They say breaking up is hard to do and well, the same can be said for those devices and technology that promise to make our life easier and wellness goals all the more closer! Our culture is extremely fast-paced and it seems as though all our successes are celebrated by and oriented around outcomes. We strive for As in schools, positive evaluations and promotions at work, "best teachers helper ever" and "star student" awards at school, and mileage time, weights lifted, and pounds lost at the gym. Although these outcome goals can be helpful as it contributes to our motivated behavior, we can develop an unhealthy obsession with meeting these goals and lose out (and ourselves) in the process.
Now, before I go any farther, I definitely want to make one thing very clear. When focusing on wellness goals, fitness and nutrition trackers can be extremely helpful! They provide concrete feedback (many for free), give us instant information about food facts or calorie counts, and give us a gauge of how we are doing. This information can be extremely informative, energizing, and motivating, and there are many individuals who have experienced significant and positive weight and fitness goals by using them! Hooray to that!
However, there can be a very negative side to these monitors and trackers. In a society very concerned with fitness, health, obesity, and clean eating (combined with our Pinterest-perfect expectations), it is not surprising that we feel like we are never measuring up the right way. For a lot of us, we evaluate our self-worth on our perception of whether we have met our device-directed goals. Macros count met?! Check! Healthy food choices?! Yes! Mileage run?! Better believe it! Well, then why does it say we are over our allocated calorie budget that day? Defeat. And why are we still at the same weight despite a week of exceptional exercise behaviors and perfect clean eating. Double defeat.
If we have met our goals, then we feel like we had a "great" day! But if we receive our electronic feedback indicating that we have not measured up in some way, cue our "I-just-wanna-give-up-and-eat-my-ice-cream-and-by-ice-cream-I-mean-the-whole-container-by-myself" type of day. Herein lies the problem. The emotions of a perceived failure can feel heavy, lonely, frustrating, and hopeless. We might respond to our negative emotions by trying to avoid them, which then can cue emotional eating or binge eating tendencies. However, this quickly backfires because we are now really annoyed at ourselves and feel extreme guilt and shame at our behaviors and our body size and shape. We may respond to these emotions by more emotional eating, staying up too late because we are full and uncomfortable, over-exercising, or perhaps we just want to give up on the rest of the day because "we'll just start over tomorrow." Though this promise washes away with the next day as we fall into the same patterns over and over again. We are exhausted, we don't feel good enough, and we feel like a failure.
These repeated attitudes and behaviors can be a vicious cycle, and when we investigate one trigger source, we may realize our fitness device or nutrition tracker is central to this cycle. Although it may seem like we are we are relying on a fitness app to give us fitness, food, or body size feedback, it has extended directly to our self-worth and internal confidence. We literally do not feel like we are measuring up in fitness or in life.
Friends, it is my hope that if you find yourself on a roller coaster of good days and bad days being ruled by your workout, food numbers, or weight on a scale, that you can begin to wean yourself away from these devices that are not helping, but sabotaging your progress (and self-esteem). Any number, whether it comes from a scale, on a fitness app, or in the gym does not determine our worth. It is simply a number that has been prescribed a very specific meaning from culture and within ourselves.
To those that struggle with workout numbers or self-esteem, you are not alone. We often get into workout and food monitoring because we want to be the best versions of ourselves, but unfortunately, can lose a part of ourselves in this process and instead of feeling empowered by our behaviors, we feel chronically disempowered, depleted, and depressed. Talking to a mental health professional, coach, family member, or friend can be super helpful and not as intimidating as it may seem! It can be helpful to examine triggers of guilt, shame, and defeat, including our use of fitness devices, and you may realize that that breaking free can be beautiful, just like you.
If you are someone who is constantly feeling as though they don't measure up to the insane ideals that surround us, you are invited into Dr. Machin's psychoeducational group called The Encouragement Cafe. Here, we discuss these types of issues while providing tangible tips and tools using humor and creativity! She also has a more specific 4-week course, called A Course in Weight Loss, geared toward developing a weight loss mindset that allows individuals to ditch a diet mentality for good. And for teens, she has an e-course called the The #LoveYourSelfie Sisterhood, which combats pressures that many adolescents feel from their physical and virtual realities. You can also find Dr. Machin on her Facebook and Instagram.