"If you can move at a slow shamble, we can use you."
February 17, 2015 6:10 AM   Subscribe

There’s No Morality in Exercise: I’m a Fat Person and Made a Successful Fitness App "There is a thing I feared when I started making a fitness app, and it was this: that someone would notice that I am fat."
posted by xingcat (126 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dang, there are zingers in every paragraph here. So much truth.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:26 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


An excellent article, and Zombies Run! 5K Training is just a terrific app. It uses "free form run" segments throughout, and the narrator (Ms. Alderman, I believe) points out every time, "Okay, run as much as you can, but it's okay to walk if you need to."
posted by Etrigan at 6:29 AM on February 17, 2015


This is great! As a person with an "in betweenie" body, but non-normal health, I've been trying out Zombies, Run! as a "walk faster" game rather than a "run" game, and it works for that, too.

I also wanted to point out that Zombies, Run! is MetaFilter's own.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:29 AM on February 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have been full of GRAR today after reading about how Cameron threatens to withhold sickness benefits from obese people if they don't exercise. I really needed this article today as a kind of unicorn chaser. Definitely going to check out the app, so thanks for posting!
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:31 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


David Cameron is the worst and the UK sounds more and more like V for Vendetta every day. I cannot get used to the UK sounding worse than the US - that just absolutely does not compute to me. I mean, how can all these people be so awful? How, how? They're awful and stupid and they're supposed to be well-educated - it's not just that they're evil, it's that the don't even fucking read the research. This is a country that had a perfectly good - at times exemplary! - social welfare system until very, very recently.

I once turned blue and had some sort of seizure. Not that any of the teachers cared, because obviously I was a fat kid and so the solution was more exercise.

Ha. Indeed. Like back when I spent several years obsessively trying to eat less than 900 calories every single day while exercising at least two hours, and crying every time there was a family gathering because I knew I would be weak - with hunger! - and break down and eat normal portions - like a glutton! - and it was all my fault that I was so disgustingly fat. And of course, everyone around me thought that this was totally normal, because I was fat and I should be obsessed by food and hate myself.

And that was the last time that I was able to lose a significant amount of weight. Go vegan? Sure, a few pounds will drop off; low carb, ditto. 1200 calories a day? Maybe a little weight loss. I have a friend who has lost almost a hundred pounds in the past year through exercise alone - no dietary changes except to add a weekly midnight fried-diner-food meal - and nothing really does much for me except the good old 900-calories and lots of exercise routine, which honestly - I could do it as a teen because I had no friends and no social life and my classes were easy, so my entire life revolved around obsessing over food. (1/3 C dry raisin bran and a pickle when I got home from school! Or how about some sliced mushrooms?) Right now, I just can't get through life when I'm so hungry I can't sleep.
posted by Frowner at 6:50 AM on February 17, 2015 [21 favorites]


I also wanted to point out that Zombies, Run! is MetaFilter's own.

I honestly did not know that. Makes it even cooler to me!
posted by xingcat at 6:51 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


But for the vast majority of people, competition in exercise is not fun. It's no fun to compete if you know you can never win. It’s no fun to be on a team if you know you’re bound to let everyone else down with your performance.

This hit pretty hard for me. Imagine how many people would actually enjoy exercise if their gym classes growing up had been less competition-focused? The only exercise I enjoy as an adult is running or lifting -alone- because the idea of anyone depending on my fitness or coordination for any reason is terrifying.

I love this app, too. I wish there were more fitness apps geared towards just exercising at all and enjoying it. My Nike app seems to think my goal is PEAK FITNESS RUN FURTHER AND FASTER EVERY TIME HOLY SHIT BEST RUN THIS WEEK and I really just need it to appreciate that I am somewhere other than my bed.
posted by almostmanda at 6:56 AM on February 17, 2015 [88 favorites]


The rhetoric of ‘more, better, harder, feel the burn’ doesn’t work for who those of us just want to use our bodies and enjoy being in them.

Where the hell is the [+] button on that page? That's why I hate gym culture, just do what works for you.
posted by arcticseal at 6:57 AM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


This is a fantastic article. I especially love this:
My body is like a waggy-tailed dog in its excitement to accompany me on adventures. It's so thrilled to go for a walk or work out at the gym or take a nice bath or have some good sex or dance to some music or lift some heavy things or curl up in bed at the end of a long day. That's my fat body, which I have learned to love through exercise.
posted by stoneweaver at 6:57 AM on February 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


Great article. Thanks for posting! This may even (probably not) get me to try running.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:58 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


"You’re not a better person for working out, or a worse person for not, no matter what magazines or gyms tell you."

Well, this might be true of some or even most people, and it might be true of the author, but it is not true of me. When I don't work out it's because I chose to park myself in front of the TV or play Minecraft for another hour, instead of getting up and doing what I need to do to keep myself in good shape for my own health and my family. When I eat greasy fast food instead of vegetables and fruit it's because I chose the convenient salty pleasure over the slightly inconvenient healthier option. I could work out every day and I could eat well every day but I sometimes--often, recently--choose otherwise. This is very much a moral issue. The core of morality is developing the discipline to make the right choice even when it's inconvenient or less immediately rewarding. I won't begin to guess why another person doesn't work out, or to judge another person for the way they look. I have no idea what's going on in their lives and it's none of my business anyway. But my puny muscles and my bulging waistline are all about bad choices and failure of discipline, and as I develop the discipline to maintain my workouts and eat better--yes, I'm becoming a better person. I don't believe that there is no moral difference at all between gets-up-early-to-jog-and-eats-a-sensible-salad me and stays-up-late-watching-Buffy-while-eating-pizza-rolls me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:07 AM on February 17, 2015 [40 favorites]


Imagine how many people would actually enjoy exercise if their gym classes growing up had been less competition-focused?

"Physical education" is such a misnomer. The only thing I learned is that I was no good at any kind of physical activity, and never would be. After years of dropping out a few yards into the annual mile run in gym class, I literally believed I was physically incapable of running. Until my late twenties.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:12 AM on February 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


Oh I'm so excited about this! I don't usually like things about zombies, but I hate normal fitness trackers so much. As someone who routinely has periods of very poor health, normal trackers usually just make me feel bad for not progressing, or for doing so much worse than normal users my age.

I've been trying out Zombies, Run! as a "walk faster" game

I'll join you, hydropsyche!

I hope this inspires many other fitness apps with non-zombie story lines.
posted by congen at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2015


This is the best. I know exactly what she means; I still love to move/dance, but my body is not and never has been a thin one. And so I have to work up my courage to do anything involving movement or exercise, because of the feeling that I am always doing it badly, or will be mocked for even trying. It's so easy to get discouraged.

My knees will never let me run, and I never liked running anyway, but I would love to be somewhere I could just walk and walk and walk for hours. I love walking, and hiking, though I've never lived near enough to mountains to do it seriously. In fact, we are looking for a new house in part because our current neighborhood is so badly planned that walking or cycling is way too hazardous with the traffic we get.
posted by emjaybee at 7:16 AM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I hope this inspires many other fitness apps with non-zombie story lines.

I would love one inspired by Space Alert where you run around a spaceship fixing things before you explode.

