The Lovebit

Ah the ubiquitous Fitbit. It appears to be the season’s hottest accessory – everyone seems to have one. Sure, it could be a convenient tool. The latest version is a slick little wristband that tracks steps, distance, calories burned, etc. But my question is always, “what is the benefit of this information?”

The superficial answer, of course, is that this information (steps walked, calories burned, etc) helps you manage your health. I hear daily conversations between people comparing how many steps they’ve taken or how many calories they’ve burned. One friend even stopped mid-sentence, joking that he suddenly realized that he shouldn’t be having this conversation with me.

But my problem is not with the Fitbit itself. My issue is with its potential to misdirect our attention – to keep us stuck in an ineffective and outdated wellness paradigm by keeping us focused on data.

Whoa there! Before my “data driven decision maker” friends out there get too riled up and defensive, let’s look at this from another perspective.

Let’s suppose there’s this hot fancy new tech toy called a “Lovebit.” This gadget can track all sorts of fabulous information for you. It can tell you how many times you’ve called or texted your spouse. It can even log the messages for you. It can send you reminders about birthdays and anniversaries. This gadget can provide you with all sorts of data, sure. But anyone with any relationship experience can intuit that if they really need an app to tally and report how many times they’ve told their beloved of their affections – the relationship is likely neither happy nor going to last.

The Lovebit, of course, is a fictional gadget to illustrate a single, very important point. Data itself is not the answer. Even data combined with action produces limited results. The secret to creating remarkable results lies in leveraging the power of relationships.

This truth is self-evident in every other industry. In sales, marketing, manufacturing, organizational development, etc. we understand that good relationships are critical for success. Peer to peer relationships, vendor to buyer relationships, manager to employee relationships, board of directors to CEO relationships – relationships are everywhere and they are important. In every other arena we take it as a given that relationships – good relationships – are a critical factor in determining outcomes and in driving success. But in the weight-loss and wellness industries, we seem to still believe that our outcomes are simply a result of our actions – and that better data will lead to better actions.

And that is my issue with the Fitbit. By its very nature, this gadget has the potential to keep you focused on your data. And by focusing on the data, you miss all the other ways in which your body tries to communicate with you. By focusing on data that is generated by some outside technological gizmo instead of choosing your actions based on the information your body itself is trying to communicate to you, you can inadvertently undermine the most important relationship you have – the relationship with your body. And by doing so, this can prevent you from engaging in what truly creates sustainable health and well-being. So if you are going to use a Fitbit, remember its limitations. It can be a data collection tool, but it cannot be a substitute for developing a strong and powerful relationship with your body.