Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fitbit: What Does It Take to Make the Body Politic Fit? #AtoZChallenge Letter: F

During April I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Each day, sans Sunday, offers an opportunity to write about a letter of the alphabet with the goal to write 26 posts. April is National Poetry Month.

In January I purchased a Fitbit Flex for myself and a Fitbit Surge for my husband. Although I exercise regularly, the past couple of years I've struggled. Where I used to attend classes at Gold's Gym five to six days a week, this winter I've attended four a week. 
Image via Google Search: Labeled for non-commercial use.
I mistakenly thought a Fitbit would motivate me. I thought that little black band possessed a magic elixir. I soon discovered that as the newness of the device waned, so too did its magic. I manipulate my Fitbit by logging the food I want to log and ignore logging ice cream. I'm happy to log water as I drink a lot of water. The Fitbit smiles at me when I make my goal. 

I rationalize not walking 10,000 steps by focusing on the calories I've burned. 

My Fitbit reminds me of Pavlov's dogs. It is, after all, a form of operant conditioning. 

My Fitbit reminds me of the way politicians attempt to condition the body politic, a topic I contemplate regularly. 

The American Poet Ambrose Bierce captures the nature of politicians and voters in a classic satirical poem. "The Statesman" chronicles the myriad promises politicians swear to voters eager to believe that they, the politicians, will offer a magic elixir to cure them of their woes, many undiagnosed by the body politic or politician: 

As many "cures" as addle-wits
      Who know not what the ailment is!
Meanwhile the patient foams and spits
      Like a gin fizz.

Alas, poor Body Politic,
      Your fate is all too clearly read:
To be not altogether quick,
      Nor very dead.

You take your exercise in squirms,
      Your rest in fainting fits between.
'Tis plain that your disorder's worms—
      Worms fat and lean.

 As with the unfit Body Politic looking for cures from Politician A, B, C, D, and E, I've too often taken my "exercise in squirms." For my Fitbit to work, my "disorder" needs a healthy does of exercise day in and day out. It's up to me to control my fate, to be alive in my awareness of my fitness and not dead to my role in maintaining it. To do that, I need more than the ringing of a bell, more than the smiling face and flashing lights on a little black band. 

Here's the poem in its entirety. It's quite relevant today as it was when Ambrose Bierce wrote it in the nineteenth century. 

The StatesmenBy Ambrose Bierce

How blest the land that counts among
      Her sons so many good and wise,
To execute great feats of tongue
      When troubles rise.

Behold them mounting every stump,
      By speech our liberty to guard.
Observe their courage—see them jump,
      And come down hard!

"Walk up, walk up!" each cries aloud,
      "And learn from me what you must do
To turn aside the thunder cloud,
      The earthquake too.

"Beware the wiles of yonder quack
      Who stuffs the ears of all that pass.
I—I alone can show that black
      Is white as grass."

They shout through all the day and break
      The silence of the night as well.
They'd make—I wish they'd go and make—
      Of Heaven a Hell.

A advocates free silver, B
      Free trade and C free banking laws.
Free board, clothes, lodging would from me
      Win warm applause.

Lo, D lifts up his voice: "You see
      The single tax on land would fall
On all alike." More evenly
      No tax at all.

"With paper money," bellows E,
      "We'll all be rich as lords." No doubt—
And richest of the lot will be
      The chap without.

As many "cures" as addle-wits
      Who know not what the ailment is!
Meanwhile the patient foams and spits
      Like a gin fizz.

Alas, poor Body Politic,
      Your fate is all too clearly read:
To be not altogether quick,
      Nor very dead.

You take your exercise in squirms,
      Your rest in fainting fits between.
'Tis plain that your disorder's worms—
      Worms fat and lean.

Worm Capital, Worm Labor dwell
      Within your maw and muscle's scope.
Their quarrels make your life a Hell,
      Your death a hope.

God send you find not such an end
      To ills however sharp and huge!
God send you convalesce! God send
      You vermifuge.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for introducing me to such a wonderful poem - and as you say as relevant today as it was then - mores the pity! As for the Fitbit - I've been tempted to buy one but have resisted already knowing it's unlikely to motivate me more than my current willingness to exercise.
    Pempi
    A Stormy’s Sidekick
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

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  2. Wow, good poem by Ambrose, very apt for these times. Reading about your fitbit, I once bought a purple bracelet to remind me not to complain for 30 days, didn't work. Or I didn't have the willpower. I am so intrigued w/ your blog, and want to offer (uhoh) unsolicited health advice, which you may not want. But if you do, drop me a line or a comment. I went through a major detox 5 years ago and got lots of energy back. My husband lost 50 lbs over 3 years and it's been 7 years now and he's kept the weight off. I think our food often lacks true nutrition and that's made a major difference in our lives. Best wishes! Maui Jungalow

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  3. I use my Fitbit in spurts. It reminds me to be active but lately I haven't been checking to results.

    Yvonne V

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  4. We control our destinies. That is both the solution and the problem.

    Joy Brigade Minion

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