Why I’m taking my fitbit off…

There’s a lot to like about fitbits –or any of those devices that track steps. I should know – I’ve been wearing one for about 4 years – or thereabouts.

The case for wearing a fitbit is mostly based around what they track – and therefore make you aware of:

  • Steps/ movement
  • Heart rate
  • Sleep patterns
  • Water consumption
  • Calories consumed

The movement part is especially good if you are, like me, spend most of your day on your bum.

The first sign for me that I was coming to be guided too much by the numbers was in relation to sleep. I’m not a great sleeper – I never really have been. I certainly don’t need a fitbit to tell me that I’ve had a bad night, yet that’s exactly what I began to do – using it to prove my restlessness.

So I stopped wearing it at night.

Then I began to set myself targets regarding calories consumed and used – and yes, you guessed it, began to obsess about that too.

So I stopped entering the calories.

I’ve been in a challenge for most of the time I’ve been wearing a fitbit – and I’ve met some great people in the process who I otherwise wouldn’t have connected with. And, while it’s designed to just help me get to my 10,000 steps – that magical, yet arbitrary figure that gets bandied about – hello, it’s a challenge. But of late I’ve noticed that I’m obsessing over the challenges I’m involved in and am choosing to avoid spending time doing activities that I know I need to do to help my body age more healthily and mindfully – like yoga/pilates for flexibility, strength training for stronger bones – because there are no steps attached to them.

Each morning I walk 5kms. It takes me the best part of an hour and equates to 5000 steps – or thereabouts. The rest of the day my butt is planted on a chair and thanks to crappy mobile reception in our house – my workplace – I can’t even do the walk and talk thing. In the absence of incidental exercise, to get my 10,000 steps I need another long-ish walk. Most days I do this, but on the days that I spend that hour doing an alternative exercise that doesn’t give me any step credits, I beat myself up. I know, ridiculous thinking, right?

Of course, I could say to hell with the challenge, and do the non-walking alternative a couple of days a week – after all, it’s the movement, any movement, that’s doing me good – but numbers and I don’t have a good relationship. I’ve always allowed them to have a power over me that is, quite frankly, both unhelpful and unhealthy. It’s not fault of the numbers, it’s my reaction to them.

I’m that person who doesn’t know if I’ve gained or lost weight until I see it on the scales – regardless of the relative comfort and fit of my clothes. I honestly am that far out of touch with my own body and my own reality.

In the job I left mid last year the numbers each morning would determine how bad the day ahead would be. They’d be texted through at 7.30am as I was driving to the office and if they weren’t as expected, I’d spend the entire commute strategizing and composing emails in my head to avoid the inevitable fall-out.

My fitbit would show that on some of those days I’d spent the entire working day with my heart-rate (another number) in the cardio-burning zone – which sent yet another number, my blood pressure, into an even more dangerous area.

After a few months into our sea-change things have quietened to an extent that I’m starting to listen to my body again. I’m eating seasonally, I’m less likely to medicate with food or alcohol. My heart rate has slowed, I’m walking most mornings, I’m belly dancing, dancing in the dark, and am intentionally active for at least 90 minutes every day. Yet way too often I’m not hitting my 10,000 steps – and as ludicrous as it sounds, I continue to beat myself up over that.  Nor am I losing weight…yet…and yes, I’m beating myself up about those numbers still too.

Wearing the fitbit hasn’t taught me to move more – I’ve always moved and know that creatively I’m better when I do. It has, however, made me more aware of my movement and heart rate patterns. Likewise, the challenges are fabulous for external motivation if you’re not yet in an exercise habit, but I’m done with it – at least for now.

It’s about learning to listen to (and trust) my body. It’s also about the quest for mindfulness and balance – whatever they are. Having said that, don’t be surprised if you see me popping up again in a challenge sometime soon!

What about you? Are you in touch with your body or do you need the numbers? Have you ever been into the whole fitbit challenge thing?

