Technology has allowed people to gain unique information about their nutrition and fitness. Various tracking apps allow people to view the daily impact of their sleeping patterns, fitness levels and what they eat. Having such information readily available to view anytime is meant to help improve health and fitness. Although it can do such a thing, it also creates an obsession over eating habits and reaching certain weight goals. There is concern that health tracking apps are inciting an unhealthy relationship with food and weight amongst users.
Tracking Apps Encourage Obsessive Behaviours
Certain tracking apps require a weight input once a user signs up. The user can then state however much they want to lose and the app tells them how long this can take. Some users are finding that this might take too long for them, so are opting to reduce their calorie intake because it reduces the time predicted to lose weight.
Such attitudes can quickly lead to an obsession with weight and food intake. It can become worse given that app users can access information at any time and repeatedly check for the progress they are looking for.
Indeed, there are benefits to tracking apps. Understanding a concise breakdown of nutritional information can be very helpful in establishing a more balanced and healthy diet. However, tracking food intake requires constantly weighing ingredients, counting calories and avoiding anything that hasn’t been prepared at home where the exact ingredients are known. Such behaviours have been labelled as “textbook signs of disordered eating” which is why there has been cause for concern.
Recording Data Acts as a Reward
The action of gathering data can become rewarding for app users. Hitting targets and tracking what is viewed as the appropriate number of calories can lead to a sense of pride. There is a sense of control that people can fixate upon and become ultimately obsessed with.
Food tracking apps create an ideal where a person’s life may appear more productive a healthier. These apps can work for people, but the concern is mainly with those who have already experienced a disordered relationship with food. They ignite a need to gain control which can be addictive.