Space Alert
posted by fiercekitten at 7:19 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Zombies, Run people also have The Walk, which is a walk tracking app (I have it, but haven't really used it), and a Superhero app for doing calisthenics.
posted by suelac at 7:21 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


my puny muscles and my bulging waistline are all about bad choices and failure of discipline

I sort of hear you, but I also think that our general means of constructing weight/eating/excercise as being about 'goodness' and 'discipline' militates against actual healthy practice. It can be transformative to think of it in terms of needs, love, value. For instance, I tried to quit smoking about 8 times (which is kind of average), but I didn't really succeed until I found a program that helped me examine and acknowledge the positive things cigarettes were doing in my life - helping me relax, giving me downtime and "me" time, offering a moment outside the hustle-bustle to think. In short, cigarettes are self-nurturing. The only problem is they make you really sick. But by not constructing the issue as about willpower and perfection of behavior, and instead looking at it as a well-intended act with unintended bad consequences that needed to be replaced by more self-nourishing practices, I was able to let it go finally because recognizing that they were helping me, in some small way, allowed me to re-conceive myself as self-loving rather than self-hating, experience a reasonable level of grief even as I embarked on changing behavior intentionally, and more kindly handle myself through the quitting process.

For a lot of people, "bad choices" about eating and exercise are the same thing. They are the body seeking energy and pleasure and rest, the soul seeking respite and comfort, the mind attempting to create a space to step out of the punishing demands of life. Sometimes, though, the short-term (but very real) good feelings this creates are outweighed by the bad feelings created by the consequences. This isn't always about a personal moral failure, just about learning to shift what is most valued and opt for the value that's become really more important - feeling better all the time on average as opposed to feeling comfortable/satiated in the short term.

Great essay. This past week I got into one of those Facebook go-rounds with someone who literally the pulled the "fat people are clearly not taking care of themselves" argument. There's a way to talk about this stuff without inveighing against other people when there's absolutely no way to know the structures of their lives or motivations of their behavior. There's a real lack of boundaries in that behavior. I enjoyed hearing about Run, Zombies and wish, too, that playfulness was more a value in adult exercise and movement.
posted by Miko at 7:21 AM on February 17, 2015 [165 favorites]


I actually agree with all of that, Pater. I think the problem with putting it in terms of morality is that, like many moral issues, many people can't resist wielding it like a stick. Fat women especially get hit with a lot of unbelievably transparent moralizing from people who are obviously primarily offended that a fat person existed in their line of vision. I feel better about myself when I am exercising and eating better, too. But framing the amount of exercise I get or what I eat in terms of Good and Bad and Virtuous and Sinful puts me on the defensive, because it has some incredibly shitty connotations. I think that's what the article is responding to.
posted by almostmanda at 7:21 AM on February 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


My Nike app seems to think my goal is PEAK FITNESS RUN FURTHER AND FASTER EVERY TIME HOLY SHIT BEST RUN THIS WEEK and I really just need it to appreciate that I am somewhere other than my bed.

And the fitness bug I wear applauds me for sleeping 11 hours. THAT IS NOT A GOOD THING IT MEANS IT IS TIME TO ADJUST MY MEDS.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:24 AM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


The only thing I learned is that I was no good at any kind of physical activity, and never would be.

Same here. It has been a massive, almost half a decade long struggle for me personally to arrive at a mental place where I felt ready to even contemplate being active. I was bullied constantly about my weight in school, and yelled at by PE teachers to the extent that I used to skip sports in favour of hiding in the library. I have grown up constantly and miserably aware of how much space I take up. I cringe inwardly to this day when I pass a group of teenage boys because I am expecting them to yell an insult at me.

So, when I do find myself enjoying a good swim or a walk in the English countryside I find myself almost overwhelmed with wonder because I had grown up with an idea that I could never be anything more than a brain in a jar - that my body could never be an instrument of unthinking pleasure to me the way their bodies could be to thinner people. I thought they were the only ones with the right to enjoy their physicality. I'm learning that I have that right too, and it's an AMAZING feeling.

It is really healing for me personally to read literature like this (this one, from the Wall Street Journal, is good too, and this blogger endlessly inspirational) - to realise that you can be fat and still love being in your body.
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:27 AM on February 17, 2015 [20 favorites]


And there's also the question of "Discipline to what purpose?" I can discipline myself to go out and kill 100 puppies every morning, but I wouldn't call that moral just because it's disciplined. People with anorexia have enormous discipline, but again I wouldn't call that moral or healthy.

I do think that taking care of oneself is a moral issue, but we've perverted "taking care of," especially for women, into "living up to societal definitions of beauty," and that's silly.
posted by jaguar at 7:27 AM on February 17, 2015 [44 favorites]


To add on another thought I didn't finish - For many people castigating themselves about "bad choices" - or having others castigate you - just reinforces a low self-opinion and obscures the self-love beneath those habits that, in a more supportive environment could prove to be transformative. That is, IF that transformation is even needed or wanted - a lot of people (like the FPP author) reasonably decide that transformation of their eating/exercise habits is not called for, but still have to face this rhetoric of others that it is based on externals. Or what almostmanda said.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't believe that there is no moral difference at all between gets-up-early-to-jog-and-eats-a-sensible-salad me and stays-up-late-watching-Buffy-while-eating-pizza-rolls me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:07 AM on February 17 [1 favorite +] [!]


I dunno I think there's a difference between morality and willpower. I mean yes there's a certain amount of moral good in keeping yourself healthier and more available for loved ones longer, but most of what you're talking about is willpower. I've found that the most effective method for keeping with a healthier plan is a) spousal support and b) not giving myself another option. Breakfast and lunch are packed ahead of time. When you remove the idea of a choice you remove that internal fight you have with yourself about eating well or exercising.
posted by edbles at 7:31 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I loved this essay. I really identified with the author's experience: I, too, have been fat all my life and very sporty all my life. And yet: still fat.The only times I've lost significant amounts of weight were when I had an eating disorder in high school (and literally cried every single day of junior year, which no one noticed but I got a million compliments about how great I was looking!) and when I was in grad school and avoiding my disseration training for an athletic event and working out 4 hours a day, 7 days a week. Neither of those options is sustainable or healthy, and so I've come to realize that my mental health needs to be a priority, too. And it sucks to always feel like I'm somehow a failure if I'm not part of the P90x WOO HARDBODY DROP THOSE POUNDS FEEL THE BURN WOO! crew. It's taken me a long time to appreciate the body I have now, which has carried me up mountains and tromped through rivers and can hang onto a horse going at a good clip and is learning to chill out and love yoga, too.

The author is so right: it would be so, so great if we could make exercise less about shame and Making Moral Choices and instead made it about discovering what your body can do and enjoying that.
posted by TwoStride at 7:34 AM on February 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Lovely essay, and I am totally there with her about not liking to compete at sports, yet liking (needing!) to move.

I can't run anymore because of bad knees, but I used to run everyday with a friend who was really thin. People would always shower her with praise, and look at me somewhat skeptically. I'm not even fat, I just don't look like what people think of when they think of runners.

This is what I love about yoga - the studio I go to anyway. The teachers talk a lot about listening to your body and how you are a special snowflake and whatever you do is right for you and to thank your body for doing yoga. At first it made me giggle, then I thought I can't believe this is what it takes to get me to exercise, and then I realized that no one talks to me that way and it was really making me feel good about myself!

It's great to see this extended to other forms of exercise (although I don't need any incentive to walk), and possibly even to gym classes in school. Although I did have a guidance counselor who told me that since I was good at everything else, being the worst at something like gym class would be good for my character. Nah, it just made me hate gym class.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:36 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


This? This was excellent. I struggle with body image all the time--enough that I like to tell myself I don't--and I loved reading this.

