I tend to be fairly obsessive when I set my mind to accomplishing something. As of late, I’ve been fixated on the pursuit of healthier living. As soon as I heard that a friend of mine was taking up tennis lessons nashville, I too decided that it was time to step up my game. As an encouragement, Alex bought me a Fitbit, which I’d decided I could not live without after briefly reading something about someone with miraculous, life-changing results. Nothing motivates me more than a shiny new toy to wear around my wrist like a bald eagle’s tracking cuff.
I synced it up before bed so I could take advantage of it’s sleep tracking and vibrating alarm clock features. My sister-in-law summed it up perfectly:
“It vibrates? that’s worth every penny.”
By mid-day the Fitbit had successfully told me several things I already knew about myself:
1. I have the most horrid of sleep patterns— I can spend 6 hours in bed but only sleep for 3 ½ of those, waking at least 7 times throughout the night.
2. I only take about 27 steps between 8AM and 5PM.
Regardless, the Fitbit was already working it’s motivational magic by yesterday– I’d gone to the gym and consumed all manner of high fiber foods throughout the day. I was super proud of myself, but there was one little problem: None of it made any sense.
The meltdown came at 6PM when I sat down to examine all its graphs and gauges. For someone who is not so great with the maths, a visual is usually perfect. This time, not so much.
“But why does it want me to eat 800 more calories? It wants me to gain weight.”
Alex looked over my shoulder.
“Well you still have to eat dinner, that’ll even it out.”
I’d already plugged in all my food for the entire day, but Alex was unconvinced, remaining faithful to the Fitbit. I read aloud the caloric information for every morsel of food I’d put in my mouth. He added them on his phone’s calculator.
“Okay, you’ve had 1400 calories,” he said.
“But it wants me to eat 800 more!”
I began adding random food, living out a binging fantasy to wrack the numbers up. The screen refreshed.
“You have gone over your calorie goals for the day and must exercise more.”
“Oh my God, what is happening!”
An hour had passed and we were no closer to understanding any of it.
“Can’t you just ask your facebook friends how it works?”
“No,” I said, “I can’t let people know how stupid I am.”
I clicked the ‘HELP’ icon at the top of the screen and skimmed through a few articles. It appeared my goals weren’t set aggressively enough. All I had to do was go to “Calories In and Out” then click “Goals” and set it to “Aggressive.”
This would have been helpful if I knew where to find “Calories In and Out.”
“I could’ve sworn I saw it a second ago.”
“Click that other tab.”
“…You know nothing, Alex.”
My relationship with the Fitbit and with Alex was on the rocks. I clicked back to ‘HELP’ and read another article which told me to click a “gear” icon in the top right of the screen. I could actually find this but when I clicked it there was no “Goal” option.
I fell on the ground, moaning and secretly hoping I was burning extra calories.
Abandoning the useless ‘HELP’ section, Alex blindly googled our problem and found a forum with simple instructions. All we had to do was go to “Calories” and click on the “Little Grey Arrow” at the Bottom Left and then Scroll Down past “Summary” and Hit “Modify” and then “Expand” and then Find the “gear” icon and hit “Edit.”
I spent ten minutes clicking back and forth between those two screens, walking myself through the process. Meanwhile my oven’s timer was beeping in the kitchen, alerting me that my uber healthy dinner was ready.
“Wait,” I said, “Why does it say I can eat 900 calories now? Why did it change? I’ve done nothing.”
I could smell my dinner burning. I ran to rescue it, my stomach growling for its promised calories. But I was too late– the boneless skinless strips of chicken breast were shriveled into jerky.
I carried their charred remnants into the living room, where Alex was still bent over the laptop.
“I’ve figured it out,” he said. “All you need to do is eat THIS MANY calories minus THOSE calories and then exercise for two hours every day.”
Now I was supposed to eat only 892 calories a day and spend all my free-time burning 1200? The Fitbit was clearly advocating the development of an eating disorder. I leaned back in defeat, munching on my chicken-strip-beef-jerky.
“What is that?”
“This is my dinner. It has 140 calories.”
“You can’t eat that.”
“Well according to the Fitbit I can never eat anything again, ever.”
“No really, it’s so charred that it’s not food anymore. It’s carcinogenic.”
How was I supposed to trust him when he’d just sided with the Fitbit’s plot to starve me to death?
I googled the carcinogenic effects of burnt food and it turns out it’s true. Everything in my life is trying to kill me.
It was starting to get dark outside.
“We’ve wasted two hours on this,” I wailed. “I’ve accomplished nothing today, my life is a disaster, I don’t know why I even try.”
My psyche was split—half of me wanted to cry, half of me wanted to throw the Fitbit at the wall, and another half of me was mentally composing this blog post. Three halves. I told you I’m bad at math.
Alex was starting to look sad.
“You don’t like your present?”
No way was I going to let him turn the tables on me. This was MY breakdown.
“Everything I do is worthless and time passes and I accomplish nothing.”
“Aussa…” he said, trying to calm me down.
“I’m going to eat the cancer chicken.”
He shook his head at me.
“No you are not.”
“I’m gonna do it, there’s no reason not to, everything is lost and ruined.”
The Fitbit screen refreshed, informing me I’d been granted an additional 120 calories.
“What is happening! This doesn’t make sense, these numbers aren’t real! Are any numbers real? Are they things or non-things? What is this life?”
I gnawed off a bite of the chicken jerky.
“Wait,” Alex said.
I held the strip of leathery meat in my hands, ready to shove it in my mouth at the slightest provocation.
“The day is not over yet,” he said.
I waved the cancer chicken in the air.
“This is no time for melodrama!”
“No, I mean the fitbit—it’s still counting your calories out, it thinks you’ll burn more, it’s not done until midnight. It keeps readjusting because it has to calibrate to your… behavior.”
I squinted my eyes at him, feeling skeptical.
“But… numbers… they’re… time… cancer.”
Alex shook his head.
“I actually knew this already,” he said, “I read it yesterday before I bought it. But you’re so bad at math that you made me bad at math.”
I set the chicken back down on the plate.
“So…the day’s not over yet?”
He shook his head.
“I don’t have to throw up all those baby carrots I’ve been eating?”
“No babe, you get to keep those.”
Do you obsess over health or fitness? When’s the last time something “simple” completely derailed you? Is anyone else this bad at math?
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