Is the Fitbit sabotaging your weight loss?

It could. Be mindful about how you use it!

Fitness trackers have gained popularity in the past couple of years. They’re designed to be more sophisticated, slimmer, attractive – how could you not want one? I commonly come across patients who proudly tell me they’ve purchased one as a symbolic commitment to making a positive lifestyle change. I like the idea of wearing a Fitbit. Humans are genetically programmed to be sedentary so I think it’s important to optimize on anything that will help us MOVE given that our environment is so conducive to resting. 

It may be of surprise then that a new study suggests that wearable technology like Fitbits doesn’t necessarily result in more weight loss than the traditional approach (lower daily caloric intake + increased physical activity + regular monitoring and counselling from a physician). Don’t get me wrong, both showed weight loss at the 2-year mark, but the standard approach resulted in an average of 6kg whereas the users with the addition of technology lost on average 3.5 kgs. 

I suspect that one of the reasons for less weight loss in Fitbit users is that they may be more permissive with dietary indiscretions if they notice that fitness goals have been reached for the day. This is a slippery slope – I think it’s important for patients to be aware of their physical activity for the day but I caution them against using it as a tool to guide dietary decisions. For weight management to be successful, Fitbits need to be used as a source of data rather than a permission tool to eat. 

Healthy ways to use the Fitbit include using it to track goals and as a tool for positive reinforcement. If you reached your step goals, feel amazing by the end of day and end up having a great sleep then let that be a reminder that exercise helped you achieve that. Alternatively, if you’ve been making good strides in weight loss through you diet so far, maybe you’ll notice that your daily steps or physical activity increases which might be a reflection of higher energy levels. 

Overall, Fitbit is a great tool for data collection. Just don’t let it be a reason to think that you can outrun your fork because that’s not it’s purpose.

In good health,

Dr. Sandy

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