At least a couple times during the year I have an existential crisis surrounding all the “fitness” tracking devices I use and the role they play in my “health”. The first one of 2016 has begun! Friends, Readers, Random Strangers On The Internet: I have ditched my FitBit (again) and have quit using MyFitnessPal (for the time being) in order to, once again, for the millionth time in six years, focus on my relationship with my body, my hunger/satiety levels, intuitive eating, and finding joy in movement instead of striving for a certain step count in order to win imaginary competitions with my friends.
I came around to this is a kind of bizarre way this time around. Come. Have a seat. Let me tell you a story!
At the beginning of March I started experiencing some dizzy spells on-and-off as a result of a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo which is a pretty common, though bizarre, thing where the little crystals inside of your inner-ear (no, really!) that determine the effect of gravity on your head/body position escape from their little inner-ear-crystal-pod and start wrecking havoc on your sense of balance! And there’s nothing you can do about it except wait for it to correct itself!
There’s not really a whole lot of explanation for why this happens. Some people get it after head trauma and some people just develop it kind of out of nowhere (like me!) One study suggests there may be a link to the recurrence of BPPV episodes and Vitamin D deficiency (which I have), but experts have said regularly more research needs to be done before they’re willing to list that as an actual cause.
In the past my BPPV episodes have lasted a 1-2 weeks and haven’t really been all that bad with most of the dizziness happening first thing in the morning when getting out of bed and occasionally throughout the day after standing up after sitting for a prolonged period of time. It didn’t really affect my day-to-day life all that much. …but this most recent episode was a doozy! I almost fell over a few times. There were times that it didn’t seem to matter how I was sitting, standing, lying, how my head was positioned… I just always had this subtle feeling of the room spinning around me.
Basically I was just going through every day hoping it would hurry up and go away.
Then, last Sunday, kind of on a whim… I started Googling around for a connection to vertigo and wearing fitness trackers. Lots of FitBit users reported incidents of vertigo that eased after taking their devices off for a few days.
…I was feeling a little desperate. I’m not one to trust internet forum anecdotes over sound science, but it wasn’t going to hurt me to retire my FitBit for a few days and just see what happened. And there is science to suggest some people have a higher sensitivity to the electromagnetic signals from things like cell phones and computers that can cause things like insomnia and vertigo for certain individuals.
Right then, I took off my beloved Flex and put it in my purse. Within three days my vertigo was significantly less noticeable. Today it’s almost completely gone.
I will be the first person to say this is likely just coincidence. But, nonetheless, it got me thinking about my various methods of tracking the way I move and the things I eat and why that data is so important to me and if it should be.
Recent research and studies have shown that people who wear fitness trackers have a tendency to actually move less than they would without – not to mention that almost all of these devices are highly inaccurate when it comes to all those counted steps, sleep quality, and estimated calorie burn.
But maybe most important for me and the way my brain works: comparison is the thief of joy and these various devices thrive on the “challenge” of competing against friends and family to see who can get the most steps in a week and even in the work environment by offering monetary bonuses and credits if you’re the most-steppiest-stepper in the office.
Am I less of a person if I don’t hit my 10,000 step goal in a day? Am I somehow a lower quality worker? (On this my answer would probably be “yes”, but simply because the less physical activity throughout the day the harder for your brain to function the way it’s supposed to – but that’s a whole other essay.)
No. My fitness tracking devices do not define my worth. Just as my fitness level, my body fat percentage, and my food choices do not define my level of intelligence, my sense of humor, or my ability to offer love and kindness to others.
So I’m taking a break. I’m not saying it will stick, as I’ve taken so many breaks in the past and always come back to it. But I’m continuing to “track” my “health and fitness” by journaling about how I’m feeling around food and what is offering me satisfaction from a meal, how I feel when I move my body in certain ways, and how my emotional state affects my choices when it comes to what I’m eating and how/if I’m moving. My hope with these exercises is to one day soon be in a place where I can trust my mind and my body to be in sync with one another that eating and moving are second-nature and not something I really have to think about much at all.