Love ’em or hate ’em, many of us have some type of gadget we use to monitor our healthy living choices.   Since so many of us have become interested in (dare I say obsessed with) measuring our progress towards our goals with these little gadgets, they remain in the news.  The latest story to catch my eye appeared on the Today Show on NBC yesterday morning.  Yep, those little teasers for the segment covering a woman whose fitbit MADE her gain weight (my emphasis added) really did their job keeping me tuned in to see the story.  If you missed it, here’s the story:

Even before watching the segment, I was pretty certain what the story was going to be about:  users blindly trusting the calorie counts shown as burned as allowable amounts to consume.  After all, we have all heard the Law of Thermodynamics in one form or another–essentially, if calories consumed are less than calories used, weight loss will happen.  This is a generally acceptable starting point (although there are competing theories out there, but that’s for another blog post or newsletter article!).  However, the issue gets cloudy when trying to estimate the calories in/calories out for an individual to generate weight loss.  The article in the link above does a pretty good job examining a number of factors that can throw off this calculation for any one of us; the most glaring factors that can throw these numbers off is our individual differences in metabolic makeup and plain old human error in inputting what we’ve consumed.

“Blindly trusting the numbers on your fitness monitor as absolutes is akin to driving into a lake because your car’s GPS told you to turn right–even though there wasn’t a road there.”

Like our GPS units (which I would literally be lost without.  I mean, literally.  Ask my husband.), fitness monitors can give us wonderful information points, but they are not perfect and human interpretation needs to be applied to the data.

All this being said, I do love my gadgets, and here is why:

1.  I’m really bad at estimating distances and speeds.  My watch, bike computer, and phone apps can all help me be realistic about how far/how fast I truly went.

2.  I’m motivated by being able to look at my progress.  I love being able to look at reports and see my workouts, set goals, and again be realistic about whether or not I met the goals I set.

3.  Convenience.  The fitness monitor I use calculates my activity and drops it into my food journal simply by plugging the USB into my computer.  No missed workouts, no inconsistencies, just the whole truth and nothing but.  Love it!

4.  I’m all about those flashing lights!  When I reach my fitness goal, my monitor has lights that flash in a random pattern–it’s like a party!  So often clients struggle with ways to reward themselves (that don’t involve food!)–my monitor does it for me.  And even after several years with the same monitor, I STILL love to see those lights going on and off.

5.  It’s like having a tiny little personal trainer on my shoulder urging me on every day.  When I have my monitor on I am reminded of my goals and encouraged to stick with those goals.  Didn’t get up in time for my regular workout?  Guess the dog is getting an extra walk, or I’m watching my favorite show while I walk on the treadmill!

6.  A dose of reality.  Understanding the relationship between energy available from a food and the amount of activity required to burn off that energy is crucial.  Even if the numbers are imperfect, I am able to understand the relationship between the true amount of activity required to burn off, say, a glass of wine.  When I truly begin to understand this relationship, I have the key to making smarter choices and truly understanding the impact each food and activity choice has on my day.