Yesterday, I lost my fitbit. After the first few minutes of searching, I realized it was a relief to be rid of it. I started Sunday with a virtuous run and synced the fitbit to my tablet when I got home (9,000 steps). So I know it made it safely into the house. Then, poof, it disappeared as suddenly as if it had been vaporized.
In January, my employer gave out free fitbits to all staff, with the condition that by accepting one, you were then committed to participate in the "fitness challenge," which involved syncing your fitbit with the employee wellness website and receiving a $100 bonus if you logged at least 50 workouts or walked at least 5,000 steps a day by the completion of the challenge. The strange thing is, my fitbit disappeared the day after the challenge ended.
It had become my dark overlord. The last thing I did at night is take it off, and the first thing I did when I woke up was clip it to my pajamas, so as not to miss those first few steps to the bathroom. Steps had become something of an obsession, to the point that the morning I forgot to put it on and didn't realize until after I'd taken Phoebe for her walk, I was almost tearful about it.
I wasn't thrilled about allowing some data collector to have access to my height, weight, age, and activity level; to cluck disapprovingly when noting that I'd lost 0.0 pounds over the course of the week. But it was too late to back out.
Five thousand steps isn't that much--less than two and a half miles for someone my height. I make the 5,000-step goal almost every day with no effort. However, to satisfy the fitbit itself, rather than my employer, you need to take 10,000 steps a day, which is considerably more challenging if you work at a desk all day, although I somehow managed to walk 500 miles (!) in the four months that I wore the fitbit. No wonder I'm constantly wearing through the soles of my shoes.
In addition to the step count, the fitbit sets daily goals for you for calories burned and active minutes. According to my age and size, the fitbit thinks I should burn 2,143 calories each day. I almost never meet that goal, and typically burn about 1900 calories per day. Which is useful information, I suppose, but I've heard that the fitbit has caused people to gain weight because it encourages you to consume more calories based on your step count. For a while, I logged what I ate into the fitbit, but it became a huge chore.
Not only did I feel like I was under surveillance I was frustrated by silly fitbit idiosyncrasies. For example, when I logged my forty-five minute barre class, the fitbit refused to add that time to my "active minutes" total. Barre class is hard and it's outrageous that the fitbit doesn't consider it to be legitimate exercise. On the days that I bike to work, the fitbit doesn't record any steps, which is fair, I suppose, but it makes me look like a slacker. (Conversely, my colleague who rides to work on a scooter says his fitbit logs steps from it. Something to do with the way the scooter makes the arms vibrate.) Now that my fitbit is lost, it will forever be transmitting to my employer that I have stopped moving altogether. But that's fine with me. Exercise has been a part of my daily routine for decades. I don't need an intrusive device to keep me moving.
I will not be participating in next year's Get the Fatties Moving campaign and I am happy to return to a life where I am blissfully ignorant of the number of steps I take each day. What are your thoughts on fitness trackers and employers who track their employees' fitness? In my opinion, it's uncomfortably close to Big Brother.
*PS: I didn't coin the term "fitness shackle." A brilliant blogger I know invented it, but the blog post (indeed, the entire blog) where it first appeared has been taken down.
PPS: Late Sunday night, I spotted the fitbit, wedged between some bottles of shampoo. I didn't put it back on and I'm not wearing it today.