Review of Fabulous – an app to help build healthy rituals
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This post is not sponsored. It’s an honest review of Fabulous.
I downloaded Fabulous because I was looking for a routine tracker. I believe that solid routines are essential to my health, happiness, productivity… without them, I plunge into depression, erratic meal times, and insomnia.
I’m also a smartphone user, like most of us, and I like to track things. I tried a couple of different habit trackers, most of them based around simple tick lists. None of them are very exciting or fun.
Fabulous looked and felt different. The website makes the big promise to ‘reset your life’ and ‘rewire your brain’. It’s also science based, and is developed in Duke’s Behavioural Economics Lab. It’s got beautiful imagery, and just feels colourful and vibrant.
So I downloaded the app on the 17th June 2017. Here’s my review of Fabulous after two months of use (Note: review has been updated for 2019).
What is Fabulous?
Fabulous is an app available for both the Android and the iPhone that helps you track habits and create routines. The app is based around the concept of ‘journeys’. Each journey allows you to set a routine up in small steps. The initial, free routine is all about the morning and setting yourself up for the day. The very first habit is small and simple: drink a glass of water upon waking up.
Over time, it adds more habits, chaining them together to create a complete routine.
You can also customise the routines and add habits of your own choice into them.
An alarm triggers each routine at a time you specify. You can set your morning routine to start at 6am, your afternoon routine to start at 1.30 and your evening routine to start at 7pm.
2019 Update: They have also added a new feature that allows you to ask other members of Fabulous questions, e.g. “what are the best stretches for your back” or “what is the best thing to eat for breakfast?”. These questions pop up on the screen every now and then. If I am honest, I have mostly ignored them! Apart from anything else, I’d be wary of taking (or giving) advice to anonymous internet strangers…
Review of Fabulous
For the most part, this is a very smart app. The images, music, and alarms are gorgeous. It allows you to start small, and it encourages you to celebrate your wins.
You can add habits from a library to your routines. This customises the routines to meet your needs.
I like that it forces you to put a timer next to each habit so you can see how long each routine will take. We can often underestimate how long it will take us to achieve all the things that we want to do, whereas this app makes it explicit.
One of the things I like about the app is the library of meditations and exercise routines that come with it. If you have a spare five minutes you can trigger the ‘Make me Fabulous’ button, and pick a meditation, a stretching routine, or even a power nap. This is much more productive than browsing Facebook!
Despite that, the app is not intuitive – it took me a while to figure out how to get rid of suggestions I didn’t want. In also doesn’t cope well with you coming out of the app in the middle of a routine (e.g. if you get a phone call). You end up having to tick things off multiple times. And finally, if you don’t complete the evening routine, it doesn’t ‘vanish’ at midnight but is still open in the morning. I have then ticked off the evening habits, only to discover I’ve done them for the current day, rather than the day before.
Small things like this do interrupt the experience for me, but it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of any other habit tracker I’ve tried.
2019 Update: As of 2019 they have started to really push extra habits and signing-up for the Premium content (Fabulous Sphere) in the routines. I find this quite irritating! However, it’s not enough to make me stop using it.
Review of Fabulous: is the Premium content worth it?
There is the option to subscribe for premium content. This gives you access to extra journeys. I will be honest: this is where the app falls down the most. Whilst their suggested morning routine lined up with my own ideal of a morning routine, I struggled with the next two journeys I attempted.
My issue with the Sleep journey was that one of the habits was to ‘disconnect and unplug’. I am very much in favour of not using screens before bed. Unfortunately, it then asked you to remain on the smartphone to complete the rest of the routine and tick it off.
My issue with the Healthy Eating journey is that it started to label some foods as unhealthy. Some people do well with food rules, but I don’t. And, as we’re starting to see with the rise-and-rise of the ‘clean eating’ movement, that kind of language can trigger and justify orthorexia.
Food is complicated. It’s personal. And an app that tells me off for eating potatoes – equating a perfectly sensible carbohydrate with a mars bar – is not one helpful to me.
The journeys are not particularly flexible. You either complete a habit or you don’t, and an uncompleted habit means not being able to get 100% on a journey. And yet many of the actions are beyond some people.
For example, in the initial routine, it asks you to throw away all your ‘junk food’. This is a sensible thing to do if you want to limit your consumption of certain foods, but it assumes that:
- You have full control over the food in your house. Most of us live with another person, who may not be impressed if we throw away their crisps.
- You can afford to waste food.
- You know what ‘junk food’ is. This is something many people struggle with, given how many conflicting ‘ingredient x is bad’ messages we are exposed to.
The Healthy Eating routine also assumes you want to lose weight. Whilst that is the primary goal for many people, it isn’t true for everyone. My own interest in healthy eating is driven far more by supporting my mental health than it is about my weight. And for many people, maintaining or gaining weight may be more appropriate for their health.
Other issues with Fabulous
The app also doesn’t cope well with ‘sometime’ habits. For example, one of the habits you can add is ‘call your parents’. This then gets added to one of your daily routines. I would suggest that calling your parents daily is overkill for most people. But there is no option to trigger it weekly instead.
I had the same issue with eating fish. As part of the healthy eating journey, it recommends you eat fish three times a week. But then the habit gets added to your daily routine, and you have to skip it for the days you don’t complete. This, in turn, breaks up your rows of green ticks, which is demotivating.
Finally, the app is very time orientated. This is great with wake-up and sleep routines, but is less helpful for things such as eating more fruit and vegetables. With that, you want to be able to track how many portions you eat over a day, rather than ticking it off at a specific time.
Summary of my review of Fabulous
- Smart, simple habit tracking with great visuals and music
- Great for setting up and motivating yourself to complete time-linked routines
- Great library of meditations and exercise routines
- Journeys are inflexible, and don’t take into account different people’s goals
- Buys into ‘clean eating’ language
- Doesn’t let you set weekly or non-daily habits
Overall, I will continue to use the app. Despite my criticisms, it’s still the best habit tracker I’ve found. I won’t use the journeys, but instead develop my own routines based on my own needs.
Decided to give Fabulous a try? Download the app here.
Have you used Fabulous? What did you think?
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