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The Techy Way to Take Off Pounds

Photo by Jeff Hobson

You’re ready to ditch the sweatpants for a swimsuit, but your beach bod could use some work. The good news is, summer in Washington doesn’t really start until mid-July, so with the right tools, you still have time to drop a few pounds.

This month, I want to share my weight-loss journey. I joined Orangetheory Fitness and the Noom app. These tech services are some of the most popular on the market, but do they work? My answer is “yes” — I’m now down more than 10 pounds since I began my journey in early summer. The high-intensity workouts I get at Orangetheory, and the diet coaching I get through Noom, have made a big difference. But what I love most about these services is how they are a data nerd’s dream. Since I can track everything from my maximum heartbeat to the calories in my afternoon snack, I now have a clearer picture of how to attain my health goals.

Editor’s note: Before starting any exercise and/or diet, individuals should consult their doctor first.

Getting in the Orange Zone

A common misperception about Orangetheory (OT) is that it’s a torture routine designed for 20-something extreme athletes. OK; there is some truth in that first part. But as a middle-aged writer trying to keep his dad bod from morphing into granddad bod, I’m able to keep up. My local gym makes everyone feel welcome, because the whole point of Orangetheory is that you can go at your own pace.

The exact daily exercises vary, but in an average OT class, I spend a third of the class lifting weights, a third on the treadmill, and a third on the rower. This probably sounds pretty average, but I can track my heartbeat, mileage, and calories burned, thanks to the OTBeat Link monitor on my bicep. This info is then relayed to a personalized info box that I can view either on the gym’s big screen or more discreetly on my treadmill display.

The other thing I love about OT is the color-coded system that shows just how hard you’re working. Your info box will turn from gray to blue as you warm up. As you continue your workout, you’ll enter the green zone (71–83 percent maximum heart rate). Th is is your base pace where you’re breaking a sweat, but not out of breath. When the workout shifts into high gear, you’ll enter the orange zone (84–91 percent MHR). You earn a digital “splat” point for each minute you spend in orange, with the goal of getting 12 splat points per class to maximize fat burning. Some of the hardcore exercisers like to hit the red zone (92–100 percent MHR), but to this mere mortal, that’s a sign I need to dial it back.

This color scheme works great because I’m a terrible judge of my own fitness ability. I can better pace myself as I earn my splat points, and I love the camaraderie of seeing the entire class board light up orange. After class, I can open the OT app to see how many minutes I spent in each zone, my treadmill speed, total steps, and calories burned. The app also has an impressive number of videos about home workouts, meditation, and stretching exercises.

While OT might not be the cheapest gym option, I feel the tech monitoring and excellent class coaches are worth the money spent. A great place to start is the basic plan (four classes a month), which costs $60. From there you can expand to elite (eight classes a month) for $100, or the unlimited plan for $160.

Dieting the Noom Way

Exercise is only part of the battle when it comes to weight loss, which is why I love the Noom app. Noom makes it easy to count calories, learn new recipes, and get daily tips on living a healthier lifestyle. When I first started the app, I chose gradual weight loss as one of my main health goals. Noom then calculated a calorie budget based on my height, weight, and age that would allow me to lose about a pound a week. The good news is, I can eat enough to not be hungry, and it’s easy to log meals.

However, I still need to watch what I eat using Noom’s three-color system. Green foods include fruits, garden salads, and steamed veggies. If you stay within your daily budget, you can eat as many green foods as you like. Yellow foods include healthy entrees, such as chicken, fish, whole-grain breads, or rice. These dishes should make up less than half of your daily calories. Then there are the red foods, like hamburgers, beer, and cookies.

You can enjoy these guilty pleasures in moderation, but they should comprise only a quarter of your daily calories.

Noom also provides daily lessons on how to change your relationship with food. For example, I learned that I am a “fun” eater, which means I love fine dining and noshing with friends. I’m good on the weekdays but tend to splurge on weekends, and I have a bad habit of eating big dinners because I skipped breakfast. Noom has helped me learn to pace myself, eat regularly, and watch my portions if I’m eating out.

I’ve also learned how to better balance my willpower with my subconscious cravings — what Noom calls “taming the elephant.” All of these lessons are delivered in a fun, lighthearted way, and you can go at your own pace.

A monthly Noom subscription costs $59, and the annual subscription costs $199, though there is a free seven-day trial. The subscription includes weekly texts from a coach who will answer questions and help you stay accountable.