Me & My Fitbit Are On A Break

fitbit pictyre.jpg
Image Description: This is a photo of a woman’s hand holding a Fitbit Charge 2 with a purple wristband. The Fitbit screen reads, “Workout” with an animation of a person above the word. Even the instructions that come with the Fitbit suggest that the wearer should take breaks from wearing the Fitbit.

I was surprised that I even wanted one.

Me, the person who has always been (and continues to be) somewhat suspicious of technology. Or at least too much technology. Or too much dependence on technology. Don’t get me wrong—I love my laptop. And I would DEFINITELY, in a heartbeat, run into a burning building to save it. I also love my iPhone. Maybe a little too much—I bring it everywhere with me (to bed, to the bathroom, you get the picture).

Anyway, my wanting a Fitbit was a bit of a surprise to me and my loved ones—up until recently I didn’t even know what it was for. But in my renewed commitment to my fitness, it seemed like a great tool to help me along and encourage me to move every hour, track my heart rate (which I have always felt is too irregular, I don’t know why), log workouts, track sleep patterns, and so on and so forth.

And for the first while, it was great! We went everywhere together, I wore it to bed every night, and I kept earning all sorts of badges…

Sneaker Badge Web.jpg
Image Description: This is an animation of a Fitbit badge called “the sneakers badge” earned for 10,000 steps taken in one day. There are a variety of badges one can earn for meeting certain milestones when wearing a Fitbit. 

My Fitbit would be like, “Great job, Tracy, you’re crushing it!” “You’re getting all your steps!” “Great job!”

And I’d be all, “Oh you…” So flattering!

The next day, my Fitbit would say something like, “Wow, you’re meeting all your goals…you’re walking everywhere, and you’re doing like, 25 flights of stairs a day! Awesome!” (Even though this wasn’t always the case—since Fitbits can’t tell if you’re physically walking up stairs or taking elevators/escalators. But I didn’t have the heart to tell it that.)

For the first little while everything was great. Every time I’d meet my goals I’d enjoy watching the corresponding graphic on the Fitbit (digital fireworks or a little rocket ship taking off or whatever). It was like any other new romance! My Fitbit was telling me how great I was, and I felt super pumped about it. We were literally in sync.

Then, after a couple of months, I had a couple sluggish days, maybe a sluggish week or two. I’d get the weekly updates in my inbox saying how I walked 20km or 30km less from the previous week. Or, down 100 active minutes last week from the killer week I’d had before.

And it was rough because I felt like I could never explain myself and say, “I know, I know, I’ve just been really busy with work and with deadlines…” Or, “I had a rough week and just needed to chill out! I’m sorry!” Nope. I would open the Fitbit app and see all the areas I was falling short: Steps, short. Calories burned, short. Floors climbed, short. Active minutes, short. Kilometres walked—something my Fitbit had praised me for on multiple occasions—short. It became a real bummer.

Then I’d have moments where, if I left the house without my Fitbit on, I’d panic for a second thinking, Shit now all these steps won’t count! (In searching for pictures to go along with this post, I found MANY others experience this same panic and express their feelings in meme form.)

fitbit meme2.jpg

Fitbit meme.jpg

You get the picture—my motivation was starting to be fueled by what my Fitbit had to say and not about how I felt. Just because I’m not wearing the Fitbit, doesn’t mean those steps lose value. Yet I started to feel like maybe this was the case.

Other times I’d have days of way surpassing my goals: getting over 17,000 steps in a day (the average person gets around 6,000/day I’m told and the recommended is 10,000), or having over 100 active minutes in a day, or whatever the case was. But often those days I’d be completely wiped or burnt out. I didn’t feel healthy–I felt exhausted and had only surpassed these goals because I was running around doing 50 things that day and didn’t even have a quiet moment to myself.

Of course, this wasn’t always the case–sometimes I’d feel great for surpassing my goals for the day. But the point is, the raw numbers don’t tell you everything.

I’ve really had to stop and think about extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation. (Extrinsic being pressure from something other than myself; including striving for praise from a tiny computer.) I want to be the person behind my motivation to be fit and healthy. I want to do it for me because it’s what I enjoy, or what I find interesting or exciting or worthwhile.

And I get that the purpose of a tool like this is to encourage you to make positive changes. Certainly having a Fitbit for the purposes of daily activity tracking has been great in some regards. I was sleeping better, going to bed on time, waking up earlier, walking more often instead of taking transit, and getting up regularly to take breaks from desk work.

I’m sure that I’ll be happy to have my Fitbit back in regular rotation at some point in the near future. But things were starting to feel a little off.

I’ve learned that I don’t ever want to feel enslaved or beholden to a certain number or weight or outfit or angle or image or object when it comes to how I feel about my own body. So until then, my Fitbit and I are on a break!

We were on a breal
Image Description: This is a screen capture of a scene from the sitcom, Friends. Ross shouts to Rachel, “We were on a break!” The issue of whether or not the two were “on a break” at a point in their relationship was an ongoing dispute between the two.

10 thoughts on “Me & My Fitbit Are On A Break

  1. Ha! Great timing, great post. I took my Fitbit off when sick. Too demoralizing. But it’s back on now. Good luck with finding that happy balance.

  2. Great article and like you I wear mine all the time and get the weekly updates and of course the usual great job stuff. Like most things it is a techie toy, to begin with it was great. Now I just have to ask my feet and legs how many steps I have taken. They told me 17K on Thursday and trust me I felt it… no Fitbit needed…

  3. Your external motivation was helping you achieve the goals that you couldn’t achieve via internal motivation….

    But… You decided to go from the option that works to the option that doesn’t work… because you don’t want to be beholden to a particular outcome….?

    1. The point is not to be ruled by numbers as an achievement. Life achievements is not numbers. I firmly believe you have to enjoy the type of exercise inherently –and the numbers to heck. Otherwise there’s the constant high and demoralizing external measure.

  4. Really good article. I am not a fan or supporter of fitness tracking devices such as this. We deal with enough details with our lives, children, and work. Why add extra stress with more details regarding exercise? Just my opinion. Enjoyed the read!

  5. I am a PhD researcher exploring individuals’ experiences with devices such as these and I found your post really interesting. I have often come across these memes which are sometimes depicted as humour but there is perhaps a darker undertone. What are your thoughts since taking a break from your Fitbit?

    1. I’m going on vacation in a few weeks and decided yesterday to leave my Fitbit at home. We’re driving, gone for a couple of weeks, and I just decided I didn’t want the “pressure” of 250 steps/hour, declining steps/week, etc. It has been a tremendous tool in getting in shape over the last couple of years. but I want a vacation from that too!

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