The other day, the battery on my Fitbit unexpectedly died. It was a new battery, just two weeks old, so it took me by surprise. I wasn’t prepared with an immediate replacement battery. I was also traveling at the time so it wasn’t like I had a stash at home to run to. So there I was, in the middle of an active day feeling naked because my Fitbit died, lamenting all the steps that would go uncounted.
I got the Fitbit Zip about 6 months ago to participate in a work sponsored team walking event. They gave out T-shirts and cheap clip-on pedometers. When I broke the latter immediately after taking it out of the box, I had to find a replacement. I did some quick research online to decide what to get to replace my now broken cheapo clippo. I studied the various options from the various brands that do and do not offer fitness tracking (e.g. a simple step counter that you manually reset and manually record should you choose to track from day to day vs. something that syncs with an app and become the ‘Big Brother’ of every move you do or do not make).
I decided to get the Zip because it would do what I needed (count steps for the then upcoming 30-day walking challenge with colleagues), minimize the effort required on my part to count said steps (auto syncing with my phone/laptop and reseting itself every night at midnight), and was reportedly durable ($60 for a strong clip in a discrete form factor that is water resistant compared to $15-20 for another cheapo clippo that I would immediately also break). Did I need a sleep tracker? I thought “No.” I sleep like crap. I am a trauma surgeon who does most of her academic work in the middle of the night as well. “So what’s the point,” I said to myself. Finally, every day I wear a watch on one hand and a bracelet on the other. There’s just no more room on my wrists for some of the more high end fitness trackers, not to mention that I would have gone insane on the days the fitness band clashed with my choice of outfit.
In the 6 months that have followed, I have clipped the Zip to my bra every day. Yup, every day. My everyday bras, my going out bras, my on-call bras, my sports bras, and my strapless bras worn under ball gowns. I. CANNOT. LIVE. WITHOUT. MY. FITBIT. (And yes, I guess I have a lot of bra categories and no you won’t read about them here since my dad and many male colleagues follow the blog).
So when that battery died, I might as well have been topless. I was a frantic mess knowing that my stroll to the bathroom from the armchair in the corner of the hotel room was not being measured, knowing that my steps around the convention center that day were not tallied, and knowing that my deliberate choice to walk back to the hotel after dinner to repent for the bread and dessert would go uncounted.
Why did losing Fitbit’s diligent counting of my steps leave me feeling so exposed? Why has the Fitbit become the accessory (yes, not a scarf or a particular shade of lipstick for this fashionista) I cannot leave the home without? Because…
1) Fitbit keeps it real. Despite trying to be a fit and healthy person, I was blind to how sedentary I can be on some days, in particular non-clinical days, before the Fitbit came to rule my world. Now, I know the good days and the bad days. There’s no lying to myself.
2) Fitbit changes mundane behaviors. Since my office is 8 doors down from the division’s admin office and 7 doors down from the billing office and since the bathroom is past those two offices, the pre-Fitbit me would have gathered my mail and my billing and dropped it off on my way to the bathroom. Now, I take three separate trips to drop off billing, drop of mail, and answer nature’s call. Some other more obvious examples include parking in the regular garage even when my on-call status allows me to park in the much closer trauma attending parking spot or always taking the stairs on rounds, no matter how high the floor. It’s not like I didn’t know these things before but somehow knowing that the Fitbit is watching makes me more diligent.
3) Fitbit helps overcome mental exhaustion. Mental exhaustion tends to deplete me as much as physical exhaustion. There are days when I have been rather montionless, no where near my daily goal of 10K, but I still feel exhausted perhaps due to a trying OR case or a challenging grant write-up. Before the Fitbit took reign over me, such exhaustion had a 100% chance of leading to me being glued to the couch eating a bowl of chips or a box of caramels if I was lucky enough to go home that night (if on call, it led to the very disheartening inner voice chanting for a quiet call night). Now, most of the time seeing the frowny face on my Zip’s display get’s me to the basement workout room (most nights) or the work gym (if on call) for, at the very least, an easy jaunt on the treadmill or elliptical. All the steps, even a low speed, count.
4) Fitbit provides positive reinforcement on the good days. Who doesn’t want to know that they walked a half marathon a day for three days in a row at Disney? Who doesn’t want to get a congratulatory e-badge for exceeding 40K steps on the same day they get a real medal for completing an actual half marathon? That’s right, I like being congratulated for my achievements and Fitbit’s tracker is a master congratulator for movement related achievements. Go me!
5) Fitbit feeds a competitive streak. Using the Fitbit app one can connect with other Fitbit users no matter which particular Fitbit device they have chosen to track with. We can egg each other on (umm, and also support one another) to see who moves the most in a given week. I love checking the app to see who I am better than in a given week. And if I am doing worse, well see #2 and #3 above. Time to get moving.
6) Fitbit syncs seamlessly with MyFitnessPal. I have been an on again, off again MFP user for nearly two years. When I track, I achieve my weight-related goals, when I don’t the weight slowly creeps up (so yes, in many ways, MFP is to calorie consumption as Fitbit is to moving). I get derailed when I get busy or eat a complex meal because I lack the time or mental capacity to log every calorie in or every calorie out. Manually tracking steps in MFP is cumbersome (not because of the MFP app makes it difficult but because, really, though it is easy to make note of 30 minutes spent walking the dog or running, how does one measure the steps accrued during various trips to the billing office or the bathroom). So, that the Fitbit automatically tells MFP exactly how many steps I moved in any day is truly a tracking victory. And, while MFP allows me to up the calorie out for more intense movement, if I get too busy or forget to log concerted exercise, at least the baseline calorie burn from the steps taken during that exercise is measured with any extra effort on my part.
7) Fitbit is easy. All I need to do is wear it and be near my smart phone to get all the benefits listed above. The device and app do the rest. It’s all uploaded over the cloud to all versions of software. Voila. I am held accountable to myself for my activity or lack of it.
So, without my Fitbit clipped closely to me I wonder about all those steps I may or may not have taken and I feel utterly, completely naked.
[NB: in general the battery lasts 4-6 mos and this was truly unexpected and in no way detracts from my wholehearted recommendation for the Fitbit Zip.]
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