Monday, January 25, 2016


One of the groups I always do challenges with on the Fitbit app is VMware community related. The idea for it came from a hashtag I participated on before I got diagnosed called #vFit. I stopped participating and when I would check it, there was a lot of non-VMware stuff in there (sure fitness related but definitely not just the vCommunity)

When I started with Fitbit I thought about joining an existing a group or starting one, but didn't know any people that fit both circles. It wasn't until VMworld 2015 that I seriously made a point of identifying people with fitbits and adding them as friends. Through this I was even able to meet and discuss the idea with Jim Jones that ultimately became this blog. I checked and #vFitbit wasn't taken, so i've been using it since.

We're a pretty stable bunch of guys - i don't think we're more than 10 that always join. We can always create another challenge if needed, but so far it hasn't happened. It's by far the most difficult and motivating group I do challenges with, and it's incredibly tough for me to win it :)

I've started a public twitter list for people who were comfortable with being listed and reached out to for joining twitter challenges - it's here:

Thanks so much for Jim Jones and Matt Crape that supported this crazy idea! But also, to my vFitbit friends who either haven't seen this or didn't feel comfortable with being publicly called out (which is perfectly fine and understandable!). Each week of competition is a big motivation for me, and it means a lot!

If you are currently not doing challenges with other people and would like to, reach out to us. We'll gladly put you in, publicly or not! Hopefully this becomes a good problem and I hit the maximum challenges every week :D

Fitbit Charge HR - what I like and I don't

With the fitbit charge HR information and its app I've been able to:

- Motivate myself into hitting my daily step goal (those 10K are tough to hit everyday when you work from home and live in a very small apartment!)
- See my heart rate, every day, over time. My resting heartbeat rate wasn't actually bad, my wife told me
- See the effect of exercise over what I could eat (more exercise, you can have more carbs). Exercise is the only thing that reliably lowers blood sugar (naturally) and also removes sodium from the body (through sweat)
- Establish a daily goal of 10 floors. I've always liked climbing floors, and my building has 5 floors, so I can accomplish that goal easily.
- Track my weight. Not only pound, but it also offers to track my body fat percentage. I did not buy the Fitbit Aria (which at $100, I thought too expensive for a weight scale) but I did get a digital weight scale that tells me that (and water, fat and bone density) and I can input the information manually every morning
- Track my water intake. I was really bad at drinking the 8 glasses of water daily. Don't be a wise guy and count other things as water (which I know is really the case 0 the body doesn't differentiate); try to really drink 8 glasses of water apart from milk, tea, etc
- Track my food intake. This was huge. This was the first time I was able to track my daily intake of carbs, protein, etc. I since have replaced this with MyFitnessPal which I detailed here but the Fitbit app is a great way to start, even featuring its own "scan the barcode" database.
- Easy sync, including removing and adding a new device.
- Easy integration with other software. I've been able to integrate my fitbit account with my care provider's app, with my employer's health benefits account, and with MyFitnessPal, and I'm not even trying too hard. It's great to see your results updated automatically everywhere.
- You get a weekly report (including comparisons to your friends)
- The website is even better than the app

But what really has me very happy and motivated is the social aspect. There are several things about it I like:
- The app is free. Anyone can join. Several phones (like latest iphones) will at least give steps to the app so people can join in without having the device
- One of the things that motivated me to write this blog was how I saw my friends and co-workers try to shape up when they saw the change in me. Those that bought a fitbit (I even gifted some) were able to add me as a friend and they also got the bug. It's a HUGE motivation to be able to do this with a friend!
- The achievement badges are a lot of fun. They're witty and easily shareable on social media.
- The competitions are only 4 types but they are good. I always run weekly and weekend competitions, and sometimes use a daily one if I want some extra motivation.
- Once you run into another person that has a fitbit, there's a good chance they will agree to do challenges together. Anybody that has one of these is trying to be better about their health, which is great! I run separate challenges with separate circles and it's a lot of fun!
- The app does a great job of telling you when you are doing good or someone is sneaking up or if anyone has hit their step goal or taken the lead. It keeps you in it enough that it's a game!