Thank you.
posted by Kitteh at 7:36 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Miko, that is it exactly! It's kind of like talking about addiction to drugs without acknowledging that yes, they do make you feel good. Really really good. But then they make you feel really really bad, and at some point they might kill you, and before that, you will be very very miserable and hurt other people. That's what we told our kid, instead of "just say no." Because in his life he will run into people who are on drugs and having a very good time, and they won't drop dead right away, or maybe for years, but that still doesn't mean a heroin habit is a good thing.

In the same way, overeating can actually make you feel better, and comfort you. But if you are having to do that a lot, it means you have a larger problem that needs addressing, and different comfort strategies.

I am still angry about PE class, mainly because we would go a whole year without doing anything I would call training; we would play lazy games of softball and kickball, do square dancing, maybe some unfocused calisthenics. And then bam! it was President's Fitness Test day, and hey, you need to run 12 laps and climb a rope and do a pullup. As a kid, I didn't even know how to do those things, and no one had ever taught me, so I mostly felt like a weak baby failure when I couldn't pass the test. As an adult, I want to go slap the PE teacher and tell her that of course most kids will fail a test they were never prepared for. If you don't teach a kid how to build up their running endurance and pace themselves, if you don't get them to practice pullups, if you don't teach them how to climb a rope, where will they learn those things? Some kids will have outside experience or talent enough to do well. But most of us were just at a total loss. Why do we do that to kids? Do we want them to hate physical activity?
posted by emjaybee at 7:45 AM on February 17, 2015 [30 favorites]


I have grown up constantly and miserably aware of how much space I take up. I cringe inwardly to this day when I pass a group of teenage boys because I am expecting them to yell an insult at me.

Oh, dude, I hear that - the hypervigilance, the anxiety. It was really, really fucking hard for me to go to the gym because I freak out in locker rooms. I feel really proud of myself, in fact, that I can usually get changed (quickly, in a corner) now without thinking too much about how everyone is probably thinking about how they'd kill themselves if they looked like me and how I'm a big ugly gross queer to boot.

Now that I'm taking pilates as part of my gym stuff, I've realized how much fear and self-hatred have permanently shaped how I hold my body. Like, I stoop and cringe in on myself a lot, and I'm neither especially tall nor especially chesty. My shoulders are permanently up around my ears and I'm always drooping my head to avoid eye contact. And I've been doing this for thirty years, so it's pretty entrenched. My posture's a bit better with the weights and the pilates and the stretching, but you can't just wish away three decades of cringing in a few months. And I've always been fairly active quite outside the gym - biking, walking and sometimes swimming year round.

I have zero interest in the morality of "taking care of myself". To me, that's middle class moralizing nonsense that's used to conceal the structures of oppression that shape how people live in their bodies, and it's the desire to reduce other people to instruments - it's like saying that suicide is a sin or that it's immoral to organize a union (and certainly in the 19th and early 20th centuries that was the position in conservative denominations - "combining" was against the will of God) - it's just an attempt to moralize people into being the very best worker-family-sex-consumer-bots possible so that they don't inconvenience you.
posted by Frowner at 7:51 AM on February 17, 2015 [49 favorites]


Why do we do that to kids? Do we want them to hate physical activity?

Perhaps a slight derail, but honestly I think you could ask this about everything schools allegedly aim to teach kids.
posted by localroger at 7:52 AM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


feeling better all the time on average as opposed to feeling comfortable/satiated in the short term.

Couldn't this average also be achieved by extreme short-term peaks and troughs?
posted by Sangermaine at 8:06 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I married into a family where far too many members equate thin-ness with morality. I almost skipped the Thanksgiving turkey trot with them because I don't believe in "earning" my damn pie through a week of pre-game starvation and then a five mile run. My family of origin's attitude toward health isn't any saner though.

So I'm working hard to do better by my own daughters. They happen to love Zombies, Run! in fact, and I just downloaded the other apps (which come bundled in a way that lets you only pay for the ones you don't already own!) and I think we'll have fun this summer saving the world through moving around it.
posted by padraigin at 8:31 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't believe that there is no moral difference at all between gets-up-early-to-jog-and-eats-a-sensible-salad me and stays-up-late-watching-Buffy-while-eating-pizza-rolls me.

What is a person supposed to do when she is both of these things at once? Do they cancel each other out so that I'm a moral void point? Or does the existence of Buffy (well, Star Trek) and pizza rolls remain immoral even when the morning had its run and the afternoon had its sensible salad?

What I'm saying is if I tried to make it about morality, it would be Scanners and my head would explode, for I'm both a "good" person and a "bad" person every day, all day.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:31 AM on February 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


I have zero interest in the morality of "taking care of myself". To me, that's middle class moralizing nonsense that's used to conceal the structures of oppression that shape how people live in their bodies, and it's the desire to reduce other people to instruments

For me, it's actually an ethical obligation to make sure I have the physical energy and mental calm to help my clients and to take on activist projects. Actual self-care, as opposed to "Here's another obligation to make yourself acceptable to other people," can be a radical act in undermining kyriarchal norms about who's worthy of care and attention.
posted by jaguar at 8:33 AM on February 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


So great to see this essay here - I'm co-creator of Zombies, Run! and also a very good friend of Naomi's. We always talk about how crazy it is that so many fitness apps and regimens are all about competition and destroying your 'friends' (i.e. enemies). It really doesn't have to be about that, as all of our apps demonstrate.

Yet even in more general fitness apps like Fitbit, you see a focus on competition with leaderboards. Among my Fitbit friends, the leaderboard positions are always static. The same guy (who works in a hospital and does a lot of walking) is at the top, I'm second, and the bottom positions are always the same. How demotivating is that? As a result, we've resisted putting leaderboards or traditional multiplayer competitive elements in Zombies, Run! because they cater more to people who are already fit.

Again, so glad this has resonated with so many people.
posted by adrianhon at 8:35 AM on February 17, 2015 [70 favorites]


As a kid, I was very skinny, and teased for that. I was bad at most sports, still can barely catch a ball, hated PE. Why do PE teachers assume that you should know the rules for softball or volleyball, or arrive at school knowing how to jump rope? Teach kids the games so they can survive on the playground, instead of making them feel bad and hate PE even more. I loved the article and have a lot of respect for Naomi Alderman. Now I want to try the app because I'd love to have a bit more motivation for exercise.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I felt better. I felt good. It is a very different feeling to be in a fat body that is moving a lot to one that hardly moves at all.

As a more or less average size person (although one who's been very sedentary recently) I wholeheartedly agree. Going on a week of hiking and then getting to the gym a few times a week made me feel so much better than my typical week of sitting on the couch all day every day.
posted by Phredward at 8:42 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great article and fabulous illustrations!
posted by harrietthespy at 8:43 AM on February 17, 2015


Yet even in more general fitness apps like Fitbit, you see a focus on competition with leaderboards.

So true! Every time I look into those, I see the "compete against your friends!" bullet point in the marketing materials and get perplexed by why this appeals. Let's bring achievement culture and competitiveness into walking now?

Stay tuned for my new apps that track and share your breathing and sleeping, subjecting them to external norms and competition.
posted by salvia at 8:44 AM on February 17, 2015


Stay tuned for my new apps that track and share your breathing and sleeping, subjecting them to external norms and competition.

