I usually struggle when my parents ask what I want for Christmas. I truly don’t need anything — and increasingly I don’t want anything, either.

But last year was different. “I’d love a Fitbit,” I wrote my mom, “just the basic one, please, in a size small.”

This represented a big reversal for someone who had derided the rubbery bracelets as a toy for the self-obsessed. But after three years of steadily gaining weight, I was desperate enough to try my own tiny personal trainer.

I was a bit confused on Christmas morning, though, when I opened the carefully wrapped package. “That’s it?” I asked, holding up a little oval pellet. The instructions were minimalist: Download the app.

I obeyed, and learned that the blinking lights signaled different modes — and that one of the modes would monitor my sleep. “Look!” I told Esteban the next morning, “I woke up three times, and was restless for 28 minutes.” My enthusiasm backfired, though, because I was soon waking up to check how well I was sleeping.

Fitbit sleep exhibit BLOG

Then, my obsession spread to counting steps. I started taking the stairs at work, and at home I sought the most inefficient methods of perambulation possible (go to the basement, pull a garment out of the dryer, walk two flights to the upstairs bedroom, put the garment away, return to the basement for another garment).

Most days I would strive to have 10,000 steps by lunchtime. It’s not as difficult as it sounds: 30 minutes on the rower equals 3,000 steps, and even the most minor errand adds up quickly when you take the stairs down from the ninth floor.

But in spite of my increased activity — and my super-neatly-folded laundry — my weight didn’t budge. I felt disillusioned. I was walking five miles every day! How was that not enough? I soon envisioned myself as a real-life Forrest Gump, trudging clear across the U.S. in an attempt to feed my Fitbit.

But last month, during my annual check-up, I realized I’d maybe missed the point. My doctor noted that although I hadn’t lost any weight I’d definitely become more active. I felt happier and more energetic, and my blood tests showed I was healthier.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, though, that I got the real payoff.

Fitbit awards “badges” based on your activity, you see. I don’t usually note these awards because I’m not motivated by two-dimensional graphics. But on this particular Wednesday the passing milestones did catch my attention. “Congratulations on earning your first Trail Shoe badge,” said the first email.

Trail Shoe Badge Fitbit BLOG

Then it was the Cleats badge. And the Snow Shoe badge. Pretty soon I’d also blown through the Cowboy Boot and the Platform Shoe.

Fitbit badges BLOG

Honestly, by this point I was a little tired of the chirpy congratulatory emails. And anyway, what if I’d been in distress? I wouldn’t have blamed Fitbit if they’d sent this email instead:

Dear H,
You’re really racking up those steps! Are you attempting a third load of laundry? Are you lost in a corn maze? Is someone forcing you to walk across Texas against your will? Call 1-800-NO-WALK if you need help.

By the end of this particular Wednesday I had walked 25.9 miles (41 km) — for the grand prize of the Blue Suede Shoes. I’ll save that story for another day, though.

The point is that, in spite of my initial misgivings, I’ve become a fan of my Fitbit. It hasn’t made me thinner (or taller, for that matter). But it’s motivated me to be just a little bit more active, and it’s made me more aware of how one factor — such as getting plenty of exercise — can impact others, like the quality of my sleep.

And anyway, I’ve always wanted a pair of Blue Suede Shoes.

Blue Suede Shoes Badge Fitbit

Full disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with Fitbit (apart from being owned by one) and I was not compensated in any way for this post. Except for those blue suede shoes, of course. 😉

21 Responses to “Fitbitten”

  1. Thanks for writing that. It reminded me of a David Sedaris piece on Fitbits (I heard him reading it on the radio. Mr Sedaris is a great hit on BBC Radio 4 over here – the voice of witty, urbane America – a pocket version of Woody Allen)

    All best wishes

    • 2 hmunro

      How funny you should mention the Sedaris piece, Elaine: My friend Tom (whom I affectionately call “The Blogfodder, for all the wonderful reads he sends my way) shared it with me last year when I first got my Fitbit. I remember finding it hilarious, but made a conscious decision to not reread it before writing my own post to avoid unduly influencing my prose. It’s a pity, though, because in revisiting Sedaris’ piece I’ve realized that I completely forgot to say anything about that vibrating thing that happens when you reach 10,000 steps. In spite of how long I’ve had my Fitbit, it still startles me every day — to the degree that one of these days it’ll probably give me a heart attack. But at least I will already have achieved 10,000 steps on that day, so my streak will go unbroken. 🙂 Cheers to you from across the pond!

      • Mr Sedaris lives over here now and his Fitbit feeding litter-picking has led West Sussex to name a rubbish lorry after him:

        • 4 hmunro

          Ah! To have a rubbish lorry named after oneself … no writer can imagine a greater honor. (Big grin!) Thank you for the link to that priceless article and photo, Elaine.

          • At the risk of inundating you with articles – just read this on the BBC and thought you might enjoy it. How the Suffragettes kept fit before Fitbit:

          • 6 hmunro

            Holy moly! I’d never heard even a whisper of this before, Elaine. How fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing this link — you’ve truly broadened my worldview today.

          • This has been a lucky BBC week for world broadening. Hope you can pick up this radio programme about blind sports commentators and blind sports fans If the radio waves won’t stretch across the Atlantic, this article has something of the same flavour:
            Best wishes

          • 8 hmunro

            I’m so sorry I missed your comment, Elaine … I don’t know why WordPress keeps randomly requiring me to approve comments from my most loyal readers. But thank you so much for the interesting links, which I will savor during my coffee break at work this morning.

  2. OMG, H … I love this. I was given the Fitbit for my birthday and I have to say it is quite a good incentive even for me, the most dedicated couch potato ever. Some evenings I’ll check my steps just before midnight and then march around the house to get to that magical 10,000.

    • 10 hmunro

      Ha ha, Sherri! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who engages in pointless house-marching to reach her goals. But as you say, it’s a wonderful motivator. (Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some laundry to attend to. 🙂

  3. I was thinking about getting a fitbit, and your review made it all seem so interesting. If you do not have a smartphone, can these graphs and things be seen on a computer screen?

  4. You actually made exercise funny. Hats off to you and your Blue Suede Shoes. I could never be made (encouraged?) to do this, even with a Simon Legree Fitbit!

    • 14 hmunro

      A Simon Legree Fitbit! What a wonderful (and hilarious) idea. But I’m glad I brought a chuckle — and I hope you’ll enjoy the upcoming post about my involuntary marathon, which took place in Paris. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. Thank you confirming what I suspected: that if I got a Fitbit, my OCD would ruin it for me.

    • 16 hmunro

      I hear ya, Jim: I’m discovering a whole new OCD aspect of my personality I didn’t know existed. But on the plus side, at least it’s a healthy and socially acceptable outlet for my affliction. 🙂

    • Same here! 🙂

  6. 18 Dina

    There as so many benefits to being fit. I’ve found exercising becomes enjoyable when its not focused solely on loosing weight.

    • 19 hmunro

      Well said, Dina! I’ve certainly enjoyed my exercise more in the past month, when it involved exploring a handful of new cities in Europe. Something tells me you might say the same thing? 😉

      • So love this! Btw, when are we going to meet in a European city, we really need to plan a bit better. 😉 xox

        • 21 hmunro

          The timing of your comment couldn’t have been better — or truer — because my husband and I just returned from four weeks abroad. But yes! I will try to do a better job of planning next time so we’ll at least have some hope of meeting up. xoxo

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