A father of two said he lost 100 pounds with the help of a fitness tracker that he wouldn’t have thought to buy for himself.
The Salem, Massachusetts father of two weighed 304 pounds before he stepped into a weekly wellness group, which included fitness trackers, his doctor had invited him to join.
“It was life-changing,” Ricky Chakoutis, 29, told ABC News.
Chakoutis was given a Withings watch to track his steps and, after the first week of the program, he lost two pounds.
“It kind of blew me away how well these things actually work,” says Chakoutis about the fitness trackers.
Dr. Jeff Philips, Chakoutis’s primary care doctor, spearheads the innovative wellness program with the help of Lisa Gualtieri, the founder of RecycleHealth.
RecycleHealth is a nonprofit organization that collects new and used fitness trackers, refurbishes them, and redistributes them to people who would benefit from them the most, a program that started in 2015 but has started to grow its reach within the last year.
Philips has begun utilizing the technological benefits of fitness trackers for patients like Chakoutis.
“It’s a tool like any other tool,” he said, adding that the devices provide real data that are accurate enough to be useful.
Not just doctors, but also other patients help each other using data from the trackers to stay accountable.
“Groups have decided on their own to create a walking club, they would use their Fitbit online group to motivate each other. ‘I’m going to get walking by the beach, come join me,’” says Dr. Philips. “We focus on support, not competition.”
Chakoutis said his competitive nature did come in handy with his weight loss, though.
"I set up little obstacles all over, just so I’m not on the couch," he said.
Chakoutis didn’t realize how few steps he was taking a day before he started the program. He thought he was taking 10,000 steps a day, but discovered after wearing his tracker that he was actually taking less than 3,000 steps a day.
Philips said that it is normal for people to think that they are moving more than they actually are.
Since the discovery, Chakoutis said he has challenged his goals every day, working up to 8,000 steps a day, then 15,000 steps a day and more.
"Now, I’m at 25,000 steps a day," he said.
He used his Withings watch to track his steps -- almost 2 million of them -- before it stopped working.
Diet and lifestyle changes were also a big factor in Chakoutis' major weight loss accomplishments. He was previously eating a lot of take-out with his kids, but now the whole family is into cooking meals at home and learning about healthy food choices.
“It’s been a challenge, but we are all eating fruits and vegetables now,” says Chakoutis.
Friends and family have been supportive of his weight loss. A year ago, a friend jokingly made a bet that if Chakoutis got to 230 pounds that he would pay for their whole group of friends to take a vacation.
He said his friend didn't think he could do it, but the bet was worth it. The group is flying to Las Vegas at the end of the month.
Now, Chatoukis is aiming for a new goal of 185 pounds -- the weight he hopes to maintain the rest of his life.
In addition to the fitness tracker and lifestyle changes, Chatoukis said his doctor was a major factor in helping him achieve his goals.
“If I didn’t have Dr. Philips as my doctor, there’s a good chance this wouldn’t have happened," Chatoukis said. "I credit him for all of it."
RecycleHealth said their program is growing; they have received more than 2,000 used and new fitness trackers donations from all over the world, Gualtieri said.
There are so many donations, in fact, she's had to move to a bigger office at her workplace, Tufts University School of Medicine. The university also sponsors the research.
Chatoukis said he is excited about the possibility of other people joining the program.
“I hope other people do it too. I just want to see everybody healthy,” he said. “I feel so good that I just want others to feel that way too now.”