Of the device itself I've liked
- good material for the band. Yes, you still have to be careful, but I've had it for more than a year with no skin problems. Keeep skin clean and dry (move and dry if you are sweating) and you won't have problems
- both the small and large have fit me perfectly ok, which is great since I bought a large for my dad and it was too big for him. we were able to swap them and he was happy.
- silent alarms (just vibration) are very cool and effective
- this model is really low key, which I love
- call notifications! you can keep your cel in silence and this will vibrate
- enough customization options that I haven't found somebody that hasn't been able to be happy with it, both young and old
- firmware updates have added cool things. You can flick your wrist and it will light up. You can also just tap it with your finger to cycle through the screens.


However, I won't say either the Fitbit or its app are perfect. Here are my cons:

- The green light which measures your pulse can get distracting at night. Wish it was in infrared but I guess this was the best way to get the sensor working
- Sometimes, especially when walking a lot outside and wearing a jacket, it can count a lot of floors. I was walking the national mall area in Washington DC and it counted 100 floors. I walked a lot but I'm pretty sure I would have noticed! Supposedly it measures atmospheric pressure and this could explain a bit. Otherwise, it's a pretty good sensor.
- Battery life is at best 3 days tops. Maybe having it sync automatically and having bluetooth on all the time affects it.
- They only sell the XL over their store. At some point it was sold out and it was a pita to get an ETA when they would bring it back. When they finally brought it back, they didn't send me an email alert (which I had signed up for). They weren't helpful through twitter or email either - so don't expect much from their support.
- Seems a lot of people, when reporting problems, get sent a new one and are told to dispose of the older one. What the? I mean, it's great if the problem is indeed the device, but how much  feedback to improve their products are they missing out because of this? Plus it must eat into their revenue (although I bet their markup on the devices is insane).
- Getting the heart rate reading on the app, when you sync, takes a good 10 seconds more than the rest of the stats. I don't understand why. The tracker shows the bpm immediately.
- The fitbit food tracker database is not very good. That's forgivable since it's not their main focus. What isn't forgiveable is that the things you submit never get reviewed. I submitted a bunch of things and they were never added, nor did I get any feedback. Why even offer it if no one checks it? Solution was to use another app and tie it back to fitbit.
- 5 challenges at the same time is too little. I think this artificial limit should be lifted.
- It is not intuitive how to add friends, especially if you are already invited to a challenge with them. The first option you are offered is to add them by email. The actual best way is to click on the challenge options and then you get a list of every person, where you can just click on the person and send them a friend request through there.
- Love that they added the feature to just flick the wrist and have the tracker wake up, but it's not 100% reliable.
- Can't check the battery level on the charge HR itself. It will faslh a low battery when it's about 10%.
- The charging cables (really adapters) are different for every model and they sell them way too expensive. Thankfully my wife and I have the same one and we've only used one, but I can see someone losing or breaking one and groaning at paying $15 for something that definitely could be a micro usb instead (bunch of phones even do these connectors waterproof)
- Lots of extra reporting features are available as a premium subscription. I did the trial and wasn't impressed enough for it to be valuable.
- The vibration for call notifications can take a while to activate, which means by the time it vibrates it may be several rings in

Let me know any others and i'll add them!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My fitness tracker selection process

My friend Bilal did an excellent post on fitness trackers on this same blog here. After getting diagnosed with diabetes, and reading a bit and realizing exercise is such a big part of the treatment (which really is a lifestyle change) I decided to check them out and see if they could help me.

My phone, like other phones, already included a pedometer. My initial thought is that this worked pretty good since I didn't do much meaningful walking without the phone - so I wanted to figure out what did the dedicated fitness trackers do. I also did not want to spend too much on something that could perfectly well get crushed or become inoperable because I forgot to take it off when going into the shower.

Now, talking fashion - I'm not a trendy guy. I also live in a place where I''m walking a lot of the time, and I did not want something that could bring attention to me. So, the objective became to find something with a lot of sensors that would appeal to my needs, wasn't too expensive, and wouldn't bring too much attention to me. Easy to operate would be nice as well, and had to sync with my phone.

