 6.24 hours a day. Not quite the 7 hours I was going for, but I guess it’s a start.

My goal for May: Move more and sleep 7 hours a day.

Wish me luck.

Fresh Meals and the Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

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I recently signed up for Hello Fresh, a food delivery service that helps make planning, purchasing and cooking meals a little bit easier.

I discovered the site via EarndIt, which is similar to a frequent flyer miles program, only instead of purchasing goods/services to receive discounts for travel, I earn discounts on healthy and fitness-related goods/services for every bit of exercise I do. EarndIt is connected to my Fitbit, a device that tracks my exercise and sleep habits. The more steps I take, the more points I earn. The more points I earn, the more healthy items I’m able to receive.

Which brings me back to Hello Fresh. Basically, the way it works is this: Chefs create five healthy and delicious meals. You pick three that interest you. On Thursday, a box will arrive in the mail with the recipes you selected — plus all of the ingredients. The vegetarian box costs $59/week, the classic box (featuring meals containing meat and fish) is $10 more. Each box feeds two people so it works out to about $11/person. And, delivery is free.

With my EarndIt reward, I received a $20 discount off my first Hello Fresh box. It arrived this week, and I immediately started cooking. The first dish, chicken chickpea pilaf with a hint of cumin, was a HUGE success. M and I both loved it, though I topped his dish with cilantro and mine with the toasted almonds. We’ll definitely be eating that one again soon.

The second recipe I tried was beef bulgogi (seen below), a Korean dish that included marinated beef, broccoli and brown rice. I didn’t particularly care for it — brown rice is too chewy — but it was fun to make. Plus, we still have some pork burgers to try later. Next week, I plan to order the sesame nectarine chicken, flat iron steak with beans and spicy shrimp linguine.

Beef bulgogi

If you’re interested in trying Hello Fresh, you can buy a Fitbit, exercise your butt off and get the EarndIt reward (all of which I would endorse). Or, you can just visit the Hello Fresh website, sign up and save $20 by using the PROMO CODE SDA3RJ. Note: Delivery is currently limited to about 30 states, so be sure to check the map before subscribing.

More on the future of obituaries

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As noted a few weeks ago, I’ve been invited to give a presentation at the 2013 Society of Professional Obituary Writers Conference in Toronto. My topic is “The Future of Obituaries,” and I need your help.

How do you think the dead will be remembered in the years/decades ahead? Standard news obits? Audio/video obits? Obit podcasts? Online memorials? Or something else entirely? And how do you want to be remembered?

I would love to hear your thoughts & ideas. If you have a few moments, please leave a comment below or drop me a note in e-mail.

Thanks!

This is what I believe

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I believe that good should always triumph over evil.

I believe if you dream big and work hard, you’ll achieve great things.

I believe in laughing until I can’t breathe, singing loudly, cooking with abandon and dancing whenever the mood arises.

I believe there is never enough time to read all of the books on my “to read” list.

I believe a stocked pantry makes you feel safe, particularly during a storm.

I believe in the magic found in darkened movie theaters, old boneyards, used bookstores, big beach houses, quiet libraries, no-kill shelters and the Scottish Highlands.

I believe dinner should be served at midnight and breakfast should be served in bed.

I believe in organ donation, voting, safe driving, common courtesy and tipping well.

I believe the seasons should be celebrated, preferably with fire.

I believe curiosity is the golden ticket to adventure and knowledge.

I believe that tea and pie will cure most of life’s ills.

I believe in destiny and true love.

I believe the night is where inspiration waits until she can be coaxed into the moonlight.

I believe we should all aspire to have obit-worthy lives.

And I believe in chocolate. Sweet, dark chocolate.

What do you believe?

I’m Not Fat. I’m Sleep-Deprived!

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At the moment, I am in debt. Sleep debt. And I am not alone.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans should get between “seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety.” When we don’t get enough sleep, we accumulate sleep debt.

On average, Americans sleep 6.9 hours a night — 6.8 hours during the week and 7.4 hours on the weekends, Scientific American reports. Which means most of us are losing more than two full weeks of slumber every year.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to “negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road,” the National Sleep Foundation reports. Scientists have also found a relationship between the quantity of one’s sleep and many health problems.

In a landmark study, researchers at the University of Chicago had a group of student volunteers sleep 4 hours a night for 6 consecutive nights. The result?

The volunteers developed higher blood pressure and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and they produced only half the usual number of antibodies to a flu vaccine. The sleep-deprived students also showed signs of insulin resistance — a condition that is the precursor of type 2 diabetes and metabolic slowdown.

Reading about this study made me want to go out and buy a T-shirt bearing the message: I’m Not Fat. I’m Sleep-Deprived!

While all of these changes were reversed when the students made up the hours of sleep that they had lost, who has the time to play catch up? And how do you do it?

Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, regional medical director of the Harvard-affiliated Sleep Health Centers, offers the following advice:

Settle short-term debt. If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully.

Address a long-term debt. Plan a vacation with a light schedule and few obligations. Then, turn off the alarm clock and just sleep every night until you awake naturally.

Avoid backsliding into a new debt cycle. Once you’ve determined how much sleep you really need, factor it into your daily schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day — at the very least, on weekdays.

Last month, I picked up a Fitbit One. This awesome little device measures my steps, notes the flights of stairs I climb, counts the calories I burn and generally encourages me to be less sedentary. The Fitbit also measures my sleep habits: how long it takes for me to fall asleep, how many times I wake up and how long I’m actually unconscious.

In general, I strive to be above average in all things, but when it comes to getting quality sleep, I am not doing well. In fact, I am in serious sleep debt.

My alarm is set for 7 p.m. My sleep target is 7 hours. Using the data collected by my Fitbit, the Sleep Debt website says that I am currently 15 hours in debt. Why? Because, on average, I only sleep 5 1/2 hours a night. To completely clear this debt, I’d have to sleep for 22 hours.

This is not good.

So, my goal for April is to change this trend and get out of debt. I’m going to sleep more, and the sleep I experience will be restful.

Hopefully.

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