Activity Trackers and Eating Disorder Recovery: Are They Really Helpful?
The new and popular way to track activity progress is through fitness trackers. It seems as if everyone has the ever popular Fitbit these days, a flexible wrist band, that comes in a variety of bright colors, that can track your steps, calories, distance traveled, calorie intake, heart rate, and sleep patterns. Although these activity trackers can be helpful in many ways, such as providing motivation, accountability, and goal setting, should everyone own one?
Individuals who are in recovery from an eating disorder can be triggered by the slightest things. Using a device that is constantly reminding them of their exercise progress and caloric intake can ensure relapse. Throughout treatment, individuals are learning how to un-learn their ED behaviors and rituals. Many times, calorie counting and excessive exercising are what they are used to. It can take months to retrain yourself to stop behaving in ways that you have been for years, and unfortunately, relapse can happen in the blink of an eye.
Self-tracking technology tends to reduce health to numbers, and “health” becomes “weight loss”. Numbers are frightening for individuals with eating disorders, and can easily become an obsession. By using this type of technology, an individual can lose their sense of body intuitiveness. We are born with an innate ability to feel hunger and recognize when our body is tired. An individual aiming to reach a certain amount of steps or lose a certain amount of calories each day will eventually no longer be able to recognize their bodies signals.
Calorie Counting Doesn’t Paint the Whole Picture
Calorie counting is not a sufficient way to understand the way our bodies process the food we consume and seeing the number of calories taken in higher than the amount of calories burned can cause feelings of shame and worthlessness, these are the same feelings an individual had prior to their recovery. When more calories are burned than taken in, the trackers will “praise” this behavior, by producing a smiley-face or congratulation. For people prone to eating disorders, activity trackers can be problematic. They give those inclined to over-exercise a new tool with which to monitor themselves, tempting or encouraging them to push themselves even harder as well as restrict their caloric intake.
Try the New Discovery in Recovery App
At Center for Discovery we are happy to share with you our own app Discovery In Recovery™ which is a free iPhone app of practical and user-friendly tools to empower you throughout your journey to eating disorder recovery. The app has been designed specifically for “on the go,” the app helps you to track your intake, practice mindful eating, estimate exchanges though the bar code scanner, engage in joyful movement, and stay inspired. Download it now!