My search ultimately brought me to the Fitbit Charge HR. The below is an affiliate link of mine where I could get a cut if you buy it using that link

So why the Fitbit Charge HR? This is the link with manufacturer info, but these are the features that brought my attention:

1 Good reviews everywhere - many said it had the same sensors as the Fitbit Surge ($100 more)
2 Tracks steps and floors (my phone only does steps)
3 Tracks heartbeat! Now this is info I never had, and considering I'm diabetic, sounds good to know
4 Tracks sleep! Working in IT, there's crazy schedules and I know proper sleep reflects proper health
5 Free app (I'll talk more about this). I was able to download the app, poke around with it, and see how the interface works. Seemed easy to use and it allows adding friends
6 Lots of privacy settings in the app to enable or disable friends or the public from seeing information
7 Reviews mentioned good battery life
8 Automatic - I didn't have to tell it I was going to sleep or start exercising, it would pick it up on its own as long as I wore it
9 Water resistant - don't swim with it but a slight splash won't ruin it.
10 Small screen (this was a big plus for me - didn't want anyone to think i had an expensive smartwatch). I got it in black and at first glance just looks like a thick rubber band
11 Three available size bands. Glad since my wrists are really small.

The Fitbit arrived soon (after (I bought it when they cost $150) and within days I realized this was awesome and one of the best decisions I've made in my life. Having the device all the time was working better than the phone, since you don't go to the gym with the phone in your pocket, you put it in a hole somewhere. Also, the app also includes a weight tracker, calorie/food tracker, and water tracker, which I immediately started using.

Here I noticed an important thing - my engineer mindset suddenly had a lot of data that it did not have before. Remember I had decided to take my condition as a problem I could do something intelligent about? Here was something I could immediately use to build and perfect my strategy. With this and my sugar measurements I could get to work.

My following post will get a bit deeper into how I've used this information to help me lead my lifestyle change. If you have a fitbit and wish to add me as a friend please don't hesitate to contact me through twitter!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What to drink?

Remember the time where you didn't think much about what to drink? Any fruit juice, any soda, any alcohol drink - there wasn't anything that could do you much harm.

As I get older I find this same conversation with others in my circle:

"I've stopped drinking beer"
"I've stopped drinking soda"
"I only drink diet coke now"
"I stopped drinking caffeine"
"I've stopped drinking fruit juices"
"I don't drink alcohol anymore"

And many other variations.

The fact is - there is no lone recommendation that works. 

Healthy people can basically drink anything, in moderation. If you are healthy today, I'd definitely enjoy more natural things than sodas.

If you are looking to lose weight, this is the normal transition I see:

1 Stop drinking normal soda - coke/sprite/etc have a lot of sugar per serving and that sugar will become fat if you don't spend it
2 Sweet tea is a really bad idea. It has a lot of sugar. Find out how it's made if you don't believe me.
3 Milkshakes are not a good idea either... not only do they have sugar, they also have fat. You will be surprised at how easily fat piles on by drinking milk. Start monitoring and if you just love milk (like me) consider switching to a 1% variety.
4 Be mindful of fruit juices as part of your overall carb intake. That delicious morning orange juice has a lot of sugar. There are plenty of choices so you don't give up the health benefits, but you will have to read labels and incorporate them as part of your overall day plan.
5 Stop drinking sugary coffee. Real coffee is good by itself. Teas also fit this description.

Those were the obvious ones - one that people don't give up as quickly is alcoholThe range of alcohol consumption varies a lot, but I find IT admins to be mostly heavy drinkers (until they see the light). I myself haven't been able to get away completely from social drinking, even though i'll only have one, max two beers on special occasions, and i'll try to make it a low carb like Michelob Ultra.

If your drinking is making you gain weight, you have a problem. If you are drinking every day, or drinking alone, you are clinically an alcoholic and should question your life choices :)

6 Alcohol, whether it's beer or vodka, all are sugar; and you don't normally go to the gym a couple hours after drinking do you? It's very easy to pile on calories which you will store as soon as you go sleep.

