Fitness trackers trigger and perpetuate eating disorders


Fun fact #1: I used to work for a technology company which was all about the positive impact that wearable technology is going to have on our future.

Fun fact #2: wearable technology can trigger and perpetuate eating disorders.

While I worked for this company I started to learn more and more about the psychological dependency that individuals are beginning to have on their devices. For example, I never leave the house without my phone, and I can hardly go 10 minutes without checking it for one reason or another. While this fixation and dependency is troubling in and of itself, the link between fitness trackers and disordered eating is even more disturbing.

Think about it: have you ever used a fitness tracker? Maybe you’ve downloaded an app which tracks your weight loss or food intake. Maybe you’ve joined the fitness tracking bracelet bandwagon and purchased a fitbit or similar device. Personally, I’ve used a variety of “health tracking” apps on my smartphone and I’ve noticed a trend.

Specifically, my use of these apps coincides with disordered eating relapses. The apps might start out with good intentions, but they quickly turn into a point of obsessive data checking and recording. I start logging every single calorie that enters my body and keep track of the calories which my body is expending during any given activity whether it’s walking, jogging, sitting–even sleeping. It becomes an addiction.

Of course, this is not the case for everyone. There are plenty of people out there who use fitness trackers for healthier purposes, but even the best of us can get sucked into the hyper-awareness of fitness and food intake through the use of these tracking devices. This hyper-awareness is where I believe the use of such technology crosses over from normal to disordered.

For this reason, I believe that technology companies have an obligation to educate their buyers about the potential psychological risks involved in the use of their health trackers. If an individual is prone to perfectionism or disordered eating, they should be aware that there is some risk to become obsessive about the use of such devices. While these companies might brush this responsibility off with the insinuation that users should already be aware of this risk, I would argue that most people do not think about this when they are purchasing devices and downloading apps. It took me a long time to realize that my usage of the tracking apps was unhealthy and I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever fallen victim to this trap.

What are your thoughts? Do you think companies who produce these apps and devices should warn consumers about the psychological risks? Let me know below!!




7 thoughts on “Fitness trackers trigger and perpetuate eating disorders

  1. Lyss says:

    Love this post and totally agree! I don’t use any of these apps/fitbits/fitness technology because I find them unhealthy for me and that they detract from my mental well-being. Lovely post Ayla! ❤

    • Discoverecovery says:

      I’m so glad that you know your body and mind enough to avoid things that you know are damaging to your health. I admire your self-assuredness SO MUCH and I love how well you take care of yourself. #Recoverygoals!!

  2. jlstanding says:

    I think the companies should definitely at least be aware, and making people aware would be amazing, but it’s doubtful if making a buck is involved! This made me think though, and I really enjoyed this post.

  3. Still beautiful says:

    Yep totally agree with everything in this post! I can’t use any fitness apps anymore because i find them really triggering which is really not what i need! You’re writing is too accurate Ayla:*

  4. Learning to F.L.Y says:

    Wow, recently i was discussing with a friend who also had an ED weather or not i should get a fitbit. After talking with her and looking around and then doing some thinking of my own and chatting with a few other people i have come to the conclusion that it would be bad for me for this very reason. I often fall into disordered eating and behavior traps through silly ides of using an app on my smartphone. I too get stuck obsessively logging and calculating input/output. I also know that as much as having a gym membership is good and regular attendance is beneficial, that in fact for me in my current head space it inst a good idea as i get stuck having to burn xxx amount before i can leave, and then it feds into the same cycles im trying very hard to get out of.

    Having this knowledge of myself doesn’t make the appeal any less, and i would love to join the crowd, and i dont like trying to explain to others why i dont want to purchase wearable technology.

    I agree there should definitely be some information given to customers about the potential psychological affects. Also though, there needs to be self responsibility- i know that for those who are very stuck in the ED that this is a lot harder- but still as individuals we need to be aware of our own possible traps.

    • Discoverecovery says:

      Absolutely, self responsibility is a must! We definitely cannot place the blame entirely on the technology. That would be a technologically deterministic way of thinking. The technology is not necessarily inherently bad, it’s the way that we use it which can be bad. However, the use of the device is often driven by an obsessive pattern of behaviors which can become disordered. So at that point it really becomes a chicken-or-egg debate. Which came first? The disordered thinking or the technology?

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