Ha, I actually stopped using Sleep Cycle because even if I woke up feeling pretty good, if the data indicated that I'd slept poorly it would make me feel as though I'd done something wrong. Nobody needs that kind of grief.
posted by padraigin at 8:54 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have zero interest in the morality of "taking care of myself". To me, that's middle class moralizing nonsense that's used to conceal the structures of oppression that shape how people live in their bodies, and it's the desire to reduce other people to instruments

hmm, I always thought it came from our blue collar roots, much like how so much of US food culture tends to favor the energy-dense three meals model filled with large slabs of proteins and fiber. the modern conception is different, yes, and very consumerist (ie buy this to look like this and be like this and fit in these clothes) and middle-class but having pride in your body and its strength and functionality is also a very lower income bracket / rural thing, at least in my experience

I also want to say that exercise is, like what's stated above, what you take out of it, regardless of larger forces. the Anxiety and Phobia Handbook says that exercise is one of the few things that have been proven to consistently reduce anxiety and depression. taking that to heart doesn't mean becoming a CK model. becoming that CK model is a genetic lottery and your choice of engagement with the thing. exercise, as I see it, is something that's meant to be empowering. in your individual experience of it, you don't have to fit it into a larger narrative. it's good to recognize the way it does, of course, but seeing it in this view seems like it would cause an undue amount of stress and anxiety

I think becoming a fitter, more food-conscious person has made me a lot happier and it's helped me, in a lot of ways, to come to terms with my poor self-esteem and body image. I understand that not everybody shares in this narrative but, perhaps optimistically, I think most people see it this way, not as some cultural capital to be gained but as an empowering narrative that helps you achieve some kind of agency in what can be a very unpredictable world
posted by saucy_knave at 8:56 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


salvia: "So true! Every time I look into those, I see the "compete against your friends!" bullet point in the marketing materials and get perplexed by why this appeals. Let's bring achievement culture and competitiveness into walking now?"

Oh that's the gamification. If you're making an app, you've gotta put some gamification in there.
posted by RobotHero at 9:07 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


RobotHero: "Oh that's the gamification. If you're making an app, you've gotta put some gamification in there."

We used to not do that, but it was the only way we could level up our gamasutra profiles.
posted by boo_radley at 9:11 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you're making an app, you've gotta put some gamification in there.

But it presupposes only one type of game - a zero-sum, one-winner, competitive game. There are of course many other game models available.
posted by Miko at 9:13 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


This program sounds fun, I should try it. I did Couch to 5 K last year and got to the point where I could run the full 5k a few times before I sort of petered out. Running is a tough one if you're not willing to accept that skipping a week means you are not going to be able to pick up where you did the previous week. Now I basically jog through the city with my daughter in a stroller on the way to her daycare, and then on the way back alone. It works out to 5k but I can't kid myself into thinking I'm able to run 5k. Lots of breaks at traffic lights and interesections, and no way am I running up that hill. I'm not trying to kill myself out there. A brisk walking pace will do fine there.

Everyone seems to have been picked last for teams, everyone hated the gym teacher. Maybe it’s just that if you didn’t feel that way you’ve learned to keep quiet.

I kinda liked sports in school even though I was always picked last and wasn't particularly good at them. I think it's because I was a big kid and could surprise the jocks every now and then. During the baseball unit one year of high school, a bunch of the jocks saw me up at bat and decided to move in closer from the outfield and the pitcher was talking shit. I absolutely cranked the first pitch. Dude in left field threw his glove in the air in a pathetic attempt to knock the ball down because he had moved in way too far. I was all "suck it, Robbie and Shane!" as I rounded the bases at a leisurely pace, and saw the gym teacher trying to hide his grin. One of those memories that sticks with you. I could also kill it sprinting over short distances on account of my really long legs and surprise everyone. But those moments were few and far between. I guess I'm lucky I just never cared all that much if we didn't win. It was gym class, it's not as though there was a trophy at the end.
posted by Hoopo at 9:17 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Running is a tough one if you're not willing to accept that skipping a week means you are not going to be able to pick up where you did the previous week.

Jeez but this was tough for me. I was always a lifter, and you can drop that for a month and come back and nothing's different. It was very hard for me to accept the idea that my speed today depends in large part on how much I ran in the last 10 days or so, and I still don't really do a great job of acting like I know it.
posted by ftm at 9:26 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Exercise as moral activity reminds me of what I remember being called 'the narcissism of self-improvement'.
posted by bq at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I spent years thinking I was 'bad at running' because every time I tried it I ended up doubled over and gasping for breath.

In my mid twenties I was diagnosed with asthma.
posted by bq at 9:39 AM on February 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yess, great article. This is why I hate Crossfit (though I'm happy to recognize that, for some people, it makes a healthier lifestyle seem fun) and absolutely adore rock climbing.

While I've never been overweight, I'm very short and I've always been terrible at sports, picked last for teams, etc. If I hadn't discovered climbing I probably would never have become even remotely athletic. It's so individual and yet there's this huge community of wildly supportive enthusiasts. It's like the opposite of competition -- I'm constantly surrounded by people who are better athletes than myself but who use their expertise to help me learn the techniques I need to finish whatever problem I'm working on. It's never in a condescending way (in fact, a lot of them will politely ask you if you don't mind them giving you some advice) and they're always genuinely excited to see other people succeed, no matter their level. It just feels good: physically, mentally and emotionally!

Ok derail over, I've got to send out a sick hours notice and sneak off to Brooklyn Boulders... (Who's coming with me?!)
posted by Mooseli at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always feel really conflicted reading threads like this because just a year ago, I too didn't welcome the moralizing over my body. I was struggling with depression and anxiety and had a terrible self-image. I was in poor physical condition and obese. I had convinced myself that gyms were unwelcoming narcissistic places and was too self-conscious to exercise in public.

Long story short, I ended up unintentionally losing a fair bit of weight over the past summer and fall, and not wanting to gain that weight back, I ended up joining my local Y and doing a whole bunch of stuff I wouldn't have dreamed of. I also started eating healthier, in part because it suddenly became apparent how my diet affected me and made me feel, and I felt more energetic, happier, confident and optimistic.

My conflictedness, then, arises because I know that exercise and healthy eating had a huge impact on my life yet I can totally relate to people saying that it just isn't working for them for x number of reasons because that was a struggle I had for the past fifteen years or so too. It's not so much about a moral choice for me, it is knowing what it is like to be crushed under the weight of a tattered body image, depression and anxiety, knowing what it is like to be free from that, and wanting other people to transform the way they see themselves too. On the other hand, I also realize how much of an impact my own mental health had in making it possible for me to take the correct steps toward losing weight. There's no easy answer for how to successfully embark on that journey.
posted by jamincan at 10:23 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't believe that there is no moral difference at all between gets-up-early-to-jog-and-eats-a-sensible-salad me and stays-up-late-watching-Buffy-while-eating-pizza-rolls me.

What is that moral difference, though?
posted by KathrynT at 10:24 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it might be useful to distinguish between "I like doing this" and "this is a morally good thing to do, just like creating a social safety net or giving your homeless friend a place to crash". It might even be useful to distinguish between "I notice that my health is better because I do this" and "improving your health is a moral act, like creating a social safety net or giving a homeless friend a place to crash". Particularly, it is useful to distinguish between "I want to do this thing" and "I think that other people are morally required to do this thing because it is a good action, just like, etc etc".

Many people - such as me! - quite enjoy going to the gym while also deeply, deeply hating the kind of "your body and what you do with it are the legitimate subjects of public morality debate" rhetoric of fitness. Particularly those of us who, as women (or AFAB people, as in my case) or as queer people have experienced a good deal of "how you use your body to participate in society is something that society has a moral interest in [regardless of whether you injure anyone else]".
posted by Frowner at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2015 [22 favorites]


That illustration of the figure stepping on and off the scale is positively hypnotic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:34 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


What is that moral difference, though?

