When my primary care physician suggested two years ago that I buy a Fitbit personal tracking device, I had never heard of such technology. Fast forward to today, and it’s become the hottest fashion accessory, more de rigueur than that double strand of pearls for a chic black dress or a high-end print scarf that can be worn multiple ways to complete an outfit.
Initially, I balked at the suggestion, embarrassed that I needed some newfangled technology to motivate me to increase my steps to the desired 10,000 a day — the magic bullet to shed pounds. But I heeded my physician’s advice and begrudgingly bought the cheapest model, a clip-on, but in perky green at least. I programmed it (well, the beau did) so results would show up weekly on my computer. Everywhere I went, Fitbit tagged along like a loyal, inseparable sidekick: up and down the front and back stairs in my two-story Rhinebeck home; to the shops a few blocks away to do errands; to see a movie at Upstate Films where I now religiously avoid buttered popcorn and their homemade brownies; or just for a leisurely, zigzagging walk along residential streets with no purpose other than to increase my steps. For extra credit, I’d walk to the Starr Library, which meant climbing a slight hill; or head over to IXL Health and Fitness, where Fitbit and I hit the treadmill, jumped rope, and performed hundreds of jumping jacks. I imagined the device panting and sweating along with me.
But we also triumphed together as our partnership proved unflappable. Toward the end of each day, I found I was regularly reaching the recommended 10,000 steps. I gleefully remember when I got my first online badge for doing so, probably my first athletic trophy. We soon sought out bigger challenges. Fitbit and I were off for extra laps around the aisles of my favorite Stop & Shop whether I needed groceries or not. We strived for ever loftier goals, first 12,000, then 14,000, and finally 16,000 steps, achieved after jaunts to the fairgrounds or along meandering paths in New York’s Central Park. The pounds started to come off. But Fitbit did even more for me: It became a conversational ice breaker. Many folks, even strangers, asked about the cute “green thing” that was attached to whatever I was wearing. I became a spokesperson for the new technology club I had joined.
But then one day, I took Fitbit off and couldn’t find it. I was horrified. I found myself moping due to the loss of my new best friend and knew there was much less bounce in my step — as well as far fewer of them.
The only solution was to share with the corporate Fitbit bigwigs in their San Francisco office — probably, I imagined, very hip and high-tech — what had occurred. I emailed and explained how heartbroken I was. The gods of weight loss quickly took pity on me, or at least the Fitbit brass did. Within days I received in the mail Fitbit 2.0, gratis and in the same perky green, and soon we were stepping out again.
Not long after, the first Fitbit showed up attached to a T-shirt. I canceled it. A few weeks after that, I tossed Fitbit 2.0 into the wash, a common occurrence I learned. Again I was heartbroken, but knew I wouldn’t get another free one if the rumble and tumble of my washing machine destroyed its inner workings. But this tiny contraption proved stronger than I imagined and survived!
The next day we were out and about again, and I found myself proselytizing about the joys of a Fitbit — and other tracking devices — to anyone who would listen. Recently I encouraged a good friend to purchase one for her significant other who is also striving to get healthier and lose weight. “It’s perfect for someone who needs to shed pounds, track heart beats, sleep patterns, or simply loves to walk,” I rhapsodized. “What’s more, it’s a more creative and personal gift than a flat-screen TV or wireless printer” (what he had given her). But best of all, I explained, “who wouldn’t want to gain a new BFF, especially one that will go everywhere, do everything you suggest, and always cheer you on?”
I’m in for the long haul.