Measuring imperfection

The limits of the quantified self

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  • Published 20170502
  • ISBN: 9781925498356
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

IN RETROSPECT, IT was always a stupid idea to buy a Fitbit; I’m still not entirely sure why I did it. Some of my friends – actually, a lot of my friends – were wearing them, and I’d watched the way they locked eyes and nodded, almost imperceptibly, with any strangers they passed who were also wearing what is essentially a pretty ugly rubber bracelet on their wrist. Something in me too, I think, still wanted to be normal, whatever that might mean, to take part in this small, everyday ritual as though it couldn’t harm me, as though I wasn’t still trying to regain the weight I’d lost over a decade of physical illness (a muscular tic in the stomach that causes me to throw up involuntarily) and the disordered eating that this sparked, as though I didn’t already have a tendency to exercise more than my too-small frame should really dictate or allow. But something in me too, perhaps the worst part of me, knew that it was a risk – that I was playing with a most unlikely looking fire, and that something in me liked it, liked it a lot.

I was told once, by one of the many therapists I have seen across the years, that most eating-disorder patients (and not just me) have a very high rate of incidental exercise compared to the general population, and at first I’d thought that that was rubbish. Incidental exercise, by its very definition, happens incidentally, when we’re not looking, not deliberately seeking it out, and my walking was something I could justify by both location and vocation. I live in an old inner-west Sydney suburb of narrow, one-way streets, unexpected dead ends and enough crawling traffic to make it much more efficient, time-wise, to walk to the local supermarket or pharmacy or café or bar than to drive there; I am a writer, and the tradition of writers fascinated or stimulated by walking, especially on city streets, is as long and proud as the muscled calves they earned this way.

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