I started an experiment with one of my tracking apps called Gyroscope at the beginning of the year. I took pictures of every single meal. For $150 they analyzed all of my meals assigned me a virtual coach to help me improve my total health scores across all categories including food, exercise, sleep and mood. A few days ago my husband physically took my phone away from me and canceled it. The experiment was a failure and it was it Gyroscope’s fault.
Personalized healthcare is a bit of a noble lie. They do give you advice that is somewhat personalized to you as long as your body is within the baseline of what we recognize as healthy. If you are within one standard deviation of the mean then it works great. These tools improve your health. Just remember most of our baseline data is from healthy, young, white, men. This isn’t a woke thing. That’s just the population with the most data.
It’s hard to give someone like me health advice. The basics are designed for otherwise healthy people that need to improve their activity, weight, sleep, and basic nutrition so they don’t become sick in the future. Maybe their biggest issue is being a bit overweight and sedentary. Most people do in fact need to move more and eat less and go to sleep on time. Chronically ill people, or those coping with an acute viral infection, still need to eat good nutrition but beyond the basics it gets more complex what we should recommend.
The coaches at any health app I’ve ever used have kept trying to give perfectly sensible guidance about activity and nutrition quality and lowering stress levels. I am sadly an extremely weird edge case so shit like walk more can actually be bad for me sometimes. Sometimes doing absolutely nothing is actually what someone with my medical history needs. And tracker apps have a tendency to go berserk when I need two or three weeks of bed rest. They go full red alert trying to make me get some exercise when my doctors are tell me any exertion is bad.
The straw that broke the camels back on the $150 a month experiment was getting influenza in May. It completely imploded all of my metrics. As a serious viral infection tends to do. I couldn’t get in any steps as I was basically bedridden. My food intake got weird as I was in Montana with friends and house hunting when I got sick. I had one perfect week of high protein and vegetables and then as I got sicker and sicker it was anything I could be coaxed into eating. There were two meals of milkshakes from Five Guys and that was considered a lucky break. Coughing and exhaustion sometimes means sipping a high calorie frozen dairy product through a straw is as good as it’s going to get.
As my metrics got worse from the flu and tracking food become a pointless exercise, I gave up on even trying to walk my very nice coach through it. There was nothing to be done on assigning me any health activities for weeks. I couldn’t exercise. Meditation did nothing to improve core metrics because I was fighting a massive infection. My sleep was shit because again fighting an infection. My nutrition was hit or miss as my throat hurt and my stomach struggled with new medications.
The renewal snuck up on me. I had wanted to say good bye to the coach. To let her know she tried. To reassure the Gyroscope teammates that my failures didn’t say much about them and how they coached people into healthier behaviors.
I’m a woman with overlapping chronic conditions that got an acute infection and there was no real way to come back from it in a short period of time. But I was still so exhausted and couldn’t bring asking Gyroscope for a pause (a sick break for fitness apps would be a killer functionality though). But my husband remembered the auto-renew date. So he just canceled the entire thing. Boom gone. Fuck off.
I opened the app for the first time in weeks today to at least turn back on the basic tracking so I didn’t lose any data history.
I like how the app does data visualization. I have no clue if I can track nutrition on the base level of product on Gyroscope. Whoever does their pricing tiers has changed it so much I’ve lost track. In the past I found it impossible to input nutrition into their tracker. It was amazing to have the app do it automatically. I relied on their team doing the macros not because I can’t do it myself but because I couldn’t figure out how to physically input it into the app. So I’m a little sad about that. But not sad enough to pay $150.