10 Reasons To Delete Your Tracking App Right Now
Tracking apps, like many things, can be a tool for good or evil. Without denying the potential health benefits of apps like MyFitnessPal and Strava for those who can use them in moderation, if you're on this site it's likely that you or someone you love is battling a problematic relationship with food and exercise. If this is the case, it might be time to delete that tracking app. Here's why.
1. It's messing up your relationship with food and exercise
If you are prone to obsessive, anxious behaviours around food and exercise, downloading a tracking app is a surefire way to make this a thousand times worse. The more you track and try to control your exercise levels or food intake, the more controlled you will be by the need to track, calculate and exercise. Tracking apps are all too often a slippery slope, not only to obsessive monitoring of food and exercise, but realistically to over-exercise and under-eating. Numbers are addictive: much like Instagram likes, once the step count starts going up, you always want more. For this reason, apps like Strava and MyFitnessPal often end up doing much more harm than good. Our advice? Quit while you're ahead.
2. It's disconnecting you from your body
Thinking of food and movement as things to be tracked and quantified takes us out of step with our bodies' natural rhythms. If instead of regulating our food using our natural hunger signals, we make decisions based on arbitrary numbers on an app, we stop listening to our bodies' signals and become less able to recognise them. The same goes for exercise: our bodies are generally pretty good at telling us when we need to rest and when we could do with a bit of movement. If we override these signals, we can do serious damage.
Our bodies are smart. They know what they're doing. Trying to outsmart or control them will always be a losing battle. Once you start seeing your body as something to take care of, rather than something to manipulate and work against, everything gets a lot easier.
3. It's built to be addictive
The more of a slave you are to MyFitnessPal, the more time you spend on the app (i.e. the more money they make from advertisers) and the more likely you are to pay a subscription or make associated purchases (i.e. the more money they make from you).
These apps are built to be addictive. They literally profit off your obsession with food and exercise. The more addicted you are to knowing your step count or tracking how many calories you eat a day, the more money they make. Messed up right? We know.
4. It doesn't leave any room for flexibility
Your friend invites you out for dinner spontaneously. You've already planned out your meals for the day and painstakingly calculated them according to the calorie limit you've set on MyFitnessPal. Going out for dinner would mean going over that limit, going against your plan for that day and most likely having to eat something that you won't be able to accurately track in your app.
You have two options. You can either:
a) Say no to your friend and eat the safe, calculable meal you have planned, with the brief satisfaction of knowing how much energy you consumed that day and having avoided the potentially anxiety-inducing experience of eating something without a calorie label on it.
b) Delete the app, go out for dinner with your friend and live your fricking life.
If a) genuinely sounds more appealing to you, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationship with your tracking app.
5. Health isn't a numbers game
Apps that encourage you to measure health (or success or self-worth, for that matter) in terms of macros, calories or step counts are hugely reductive. There is so much more to being healthy than restricting your calories or completing an arbitrary amount of steps each day (in reality, high-nutrient foods that are really good for you are often quite high-calorie). Health encompasses mental health. Obsessively tracking every calorie you put into your body is about as far from healthy as you can get.
6. It strips the joy out of food and movement
Food and movement make us feel good. They bring us pleasure, nourishment, endorphins and social connection. Tracking apps strip away all this. Eating and exercise become chores and calculations, governed by rules and numbers. Eating is meant to be fun, and there's nothing fun about macro counting.
7. Numbers breed comparisons
Exercise shouldn't be a competition (unless you are quite literally entering a competition). The social network element of apps like Strava can very quickly make exercise feel performative. Seeing your stats alongside someone else's can make you feel inadequate, or foster competition: dangerous territory for anyone prone to disordered exercise behaviours.
8. It doesn't reflect the diversity of human bodies and lifestyles
Much like BMI, anything that uses standardised numbers to measure health is oversimplistic. Tracking apps generally don't account for the diversity of human bodies: we don't all need the same amount of calories every day; we don't all need the same amount amount of exercise each day. Some days we need to eat more and move less; some of us, for a whole range of complex factors, need to eat more and move less than others.
9. Humans can't be quantified
Thanks to wearable technologies and tracking apps, we're increasingly coming to view ourselves in terms of numbers: weight, calories, steps. These numbers very easily become confused with our self-worth, with the power to make or break a day.
It's difficult to keep in mind when you spend hours tracking your calorie intake, but your value as a person has nothing to do with the calories you consume or the hours you spend moving. You are so much more than a number. Truthfully, your step count is the least interesting thing about you.
10. You could be doing much more valuable things with your time
Imagine what you could do with all the hours you spend logging your activity on your tracking app. When you're looking back on that time in 5, 10, 50 years' time, how do you think you will evaluate it? Is it time well spent, really?
Instead, you could be enjoying time with loved ones, engaging in activities that fulfil and uplift you, and eating delicious food, without worrying about tracking every calorie in that godforsaken app.