From Fitbits and Jawbone UPs, to MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun, it’s clear that nutrition- and fitness-related tech is all the rage right now, but is it possible that you are developing an exercise addiction to these tools?
Any device that can offer stats about physical activity or track calorie intake with just a few taps to some buttons on a screen is often an alluring and valuable resource to people who are interested in getting real results.
However, despite being praised by many fitness experts, there’s a bit of a dark side to these tools. It’s easier than you think to develop an exercise addiction to fitness trackers and nutrition apps, to the point where it’s actually negatively impacting other aspects of your life and possibly even doing your body more harm than good.
If the use of your favorite tracker or app has become more of an obsession than something used for guidance and support, it’s time to reevaluate your routine. Here are five signs you should watch out for if you want to get the most out of the information your device is giving you.
1. Pushing too hard to hit your activity target for the day.
Some fitness trackers encourage you to set a target goal for the number of steps or points to acquire in a day. That’s all well and good in terms of motivation, but it can cause some people to push too hard on themselves during days that are already busy and stressful enough. Some users may go to extreme lengths just to hit that number goal.
Studies have shown that activity trackers can be fairly inaccurate, so it's important to keep this in mind every time you start fixating on the numbers. If you do two hours of power yoga, chances are all that fluid movement is going to show up as low activity on your tracker, even if you’re drenched in sweat and sore after.
Moral of the story? Always listen to the signals your body are sending you first, and don’t take your activity tracker data too seriously when trying to hit your goals.
2. Restricting calories too much to hit your ideal calorie limit for the day.
There are countless apps out there that help you set a target calorie intake according to your personal traits like height, weight, gender, and weight loss goals. When this is the route of choice, some people who end up buying into the idea that weight loss is nothing but a simple mathematical equation can easily get carried away with restricting their calorie intake too much to stay under the limit that the app gives them.
Educate yourself about how calories really work and how your body responds to excessive food restriction. As soon as you do that, you’ll be able to return to the app and use it more as a planning tool than strict number rules to abide by.
3. Aiming for excessive amounts of activity or too few calories the day after you fell off track.
It’s normal to feel a bit guilty after a day of falling off the wagon. It’s not normal, however, and perhaps even dangerous to try to compensate for those excess calories by trying to work two or three or four times as hard the next day to keep your progress reports in check on your tracker or nutrition app.
Overworking yourself or restricting your calories can cause your plan to backfire by experiencing surges in hunger, cravings, stress, anxiety, and more. Despite those unsightly overages shown on your tracker or app, it’s best to forget about yesterday’s splurge, and start fresh to keep your body functioning properly.
4. Purposefully avoiding certain life events that may compromise your daily activity or nutrition goals.
When the daily goals you’re trying to hit start interfering with every aspect of your personal life, that’s when you know you’re relying on your device way too much. You shouldn’t have to always say no to a night out with friends just to stay within your calorie limit, and it’s a bad idea to permanently avoid going somewhere or doing something you love if it means you’d have to skip a workout needed to hit your activity goal.
It’s healthy to give yourself the freedom to “cheat” on your tracker or app once a week so you can indulge in a favorite food or take a rest day from working out. You don’t have to be chained up to your device at all times, nor is it realistic to believe that you have to work toward your target every single day for the rest of your life.
5. Experiencing withdrawal or anxiety without your tracker or smartphone.
If going without your daily stats for a few hours makes you anxious or worried, then that’s a clear sign you're probably addicted to fitness trackers or apps that you use. It might be subtle or it might be serious, but either way, it’s something you need to get control over to avoid running your body and metabolism into the ground.
It might be wise to take an extended break from using your tracker or app, from as little as a week to a month or possibly even longer. On the other hand, maybe you just need to take one day off a week from using it. You know yourself best, so only you can figure out how to ween yourself off of relying on your device so much.
When you need an extra source of motivation and something to help you stay accountable, trackers and apps certainly can help get the job done. Just remember to be mindful about your habits and follow your gut instinct when you know something might seem a little off in your routine.
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