I have been thinking about FitBit and similar devices a lot. A number of friends have managed to shed many lbs. using one of these wrist bands to monitor all manner of things—heart-rate, number of steps, intensity of exercises etc. That surely is a good thing I hear you say. Who doesn’t want to lose weight, feel good and be healthy? Well….
Undoubtedly, I can see that this device has driven them to do things and be very focused on meeting their weight-loss and fitness targets. On the other hand, I can see how this type of device can lead to obsessive behaviour—-to the point where life is controlled by this little device and, paradoxically, the feel good aspect is completely lost because they become consumed by the next set of targets. So at some point, this type of tool ceases to be a support- it becomes a driver which can put our bodies into stress—mentally, emotionally and physically.
Alternatives to handing over power and control of our health and living to FitBit might be to examine our relationship with our own health and well-being. How important is fitness/ wellbeing to me? What does it feel like to be fit and well? What priority do I give it? Approaching aspects of our health maintenance from a relational perspective can be very illuminating. For instance, for a long time, I knew that food was a source of comfort for me. However, on further reflection, not only is it a source of comfort for me, it is also an expression of appreciation from me to another—i.e. if you cooked something for me, my assumption was a) you put effort into it, b) to show you I really appreciate your effort and love, I would need to eat everything and c) I assume that this is what you would expect from me. By examining a bit deeper how I actually related to food, I was able to stun myself into realising that not only my assumptions were crazy but it was bad for my health if I pushed myself to eat when I didn’t really feel like eating (the Vicar of Dibley Christmas Lunches come to mind). Once I understood my own patterns, I was much more able to start experimenting with new behaviours—like only eating a small portion or to say ‘sorry, I am not hungry! Is it ok if I took some of it home? Looks delicious…’ You know, no-one protested. I didn’t lose any friends. Family members still talk to me. Well, maybe 1 person was upset in the last 2 years.
Another alternative to FitBit is to create a vision of a way of living or being that can sustain health and well-being. Within this vision, a key is to understand how you usually sabotage yourself and to remove any possibility of self-sabotage. Often, what is critical here is to set the bar very low—especially if you are an ambitious person. It is counter-intuitive. My vision which I created for myself 3 years ago was to be fit and to do something active every day. I wanted to feel and look good- what this means practically is when I sit down, I do not feel bloated, heavy or carrying too much round the middle. I also want to remain agile and lithe for as long as possible. I knew that in the past, what stopped me from ‘doing something everyday’ was a) the weather, b) unpredictability of work in terms of peaks and troughs and location, c) the hassle factor of getting changed, getting in the car, taking 1.5 hours out and d) a low boredom threshold. So I committed to the following very LOW bars:
1. That I would do a minimum of 10 minutes of something every day—all activities are counted as long as I moved.
2. I will find exercises and activities I can do at home or indoors or in a hotel or conference venue—wherever I am.
The above 2 LOW bars got me moving and allowed a big space for me to choose whatever I felt like each day. It has been the only time in my adult life when I have been able to keep going for 3 years—almost every day. Let’s face it, there were days when I was travelling, sick or just too tired. But those were exceptions rather than the rule!