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Hi! I'm Daniel.

I like writing, tweeting, sometimes give talks, and occasionally write code.

Aug 21, 2014

Bye Bye Fitbit

About a year ago I decided that I had to do something about my fitness. Since moving to NYC about 1.5 years prior I went from having basketball training two to three times a week and a game on the weekend to basically not doing any sports. Needless to say this didn't really impact my fitness in any positive way. In addition I was also used to eat quite a lot since basketball training had been enough sports so I could easily burn it off again. And while I didn't have practice anymore I was still used to eat the same amount of food basically.

So something needed to change. I had tried running several times, but since I find it utterly boring I never really got into the habit of doing it regularly. Plus there is no real instant feedback from running, so even when I managed to go, I never had the feeling of actually doing sports. Clearly I needed a way to track progress. So the first step was to get a scale. That way I would be able to at least track my weight. I decided to get the Fitbit Aria scale as I liked the idea of syncing it to an account where I can get pretty graphs. I like graphs. The next step then was to track how active I am and what I eat so that I could get a rough overview of general activity and calorie burn. As I had already created an account with Fitbit for the scale I decided to get the Fitbit flex wristband (I later replaced it with the now discontinued Force) to track steps and calories.

Now I had feedback and graphs for what I was doing all day, how active I was, how long/good I was sleeping and I kept track of what I was eating. Having this incentive meant that I would be going running or shooting some hoops for at least 20 minutes everyday before or after work. I also stopped eating everything I found (which seems to be big part of the secret of losing weight) as it would go into my food journal in the Fitbit application. And this worked really well. Over the course of a couple of months I lost about 11 kilos (about 24 lbs) and even had to put new holes in my belt.

But soon after all of this my habit of how I used the Fitbit changed. In early 2014 I decided that I didn't want to work long hours anymore and improve my work-life balance. This meant I took the conscious decision that I would leave work at around 6pm everyday to catch the ferry home. No more staying late unless things are on fire and no more working from home after I left the office. If I wanted to get more stuff done I'd have to get up early. While the getting up early part didn't work very well at the beginning, this now meant that I would go to bed at a regular time (usually between 10-11pm) and get about 9-10h of sleep most nights. This however made my Fitbit sleep tracking basically obsolete for me. I knew that I slept well most nights and if I didn't it was mostly because I violated the rule and went to bed late (or I was on-call and got woken up at night). In addition to that I got a Pebble and was now rocking dual wearables. Which really wasn't a pleasant feeling. Both the Fitbit and the Pebble aren't super big but having stuff hanging on your wrist all day meant that I would come home and take both of because it felt much better not to have anything on the wrists. And that feeling amplified when I went to bed. I felt much more relaxed and less restricted when I wouldn't wear anything on my wrists when I was sleeping. So most days I would take off the Fitbit (and Pebble) when I got home and not put it back on until the next morning (with the exception of being on-call where we use sleep data to improve the on-call rotation). I still liked having graphs about steps, but mostly for the sake of having graphs. I didn't act on them in any way other than occasionally bragging on twitter about how much I walked.

So when I came home from a week of vacation in early July I decided to not put the Fitbit back on at all and see how it feels. And it was great! I felt much more free and less restricted. I hadn't been using the data it collected for anything really in almost 6 months. Plus I never really felt comfortable with the fact that details about my activity and calorie intake live on a server in the cloud. Thanks (partly) to the Fitbit I got back to a good intuition about how much I should eat and how much sport I should do every week. I now go to the gym regularly, have a way better sleep schedule and eat more consciously and more importantly less than 1.5 years ago (although there are definitely improvements to make there still). And if anything is off about food, sports or sleep I notice immediately as I start to feel unwell. This doesn't mean I would never ever use a fitness tracker again. If they eventually end up being less intrusive in daily life and maybe even come with a collection application I can install on my own servers I would happily try it again. But for now it's "Bye Bye Fitbit".