Many moons ago I bought a Fitbit through a program at my office to get folks in shape and get a better rate on our health insurance. Within three days I threw it in the trash.
Sounds like a pretty jackass first-world thing to do, doesn’t it? Only when you understand what that little wannabe Tamagotchi did to my brain can you really grasp what might motivate me to take such swift and decisive action.
For starters, let’s be real. The world is full steam ahead on the fitness tracker train. All aboard for the promise of a better tomorrow, now that you know what your sleep schedule looks like on a Cartesian plane and how invigorating 10,000 steps can feel! As if quantifying your laziness is the ticket to lifelong health…
I’m sorry, I sound awfully cynical. I’m not really. I think setting small goals in order to meet a greater goal is an incredibly effective way to make real change in one’s life, and if the Fitbit is the system that finally helps that click for you, then cheers. Onward and upward.
But I do take exception to the way fitness trackers on the whole are being painted as a one-size-fits-all solution to overall wellness, so much so that they’ve been contracted by health care companies to track the “habits” of their enrollees, giving them rewards in return for good behavior.
It sounds great at first. To me it did. I’m an active person already. I don’t need any more incentive to exercise than I put on myself already. In fact, I’ve battled a strong case of Orthorexia for as long as I can remember. That’s where the plot begins to thicken.
I’m not alone. Not by a long shot. Many men and women suffer from eating disorders, and they run the gamut in symptoms and sources. But what I’ve got is a compulsion towards eating what’s best for me, so much so that if there isn’t something good for me available, the “better” option in my mind is not to eat at all.
After driving myself nuts for 20 years, I recognized that this was my default thought process, and that it’s not okay. It took a lot of soul searching (and some anti-anxiety meds, not going to lie) to learn my triggers and fight back against this crappy cycle I was in. I had started to feel like I was back in the driver’s seat of my own brain.
But nothing has been such a fly in the ointment of my healing process as the Fitbit.
It has a heart rate monitor. It has a sleep monitor. It has a calories burned tracker. Let me tell you, if you don’t have experience with eating disorders, they’re about control. By the same token, adjusting your mindset away from those feelings is about actively relinquishing control. Now here comes a device, strongly suggested by my health insurance and encouraged by my employer to lower my rates, all without changing my behavior – “it’s just meant to report your good work back to a database so you can get rewarded.”
Except that what I got was a little monkey on my back quantifying everything I’d worked so hard not to think about. I had gotten rid of my scale. I had stopped using those horrifying calorie trackers on my phone (MyPlate – it’s like catnip to an eating disorder). I had forced myself to eat ice cream on a regular basis and then mentally work myself through the guilt. And here it was, staring me in the face: The numbers.
Were they enough? Maybe, but I’d beat them tomorrow. Fewer calories in, more calories out. More steps. I could wake up earlier. No more dessert. No more carbs. Should I cut out fruit, too?
BYE, FUCKER. My boyfriend watched as I unceremoniously pitched the little smiling slave driver into the waste bin. I was not about to enter that world again, and I had almost invited the demon right back in.
This isn’t everyone’s story, I’m sure. I don’t think they’re inherently evil, fitness trackers, and I fully own the fact that this is my weird issue. But sometimes I wish they weren’t shoved in my face at every turn, like something that’s all great and never bad. Or at the very least, I’d like the “Health” app that came preinstalled on my iPhone to be deletable. Is that so much to ask?
Do you have or want a fitness tracker? What’s been your experience with them?