Activity Trackers: Why I’m Not “On Trend”

Activity trackers are “the thing” now—-from the Apple watch to Fitbit, they’re popping up on wrists all over. My wrist, however, will not be sporting one. Why am I not jumping on the “tracker train”?

1. Information overload. I don’t want or need to compete with my friends on a “leaderboard” or log my food intake or monitor “calorie burn” all day every day.

2. I am going to base my eating and movement choices on how my body feels, not on achieving an arbitrary number like steps taken in a day. I enjoy exercise and welcome it as a part of my day but I don’t want to micromanage it. I appreciate the release of tension and stress that can come with exercise, however, analyzing every aspect of it sounds like anything but a release. I frequently hear statements like this: I need to burn X number of calories today so I can eat Y. But guess what? I don’t need to earn the right to eat. And you don’t either.

3. I want to have a different conversation. Can you go even one day without hearing about or seeing mention of dieting? I don’t want to talk about the numbers on your Misfit or your latest juice detox. And when you share this information on social media, what are you looking for? Validation? Praise? Competition? Concern? These endless discussions about our body shape and size and what we’re doing to change it or maintain it are boring. And they diminish our power. How many other, more interesting conversations could you be having?

The pervasiveness of body dissatisfaction is the single greatest commonality between young and older women.¹

Isn’t that heartbreaking? Why is a dislike of our bodies the thing that women most often share (and, I think, discuss)? What if we talked about our talents, careers, books, movies, relationships, joys, world problems? Because after all, as author Lisa Turner wrote, “Losing weight is not your life’s work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater, much bigger, than shedding 20 pounds or tallying calories. What would happen if, instead of worrying about what you had for breakfast, you focused instead on becoming exquisitely comfortable with who you are as a person?”

4. They fail to capture the art of the body. Our health, food intake, exercise—they cannot be adequately explained using numbers. There are deep breaths, and wine shared with friends on sunny patios, and the miracle of childbirth, and feeling empowered and strong after a run, and restorative, blissful rest. I choose to focus on the art, mystery, beauty of the body because I know that my body is more than the sum of any numbers applied to me.

5. Tracker triggers. I will not own an activity tracker because just thinking about having immediate access to that kind of data makes me anxious. As is true for most who have had eating disorders, I can easily become obsessed with numbers and “beating myself” from one day to the next. The potential triggers for those who are at risk of eating disorders are significant; and on the wrist of these individuals (like me), activity trackers are dangerous tools that can pave the “track” to a deadly disease.

So maybe activity trackers work for you. And if they help you achieve balance and movement and even improved health, then “track away.”

But for the millions of us who choose not to use them, please keep your numbers to yourself.

You are not your body,


 ¹Mangweth-Matzek et al., 2006 & Webster & Tiggermann, 2003
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