Get off the pedometer treadmill

First published in 2004 in SMH

Julie Ihle explains how to be obsessive, one step at a time.

I have a confession. I am a pedometer tragic. Pedometer tragics out there will know what I’m talking about. If not, prepare to be enlightened. Pedometers are those little step counters that people attach to their belt to count up the number of steps you take per day.

Thanks to campaigns like the 10,000 Step Challenge and the inability of our society to achieve weight loss without a machine or some piece of technology, these pedometers have stealthily been taking over the country. Go to any school, any gym, any park and you will see these little step counters snugly attached to people’s belts.

My obsession started a few months ago. I saw a co-worker wearing one and I decided to get one too. Soon half my office were wearing them, surreptitiously checking out each other’s belt and comparing numbers. Then it got ugly. Some people started to sneak out and walk the fire steps at lunchtime. This increased their step count by 2000. Others kept volunteering to pop out and pick up the milk – at least 3000 steps.

Instead of just trying to get to 10,000 steps and competing against themselves, in our office we were plotting, conniving and sneaking out for a quick staircase or two. Well, it beats working.

It didn’t end there. When I got home at night, I would wear it around the house. It’s amazing how many steps you can rack up from the loo to the fridge to the TV. I’d put on my PJs and attach the step counter to them. If I could have worn it in the shower I think I would have and jogged on the spot. My husband thought I was deranged, until he got one too, and then he was just “managing his health responsibly”. At the end of the day, if I hadn’t made my 10,000 steps I would jog up and down on the spot. There was no way I was going to bed without having done my 10,000 steps.

Then I started to meet other people similarly affected. We compared steps, we compared strategies, we compared spousal reactions. But looking into the unnaturally animated faces of the Ped Tragics, I realised then and there that I had become an obsessive. I also realised that it is only a step counter. It is not nearly as effective as a weight-loss routine as, say, actual dieting or liposuction. And, anyway, I was getting sick of all that walking, staircases and jogging on the spot.

Anyway, you know how your weight loss is going from what the scales tell you – a far more effective but less gimmicky gadget.

So, Ped Tragics. I urge you. Do as I did and accept your obsession and vow to do something about it. Throw away the ped counter, or at least banish it to the bottom drawer where you can be sure it will never be found again.

Regain your life. Walk out of the house without the pedometer. OK, it’ll feel strange at first, but you’ll get used to it.

You don’t need a pedometer. What you do need is a life.

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