It’s March! It’s so lovely outside these days. Spring is such a fun time of year – flowers, blue skies, everything turning green again, and warmer weather. I have always enjoyed taking long walks outside, especially with my puppy. Walking has become such an ingrained part of my well-being that I feel stressed when I don’t get to walk at least three times a week.
I bought a Fitbit right after my husband and I got married in October of 2014. I heard about activity trackers from a mutual friend the summer before our wedding, and thought a lot about how fun it would be to be able to track your steps and watch your sleeping patterns. And then, when we were in Montreal on our honeymoon, it felt like we walked a gazillion miles every single day. (Seriously. We walked all over that beautiful city.) So, I was curious. I wish I had had my Fitbit when we were in Montreal; it would be interesting to see how much we actually did walk.
I quickly became obsessed with reaching my step goal. I was constantly checking my Fitbit app on my phone to see how close I was to reaching those 10,000 steps. I would walk around the living room at night, in circles, around the couch, to get to my step goal. If I was at the office by myself, I would walk sometimes 15 minutes at a time to get my goal. Seriously, I was obsessed. I started joining challenges on the app. I looked forward to the time of day when my Fitbit would do the vibrating dance that it does when you reach your goal. I synced my Fitbit to My Fitness Pal and watched how many calories I was burning. (I want to put calories in quotes there, because, really, how accurate can that be? I don’t trust it as much as I wanted to.)
It also made me feel extremely guilty if I had a lazy day. Sometimes you just need to listen to your body and rest. But my obsessive personality kept me checking my Fitbit after the third episode started on Netflix.
Only 2,000 steps today? Man, I should really get up and move around. But I’m tired. Then starts the internal dilemma.
Now, I’m not saying that activity trackers are bad. I’m not saying that wearing a Fitbit to motivate yourself to move more is bad, either. That’s actually a really good reason to get an activity tracker. We SHOULD be moving more. But, for me, it became so much more than that. It became a compulsion. If I didn’t have it or if the battery died before I got all my steps, I was internally freaking out. This is not a healthy relationship.
I went swimming with my Fitbit last June, and it very quickly died. I don’t know why I didn’t think of taking it off or why I thought it would survive a few dunks in the chlorine. But, die it did. I emailed their customer service and they sent me a replacement free of charge. Fitbit has excellent customer service, for the record.
But in those few weeks I didn’t have my activity tracker? I felt like I was drowning. How was I supposed to gauge how active I was?!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until a week ago that I realized my attachment to my Fitbit was actually hurting me. This cycle of being very active and pushing myself really hard and then resting and feeling lazy was taking a toll on me mentally.
So, I stopped wearing my Fitbit a week ago. The first day was weird – I kept feeling like it was there under my sleeve, and I kept unlocking my phone to check my Fitbit app (which I had deleted but by habit I kept going to any spare chance I got). But then I went on a walk with my dog. And for the first time in a long time, I actually just enjoyed my walk. I wasn’t concerned with how far I was going, or how many steps I was getting, or how many calories I was burning. I was just there, with my pup, in the outdoors. And I felt free. Free from any expectations I was putting on myself. Free from the guilt and shame I knew I would ultimately feel the next day I decided to skip a workout and let my “steps” be low. It felt nice.
While I’m certainly not bashing activity trackers or saying they aren’t ultimately good, I’m just stating that it simply didn’t work out for me like I wanted it to. I may go back to using it someday, who knows. But for now, it was becoming too much of an infatuation and I didn’t like how that was affecting me.
It’s ok for us to be lazy every once in a while. It’s ok to not put so much pressure on ourselves to reach a certain standard of activity every single day. I’m not going to let that guilt hang over my head anymore and I hope, if you’ve felt that same vicious cycle, that you won’t let it affect you, either.
Do you use an activity tracker? How do you make sure you’re maintaining healthy boundaries with your Fitbit?