20 Feb Trackorexia – A new way to judge yourself?
You won’t find this word in any diagnostic manuals, but the new trend of wearing an activity tracker such as a FitBit, could lead to an eating disorder.
Unlike the bathroom scales, which we can leave at home, the tracker provides an opportunity to judge yourself any given moment of the day.
A desire for control is often a perpetuating factor in eating disorders, and the Fitbit makes it all about the numbers, offering a tool to assist you to control your body with more precision that you ever thought possible. The wrist worn device cares not at all about the psychological wellbeing of the wearer, or the fact that the body would also value relaxation, less stress and sleep.
We know that the body works best with a diverse and nutritionally dense food intake. The energy equation of calories in and calories out is just too simplistic. After years of dieting and food restriction, some people lose touch with the messages their body sends. Hunger and satiety become difficult to recognise, and the only way to improve those skills is to stop and listen carefully and mindfully to the signals your body sends. You have the ability to get to know your body more accurately than any tracking device. Don’t be tempted to neglect this precious skill in favour of being told what to do by a generic device.
Some devices offer an additional level of ‘motivational’ help. Happy faces that turn angry when you haven’t reaching a specific activity level, and messages that urge you to ‘control yourself’. How is it possible to start to feel good about yourself and your body whilst receiving messages that keep telling you that you’re not good enough. This is entirely the wrong message to send to people who have already poor body image and low self-compassion.
The little buzzes, smiley faces, and messages the device sends when you are exceeding its expectations can incite a Pavlovian reaction and encourages the wearer to develop a strong emotional connection to the device and become dependent on its praise giving abilities.
If you feel inclined to move you body because it feels good and energises you, or if you decide not to have a slice of chocolate cake because your body feels feel and satisfied already, then I believe you are in a healthy relationship, and I wish you and your body a long and happy life together.
However, if something strapped to your wrist is saying you’re not good enough, fit enough, or thin enough, then perhaps you need to say “sorry, it’s over. It’s not me….it’s you!”