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Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

23 thoughts

  1. My daughter bought me a Fitbit a couple of years ago that clipped onto my bra, which my husband put through the washing machine so that was short-lived. Then for my 60th my husband bought me a wrist watch style FitBit which I have been wearing 24/7. I found it a bit annoying of a night-time too, but I love that it prompts me to get up and walk around. I do manage to get my 10,000 steps most days, but like you I do Pilates or Yoga a few times a week. I have been on a mission to improve my general health this year after suffering from hip and shoulder problems. Losing weight has been part of this and I have lost 3 kgs so far. I’m supposed to lose at least 10 kgs so I’ve got a bit to go. I think not wearing the Fitbit is fine as long as you are getting at least 30 minutes exercise each day, so don’t feel guilty. #TeamLovinLife

  2. I completely get this and read a post recently about why FitBits aren’t good ideas (will find the link later). I’m kinda torn as I get the obsessive thing. Yesterday for eg, I drove for 7hrs and spent 1.5hrs in a meeting. I barely did 4000 steps. Half of my daily goal.

    I’ve actually struggled since I’ve been back from Brisbane but need to get my act together cos – unlike you – I’m still not doing any other exercise or walking. I think if I knew I was doing a decent walk each day I’d be okay but I’m still only (ever) building my steps in fits and starts.

    Having said that I know yoga doesn’t offer up many steps but I’d happily sacrifice a heap if I was doing that, for example.

    1. They are great if you don’t tend to move much, but not that much value if you’re both active and self aware.

  3. Interesting perspective, Jo. I’ve been on the fence about getting one. For reasons such as those you’ve outlined. I’m already pretty active and stick to a routine activity wise. But I would be interested to know about my sleep. I feel I get less than I should. But would knowing make me more stressed about getting those zzz’s and hence sleep less? Probably, knowing me.

    SSG xxx

    1. I stressed about my sleep more when I’d wake up & see that it hadn’t reported some of my wake times…so then I worried about that…

  4. I wanted one for a long time, and eventually got a Garmin. But I obsessed and when I found it was possibly neither counting my steps properly nor my sleep properly, I too took it off never to be worn again.

  5. I love my Fitbit but I have never worn it at night and I don’t use it to manage calories. I did for a short time ‘compete’ against a friend but I realised that was the way to madness. I now just see what it say and when I hit 10k steps that’s great but I don’t obsess if I don’t. I hit 9.800 one night this week and just thought too bad, so sad 😉
    I do like the hourly reminders too but I am quite capable of ignoring those if I am seriously needing to finish something I am working on.

    1. I hear you – not that long ago I would have seen 9800 & walked up & down the hallway. That way lies madness.

  6. I can get a bit like that too Jo, and obsess over the numbers – whether it’s the pedometer app on my phone, what my weight is on my scales, or my blog stats! You do well to manage a 5km walk each morning. I’ve just started doing a walk each weekday morning (now at the end of week 3) and the best I’ve done is about 3.5km. It does take a big chunk of time, although I’m (mostly!) enjoying it – and like you I’m on my bum the rest of the day, in front of my computer …

  7. I don’t obsess over the daily numbers (yet) and mine is only set to give me an arm party at 8000, but I do obsess over wearing it when it counts. I started on a walk on Wednesday and wasn’t wearing it. I couldn’t continue … I had to race back home and get it to record the wonderment of my walk. LIke the walk didn’t actually happen if Fitbit didn’t get to record it. Now that’s crazy.

  8. At first I was like…WHAT??? But you make a good case for taking off your Fitbit. I haven’t become too obsessed yet. Wearing mine makes me mindful and intentional about moving. I don’t track calories, water or sleep. But in the last few months, I have begun being kinder to myself in regards to exercise. I have stopped beating myself up mentally when I don’t run or don’t swim or don’t get 10K steps. There’s always tomorrow to try again.

  9. When ever you let the numbers take control of your well being you are heading into a danger zone. If we listen to our own body, it will let us know when things are good for it or not. Scales, fitbits & other counters so easily become obsessive and often cause more problems than good.

    1. I’m the sort that even if my clothes are super tight I won’t realise I’ve put on weight until I see the number – & the opposite. The numbers can be good as a pointer & a reality check – & to push yourself, but when it gets obsessive (as it tends to with me) it’s counter productive in a big way.

  10. I don’t have a fitbit. My husband did until it broke. I just walk when I can and go to body balance (which I love) twice a week. I used to do yoga as well but am not currently. I sit using my computer a fair chunk of the day. I think I too would become obsessive with a fitbit so I won’t go there.

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