Obesity has quantifiable public costs. Since money is a scarce resource, that means money spent on the effects of obesity trades against other government and philanthropic options, like housing the homeless, feeding the poor, or providing government services in general. The moral cost to obesity is the homeless veteran that was denied housing, the food bank that has to close, and the government that can't fund public education because the government is budget-restricted. Those are all real costs.

(I should note here that I am at the upper end of the "overweight" spectrum and was previously "morbidly obese" in my life).

It's not useful to ignore the immense challenges that overweight/obese people face when managing their weight. It's not good to treat them in a way that results in them staying overweight/obese due to constant public shaming. However, it's also not good to say that obesity has no moral costs associated with it. It does. We all should have the same goal here - reducing public health costs so that we can spend that money on other necessary government functions. The way to do that is not to pretend that obesity is an entirely value-neutral characteristic that effects no one other than the obese person.
posted by saeculorum at 11:12 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love exercise. I love to move. I hate competition and I loved this article! The End.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:12 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


The moral cost to obesity is the homeless veteran that was denied housing, the food bank that has to close, and the government that can't fund public education because the government is budget-restricted. Those are all real costs.

The reason America has a failing social safety net is... fat people?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Keter at 11:17 AM on February 17, 2015 [32 favorites]


For anybody who has used this app, does it require you to wear headphones and listen to it while you are walking? I'm thinking of buying it (or The Walk) but I really hate to wear earbuds/headphones when I'm walking.
posted by interplanetjanet at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2015


The moral cost to obesity is the homeless veteran that was denied housing, the food bank that has to close, and the government that can't fund public education because the government is budget-restricted.

Woah, woah, woah! No mention of the billions generated selling cheap processed food with the fat, salt and sugar content whacked up to make it palatable, and the millions spent persuading the public it's the best and easiest cheapest most delicious option they could ever be fortunate enough to get, and the millions spent lobbying to, for instance in the UK, make sure the labeling on food products isn't alarming enough to turn punters off? IMO the situation is much too complex to blame the increase in obesity and resulting health issues on people's individual choices about food. I mean, if anyone's moral choices are to have the finger of blame pointed at them, I think it's the people who make decisions supporting the profit motive in food, farming and marketing conglomerates who ought to be first in line.
posted by glasseyes at 11:33 AM on February 17, 2015 [21 favorites]


Dev here: Zombies, Run! is best experienced while walking/jogging/running and wearing headphones, because we try to be responsive to how you move. However, there are a fair number of people who do just listen to it sitting down or in bed or whatever (you just turn tracking off).

The Walk, however, is an all-day walking tracker, and you don't need to wear headphones or listen while moving. It'll count your steps using the phone's accelerometer so that when you open the app, you'll have unlocked more of the map and audio content, which you can listen to without moving.
posted by adrianhon at 11:33 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


As an adult, I want to go slap the PE teacher and tell her that of course most kids will fail a test they were never prepared for.

Could you fail the test?
At least in my experience, you showed up, you did the thing and you were done.
Best part was you got out of regular classes for the morning.

I never did think about the 'preparation' aspect of gym class though, there wasn't ever really any actual teaching.
It was just 'Ok, we're going to climb the rope' and those that could did (previous rope experience? Older siblings? Genetic predisposition to rope climbing? Who knows.) and those that couldn't didn't.
Same with any of the activities. Baseball? If you played little league, you were good, otherwise, well, you're on your own.
Running, floor hockey, same.

I suppose I've never really thought of gym class as an actual class. It was always just, as they say in my child's school, "to get the wiggles out".
posted by madajb at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


The moral cost to obesity is the homeless veteran that was denied housing, the food bank that has to close, and the government that can't fund public education because the government is budget-restricted. Those are all real costs.

You can make this argument about almost every single choice people get to make. The impact of driving. The impact of eating so much you need to exercise to keep weight off. The impact of alcohol consumption. The impact of being anti-social. The impact of being unskilled. The impact of having too many children. The impact of not having enough children. The impact of taking holidays. The impact of shopping at whole foods. The impact of not shopping at whole foods.

Make the moral choices you want to make but the moment you are trying to make all those choices for others you are a far greater moral threat than any possible utilitarian cost you can imagine.
posted by srboisvert at 11:37 AM on February 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


Uh. You said

> The moral cost to obesity is the homeless veteran that was denied housing, the food bank that has to close, and the government that can't fund public education because the government is budget-restricted. Those are all real costs.

Then

> It's not good to treat them in a way that results in them staying overweight/obese due to constant public shaming.

And I think maybe you didn't think your thought through all the way. I often find that I work ideas out during a good walk. Maybe try that.
posted by rtha at 11:39 AM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


pizza rolls remain immoral

As always, but I do love them so.

One of the things that I think is missing from most (all?) PE classes, and adult exercise regimens is seeking the state of "flow". I guess it's kind of obvious to say that you won't stick with an exercise if you don't enjoy it, but there it is. Flow and technical achievement is, IMO, the reason for sports -- not the competition.

It's kind of amazing that creativity itself is not recognized as a factor in exercise motivation. I think Crossfit's success has a lot to do with this in some ways, but dancing is exercise, as is juggling, or inventing your own fast paced solo game using a ball of your choice, or running from imaginary zombies.

There's an engaged mental aspect that gets ignored a lot of the time, as if just the movement will be enough -- even for the fitness freaks, it's never just about the movement.

This is sad because some (a lot?) of people rightfully find running and the rest of the standard skills tedious and boring. We need to remember how to be kids and just be active and do goofy stuff without having to have a scorekeeper (unless you want it!) or a written set of rules or a moral prerogative.
posted by smidgen at 11:41 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the info about the earbuds. I've tried a couple of other game-type walking apps and they either talked too much or made my phone crash so much I spent more time playing with the phone than walking!
posted by interplanetjanet at 11:41 AM on February 17, 2015


Incidentally I was just talking to someone yesterday about the pleasures of smoking, and how I still appreciate just what sort of little, perfect pleasure it was, so Miko's comment really resonated with me. The only reason I gave up was because I knew it would kill me eventually, probably of a stroke.

Paying attention to what you actually want does I think, count as radical self care. It's a good way to think about food and exercise both. For me, that now is knowing that I feel awful if I get too full, and recognising that the habits of a previously more active life mean I consistently overestimate how much I actually want on my plate to consume. Once I've got a new habit of remembering I think I'll be more comfortable.
posted by glasseyes at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like to think that after the inevitable zombie apocalypse, perhaps people will think more about what it is that makes life worth living and less about the rat race.
I know the author isn't big on competition, and I hate to push back against the lovely message of the article, but... during the zombie apocalypse, don't you at least have be faster than one other person?
posted by clawsoon at 11:56 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


man, I loved PE in school. Of course, this writer probably wouldn't know that if we were friends because for fuck's sake, I'm 30 now and I don't know when I last talked about it at all. Perhaps people who enjoyed PE in school didn't turn that into a defining part of their personality and keep on talking about it forever, so she has met people who enjoyed it and just doesn't know?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:56 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


We all should have the same goal here - reducing public health costs so that we can spend that money on other necessary government functions. The way to do that is not to pretend that obesity is an entirely value-neutral characteristic that effects no one other than the obese person.

