Help! My wristwatch is scaring the pants off me

To be absolutely accurate it’s not just a wristwatch it’s one of those fitness monitors that apart from telling the time also lets me know how many calories I have burnt, how many steps I have taken, how good my sleep is and a number of other things beside. I have been wearing this gizmo for a few days now and I can tell you, as a psychologist, that I’m starting to feel both anxious and depressed. According to this wonderful piece of high-tech machinery, this equivalent to being handcuffed to nagging health prevention nurse, I’m not cutting the mustard. Try as I might, I cannot seem to meet this machine’s goals and I’m beginning to know just how someone belonging to dieting club must feel as they look at the scales and see pointer quickly pass over where it’s supposed to stop. 

Up until yesterday I have to admit that my thoughts were taking me along a devious path. Just like my dieting friend deciding to cut off most of their hair and wear their lightest clothing at the next weigh in, I thought that perhaps if I swung my arm at twice the rate I normally would when walking I might up my stats. With regards to sleep, another aspect of my life that the monitor says needs vast improvement, I considered if I should tuck the sheets under me like my mother used to do to me as an exuberant child, so that I would no longer toss and turn as is my normal modus operandi. Then as I relaxed supine on my sofa drinking a cup of coffee, both things that would set the alarm on my monitor buzzing like crazy if it only knew, I started to consider what was really going on between me and the piece of computerised machinery that had suddenly started to takeover my life.

To begin with I wondered who decided that someone who walked ten thousand steps a day was a fit member of the human race, while those who did not were somehow second rate. What was the evidence that dictated that sleep was only beneficial if it matched the parameters in the monitor’s database, despite how well I might feel after my normal erratic slumber? I began to see that what was happening was very like much else that happens to us in terms of how we’re told to perceive our health, which we often accept without question because we believe that the source of the information is trustworthy, knowledgeable and most often in a position of authority.

I could prolong this article with many examples of our gullibility with regard to the advice given about the likes of cholesterol, saturated fats, the use of statins and so on and for those people interested I would suggest reading the articles and books of Dr Malcolm Kendrick. However, I hope you’ve got my message which is that we really need to question, rather than just accept, the monumental amount of information and advice that we receive by which we judge ourselves both physically and psychologically. So while I ponder if I really need to take another walk around the block or instead watch a repeat of this week’s Bake Off, let me console you with a line or two taken from the obituary of World War Two submariner who prior to his death at the age of I think ninety two was asked how he kept fit, to which he said that he rarely took exercise and that when he did it was to go to the funerals of his friends that took exercise. Don’t believe this story might be all that it seems; good you’re getting it.

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