When it comes to habits, there’s a fine line between self-improvement and obsession. I thought I’d lower my weight, increase my strength, and improve my health all around when I got a pedometer, replaced it with a more sophisticated pedometer, and then a Fitbit a couple of seasons ago. When I bought a new iPhone at Best Buy last spring, I couldn’t resist purchasing the incentive. How could I turn down the bargain of a lifetime, a three hundred dollar Apple watch for forty nine dollars.
Long before the watch, I’d been obsessed with getting in my daily ten thousand steps. Now, with the Apple, steps are but a footnote. The watch measures three things: the number of times a day you stand and move for at least a minute every hour, whether you do, minimally, a half hour of vigorous exercise daily, and how many active calories you’ve burned.
It keeps a record of the number of days in a row you achieve your goals. At first I liked this feature, feeling proud as I watched the number soar, and doing whatever it took to make this happen. I’ve jogged in a restaurant’s bathroom, walked for a minute at three in the morning when awake for a bathroom trip, and gotten up from a sick bed to run around my apartment and meet my goals. Apparently, it’s only important to me to meet those goals; it doesn’t matter how. After an hour and a half trip to visit my daughter, I’m exhausted. So I strap my watch onto Liam’s arm and let a nine year old do his thing. Up, up go the numbers. At home if I’m sleepy, I’ve been known to wear my watch in bed and shake my arm as I watch television. As smart as the watch is, it’s not smarter than I am. I fool it every time. All my activity numbers rise as I relax.
I’ve never let a day filled with sitting in a writing class followed by a leisurely lunch in a diner keep me from my appointed rounds. I’d simply catch up on my phone calls when I got home, and jog around my apartment as I chatted. Most days I went to Jazzercise, then completed my goals by doing whatever it took.
By yesterday I’d achieved all three goals one hundred eighty three days in a row… virtually every day since I bought the watch. Obsession is the only explanation for my neurotic behavior, since any benefit I’ve achieved is not obvious; I gained seven pounds in the process. Maybe it’s the weight gain that finally disillusioned me. Previously I looked forward to the watch’s message: “Congratulations! You have met all your goals for 183 days. Good job!” Pats on the back, even virtual ones, mean a lot to me, so I didn’t want to take time off and lose momentum. But pressure was building because there’s no end in sight.
I’m not sure when my pride morphed into entrapment, but when I woke up this morning I was done. Instead of plotting how I would achieve my daily goals, I lay in bed thinking NO. I cannot do this one more day. I went to dinner, sat through an interminable movie, and otherwise remained immobile. Happily and sadly, the witch is dead. I don’t have to meet my goals tomorrow to keep my record intact. Less exercise, or really, fewer obsessions, is my 2017 resolution and I’m proud that to this day I achieved success.
Addendum– It’s been two weeks and I struggle. I still compulsively want to meet the possibly random goals Apple sets for me. I check my watch dozens of times a day and mentally compute how to reach the magic numbers. Sometimes I force myself to exercise moderately and not worry about fake goals, but I have a combined feeling of accomplishment and unease on those days. Am I meeting my objectives when I exercise or when I don’t? I’m confused.