Why Technology Will Not Help You Solve Your Health Problems (Or Lose Weight)
With the growth of the quantified self movement, there seems to be the belief that technology can help us solve our health problems. It won’t.We tend to think that by buying an app to track our personal data, our lives will somehow become better, or healthier, or make more sense. It can’t.
We think that knowing the numbers will somehow result in “clarity” and an action plan forward.
We think that taking dozens of supplements per day somehow guarantees our longevity.
We think that looking “somewhere” for our solutions, which usually are just numbers, will help us know what to do next.
And ultimately, we begin developing the habit of looking somewhere other than our body for solutions that, ironically, are inside our own body.
Here’s why I don’t think the quantified self movement will do much for us.
Technology Doesn’t Help You Know Your (Real) Self
Gadgets don’t help you know yourself.
Do you really need a heart rate monitor to tell you when you are breathing so heavy that you’re almost puking?
Do you need a sleep tracker to tell you when you’ve had a poor night of sleep? Or that you snored for 20 minutes of that sleep?
Do you need a food-tracking app to help you understand when you feel full, or when you’ve over eaten? Or what about when you’ve eaten healthy versus eaten poorly?
Do you even need a scale to tell you how you look with your shirt off, staring into the mirror?
The Numbers Don’t Tell You The Right Kind of Information to Help You
Last year, I was overworking quite a lot and started having heart palpitations every day. One day, after enduring a few months of this, I decided to go to Zoomcare, and go get everything checked out.
We did blood work, EKGs, checked sodium and potassium levels, and yet, everything was normal.
The “numbers” were all normal. I was normal. Nothing was “wrong.”
Well, I sure as hell felt something was wrong, considering I was having heart palpitations every day.
Was that exam worth it?
Did it do anything?
Did it tell me anything?
The biomedical approach is to always look at the numbers on the sheet, and even if the patient doesn’t feel well, assume they are well. Or that it’s just stress. Or that it’s trauma or some psychological issue that needs to be referred to a shrink.
These just aren’t true (at least not in all cases).
Unfortunately, even just in my second year of studying medicine we see this a lot with patients, patients who are told “they’re fine” but they don’t feel fine. They feel sick.
They get the whole ringer of exams, and naturally, everything comes back normal.
There’s “nothing” wrong or “nothing” there.
Which one as the physician are you going to pay more attention to?
Which one as the sick patient are you going to pay attention to?
How you feel, or what the numbers say?
Conventional medicine gets itself in trouble here a lot.
If there isn’t something structurally wrong, it essentially does not exist and cannot be treated – and you need to see a shrink.
The problem is, as a society, we’re already all looking outward.
We look at Instagram to see how we should (apparently) be living and looking like, and what we should be valuing.
We look at our smartwatch to see how many steps we took, rather than internally to see how we feel, or just looking in the mirror.
And we think that having a personal, robotic assistant to yell, “Stand up for 5 minutes, take a break, and do some jumping jacks” is really going to be the biggest win in our quality of life.
But does it really change anything – besides looking outside for the solutions to your problems?