So what you're saying is all the fat people need to stop being fat (magically, somehow, maybe we can force them all into weighloss surgery) because they are using up the money we could be spending on more deserving projects? Because their lives/needs are a drag on the economy? Never mind that they also work, raise children, pay taxes, and are human fucking beings?

Do you really believe that even a fraction of our economic woes are caused by fat people, instead of say, runaway Wall Street capitalism and increasing inequality?

Do you hear how that sounds, seriously?
posted by emjaybee at 12:06 PM on February 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


Most of my troubles with PE involved how it was run rather than the activity itself. For example, even when I was in relatively good shape, I sweat rather a lot. (The answer appears to be "drink a little more water, carry a towel, rinse off after you're done, and don't worry about it," which would never have occurred to me in high school.) We were not given time enough to bathe after class, so if I exerted myself, I'd spend my next class drenched. I also take a rather long time to cool down (for example, I rarely bother with winter coats because if I just walk briskly for a few minutes, it buys me another twenty before the cold sinks in again.) Sadly, just asking for last-period gym wasn't an option, so...
posted by Karmakaze at 12:14 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I hated PE because they didn't teach us any sports. They were like, ok this is PE! go Play Sports! So if your parents played catch with you when you were super little and put you in soccer when you were five you were good, otherwise you just got picked on because you weren't good. Of course I wasn't good, I had no idea how to throw, how to catch, how to condition to get faster, stronger, more coordinated. So I just assumed I was bad and uncoordinated at physical things and couldn't run. I did do extracurricular sports when I got older, but didn't really get into fitness until my 20s when i finally learned how to get proper fitting shoes so I could run, and learned how to have practice and discipline with physical activity so I could improve. It's a damn shame.
posted by zutalors! at 12:20 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


The moral cost to obesity is the homeless veteran that was denied housing, the food bank that has to close, and the government that can't fund public education because the government is budget-restricted. Those are all real costs.

Really? Really? That's the actual trade-off? Services to fat people - who are fat because they are bad, or else they would make themselves thin - are what is driving cuts to the VA and the schools? Which services are these?

"Costs" is a funny term. "Lost productivity" is also a funny term. They're both pretty ideologically flexible, and they both assume that the "normal" state of human affairs is for all humans to be working at 100% 100% of the time, in perfect health - "costs" are not part of the natural state of life, they're a sign of failure, usually someone else's, nearly always someone socially marginalized.

And of course, it's "immoral" to "cost" society money. It's funny how morality is leveraged in this kind of argument - it's "immoral" for a fat person to cost society money, because it means cuts to the VA and thus deserving vets don't get their care. (No vets are fat.) But then, when it's convenient, we can also point out that some of those vets smoke, or have untreated depression, or eat badly, or drink booze....and then it's the VA whose "immorality" is driving the "costs" that cause the food pantry to shut down....But of course, if those poor people weren't living so irresponsibly, we wouldn't need the food bank in the first place, and so it goes around and around and around, with the only rule that no "costs" are ever incurred by wealthy white straight people.

The whole "your practices are immoral because they cost society money" thing is a line of argument that I don't care for, because it can always be made to point at anyone you like. Women who have babies out of wedlock, for example. Gay men with AIDS. People who drink alcohol - or don't drink alcohol, depending on how we feel about red wine this week. Workers who take FMLA leave. Sex workers. People who get divorced. Etc, etc.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that we were living in a friction-free social democracy of some kind, and we really did provide for everyone, and we really didn't spend a lot of money on foreign adventures, privatization and cronyism. But in this utopia, we're still sort of broke. Let's assume that for some reason - in this utopia! - access to good food, medical care, leisure time and gym memberships have not in fact helped maintain people's health, and fat people really are a measurable drag on the economy. Even then, creating a "fat people are scroungers and bad, and they need to be Made Into Moral Citizens" initiative would still be a bad idea, because it doesn't work by incentive or policy, but by creating a despised group. All you have to do is look at all that chavs-and-scroungers stuff they have in the UK (and that new Cameron policy linked upthread) to see how this stuff goes.

(And believe me, if telling fat people that we are Very, Very Bad made people get thin, we'd have a lot of evidence by now.)
posted by Frowner at 12:23 PM on February 17, 2015 [45 favorites]


Never mind that they also work, raise children, pay taxes, and are human fucking beings?

Hi, I'm fat, and have been fatter. This is not an academic discussion for me.

Do you really believe that even a fraction of our economic woes are caused by fat people, instead of say, runaway Wall Street capitalism and increasing inequality?

Do you really believe that runaway capitalism and increasing inequality is the cause of 100% of our economic woes? There is peer reviewed evidence here, and it at least intuitively makes sense to me. Cause for economic woes is not a unitary thing, and can be partitioned in many ways and should be solved in many ways. I am not ignoring other causes of economic woes, I am simply focusing on one of them - one that has been studied rather extensively, in fact.

I am a pragmatist, and I value an effective government that efficiently uses scarce economic resources. You may not be, but I hope if you aren't, that you advocate for increased taxation in order to fund all of your desired government policies. I'd actually agree with you there. However, until that happens, tax money is scarce, and it should be spent in order to maximize public gain. One thing that implies is that public health is an impact to the budget. That's not really a debatable point - that's a fact. So, if the budget is fixed, public health should be improved in order to make the budget stretch further.

I don't understand the concern here. A similar statement can be made for smokers (~$108 billion/year by some estimates) or alcoholics (~$134 billion/year). These sums are somewhat misleading, because they are not additive (some people are smokers and alcoholics), but that does not imply the cost is $0.
posted by saeculorum at 12:25 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do you really believe that runaway capitalism and increasing inequality is the cause of 100% of our economic woes?

....Yes?

I really reject the type of thinking you propose - because if we accept it, then all your habits, everything about your lifestyle, everything both within and outside of your control is fair game, as long as the rest of us can show some kind of social gain from controlling whether you do it. Your driving, your meat-eating, your water-drinking (and water-wasting), your home footprint, your energy consumption, your time-wasting hobbies, the level of cleanliness and hygiene in your home, whether you keep up with recommended doctor and dentist visits and always always floss daily, the number of clothes and shoes you own, whether you reproduce and how many kids you have...your stress and anxiety levels, how many friends you have, how successful your relationships are... (these correlate to health outcomes too).
posted by Miko at 12:44 PM on February 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


I mean if you want an economic argument, then hey, people who eat more are job creators! Putting that cash right back into our global and growing agribusiness economy!
posted by Miko at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


The whole "your practices are immoral because they cost society money" thing is a line of argument that I don't care for
I really reject the type of thinking you propose

I don't understand this. The government does control your energy consumption (via increased energy costs as usage goes up), does control your clothes-buying habits (via luxury taxes), and does try to reduce AIDS exposure (via condom distribution). I'd further say that a large portion of government discretionary funding is oriented towards cost reduction in non-discretionary funding areas, although I have no evidentiary support for that.

Are you saying the government shouldn't do these things?

Perhaps this is coming down to the use of the term "immorality". I am perfectly fine with withdrawing the use of the term "immoral" from any discussion here and substituting it with "results in bad government policy". To me, the two are equivalent (due to pragmatism), but I realize that's not a commonly held belief.
posted by saeculorum at 12:54 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a big-state liberal and I'm pretty OK with the government taking fairly applied public health measures and actually putting the tools in place to achieve them. That's pragmatism. What I'm not OK with is singling out individuals as though we can isolate any one of them and their personal and particular behaviors and issue blame to them as an individual for damage they are supposedly doing to our economy. That is impossible to do and should not form part of a responsible, humane political philosophy.

