I really wanted to write this post and offer some perspective on why some people might be finding themselves gaining weight with a Fitbit. This is coming from someone who has used different Fitbit models on and off since way back in 2011. I know my Fitbit stuff and I know what it can and can’t do.
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There were definitely times throughout the years I had gained weight, even while wearing my fitness tracker. There were also times I used it and lost weight. I can tell you the difference between the times I lost, and the times I gained. It really all came down to my motivation and how focused I was on losing weight.
Because let’s face it – obviously a Fitbit is not magic (and this can be said for any fitness tracker). You really need to be consistent in your effort to lose weight and use the Fitbit ONLY for what it is – a tool.
I think it’s all too common for people to underestimate how many calories they’re truly eating. Even if you’re wearing a Fitbit and really active, a calorie deficit is still the key to weight loss.
During the times I put on the weight, I wasn’t focused. I wasn’t really dedicated to losing weight, so wouldn’t track my food. Or if I did track, I wasn’t consistent. I’d only track on my GOOD days. I would see I had taken 10,000 or 12,000+ steps and use that as an excuse to eat what I wanted.
In doing that, I wasn’t fooling myself. I knew I wasn’t going to lose weight. But I did it anyway because I just wasn’t really focused. I was more so wearing my Fitbit out of habit than anything.
And I think now that Fitbit and other wearable technology is getting so incredibly popular, a lot of people are driven to this trend and are getting one thinking it will make them lose weight. It’s important to realize the Fitbit, and other trackers, are only a tool to use when you’re already committed to losing weight. Getting one isn’t going to make you lose weight or suddenly motivate you. These reasons I’m about to list are based on personal experience and observations I have made.
Need extra motivation to lose weight? Check this out (it’s not a diet)
Reasons why you actually might not be losing weight with a Fitbit
You’re not in a caloric deficit – Ok this is the #1 reason – if you aren’t losing weight, you’re probably eating too much. The fact you’re wearing a Fitbit doesn’t make this statement false. Many people see they’ve taken 10,000 steps or more and use that as an excuse to eat anything they want. I have personally done this and tried to justify it many times, but the truth is, you need to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. It doesn’t matter how active you are.
Remember that 3,500 equals 1 pound of fat, so if you wanted to lose 1 lb/week, you’d have to be in an overall calorie deficit of 3,500 a week – or approximately 500 a day. Typically the closer you are to a healthy weight the more difficult it is to lose weight, just because your body is using a lot fewer calories to maintain weight than someone who is 100 or more lbs overweight. That 500 calorie daily deficit becomes much more restrictive when your body doesn’t burn as many calories just to function anymore.
You’re not tracking your food (or you’re underestimating your calories) – Are you actually tracking what you are eating? If you are tracking, are you measuring and/or weighing out your portions? If you aren’t doing these things, it can be extremely difficult for most people to maintain a calorie deficit. It’s so easy to just “eyeball” portions and be off. A serving of oil, butter or peanut butter is NOT a lot!
You think getting 10,000 is a magic number for weight loss – “getting 10,000 steps” for weight loss is a pretty popular repeated mantra – but there’s actually no scientific basis to this statement. There’s no magic step number for weight loss – it depends on how many calories your body is burning and how many calories you are eating.
You’re only focusing on step count and not workout intensity – You can get 10,000 steps each day and burn 2,500 one day and 3,200 another. You see, reaching a certain number of steps doesn’t automatically mean you burned a certain number of calories. Fitbit can detect heart rate and knows when your body is going for a vigorous walk or run, versus the steps you accumulate just walking around your house, or the grocery store, or wherever. How you get those steps matters a lot in terms of your overall calorie burn.
You’re not being consistent – if you’re not consistent in your effort to lose weight it’s going to be hard to get results. If you’re really good Monday-Friday with tracking and getting steps, but go absolutely crazy over the weekend and eat everything in sight, you might be ruining your progress. If you go out drinking on the weekend, alcohol can have a lot of calories!
You’re just not a Fitbit person – with all said and done, these trackers just aren’t for everyone. Not everybody is going to find that seeing their daily step count or calorie burn motivates them to suddenly start exercising more or tracking their food intake. Just because you buy a Fitbit and slap it on your wrist doesn’t make you suddenly motivated to put in the needed effort to actually lose weight. In fact, many might find all the data it provides to be overwhelming and discouraging.
Fitbit can be a great TOOL for weight loss
Personally, I think that Fitbit has amazing technology and the ability to visualize your activity and fitness with data graphs is really eye-opening and motivating. I like being able to look and see how many steps I have taken, and use that as motivation to get more active if I’ve had a lazy day. I think being able to enter competitions with your Fitbit friends and see who can get the most daily steps adds a competitive edge to increase your daily step count.
But in saying all that, none of the amazing technology the Fitbit brand has to offer can make anyone lose weight who doesn’t consistently put in the effort to make it happen.
I think Fitbits are great for certain people, but there are also many others who will just find them not really that useful, or even overwhelming.
If you’re struggling to see the scale drop and are using a Fitbit (or any fitness tracker) it’s much more helpful to see it just as something to help motivate you and remind you to keep moving and be active throughout the day. Don’t use it as an excuse to eat more.
The fact is, you need to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. It doesn’t matter how many steps you take – if you end up eating too much, you won’t see results.
(If you are doing everything right and still have trouble, talk to your doctor. There are different medical issues that can affect your body’s ability to lose weight)