Healthy Outlook: I’m taking a hiatus from fitness technology … kind of

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

I already know what you’re thinking — either you saw this one coming, or you think I’ve lost my marbles.

If you’ve ever read this column, you’ve probably seen mention of some app or device or trick or nifty online service. After all, I’ve written about fitness trackers, apps for New Year’s resolutions, putting your iPhone to work to help you sleep better, heart rate variability and a chest strap monitor, free online classes on the science of happiness and so much more.

Clearly, I’m a little tech-obsessed, but I’d like to think I’m no worse than the average 2019 human.

However, one of my sources said something that stuck out to me recently — actually, when I interviewed him about heart rate variability.

Chris Dellasega, owner of Athletic Strength Institute at 720 E. Ninth St., No. 3, probably didn’t realize he was speaking about me rather than using the word “you” in a general sense.

We were discussing the potential danger of folks having all the data that some of this wearable technology can provide — but even at a very basic level, such as stepping on a scale to weigh in every morning, the number obsession can set you up for failure, he said.

“Basically, you’re obsessing with the number on the scale, and then you begin to obsess about the number of calories, and then you begin to obsess about how much food you’re actually getting,” he said.

“And so then you start weighing and measuring your food, using measuring cups — and none of those things are sustainable, at all. You will get to a point where it’s like, ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ And then you get burnt out with it, and then you fall off the wagon and then, you know, you’re back where you began.”

Yep, here I am — right back where I began.

I’m not in quite as bad of shape as I was before I first started really paying attention to my health and fitness a few years ago. But I had taken a hard fall off the healthy wagon — yes, even after my pledge in October to get back on track, and for that I apologize.

At this point, I’m relieving myself of several app obligations. I’m keeping what I like, but ignoring the things that make me feel overburdened — and in doing so, I’m getting back to a healthier lifestyle. I don’t know if the results show on the scale much yet, and that’s fine. I feel better all around, and I think that’s what matters most.

For instance, I’ve stopped logging all my food on MyFitnessPal, and I’m letting my premium subscription expire whenever it does. I had been terrible about it for months, opening the app after several busy days and trying to remember what I ate last Thursday to input it — needless to say, it wasn’t working well.

I also used the app Productive to track my habits as I was trying to form them: goals for however many cardio and strength workouts each week, crunches at least five days per week, and drinking my goal in ounces of water, for instance. But the notifications have gotten really annoying, and I don’t like to self-shame when I don’t check — er, swipe — everything off the list.

These things were a phenomenal support to me when I first started trying to get on track. It really did make me think about everything I was eating — not in an obsessive sense, but just in a way that meant I was paying attention. Even if I ate “bad stuff,” I was thinking about each individual cookie, etc., rather than shoveling food into my mouth by the handful.

For those of us who struggle with moderation, these things can be great teachers. But I think Dellasega is right — they’re not permanent, sustainable solutions.

I’m still nowhere close to off the grid. I’m still wearing my Fitbit and monitoring my sleep with my (usually) smart alarm clock app, but only because I want to. I like having that data. I like having a little buzz on my wrist if I haven’t moved around enough in the last hour, because I like to stay active during the day; I like to see whether maybe that extra caffeine in the afternoon is actually making me toss and turn a bit more. I’ll also probably keep using Alexa as a personal trainer when I feel like it.

And, to be honest, that food measuring that Dellasega mentioned isn’t all bad. Now that I’ve gotten so accustomed to using my digital scale to weigh my food, it’s actually just helpful for portions. I could blindly cram spinach into the bottom of a blender for my green smoothies, but I know I like them best with 60 grams of the green leafy stuff. Also, it’s actually really hard to eyeball how much of my Greek yogurt ranch dip I need for my little snack cups full of carrot sticks.

Still, now I feel like I’m doing all of it out of choice and not out of obligation. And there have been and will be days that I completely ignore my Fitbit — I think sometimes that’s better for my sanity.

Even though failure to log my every bite never did keep me up at night, having one less thing to stress about is really nice. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to using those apps consistently, but the option is always there.

About Healthy Outlook

Healthy Outlook is a column written by Journal-World reporter and Health section editor Mackenzie Clark, in hopes of helping readers make their lives a little bit happier, healthier and more active.

Have questions about the world of health and wellness in Lawrence, or a health story idea? Contact Mackenzie:

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