The Curse of the Fitbit

I showed up at work this morning to find that our Finance Director had baked a cake in celebration of the last paper payroll stubs to be distributed to City employees. Finance directors celebrate strange things, but the cake was good. I justified eating this treat by reminding myself that I ran five miles this morning and burned 1,285 calories while traveling 10,767 steps.

Some might wonder how I know with such precision the number of steps I’ve taken this morning as well as the number of calories I’ve burned. I know because of my trusty Fitbit. I’m sure everyone who is anyone knows what a Fitbit is; but for the uninitiated, it is (in my case) a rubber-like bracelet with an electronic monitoring device inside it. The device measures stuff that is collected through a dongle, which magically turns the stuff into essentially useless data about how much you move around. I think Fitbits are a representative symbol of the data-obsessed city manager, and it should not be surprising that my wife felt it was a perfect birthday gift for me this year. Not only does it satisfy my craving for data, but it also is theoretically helpful in a competition I’ve entered with my three sons and my son-in-law.

My youngest son, Patrick, came up with a scheme to motivate all of us to lose weight by having each of us contribute $100 to a monthly pool for six months. The person who loses the most weight collects a hefty $3,000 prize at the end of the competition. I suppose my wife figured the Fitbit might help produce some financial benefits in addition to giving her a svelte husband. Sadly for her, neither goal has been accomplished to date.

Patrick and his brother-in-law, Gabe, each lost over 20 pounds in the first month while the rest of us have taken off about five pounds collectively. I know that I have exercised more than any of the others, but apparently I’ve also been eating more. I guess 470,921 steps in the last 30 days isn’t enough to compensate for the all the food I’ve been unwilling to log on my Fitbit page. I tried entering my food intake for awhile; but it’s boring, complicated, and a little depressing. I have been entering my sleep record, and I was surprised to learn how good I am at it. Last night, I slept for 7 hours and 3 minutes with a sleep efficiency rating of 97 percent. I don’t think I’ve ever dropped below 90 percent; so if competitive sleeping ever becomes a sport, I may be a champion.

I have noticed a few other Fitbit bracelets at City Hall, and I wonder if anyone else has wondered about the absurdity of collecting daily information about steps, calories, sleep, and other activities. Perhaps all this data will be of interest to future generations, and I can almost picture my grandchildren marveling that grandpa took 21,135 steps on January 31, 2015. I hope they don’t wonder about whatever motivated me to record it, let alone care.