As you all know, I’m in my third week with my new FitBit unit. Overall, I really like it, and I’m having success in losing weight and getting in better shape. However, FitBt and other sites like them do have some major flaws that I think people should take into consideration.
I don’t remember all of the default numbers from my FitBit dashboard, but I do remember them wanting me to do 30 very active minutes a day and a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. I changed them almost immediately, but a lot of people look at those numbers and think that they have to do that, right from day one. If you’re not already an active person, trying to meet those goals could be bad for your health, and even cause injury. I managed to get over 8,000 steps for two days, and I can tell you that I regretted it. I wasn’t ready, and most people starting a fitness routine aren’t either.
Many fitness oriented sites set what someone has said is a reasonable daily average, but they don’t clearly explain, and sometimes don’t even indicate at all, that if you’re not active already, you need to work up to those goals slowly, not try to hit them right from the start. It may seem like common sense, but a lot of people see those high goals and feel like they must obtain them or they’re failing. It’s part of why people give up on health and fitness routines.
Another problem that I’ve seen, and FitBit is no exception to it, are the calorie goals. I’m on the Easy plan, which intends for me to lose 0.5 lb per week. (Although I’ve lost 1.6 lb in the last 7 days) At that level it has me eating around 1400 calories a day. However, there are higher levels. Medium would have me eat 1150, Kinda Hard would be 900 and Hard would be 650. 1000 calories is the minimum that any adult woman should ever eat, and 1200 is the minimum for a man. Anything that indicates eating less than that is extremely dangerous.
Now, the whole idea (on FitBit at least) is that as you do more activities, you get more calories to eat. However, a lot of people will try to just eat less. I even saw people in the forums talking about how hard it was to eat so little, but they hated exercise so they were just following the calorie goals. Anything under the minimum is putting their body into starvation mode, which is unhealthy and more likely to make them gain weight, since their bodies are afraid to let even a single calorie go. Unfortunately, these sites don’t have bold warnings that you should never eat that little, and their systems don’t have a bottom end where they stop deducting calories and just tell you that you need to exercise more.
I love having my tracker and using FitBit, but I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I know that at a certain point I have to ignore what they’re telling me and be smart. Unfortunately, a lot of people have no previous information, so they take what these sites tell them at face value. It seems irresponsible to me. I think that any fitness oriented site should have clear information and clear warnings to keep people from eating too little or pushing themselves too hard too soon.