The Amazon Trail: Does virtual communal exercising work?
With the new year comes the new resolve. With the new resolve came the Fitbit.
After knee replacement surgery last year I was given a painkiller that made me constantly nauseous. That took care of the first ten pounds I needed to lose real quick. Since it was awhile before I could swallow anything other than saltines and water, my eating habits changed dramatically. No more night owl snacks. The thought of ice cream became repellent. Fruit pies were the only sweet I could tolerate. Smaller portions were all I could handle.
Then came the lunch when the Fitbit Five sisterhood was launched. The three friends we joined for an uber calorie feast introduced us to their Fitbit Zips, the most irresistible little health gadgets my sweetheart and I had ever seen. One friend described the color of her case as Kermit green. The femme friend had pink. The third friend, a university professor, was still debating about color, which seemed appropriate. I decided I must have the Cookie Monster Blue version.
Those are not manufacturer color names, but they should be.
Our Fitbits go everywhere with us—they have to if we want them monitoring our steps. Forgetting to switch a Fitbit from lounge pants to jeans, from jeans to dress pants, can reach the proportions of epic tragedy: lost steps, lost mileage, despair at our human failings.
Yes, Fitbit Fanatics Anonymous is inevitable.
Sweetheart (Kermit green) discovered that one of our neighbors, slim as she is, uses a Fitbit (femme pink). You’ll see the three of us huddling on the street, pulling on our pockets, comparing progress. The neighbor always has more steps than we do, as does the Fitbit Five member whose professional life involves near-constant walking and who, strangely, hikes long distances for fun. Which only goes to prove that you can be a writer or you can stay in shape as you age.
I have to set an alarm on my computer to remind me to get up and move around.
One of the neat things that can be done with Fitbits—and the dozens of other fitness trackers now out on the market—is connecting with sister Fitbitters on the Fitbit website. I can see all of the Fitbit Five’s daily step totals. (It’s actually the Fitbit Seven now, but #6 and #7 haven’t gone public with their steps.)
Our dashboards give us inspiration.
Does it work, this virtual communal exercising? I think using our smart toys creates a kind of mindfulness (fitfulness?) about our bodies. We’re all busy dykes, but the little thingamajig, and the friends who are in this with me, encourage me to take care myself.
I’ve removed another 23 pounds of weight since the initial ten. My outlook on life is sunnier because, to accrue a respectable amount of steps each day, I walk outside at least two miles most days. In gloomy weather I’ll ride the exercycle. Biking, household chores, exercises and yard work are all logged and juggled automatically to provide feedback. So, the Five joke, you can clip the Zip to your sleeve and up your step count while brushing your teeth.
Of course, none of us cheat (intentionally—you know who you are!). Especially not when we log calories.
I was shocked, shocked, I tell you, by one Fitbit Five exchange in which there was mention of potato chips served in a salad bowl counting as salad. Especially if the dip is called dressing.
As New York Time tech columnist David Pogue wrote in The Scientific American (Dec 16, 2014), “These devices are succeeding not because of their scientific qualities but because of their motivational ones.”
I find it just plain encouraging to sync with a computer and see that I’ve been successful at using more calories than I’ve consumed.
There are disappointing days. The winter holidays are so busy, the dreariness of early darkness so wearing, the wet cold weather creates such physical tension, it’s hard to get up and go.
Then there are times like today. My sweetheart and I found ourselves in a nearby town and walked while there. We hadn’t counted on the temptation posed by the restaurants down at the port. We surrendered to the five-table hot dog joint that surprised us with cooked-to-order barbeque with fresh coleslaw and slow-cooked beans and fries that tasted like actual potatoes.
So we ate all the calories we’d walked, but, our electronic calorie stalker kept us in line the rest of the day.
Fitness devices may be as much of a craze as Instagram, Ugg boots, and Gangnam Style, but I am wearing the clothes that have trekked across the country and back, begging me to slim down so they could be worn again. My beloved workshirts! My carpenter cords! My denim shorts!
Today brought an email from Fitbit the company, announcing two new wristbands. The product names are as appealing as their looks, but my little Cookie Monster Blue Zip, the least expensive, least obtrusive, most basic of them all, will remain my constant companion, my guide, my little bit of fun on the road to better health.
Oh, and it’ll stomp the brake on my reawakening sweet tooth.
“We protested silently by living our lives and loving other women.”April 7, 2017
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