Everyone’s talking about fitness trackers lately. According to new research, everyone has been quick to point out, fitness trackers don’t actually help you lose weight. But why? Digging a little deeper reveals how your fitness tracker is tricking you, and how you can fight back.
A new study suggests that some people who rely on fitness trackers to lose weight are actually sabotaging their own weight loss efforts.
Researchers split a group of 470 people into two groups. Both reduced their calorie intake and increased their physical activity for six months. Then they gave one group fitness trackers, and had the other self record their diet and exercise habits. Two years later, they found that the group who used fitness trackers lost less weight than the group without them.
There are likely several reasons for this, one being that fitness trackers just don’t motivate everyone equally. What works for one person won’t work the same way for another. The major problem, though, likely revolves around the fact that fitness trackers track physical activity in numbers, whether it be steps, miles traveled or calories burned.
A major downside to a piece of technology that tells you how good you’re keeping up with your exercise routine, it turns out, is that many people completely ignore a very important weight loss principle. Just because you burn calories doesn’t mean you should make up that deficit by eating more food.
MP’s Take: Here’s the problem: fitness trackers are all based on numbers. If your FitBit says you’ve taken more steps than you usually do in a day, or rewards you for exercising, there’s a hidden side effect. The fact that you’re apparently burning more calories than usual can make you think you’re allowed to eat more – because after all, you burned calories, so the rest “doesn’t count.” Right? Nope. Weight loss is dependent on a calories in, calories out ratio. You have to burn more calories than you consume if you want to drop pounds. So if you eat more than usual just because you burned more than usual, you’re only halting or even reversing the process. Burning more calories doesn’t mean you can eat more. It means you’re making progress. Don’t undo that progress.