A Genuine Medical Miracle, on Your Wrist
Several years ago, a major American food company asked us to look at the question of obesity to determine both a) the causes and b) what approaches had worked to combat it. This involved lots of research and one-on-one interviews with leading folks in the field. All for naught, of course, because nothing ‘cured’ obesity: Not diet, not exercise, not surgery. That is, nothing ‘cured’ it for a long time among lots of people.
Quick fixes abound, but not a recipe for the permanent weight loss or fitness surge or better healthcare outcomes we wanted to find. Surely, we all know people who have lost weight, maybe a couple who have kept it off, but these, in turns out, are profoundly personal success stories, not replicable in a way that excites scientists and medical types.
Vis a vis “cause,” the mantra is “eat less, exercise more.” Duh. We can all do that for perhaps the month of January, with memories of powerful resolutions still dancing in our heads. The tough bit emerges when January’s achievements aren’t enough to inure us to the magnetic pull of a Valentine’s Day dinner and decadent dessert (rather than head to the gym), or ‘just this once’ umbrella drink with colleagues after work (rather than head to the gym), or green beer on St. Patrick’s Day (rather than head to the gym) or the jellybean and chocolate bunny temptations that lurk as we fix a daughter’s Easter basket at midnight (and admit to ourselves we haven’t been to the gym all month).
I’m thinking though that’s about to change.
A great (and now quite trim) friend of mine told me how he’d lost 50 pounds because his company’s health insurance provider offers a reduction of $100 from his premium for every month he walks 7,000 steps for 10 days in a row and for at least 20 days in the month. Whoosh! He is FitBitted up and sticking with it. This is replicable. The uncompromising accuracy of these devices brings something beyond good intentions to bear: The process of using them makes us want to use them. An addiction as heady as caffeine or chocolate bunnies, it turns out. A fresh new daily habit, for sure.
The hectoring voice of “I should have/I shouldn’t have” goes away as we are triangulated away from the guilty “I need to take off this weight” world to a shiny new and charmingly competitive arena. How am I doing v yesterday? How am I doing v my friends who are also on this?
The weight is logged, and so is sleep. The steps are logged and so are stairs. The calories and carbs are logged and so is protein, sodium, fiber, fat and water. By monitoring everything, the device calms our narcissistic cravings to know everything we did and ate and slept through matters, while we’re driven to do a bit better today than yesterday. It goes way beyond weight reduction, too. Might even slouch us towards health.
If I had known it was coming, I’d have told my client to put a FitBit in every box of cereal.
Since I know it’s here now, I’ll tell every retailer I know to start posting distance numbers showcasing how many steps customers gain by walking the entire store.
Since I know it’s here now, I’ll challenge every pharmaceutical company and healthcare organization with one question: Are you focused here?