I’ve been hunkered down with family the last weeks, staying up late to watch movies, drink beers and eat leftover cake from Christmas. My WHOOP stats have not been kind in the morning. Today I received a 38% recovery (well below my average), which indicates that I’m not at my best. As an everyday writer and a runner, I can expect my turns of phrase and turns around the track to be less sharp than usual.
At least, that’s the premise I accept whenever I see a poor number on the screen. It’s a phenomenon known as “nocebo” — not a pun, but an actual Latin word: “I shall harm” — that refers to an instance where negative feedback makes one less confident about his or her health. A nocebo effect is capable of superseding however someone really feels in a given moment, and even exacerbate symptoms.
In my case, it means that whatever aches or grogginess I register after a big night feel magnified once I receive confirmation that yes, I have aches and grogginess. There have been times, too, where I felt surprisingly okay the morning after a soccer game, or staying up late to work. But once my wearable tells me I should actually feel like shit, I sigh and fall in line accordingly.
To this point, the conversation around health monitors has been largely positive. As day-to-day wear has surged into ubiquity — nearly 60 million Americans own one, and demand has gone up 10% since last year — it’s been customary to laud these devices for their omniscient abilities. They connect civilians to their personal biometrics at a level and consistency that wasn’t even available to Olympians 25 years ago.