A Step Too Far. How I have become A Slave To The Fitbit.
There are certain moments in one’s life when things change, perhaps forever.
That particular moment happened to me at around 4 pm on the 27th of December 2018 after returning from a swim in the pool while staying in a delightful hotel in the charming city of Phnom Penh.
On entering our room, enveloped in one of the hotel’s fluffy towels wrapped around my waist, management glanced up from the novel she was reading, studied me for a few seconds and said,” I know you don’t want to hear this but you have become rather fat!”
Mortally offended I retired to the bathroom and spent a fair amount of time studying my body in the full-length mirror. I have to admit it was not a pretty sight as my girth resembled a woman almost at full term carrying triplets.
Quite plainly something had to be done!
Careful analysis of my behaviour over the last couple of years pointed to the root cause of my ever ballooning physique. The reason for this appalling state of affairs has been sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day taking only beer as a form of sustenance.
To be fair though, my fingers are considered to be among some of the fittest digits in the known world.
A few months prior to management’s astute diagnosis I happened to be watching a rugby match in my favourite bar when, after ordering my third (or was it my fourth beer?) a Danish gentleman had the audacity to pat by bulging belly and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Your stomach loves that stuff, its pure, unadulterated, liquid bread”
The man’s Nordic wisdom finally hit home that day in Cambodia’s capital and so, when I emerged from the bathroom I announced in a defiant tone to management that my beer drinking days were now behind me.
“Good for you,” she muttered, not looking up from her novel, “Perhaps you could add a little exercise to your new regime, that might help.”
This, from someone who rises at dawn, runs 10km and then does an hour-long yoga class BEFORE heading off to work meaning a caustic reply was better left unsaid.
A secret What’s app message was sent out to our daughters informing them of my intended, ‘new way of living.’ The result of their scheming led to my eldest daughter, presenting me with a gift nicely gift wrapped and subtlety left on my pillow. Inside was an item that looked for all the world like something the cast of Star Trek would wear while on the Starship Enterprise.
It seemed that I was now the proud owner of a FITBIT, a device that the instructions informed me was the ultimate fitness tracker.
Really, what kind of a gift is a fitness tracker?
I have come to the conclusion that my loved ones were implying that I was out of shape, (true) or lazy (spot on) or perhaps management simply wanted me out of the house? (most likely reason)
The name alone sounds like something you would say when you bash your thumb with a hammer.
The basic premise is that once you strap the device to your wrist (a little like wearing an ankle bracelet supplied for free by various law enforcement agencies around the world) you are technically enslaved.
The cunning device urges you to attain your ‘personal goal’ of walking 10,000 steps a day. Now for me, attaining this basic milestone provides a bit of a challenge, but really, I would assume that there are mothers out there with small children who reach 10K without even leaving the house or indeed, raising a sweat. However, those prone to sloth and procrastination such as myself, this intrusive piece of technology was about to alter my very being.
The Fitbit I discovered is actually more addictive than crack cocaine.
During the first few weeks that I had it, I'd return home after an early morning walk and, when I discovered that I'd taken a total of, say, only nine thousand steps, I'd immediately head out to do at least another thousand or two more.
I even burned off almost 2000 calories one day while trying to avoid somebody in the supermarket.
Management caught me the other night walking around in circles in the dark. “What are you doing?” she asked?” “Oh, nothing, just thinking” I replied. She gave me a pitying look and retired to bed. I meanwhile increased my pace, desperately trying to hit those elusive 10,000 steps before midnight when the devious device would automatically reset and admonish me for being tardy.
You do not own your Fitbit — your Fitbit owns you!
At this point, I feel that it is my civic duty to warn others who might be contemplating purchasing one of these devices of the harmful effects that ownership may entail.
1) You will begin to check your daily progress more than you will check your emails or messages.
2) Fitbit’s data and cheesy messages become more important than the opinions of all human beings.
3) You will constantly find yourself jumping up and down or walking on the spot for seemingly no apparent reason.
…4) You run on the spot for ten minutes or so before getting into bed when you discover that you have not met your daily goal.
.. 5) It’s hardly the most stylish accessory to wear on your wrist. In fact, it rather resembles one of those dreadful digital watches that came out in the ’80s.
6) Charging the damn thing is a chore in itself. One plugs it in and then apparently you are compelled to squeeze it in the right place, stand on your head and sacrifice you're first born until the charging mechanism kicks in.
7) People who don’t own a Fitbit don’t give a toss about the goals that you have met or how many calories you have burnt. In fact, they think that you have become rather neurotic and they are probably right.
8) You wait with bated breath each day for it to vibrate. That’s right. Walk 10,000 steps the bloody thing vibrates and the screen lights up with ‘fireworks’ and the word “ Awesome “ appears above the silly graphics. If one sits for too long it will give a sharp vibration and the word “MOVE’ will appear on the screen. One immediately leaps to one's feet and does 250 steps in double quick time.
9) You discover the true meaning of the concept of slavery for, if you achieve say 20,000 steps the satisfaction is as fleeting as the satisfaction you get from sneezing. The device will cunningly congratulate you and then tell you that tomorrow you can do better!
10) Even if you decide to give up and remove it, it will lie there gently pulsating in a drawer somewhere waiting until you inevitably fall off the wagon. You WILL finally submit to its addictive power and reattach it to your wrist and wait for your daily dose of vibration and euphoric exhortations.
Really there is nowhere to run, but just think of all of the steps you could achieve just by trying !!
Paul v Walters is a writer of several best selling novels and when not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali he occasionally rises to scribble for several international travel and vox pop journals.