My week using a fitness tracker

You can’t always count on counting calories

Image by: Christian Smith

As someone who occasionally polishes off family-sized bags of chips without help, spending a week tracking what I ate wasn’t something I was looking forward to. 

I started this fitness app challenge with the goal of finding motivation to eat better and exercise and I found the cons outweighed the pros — pun not intended.

Overall, I would say my fitness is stuck somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between active and sloth-like. So for this challenge, the focus wasn’t to lose weight, but to make better choices with my diet,  exercise and see if tracking those choices would help motivate me to improve my lifestyle.

MyFitnessPal is an app that uses a diary format to log your caloric intake and your caloric output for each day with a goal of a certain number of calories. It uses your Body Mass Index to give an estimate of how many calories you need to consume each day to reach the goal you’ve set. 

On paper, this makes perfect sense. My issue with actually using this app for a week was how difficult matching that number can actually be, and how many other things factor into your health than a number. 

Using the app is simple, but time consuming. Everything I snacked on, from an apple to a goldfish cracker, had to be documented if I wanted accurate results. 

Realizing exactly how many different times a day I ate was a little shocking. 

The app would warn me if I was getting close to my limit on sugar or fat and updated the big numbers at the top of the screen to show me how many calories I had left to spend. 

If I wanted to eat more, I had to make the calories up in exercise. 

Since I usually enjoy cardio, this wasn’t too hard at first. But by the end of the week, my daily run felt more like a chore than an activity, and I’d never wanted to do it less. 

I did more strength training than I ever had before, but for the sole purpose of eating another cookie. 

The app did give me motivation to change my habits, but the longer I used it the more my approach to food and exercise became about addition and subtraction rather than feeling good. 

While the app made me feel momentarily gratified when I ate a healthy meal or had a great workout, its format made me feel guiltier, deprived and obsessed with superficial numbers than I ever want to be. 

My experience turned me away from fitness apps for the most part. What it did lead me to was an alternative kind of exercise app that motivated me to exercise without using guilt. 

CharityMiles is an app that let’s you log your run, jog, or walk for distance travelled, and earn money for a charity of your choice as you go. The further you go, the more you raise. 

No run is a waste, even if it wasn’t your best. Every time I go for my daily run I feel good about finishing, no matter how slow or short it was. It won’t guilt you for not going when you don’t feel up to it, but will instead give you a pat on the shoulder when you do. 

After seeing just how bad certain foods in my diet were, I’ll be more discerning about my food choices. But I’ll certainly not miss refereeing my life. 

In my case, positive reinforcement was the approach that worked in getting me some motivation for a fitter life.


Apps, Fitness, Health, Lifestyle

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