Are you kidding me, MyFitnessPal?
Are you kidding me, MyFitnessPal?
Jeff Balke

My (Passive-Aggressive) FitnessPal: Thanks for That Guilt-Inducing Notification

Dieting is frustrating. Not only is it hard work, but it's a grind with pounds creeping off ever so slowly while that apple pie stares at you like sirens calling to Odysseus. There's also the strenuous exercise and the weird way all of it makes you feel, especially around the holidays when all we want to do is eat until we are nearly sick and sleep on the couch during football games. It's as American as that stupid apple pie.

The last thing we need is for our digital world to turn on us, and yet...

A few weeks ago, I began working on losing weight once more. I lost 65 pounds two years ago and had regained a small portion of it over the last six months. I didn't want that to go unchecked, so I got back to working out and decreasing my calories.

During my first experience with weight loss, I employed as many tools as I could to make it easier, chief among them digital technology like apps for measuring my exercise and, especially, counting my calories, while tracking my progress. Enter MyFitnessPal. It became invaluable and helped me truly diagnose my eating habits.

Now, admittedly, MyFitnessPal and I didn't have a super intimate relationship any longer. For most of the last two years, I had maintained my weight loss and so didn't bother to record my every move in the app. But, I started again recently and it was going well until this passive aggressive message showed up on my notification screen. "These reminders don't seem helpful. We'll stop them so they don't bother you."

Um, what? Who are you, my mother? After posting on Facebook, several friends commented about similar experiences. One, after being weighed by her Wii Fitness years ago literally made her avatar fatter. Another said her Garmin fitness tracker taunted her about her lack of workouts on Mondays and when she did a 5k on a Monday responded with "Whoa! You actually moved today! Good job!"

Doing a quick Google search, I found dozens of similar responses from MyFitnessPal enthusiasts with post titles like "MyFitnessPal Gave Up On Me." Even actress Janina Gavankar, a woman who clearly has no issues with physical conditioning, tweeted about it.

I understand that there is motivation involved in working out and eating right, but damn! That's pretty presumptuous, even for an app.

And who exactly is writing these notifications? I imagine someone with an overbearing mother just trying to pass along some of the feelings of guilt they have when mom says to them, "You never call me. Maybe I'll just stop calling you and see what happens."

For me, it didn't really work. I was already in the midst of doing what I needed to do and, as I pointed out to my friends, had just spent the last two days working out hard and eating well, something I actually recorded in MyFitnessPal making the notification all the more bizarre (maybe need to tweak that algorithm there, MFP).

The fact is I turn most notifications off. Who wants to be constantly interrupted with news alerts about the royal family and reminders that there is good Christmas music to listen to on the iHeartRadio app (true story)? But I also never thought I would get fat shamed by my phone. Lesson learned.

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