About a year ago, I signed myself up for Kaiser-Permanente's Personal Health Manager. It provided me with a steady stream of reminders and encouragement to lose weight. I figured this would be a simple enough operation, being a person who exercises regularly and has a number of experiences with getting into a particular shape. In this case, I was anxious to move out of the panda bear shape that I had been maintaining for the past decade or so. I was hoping to have something more along the triangle or at least parallelogram. I set my own goals, and though the e-mails I received were generally supportive, I couldn't help but feel as though I was letting the whole organization down by not meeting them. I had some successes, but eventually I clicked on the button to opt out of any further exhortations.
This Christmas, my wife found us a replacement for the Nintendo Wii that had been liberated from our home the previous summer. At the time, it was suggested that this was a way to reconnect me to the glory days of Guitar Hero (Medium). As it turns out, we didn't just get a bunch of plastic instruments on which to pantomime our rock and roll fantasies, we got a Wii Fit. For free. It was as if the universe was tugging at my sleeve, asking me to look up from my trough of chips and Coca-Cola and consider my health: One More Time.
So I created an avatar. I stepped on the balance board. I was weighed and measured. My balance was checked. I was told that I was overweight. I expected as much. I was asked to set a goal. I did. I spent the rest of the Christmas vacation working toward that goal. I did yoga and strength exercises. I did aerobic activities and balance games. The ghostly figure I had selected as my personal trainer gave me a lot of good, if not repetitive advice on how to improve my form and posture. I also got some good-natured ribbing when I ran into trouble on any particular activity. There was no place to input my excuses about how I had already run three miles, or that I had been working in the yard that morning and was coming to the session pre-tired. Wii wanted no excuses. Wii wanted results.
When I went back to school, my BMI (body mass index, not British Music Incorporated) went back up again. I tried to explain, but Wii wouldn't listen. I worked a little harder, knowing that I still had time to reach my goal. Then it occurred to me that I didn't need the machine at all. I could turn down the volume or simply do the exercises on my own. Did I need this kind of pressure?
Sure I do. I could do it without Wii, but I don't because I need an us.