You may have seen this study on how fitness trackers may not help you lose weight. It certainly made headlines and it certainly got our attention. We mean, how can more info and actual real-time reminders of how much (or little) you’re moving be a bad thing? After using fitness trackers for years, we do feel like they’re helpful (as long as you don’t let them drive you batty). But, it’s hard to ignore research and, you know, science.
So we decided to chat with Dr. Andreas Michaelides, who also studies weight-loss and is chief of psychology at Noom, a holistic weight-loss app. And his take was kind of fascinating.
According to Dr. Michaelides, it all comes down to mindfulness.
“Fitness trackers and other technologies make it easier for people to understand and monitor progress, but these technologies frequently make people passive participants in their health,” he says. “If consumers want more sustainable weight-loss over the long-term, they need mindfulness because it prepares them for the difficult work that is needed for meaningful behavior change.”
So, What Is Mindfulness?
A basic form of mindfulness is having “a non-judgmental awareness with what’s taking place in the present,” he says. “The brain is the reason why weight-loss is either successful or unsuccessful. It’s where all your unhealthy habits live and also where your motivation is formed.”
How Can Your Brain Help You to Lose Weight?
“We have wired connections in our brain that dictate our behaviors,” Dr. Michaelides says. “Changing behaviors or bad habits involves forming entirely new connections or strengthening weaker ones. This requires that the individual practice new behaviors over and over again in an infinite number of ways in order for them to become sustainable.”
Do Fitness Trackers Work for Anyone?
“Fitness trackers are likely most effective for people who are already health- and wellness-oriented,” he says. “Not for those looking to make long-term behavioral changes. Health tracking isn’t behavior change.”
So How Do We Make Long-Term Changes?
“It’s important to understand that the brain’s role in learning new behaviors, practicing them over time and maintaining them in the long term,” Dr. Michaelides says. “This is the key to not only reaching your weight and health goals but also keeping them.
What we’ve found is that behavior change is really hard to achieve and it’s even harder to maintain long term. This requires that the individual step outside of their comfort zone and work consistently at that change over time in order for it to be meaningful.”
Bottom line: It takes more than just tech to make change. It takes brainpower!
Have you noticed fitness gains or lost weight when using a fitness tracker? —Jenn