Last month, some dear friends gave Rand and me Fitbits. If you are unfamiliar with the product, it’s sort of like a pedometer, but more judgmental. It keeps track of the steps you’ve taken, your heart rate, calories burned, and whether or not you’ve called your mother recently. Mostly, it exists to make you feel badly about exercising your constitutional right to not exercise.
It also lets you connect with your friends to see who has taken more steps over the course of a day or week, should you need yet another metric by which to feel inadequate in life.
We thanked our friends for their largess, and gleefully slapped the devices on our wrists, not realizing the hell we were about to unleash on ourselves.
And I want to be very clear to those two friends that I appreciate their generosity (the Fitbits are merely the most recent entry in a history of gift-giving, kind gestures, and support) and love them dearly. Also, they are ruining my life and I hate them. Which, oddly, is a very similar feeling I have towards most members of my family, and I really should make a note to discuss that with my therapist.
But I digress. And that, sadly, does not burn calories.
My foray into the madness of Fitbit began slowly. We do not lose our minds all at once but over a series of steps which carry us to the brink of insanity. Forget about being driven mad – I assure you, it can all be done on foot. The first day I wore the device I found myself constantly checking it to see how many steps I’d taken. The Organization for Making You Feel Like Shit About Your Health Choices recommends that you take at least 10,000 steps a day, and also that you stop spreading frosting on everything. Given that I spend most of my day on my feet, and that I walk virtually everywhere in my neighborhood, I assumed that I’d reach that goal after only a few hours (I left the eradication of frosting from my diet for another day, as I didn’t want to shock my system too much. I already take multi-vitamins. There’s no need to go full Gwyneth Paltrow, am I right?)
Here’s the thing: 10,000 is a staggering number. I found that I could reach it on days that I did a three mile run (which I have been known to do on occasion, and not necessarily while in pursuit of an ice cream truck), but that my circuit training classes, despite prompting me to do Google searches like “likelihood of death by burpees” only amassed a few hundred steps over the course of an hour.
I soon found that there was no limit to the things I was willing to do to appease the tiny robot on my arm. Here are some signs that you might be suffering from Fitbit-induced insanity. You may be afflicted with one, or all of them, at any point after you strap that little rubber shackle to your wrist. You’ve been warned.
In my younger years I remember visiting the zoo and seeing an enclosure in which a possum was racing around non-stop, seemingly with purpose yet going nowhere, like Kate Hudson’s career in the mid-00s. I thought the scene was rather hilarious until a sage adult explained to me that its behavior was a sort of neurosis born from being in captivity, or from having to wear Uggs with shorts.
This is not unlike what happens in my home on evenings when I have not reached my prerequisite steps. I will race around my living room, march in place, or attempt to attach my Fitbit to the neighborhood cat/dog/hobo in hopes of attaining my goal. Late one night during a recent trip, I found I had reached 18k steps and decided to shoot for 20k without leaving our hotel room. I paced around like a caged animal, fully convinced that this was how the robots took over in Terminator, but refusing to stop because when you reach 20k Fitbit gives you a little badge. Not a real badge, mind you, but an image of a badge that means absolutely nothing.
15 minutes later, I’d attained my useless goal and the only thing I had to show for it was a pair of sweaty pajamas and the growing suspicion that life is meaningless.
I Would Walk 500 Miles … Just to Beat Your Ass
Unless we’re discussing acceptable movie theater candy, my husband and I tend to get along pretty great. But the second we put on our rubber wristbands, we started to become ruthlessly competitive, like candidates for presidency or contestants on The Bachelorette. One on evening, Rand announced he was going for a walk.
“Wait up! I want to go with you.”
Cue two hours of fighting. Make-up sex involved both of us checking our heart rate to see who had burned more calories.
Intense Hatred for All Your Stupid Active, Healthy Friends
Especially those jerks who live in New York City who think they’re better than you because they walk everywhere. USE THE SUBWAY, ASSHOLES.
Self-Loathing Is the New Black
I’ve been fighting a vicious cold over the last two days (which can be traced back to last weekend, when my mother sneezed all over me without even bothering to cover her mouth. I assume this is payback for me squirming out of her womb 35 years ago. She swears she doesn’t hold a grudge, but her actions suggest otherwise. Ahem.) which means that my grand total of steps has been about what you’d expect from Jabba the Hutt on Thanksgiving weekend. Rather than acknowledge the fact that my body needs time to fight my sickness, I’ve spent the last few days cursing myself and occasionally crying, realizing that no amount of neti-pot rinses can wash away the sense of failure that comes with being mortal.
If You Eat Food, You’re Fucked
But Geraldine, you’re thinking, don’t all of these extra steps mean you are getting into shape?
Ah, one would think so, wouldn’t they? And yet the human body is basically like that weird space between your back molars: it holds on to food whether you want it to or not. The delta of calories burned on a very active day versus a very inactive one is virtually nil. Despite walking everywhere like a peasant I’ve found that I’ve only burned a paltry few calories more than if I had stayed at home and mashed York peppermint patties into my mouth while watching TV.
And guess which activity would have brought me more joy. Guess.
Still, despite all my whining and the firm conviction that this is how robots will succeed in enslaving humanity, I dig my little device. There are so many unknown numbers out there. I have no idea how many times my husband and I have kissed, no clue as to the number of times I’ve uttered the F-word in my lifetime. But now I know how many steps I’ve taken on a given day and how many miles I’ve walked. And yes, every one might take me closer and closer to Crazytown, but let’s be honest: I was probably heading in that direction all along.
P.S. – Thanks, guys, for the gift. No, seriously, thanks.
P.P.S. – I’m not being sarcastic. Really. I know it seems like I am, but I’m not.