The Calorie Tracking Myth: How Fitness Apps Can Do More Harm Than Good [New Study]

Karyl Trejo By Karyl Trejo | 23 June 2019 725 views
effects of health apps

You Might Think A Health Tracking App Is Just What You Need to Reach Your Weight Loss Goals… But New Research Shows These Apps Might Hurt More Than Help!

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These days, it seems like everything has an app.

Want to summon a car to your house to pick you up for the airport? With the push of a button on a smartphone app, you can have your choice of cars to take you to your destination.

Need a dog walker? Click. Now Fido can get his business done without your supervision.

Heck, even your vacuum cleaner can come with an app now. You can clean your house from top to bottom without even needing to get up from your couch.

To say that we live in a digital world would be a serious understatement.

In many ways, smartphone apps can be very beneficial. They can help streamline your life… connect you with your friends across the globe… and even allow you to have your favorite takeout foods delivered right to your front door.

But can digital apps be harmful to your mental health?

I’m not talking about the time-saving ones that can help you organize your workday. I mean the ones that gently nag you to eat right and exercise.

Some of these apps can be an incredibly beneficial. They can help keep you on track with your goals and offer little reminders to make good decisions.

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But do you really need it shoved in your face that you haven’t tracked or logged your food in three days? And what about fitness and activity tracker apps that send those push notifications to try to shame you into working out?

While diet and fitness apps can certainly help you reach your goals, they can also be subtly setting you up for serious self-sabotage, too.

Falling for the All-or-Nothing Trap

Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? Do you have to do things “just right” and get upset and frustrated when you fall short of your goals?

While a burst of inspiration can definitely motivate you to achieve success, it can also just as quickly backfire.

Here’s an example.

You wake up. You make your breakfast: carefully measured portions of scrambled egg whites and whole grain toast with sugar-free jam. Black coffee. You log it on your app.

Lunch follows with the same healthy intentions… But then dinner rolls around and your significant other has surprised you by making dinner. They add a little bit of this, a dollop of that, and a glug of olive oil straight from the bottle.

Was the meal healthy? Sure, maybe it was. Was it low calorie? Nope. Will you be able to track it accurately? Not a chance.

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Suddenly your perfectly tracked day goes out the window and you dive face first into the pan of brownies cooling on the stove. (Also not tracked or logged, right?)

Trying to be completely perfect all the time is only going to backfire. Yes, a calorie counting app can help keep you accountable for your diet.

But if you find yourself binging because you couldn’t track everything perfectly, it may actually be doing you more harm than good.

While you can try to make healthier decisions with your food tracker app, if you let it control your diet, you’ll just wind up miserable… and possibly even heavier in the long run.

Overtraining, Injuries & Fitness Trackers

I’m guilty of falling into unhealthy app behaviors, too.

As a runner, I was extremely excited to download an app called Runkeeper for the first time. I set up my heart rate monitor, synched up my app, and started to closely track my runs.

It started out innocently enough. I would wake up before the crack of dawn to knock out several miles before work.

Then suddenly running just wasn’t fun anymore. I lost the thrill of just getting out there and enjoying it for what it was. Instead, I became obsessed with shaving time off each run.

Seconds literally counted, and if I missed my goal, I’d be gloomy for the rest of the day. Runners are supposed to be happy people (exercise endorphins are a very real thing!), yet I was feeling my absolute worst.

If I missed even a single run, I’d start to worry. Would I start to gain all the weight back? Am I going to miss out on my PR (personal record) on my next race?

Then the injuries started. First, it was shin splints. Then arch pain. I couldn’t walk without a limp, yet I was still lacing up while it was still dark outside… and hobbling out five miles in severe pain.

I was in a very bad place mentally. I started to self-soothe with food. Then I would compensate with another run to punish myself.

Learning to Listen to My Body Again

Then one day I couldn’t find my sports watch or my heart rate monitor. I panicked. How can I run without my fitness trackers?

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I finally left my house with tears in my eyes. I had to run based on how I felt, instead of hitting a goal. I was scared and even somewhat resentful.

However, something inside me changed during that run.

I’ll never know how fast or how far I ran that day, but it made something click in my brain. Suddenly I was listening to my lungs, feeling my legs, and just enjoying the experience of the run.

Today, I can run again for the sheer joy of running. It took time to get to this point, but now I run based on how I feel.

Do I feel good today? Then I run harder. Do my legs feel like lead weights this morning? Maybe I’ll take it easy today instead.

You don’t have to be a runner to understand this.

Do you want to go for a walk today? Then go for a walk… and enjoy it! Move your body for personal enjoyment, not for app satisfaction.

Recovering from App Addiction

More and more research is coming out that shows that smartphones and apps can be addictive. I’m inclined to believe these studies.

It’s taken time and effort for me to break myself of my dependence upon my apps. Today, I try to practice a more intuitive approach to my diet and my running.

Do I still sometimes check calories before going out to eat? Yes, but I use it to guide my eating instead of trying to deprive myself. I strive for balance and eat what I want (in moderation!).

I still track my runs, but more casually now. I may not be the fastest I’ve ever been, but I’m far happier. I look forward to running instead of dreading it.

And no, I didn’t gain all of the weight back, either.

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If you’re struggling with these same thoughts, you’re not alone. Many people are in your shoes, anxiously dwelling over their smartphone apps.

If that sounds like you, perhaps you can benefit from a little bit of self-compassion. Instead of being hard on yourself when you slip up, acknowledge it and move on.

Try to find a place where you can recognize that calories exist, but don’t let them control your life. If you use a fitness tracker, use it as motivation, not punishment.

If you’re struggling, I hear you. I’ve been there.

But you can get where I am today, too. I believe in you.

You got this. You just have to believe in yourself, too.

You Don’t Need a Fitness App Or “Smart Device” to Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals…

After all, people lost weight without the use of smartphone apps for hundreds of years! All you need is some determination, organization, and a plan. ←

That’s probably what you’ve heard over and over, and while yes, it MAY work for some people… you and I both know that once you reach a certain age, losing weight becomes a Sisyphean feat.

Diets fail, cravings happen, and sometimes the weight simply does not want to come off… almost like your own body is sabotaging you!

What you need is a plan that works without relying on health apps… extreme starvation diets… or intense workouts…

 

The Calorie Tracking Myth: How Fitness Apps Can Do More Harm Than Good [New Study]
Close up shot of woman with slim body measuring her waistline and torso. Healthy nutrition and weight losing concept.

How to Melt Off Fat WITHOUT Sacrificing Your Mental Health

The difficulty of losing weight (especially once you get older) isn’t something a fitness app can really address (not yet, anyway)…

Even the most helpful app can’t ensure you eat a healthy, balanced diet and do all of those other things your body needs in order to lose weight.

So instead of trying app after app… if you’re serious about losing weight and keeping it off, you need to go straight to the source: Your brain.

Brand-new research has revealed a strange, simple way to “hack” the brain-body connection…

So that you’ll not only lose more weight, but you’ll also have more energy, feel happier, and be less hungry, too…

And some women are even saying this can boost your metabolism, so it truly is a no-”brainer”:

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