“Toxic relationship” is a major buzzword right now. Between celebrity couples feuding on social media to articles about the dangers of social media comparison, substances, and more, our society is increasingly aware of how our attachments to certain people, things, and thoughts can do more harm than good. And while I’m not sure I can compete with the commentary of the aforementioned celeb Twitter battle, but today I’m throwing my hat into the ring to talk about a “toxic” relationship of my own. It’s not a confessional first-love story, but rather one very true, very complication tale of a girl and her Fitbit.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Fitbit, as in the personal fitness tracker (another buzzword/phrase)?! I was hoping for some better clickbait then this… Before you move on, however, I ask that you stay awhile and let me rewind a bit. I promise it will all make more sense in the end.
. . .
I got a new Fitbit last Christmas, a newer, sleeker model of the version I’d been gifted the previous year. I was eager about my new gadget, particularly because I’d just gotten into running, and liked having an extra “tracking buddy” to record my progress. Not surprisingly, then, the “honeymoon phase” was all about fun and new discoveries, as I relished in setting new step goals and the “buzz-buzz” that let me know I’d achieved my active minutes for the day. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that those first few months helped me pick up some healthy habits: I took more study breaks to pace around my house, and started going on walks on otherwise lazy afternoons. These activities were certainly not my M.O., but the encouragement (and, admittedly, admonishment) from my Fitbit made it hard to resist.
As with all relationships, however, the honeymoon didn’t last forever. Late last spring, I felt some physical insecurities— an ever-present but sometimes manageable part of my life— creep up on my with a vengeance. Suddenly my study breaks involved examining myself in them mirror, and mealtimes were often the scene of breakdowns as I stressed over every item on my plate. It wasn’t long before my Fitbit started to feel less like a motivating companion and more like an ankle monitor that kept me chained to the prison inside my head. I lived by my daily calorie-burning goal, and tried to discreetly control my food so that I never “went over.” I also pushed myself to workout everyday, including sweltering six-mile runs and heart-pounding hot yoga classes. Those around me (read: my parents) caught onto my act pretty quickly, but I ignored their concerns— after all, who knew better than me and my handy, dandy person fitness tracker?
Fast-forward about a month. It’s July, and after a brief break during my vacation, my Fitbit and I are as steadfast as ever. I spend the slow hours at my retail job pacing the floor, trying to meet my goal of burning “x” amount of calories before closing. On the off chance I went to bed without burning my daily goal, I feel asleep to a chorus of self-shame and promises to get an extra-hard workout in the next day. For those of you wondering, no, this was not a pleasant or sustainable mindset. Which is why, last week, I broke up with my Fitbit.
Okay, maybe “break up” is too strong a personification. As of right now, my Fitbit is resting in my bedside drawer, out of commission until further notice. My decision in no way reflects my opinion on fitness trackers in general, but rather a desperate need to address some issues I let fester for too long. My yoga teacher put it perfectly the other day when she said that life isn’t just about becoming, but also unbecoming that which we do not want or desire to have or be. I’ve realized recently that process has more to do deeply entrenched emotions, hang-ups, and thought patterns than it does anything that can be “cleansed” by juice or 10,000 steps a day. With that said, my Fitbit was a physical manifestation of “extra layers” that not only hurt me mentally, but also threaten my physical well-being. And so though it’s just skimming the surface, removing my Fitbit feels like an important step in a much deeper journey.
To borrow a phrase from every teen drama on television, my Fitbit and I are “on a break.” It’s good for us both.