If you have been able to get up to here you have made a big difference in your life - your carbs are not mainly coming from liquids. Here are my final optional recommendations:

6 Don't drink diet soda. It's obviously better than normal soda, but you should go for things that naturally don't have sugar in them, and also don't taste sugary. Try to make the taste of "sweet" something that is extraordinary and not common.
7 Unsweetened tea is a safe go-to when eating out - twisting a lime helps out too.
8 Water. Filtered, great tasting water is the best thing you can drink. I really like Zerowater filters. I try not to buy bottled plastic water. You can even get sparkling water if you don't feel like asking for plain water in a restaurant.

If you are diabetic then you follow everything above in the "looking to lose weight" section, but the last part doesn't become optional - diet sodas, unsweetened iced tea and water become your staple. Apart from unsweetened coffee and tea, you rarely deviate. It is not terribly difficult to find a 1% milk that tastes as good as the milk you take today (I like Lactaid 1%). And really try to avoid alcohol. 

Alcohol doesn't interact well with diabetes medications. Alcohol can cause a drop in glucose - but at the same time you still have all that sugar in your body. If you will drink, opt for the least harmful. I don't particuarly like this site because it promotes drinking, but it is a very good list of calories per alcoholic drink. Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite or Coors Light are pretty easy to find in any bar.

Hit me up on twitter with any questions and remember - I'm no doctor or expert so take my advice with a grain of salt.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to handle your daily carb intake

Every diabetic has to know and manage their carb intake. There are many tools and many concepts (glycemic index, glycemic load) that you should know, but the most important thing is having a way to track what you are eating and seeing what it amounts to.

The good news is that all you need for that is paper and a pen. Read the nutritional label, figure out how many servings you ate, write it down. At the end of the day, sum and evaluate.

Simple, but we are in 2016 after all - we can do better. There are many computer assisted ways of doing this. The app that I like the most is very popular - MyFitnessPal . I originally used the meal counter in the Fitbit app but I find this one has a better database and also provides a "Nutrition" section where I can see Carbs, Protein, Fat daily in a very simple manner.

The free version allows only limited customization, but you can adjust how much of your daily calorie intake goes to carbs - which is what we as diabetics want. In the nutritional goal setup, I set my carbs to 35%, protein to 35%, and fats to 30%.

Start with a method and stick to it. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Your future is built little by little - consistency is the key. Be it good or bad, write it down. Face yourself in the mirror on all your decisions, and decide where you want your health to be. If you want to reach out on the app, my username is arielsanchezmora .

Quick notes on good and bad carbs

Bad carbs for diabetes are incredible sources of energy. They are absorbed fast and quickly raise your blood glucose. This is the kind of thing you want to eat before going up and down the mountain or doing real work like clearing a field with your bare hands (and that you should avoid if all you are doing is sitting in front of a computer):

Sweet stuff like
- Sugar
- Cookies
- Chocolates
- Syrups

Not sweet stuff like:
- Pizza and pasta
- Rice
- Potatoes, especially fried (chips, french fries, etc)
- Bread/pastry
- Alcohol

There is a simple advice for carbs - avoid white.

Good carbs for diabetics:

- Typically have 20g or less of carbs per serving
- Have low fat and sodium
- Are minimally processed - there are more whole grains in minimally processed foods
- Typically have more fiber dv% than total carb dv% when you read the nutritional label
- Are broken into sugar slower than bad carbs

- Thin corn tortillas (not flour)
- Oatmeal or oatmeal based cereals (normal, yellow box cheerios)
- Wheat thins
- Whole grains (brown rice and quinoa for example)

Also while fruits in general are good for you, some fruits have way too much sugar:
- Oranges
- Grapes / raisins
- Bananas
- Pears
- Mangoes
- Pineapple

Other fruits will basically become your go-to snack, because you can eat a bunch without them being bad for you:

- Strawberries
- Raspberries
- Blackberries

There are a multitude of links out there and you should read them all, diabetic or not. I find I don't always agree with everyone, but I also find that variety is the spice of life - you can't eat the same things every day, but you can learn to adjust. This is a good one

My first dr visit as a diabetic

With my blood results in, I found myself again in front of my doctor (2 or 3 days after going to the ER and starting Metformin twice a day from that). I was in the proper mindset to receive direction. I thought I had begun taking steps and doing what I needed to do. My doctor however quickly made me see that the changes I would need to do were deeper and more definitive than I previously thought.