You're also speaking in generalities and mixing your ideas here. A use tax/sales tax and a category tax are different things, and need to be thought about differently. The government doesn't "control" energy consumption, it levies penalties for greater use (it does if you're not a major corporation, anyway). Because the causes of obesity and its outcomes are too complex to draw direct correlation from one to the other, I would certainly not be comfortable asking someone to bear a higher cost for health care (or whatever it is you're proposing) based on their weight, because that's a category, not a use. It could be double indemnity for them. Their obesity may be secondary to another condition, disability, etc., or just one of the many cases that results from body systems, epigenetics and a surrounding health environment we really don't fully inderstand - so why would we want to make it harder for them to afford a health care they actually might need more? It's not as easy as saying "you used X therms today, here's your tax." And some obese people, myself probably included at times, make much less use of the healthcare system than people of other body types.

This kind of calculus would be so phenomenally difficult that no social scientist would attempt it. It is not possible to do. And in a system this complex, it is too easy to mix up symptom and cause. Is obesity a cause of illness and overspending? Or is it a symptom of a society that does not provide adequate physical or mental health care, has no reliably productive hypothesis about how to regulate people's weight over a lifetime, and has attached a great deal of cultural baggage to body size that has no strong correlation with health outcomes in reality?

And where O where is all that money we saved getting people to quit smoking?
posted by Miko at 1:04 PM on February 17, 2015 [19 favorites]


man, I loved PE in school. Of course, this writer probably wouldn't know that if we were friends because for fuck's sake, I'm 30 now and I don't know when I last talked about it at all. Perhaps people who enjoyed PE in school didn't turn that into a defining part of their personality and keep on talking about it forever, so she has met people who enjoyed it and just doesn't know?

I sort of feel this way about high school in general. It was neither THE BEST nor THE WORST. Much like PE (of course, I went to a high school that let you substitute music credits for PE credits, so I did not have gym after the 9th grade). Nonetheless, there are lots of great points in her article (that physical activity can and should be its own reward, rather than weight loss or competition) and lots in this thread (that PE in school does not promote a love of physical activity for its own sake).

I've yet to hear an argument that convinced me that food choices are moral, except those related to humane treatment of animals used as food or related to the environmental costs of industrial agriculture. I get the notion that we owe a degree of personal health (to the extent we can influence it) not only to the people immediately charged with caring for us but also to society as a whole, but I don't think it elevates eating and exercise choices to a moral decision because of how complicated the relationship between personal habits and health really are.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:06 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Obesity has quantifiable public costs.

Pater Alethias didn't say he was more moral when he was thinner, or when he was healthier. He said he was more moral when he exercised and ate salad than he was when he watched TV and ate pizza rolls.
posted by KathrynT at 1:12 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


And seriously, in terms of public health costs? I am very seriously overweight; I have one chronic health condition related to my weight, which is high blood pressure. It's controlled with a cheap generic medication at a cost (without insurance) of about twelve dollars a month. My husband is in absolutely stellar physical condition; normal BMI, total cholesterol of 179, blood pressure of 110/65, all his labs in the dead center of his reference range, he gets two hours of cardiovascular exercise a day. He has a chronic health condition as well, which is controlled with a fabulously expensive biologic drug, at a cost (without insurance) of close to three thousand dollars per month. Which one of us is the greater moral hazard?
posted by KathrynT at 1:32 PM on February 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


The Zombies, Run people also have The Walk, which is a walk tracking app (I have it, but haven't really used it), and a Superhero app for doing calisthenics.

I've done all of these (finished The Walk, making good progress in Zombies, Run as a walk faster type thing), but the superhero one can be pretty discouraging if you're out of shape let me tell you. The number of burpees and squats it asks of you within the first session is entirely beyond my ability to do on successive days. I reckon it's meant for people who are already sort of in shape.
posted by juv3nal at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2015


My understanding is that health insurance providers and employers are interested in taking a more hands-on role in encouraging a more active lifestyle among the population they cover. They're trying to use gamification and incentives to push people in that direction. Ultimately it's about reducing their own costs: obesity and sedentarism are associated with health problems for which they'd need to pay out over the long term.
posted by spreadsheetzu at 1:55 PM on February 17, 2015


juv3nal: Yeah, Superhero Workout is pretty tough. The routine is modelled on the 7 minute workout - which, contrary to popular belief, is meant to be repeated 2-3 times to be effective. Like you say, it was too difficult for man people in the initial version, which is why we split up all the missions into separate acts and allow/encourage people to take breaks in between.

spreadsheetzu: Yes, they've been trying to do this for some time, although rather half-heartedly. A few use pedometers to encourage people to walk more each day, which unfortunately ends up feeling like a chore.

Incidentally, our game The Walk was actually funded by the UK's National Health Service and Department of Health, as a way to encourage everyone of all shapes and sizes and ages to walk more every day. Part of the rationale for the funding lay in the hope that the game might eventually reduce the burden on the NHS. While it's unlikely to work for everyone, it also turns out that simply telling/admonishing people to walk more doesn't work very well either.
posted by adrianhon at 2:04 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hi, I'm fat, and have been fatter. This is not an academic discussion for me.

Me too. I'm late to the party, and I Have Opinions. But I'll just add to the mix my prior observation about how Calvinists pretty much fuck everything up.
posted by mikelieman at 2:04 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I had to google pizza rolls. Man you know what would be better than pizza rolls? Actual pizza. The immoral thing about pizza rolls is that they're not a pizza. On a moral scale that goes from "not pizza" to "pizza!"
posted by Hoopo at 2:23 PM on February 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


Death comes for all of us one day, and perhaps it comes for fat people sooner, but that doesn't mean those deaths are necessarily more expensive. Cancer ain't cheap.

But I, for one, am looking forward to a day when we can talk about morality in terms that don't include financial criteria at all. How much money before caring for a premature infant is morally wrong because it costs too much? At what price point does it become morally wrong to provide prosthetics or lifelong therapy to a disabled person? What's the breaking point at which it becomes bad and immoral to transplant an organ?

Insurance companies make these decisions, to be sure, but those are financial choices and nor moral ones, nor do I want our shared sense of what is right or wrong to be determined solely by money.
posted by Andrhia at 2:29 PM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


What I'm not OK with is singling out individuals as though we can isolate any one of them and their personal and particular behaviors and issue blame to them as an individual for damage they are supposedly doing to our economy. That is impossible to do and should not form part of a responsible, humane political philosophy.

individual engagement is one possible avenue of engagement and it's something the CDC encourages.

