I think I’m lazy and useless – but my Fitbit says I’m not
I’VE BEEN STRUGGLING to like myself of late.
The pandemic is putting its tightest-ever squeeze on my mental health right now, even though most of the newspaper talk is about the good times supposedly just around the corner.
My current wobble is because the world has slowed down so much, particularly in the economic sphere.
In hindsight, March 2020 probably wasn’t the ideal time to launch a freelance career in the UK and – though I muddled along for the first six months – work seems to have ground to a halt recently.
But I just don’t know where the blame lies: is it the pandemic, or is it me?
This uncertainty, and the loss of role and income, are all difficult for me to cope with. I find myself snapping more, fretting more, and telling myself what a failure I am more.
I say to myself that I’m floundering because I’m lazy and useless, and then my self-flagellation spills out into other areas of my life.
Suddenly, I’m not happy with the way I look, or behave. Or the way I eat and drink, and skimp on exercise.
But then I stumbled upon the truth – on my Fitbit, of all places.
Here was hard data to prove I wasn’t lazy”
The little computer on my wrist is always banging on about ‘Zone Minutes’ and, at the weekend, I finally looked up what it meant.
Apparently, we should be spending about 22 minutes a day with our hearts pumping either moderately or vigorously hard – hence the ‘Zone Minutes’ bit – but the Fitbit graphs said I was doing much more than that.
In fact, they showed that I’ve been doing three or four times the recommended amount of work for the past four months.
In other words, here was hard data to prove that I wasn’t lazy and useless: in fact, hyperactive was probably more like it.
Nor was Fitbit only recording the times I went off running or cycling, and generally neglecting my responsibilities.
A lot of what it recorded was activity that directly helped the family – like walking or cycling to the shops, carrying washing up the stairs, or moving around the garden as I dug, and shifted earth and rubble.
There are problems in my relationship with exercise”
Last weekend, I helped do over my father-in-law’s garden – spending long hours wrestling a heavy rotavator around, plus some lifting, raking, cutting and cleaning – and the figures on my Fitbit were almost off the charts.
Of course, this made me very happy: I already felt good and pure for helping out the old feller and making his garden look beautiful, but the Fitbit stats were also pretty gratifying.
In the previous fortnight, I’d burned more than 4,000 calories a day eight times, so no wonder my clothes were starting to feel bigger on me.
Beyond this, however, I think there are problems in my relationship with exercise.
If I do a lot of hard work, or go for a long run, I start to get weirdly overconfident. But when I don’t work out, I imagine that I’m a slob.
When I’m exercising a lot, I imagine that I have a six pack and rippling pecs, and then feel devastated when I catch a sight of my real Dad Bod.
When I’m running or cycling well, I feel sneery and superior to people who don’t run or cycle. But when I fail to get my trainers or my cleats on, I tell myself that I’m getting old and past it.
I use exercise as a stick to beat myself with”
Overall, exercise is a boon for me: it’s done so much to elevate my mood and provide an escape from difficult thoughts over the years that I’ll never willingly give it up.
But sometimes, I can use it as just another stick to beat myself with. I don’t have a true view of the kind of exerciser I am, just as I often have a skewed view of the type of man I am.
Deep down, it all comes down to self-acceptance, and recognising the real ‘me’, which I’m still struggling with, well into my sixth decade.
But maybe the Fitbit can help, a bit…