Healthy diet and lots of exercise meant different things to him than they meant to me. He also taught me this was a lifestyle change, not a diet or exercise period - this was to be my new life or I would see the consequences. Diabetes doesn't get cured - you adjust to it so it doesn't damage your body so quickly.

His first statement was that now I would avoid carbs like the plague. This means no bread, no rice, no pasta. No sugary kid's cereal, no candy, no sodas, no sugary drinks at all. White meat and vegetables - avoid red meat as much as possible because of my triglycerides. I almost fell out of the chair. Immediately I had questions. Well, what carbs can I eat?

Here is where I learned that there are foods that we can call diabetic friendly. In normal life, you may not think they are very different, but in terms of carb content and glucose, they are very different.

Hey also explained there were no shortcuts or miracle workarounds - no matter how good the food, if you have several servings, it won't be good for you. You have to embrace portion control! And you have to read the nutritional label and be responsible for everything you put in your mouth.

After this quick talk with my doctor i saw that my meals would have to change dramatically. I had to rebase my meals to be mostly leafy or meaty (but not starchy) vegetables and lean protein from poultry and white fishes. The things I bought in the supermarket would need to change, the things I ordered when eating out would have to change, my wife, who is not diabetic, will also have to change - or we will have to eat different things!

The other thing that took me by surprise was what he said was even more important: exercise. Hopefully everyday. At least 30 minutes, but hopefully one hour. Exercise is the only way to decrease blood sugar in a natural manner. You have to spend what you eat!

Wow. For someone that didn't exercise at all that was suddenly a tall order. I don't know how i'm going to do this, but the fact is I have to do it! I had already resolved I would tackle this head on like a man, I would have to learn and adapt!

I left the doctor's office with my head in a whirlwind, but with my mindset that I could tackle on this problem, I opened up google and started reading and investigating. I immediately bought a couple books in amazon and started reading diabetes related material on the internet - which gladly there is a lot of. It is a very widespread disease :'(

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Eating Healthy

Now Now don't just ignore this post!

You don't have to eat like a saint to be healthy...I love eating junk food lol

But it is all about finding a balance. If you are gaining weight that usually means you are consuming more calories than your body needs.

A simple rule about losing weight, eat less and exercise more. Basically if you are taking in less calories than you are burning, you will drop weight.

Managing a healthy diet can be a real pain in the ass, lets be real here. who here has all the time to plan all their meals out properly into nice containers and all the rest?!

If you can great and more power to you, but for me:

When I am wanting to drop some weight, what has worked for me is upping my exercise routine and using Diet Chef (I am not endorsed by them or anything). Basically you get good quality food delivered to your door, for the month and you just have to heat it up. You get:


Some people say it is expensive, but remember that's your meals for the whole day, and its portion controlled for you off the bat. If you are working out with it, you will defo lose weight, as you will be taking in less calories than you actually need!

I also supplement it with lots of fruit and water/tea. So whenever I feel hungry I have some fruit and drink some tea. It is amazing how quickly your body adjusts. The first week you'll drop a decent amount of weight, as you body flushes out all the rubbish it was storing and no longer needs. You will then continue to loose about 2lbs a week.

Bare in mind, there is no healthy quick fix, it took you ages to get fat (if you are fat) and till take a while to lose it. That is a fact and there isn't anything that can be done about it, so the sooner you start the sooner you'll get there!

Also what I do is when I am on diet chef, 1 day a week I will have a massive blow out and eat whatever I like on that day to excess, from KFC to Burgers to Pizzas. You will be amazed how crap you feel afterwords and how your body hates it, but having that one day a week, wont have a negative impact and will actually have a positive impact. You get to eat whatever you like and your body wont think it is starving so will continue to drop weight at a reasonable rate.

I also mainly eat soups at work in general, easy to make can be stored in my desk and its not unhealthy when compared to a lot of other crap out there! 

There is no reason why you cant enjoy food while being healthy. Hey and a lot of people get hung up that they messed up one day of healthy eating. One day wont make a big difference on its own. If you decide to write it all off...then that's bad, but realise shit happens and get back on it the next day....simple. We are only human!