The dark side of tech

AS PER A STUDY, FIT­NESS TRACK­ERS CAN SPARK AN UN­HEALTHY OB­SES­SION AMONG THOSE WITH EAT­ING-DIS­OR­DERS

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - LIFE - Lisa An­tao lisa.an­[email protected]­dia.net

Since the past few years, fit­ness track­ers have be­come a must-have gad­get among fit­ness en­thu­si­asts and a com­mon ac­ces­sory among the gen­eral pub­lic as well. Newer, sleeker mod­els with an in­creas­ing num­ber of fea­tures keep de­but­ing in the mar­ket ev­ery few months. While th­ese de­vices help keep a track of ac­tiv­ity lev­els and calo­ries burned, and prompt one to budge from their seden­tary slum­ber, if they fall into the wrong hands, they can spark harm­ful ef­fects too.

THE STUDY

Health ex­perts have warned that trendy fit­ness track­ers can spark ‘very dan­ger­ous’ weight loss among those with eat­ing dis­or­ders like anorexia by en­cour­ag­ing ‘per­fec­tion­ism’, calo­rie count­ing and un­healthy com­pe­ti­tion. Th­ese apps can ‘take over’ un­til the de­sire to reach a cer­tain num­ber of steps be­comes an ob­ses­sion. Tom Quinn, di­rec­tor of ex­ter­nal af­fairs of the char­ity, Beat in the UK, says, “With in­di­vid­u­als who are seek­ing, of­ten to re­gain con­trol — per­haps they have low self es­teem, or they’re stressed by other things in their life — ac­tu­ally that per­fec­tion­ism, that de­sire to do ev­ery­thing right can re­ally take over. So any of th­ese apps or de­vices that en­cour­age com­pe­ti­tion, ex­ces­sive count­ing, whether that be on a day-by-day ba­sis, or com­pared to other peo­ple, can be very dan­ger­ous.”

GAD­GETS CAN POSE RISKS

Some­times too much in­for­ma­tion is dan­ger, dis­guised as tech­nol­ogy. Mod­ern gad­gets only tell us about our sleep­ing pat­terns, heart rate, ac­tiv­ity lev­els, etc, but don’t pro­vide us knowl­edge on how to process this in­for­ma­tion for dif­fer­ent age groups, med­i­cal con­di­tions and fit­ness lev­els, which mis­leads peo­ple leav­ing them vul­ner­a­ble to con­clu­sions. Each in­di­vid­ual will an­a­lyse and act on this data dif­fer­ently. Some are happy to know about what’s go­ing on with their bod­ies and aim for im­prove­ment of their fit­ness lev­els how­ever, some fit­ness en­thu­si­asts take it to the level of ob­ses­sion, says Swap­neel Hazare, fit­ness ex­pert and owner of SHIELD.

Fit­ness track­ers, if used sen­si­bly, can be a boon, if not, can be a curse, opines clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and psy­chother­a­pist, Mansi Hasan. She adds, “For some, it does ac­cel­er­ate a ten­dency to be­come ob­ses­sive. It’s a ‘goal to achieve.’ If you’re go­ing to count the num­ber of hours to sleep, think­ing about it it­self will make you sleep­less. Many peo­ple strug­gle with body image is­sues thriv­ing to have the per­fect bod­ies and looks. In such cases, th­ese track­ers can be­come an ob­ses­sion af­fect­ing men­tal health neg­a­tively.”

OB­SES­SION WITH NUM­BERS

“For them, the only thing that mat­ters is the num­ber that re­flects on that screen. The lower their weight, the lighter they feel, even if it is at the cost of com­pro­mis­ing nu­tri­tion. The num­ber of calo­ries burned gives them a sense of achieve­ment even if it is at the cost of over­train­ing. The num­ber of miles run is equated to fit­ness lev­els even at the cost of in­juries. So to achieve th­ese ‘ideal’ num­bers on their gad­gets, they put them­selves at ma­jor health risks,” adds Hazare. He re­counts the case of his 30-year-old fe­male client who suf­fered an an­kle in­jury, as a re­sult of go­ing over­board with run­ning to ful­fill her fit­ness tracker’s daily target but proudly wore it as a badge of hon­our.

THOSE WITH EAT­ING DIS­OR­DERS AT RISK

In­di­vid­u­als with eat­ing dis­or­ders are usu­ally at­tracted to all those tools and mech­a­nisms that prom­ise to help them keep their de­sired weight in check or work to­wards los­ing weight in gen­eral. Such gad­gets might sim­ply ag­gra­vate the ex­ist­ing sit­u­a­tion as the goals are self-de­signed which are of­ten found to be un­healthy amongst those who suf­fer from eat­ing dis­or­ders, says Dr An­jali Ch­habria, psy­chi­a­trist and psy­chother­a­pist.

Some are happy to know about what’s go­ing on with their bod­ies and aim for im­prove­ment of their fit­ness lev­els how­ever, some fit­ness en­thu­si­asts take it to the level of ob­ses­sion

Get a fit­ness ex­pert to help you un­der­stand your fit­ness lev­els and use the data to achieve your goals Mod­ern gad­gets only tell us about our sleep­ing pat­ters, heart rate, ac­tiv­ity lev­els, etc, but don’t pro­vide us knowl­edge on how to process this in­for­ma­tion for dif­fer­ent age groups, med­i­cal con­di­tions and fit­ness lev­els

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