The dark side of tech
AS PER A STUDY, FITNESS TRACKERS CAN SPARK AN UNHEALTHY OBSESSION AMONG THOSE WITH EATING-DISORDERS
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.
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