Is your FitBit making you gain weight?

Photo(1)According to this article on Today.com, countless FitBit users are taking to online forums and social networks to find out if other users are packing on the pounds instead of losing them, and wondering “what lifestyle changes or electronic tweaks they can make so their wristbands work for them.”

(I can tell you right now why “it’s not working”, but just wait and see where the article goes with this.)

The Today article then goes on to provide a few anecdotes from users who gained weight when using the FitBit, some of whom decided to get one to help them break through a plateau after they’d successfully lost weight.

“Because it tracks steps and calories, I thought a Fitbit would be perfect for me as it got harder and harder to lose weight,” she explained. “And since I was walking 10 to 15 miles a day at my stand-up desk, it told me I could eat 2200 to 2400 calories a day.”

Aha. The FitBit overestimates your calories burned, right?

Well, according to the article, that can’t be because “a Fitbit spokeswoman said the company makes ‘the most consistently accurate activity trackers on the market.'” So, it must be because “weight loss is more an art than a science. [!!!] While we might like to think it’s a simple calculation of calories in and calories burned, most of us have numerous, fluctuating variables in our personal weight-loss equation.”

No. Just…. no.

Losing body fat is science. If you don’t have an underlying medical issue, it’s going to come down to burning more than you’re taking in. Period.

I could get into the details about this, but James Fell, CSCS and nationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times
does a pretty good job of it here in this article.

As far as technology has come with fitness trackers, they’re still not completely accurate with their calculations. For example, my FitBit Force overestimates the calories I burn when running by about 150-300 calories, depending on how far and fast I go. I use my Garmin heart rate monitor to adjust the exercise tracked for a more accurate reading. By doing this, my calories-out estimation is pretty close. I even did a 30-day test with it’s weight-loss goal formulation and lost the 2 lbs of fat it told me I would.

But back to the article. Now granted the author DID interview a doctor at a medical weight management clinic who also finds “the tracker may be based on flawed or imperfect underlying equation as there are various ones for energy expenditures,” but not before including this quote from Margaret Wertheim, nutritionist and registered dietitian and author of “Breaking the Sugar Habit: Practical Ways to Cut the Sugar, Lose the Weight, and Regain Your Health”:

“Wertheim says she starts with the composition of a patient’s diet and the first culprit is always sugar and refined carbohydrates, which have a higher glycemic index, causing the body to produce insulin and store fat. “If a person is drinking sweetened beverages or some of the coffee drinks like chai tea lattes, those calories aren’t going to allow them to lose the weight they want,” Wertheim warns.”

Of course. Because they’re loaded with extra calories.

It’s not the time of day you eat. It’s not the carbs. It’s not the sugar. It’s the total amount of calories you are taking in versus expending.

yeahscience

While it’s simple science, weight loss is NOT that simple in execution. Unless you have one of those indirect calorimetry tests and weigh and portion your food properly, making this equation work for you is going to take a bit of work, especially since most of us overestimate how much we’re actually taking in.

Okay, rant over.

Have you gained weight since you started using a fitness tracker? Or has it helped you lose weight? Let me know in the comment section below!