There is no single or simple solution to the obesity epidemic. It's going to take solutions at many levels in order to resolve the epidemic. What can each of us do as individuals to be healthier? First, we can eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer foods that are higher in fat and sugar. We can also drink more water instead of sugared drinks. Everyone, including adults of all ages and ability levels and children, need to get the recommended amount of physical activity.

there are, of course, other causes and other ways of engagement but saying that we can have no individual engagement because individual engagement in the past was really terrible and moralizing (which it was, for sure) discards a really powerful method of engagement. for example, providing an empowerment framework instead of a shaming one would be a great place to start re your previous comments on fulfilling wants and needs

Frowner, I'd disagree with your approach entirely because yours is one that asks for a surfeit of willpower. maybe it's just me but I have enough issues making sure everything I have is properly recycled and that I am using the most efficient mode of transportation that burns the least amount of gas per capita and etc. asking that I keep a marxist/feminist cultural critique of exercise in western culture in a separate tupperware container from the one where I keep my 'exercise is good, I enjoy being fit' container asks me to stomach a lot more dissonance than I'm comfortable with. chalk that up to youthful inexperience with reconciling my ideological beliefs with my day-to-day goings-about

I'm also uncomfortable with the net effect of this logic in that it seems to encourage the mindset that being fat is okay. I mean, being fat is okay but probably in the same way that being gluten intolerant is okay given undeniable medical proof of it such that it's not making cottage industries out of a human necessity. if you're staying healthy within parameters (30 minutes of moderate exercise intensity, 5 days a week, having a relatively healthy and mindful diet), then you're good to go. but it's far easier to adopt this logic and do none of those things and then ask people not to shame you about your body image while your health deteriorates to a point where it becomes a burden to you, to your family, and to our imperfect, capitalism driven society at large. I would love to live in a post-racial, socialist utopia filled with individual self-actualization but forgive me for assuming, in bad faith, that we do not and that there does exist regular abuse of the fat is pretty and fat is beautiful narrative beyond the good faith efforts of academic cultural studies
posted by saucy_knave at 4:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


almostmanda: " I wish there were more fitness apps geared towards just exercising at all and enjoying it. My Nike app seems to think my goal is PEAK FITNESS RUN FURTHER AND FASTER EVERY TIME HOLY SHIT BEST RUN THIS WEEK and I really just need it to appreciate that I am somewhere other than my bed."

Yeah, absolutely. I use a pedometer app that dynamically adjusts the daily step goal according to how much you've been moving previously. It actually winds up discouraging me from moving as much as I can, I find, for two reasons. First, if I exceed my step count for a day, I know that every additional step I'm doing today will be an expectation I'll have to meet later — so there's a feeling of "I've hit my goal, better stop now". And then, if I did have a particularly active day, like the Saturday a few weeks ago when I wound up walking 12 miles, it makes the goal unreasonably high on the following Saturdays — which prompts "eh, there's no way I can possibly make the goal today, so I might as well catch the bus instead of walking".

Mooseli: "Yess, great article. This is why I hate Crossfit (though I'm happy to recognize that, for some people, it makes a healthier lifestyle seem fun) and absolutely adore rock climbing."

In the Daft Souls podcast "inexplicable January fitness special", they spent the entire episode waxing enthusiastic about Zombies, Run! and rock climbing.
posted by Lexica at 4:04 PM on February 17, 2015


ask people not to shame you about your body image

Ahhhhhhhghghgh. I recently had a discussion with a number of my women friends -- all overweight to some degree or another -- about how we ALL spent most of our 20s in states of medical depression and borderline agoraphobia in large part because we hated ourselves for being fat and not physically pleasing according to popular cultural standards.

You think fat people don't already know shame? We know. We know and in many cases it is literally killing us because oh my god we hate ourselves like 10,000 times more than your smug need to shame us. I'm still fat, but I lost weight, ate healthier, and exercised more* once I stopped thinking that I didn't deserve to treat my body well because it's just a disgusting pile of fat.

People literally shout insults at fat people on the street who are just going to the bank or whatever, and you're complaining that fat people might actually feel "pretty" for a moment? Yeah, get back to me when I can examine a detailed report of your life habits and make obnoxious comments about them.

* love love love the Zombies 5k app
posted by jess at 4:46 PM on February 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


having once been 50 lbs overweight with untreated anxiety and depression that led to me being fearful of going to the supermarket even with my girlfriend, you can safely assume that I have been there
posted by saucy_knave at 4:57 PM on February 17, 2015


individual engagement is one possible avenue of engagement and it's something the CDC encourages.

Er...the video you linked to is literally all about how systemic and environmental factors are the most powerful vectors of obesity.
posted by threeants at 5:37 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's a pull quote from the vid in my comment where they also advocate for individual engagement. The CDC also has a pretty extensive section about dieting and exercise as treatment for obesity

I'm not saying that it can only be individual engagement of the moralizing kind, I'm just saying it's a complicated issue and we shouldn't toss the baby out with the bathwater. There are plenty of empowerment narratives for individuals about being a healthy weight which doesn't moralize or put superficial fitness on a pedestal.
posted by saucy_knave at 5:44 PM on February 17, 2015


individual engagement is one possible avenue of engagement and it's something the CDC encourages.

I'm not going to watch that video, but if there's something in it relative to what you're saying, I'd be happy to hear it. However, you are misreading my comment. I'm not saying there is no role for individual engagement, as that wasn't what was positive. There is, obviously, a role for individual engagement at the personal, medical-treatment, and public-health levels for every health condition or goal. What I'm saying in opposition to the neoliberal argument "you might cost more, therefore pay more," is that the method assumes you can tell by the simple external fact of someone's obesity that they are going to cost more in the long run. At the individual level, this is not something possible to tell. The factors are too complex, as KathrynT's example ably shows. This principle also treats all forms of illness as a liability - anyone who costs more should presumably pay more, if there is any element of lifestyle factor in their disease. Which is not a far step from simply requiring people with chronic and congenital conditions to pay more, because they are just using more resources than they should and I didn't cause them to get Crohn's, or rheumatiod arthritis, or lupus, or schizophrenia. Politically, I reject this, as I do not believe any form of health problem should be dealt with as a personal liability. Everyone is entitled to medical care and treatment; adequate care is a basic human right, not a competitive good to be meted out to the deserving.

. if you're staying healthy within parameters (30 minutes of moderate exercise intensity, 5 days a week, having a relatively healthy and mindful diet), then you're good to go.

Are you really? Were you aware that this recommendation is highly culturally influenced? I read some time ago that the research shows that it's more like 60 minutes, 5 days a week, that constitutes a minimum standard of good cardiovascular health. But in the US, public health policymakers were doubtful Americans would exercise that much. They wanted the barrier to entry to sound lower, so they decided to recommend 30 minutes, three times a week. In Canada, however, the same research was interpreted differently; knowing that people would probably seek to do the minimum, they recommend for light activity like walking 60 minutes, most days a week, and more vigorous exercise for shorter periods. I can personally tell you that walking 30 minutes three days a week and eating healthfully and mindfully is not enough to keep my weight under the "obese" level. I'm not so sure that means you're "good to go." And this recommendation only deals with cardiovascular health, not joint health, immune system health, mental health., reproductive health, bone health, etc.

it's far easier to adopt this logic and do none of those things and then ask people not to shame you about your body image while your health deteriorates to a point where it becomes a burden to you,

It's never acceptable to shame people, and it's always correct to ask people not to shame you. You seem to be implying that some people are choosing to "adopt this logic" for reasons that are not acceptable to you. Well, it doesn't matter what you find aesthetically uncomfortable here, and you can actually never be fully privy to what some other person's constraints regarding health are, so it's a bad basis on which to make policy. The idea that health is going to be a "burden" to "someone else" amounts to real-life concern trolling. It may affect you at a personal level, which is your cross to bear, but there is no good, moral argument that supports the idea that people should pay more or less for their health care based on usage rate or personal behavior.

As I think I said, I'm all for public health approaches and all for giving people every tool they need to achieve good health. We have very little of that. Whenever we raise our imagining of individual causes and responsibilites above social, systemic causes and gaps in the system, we're supporting the clusterfuck we have over a system that would actually result in improved health outcomes for everyone.
posted by Miko at 5:45 PM on February 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


I kinda understand Zombies.
You go out running, then it beeps(makes zombie noises) at you and you run faster, right?

But, the website for "The Walk" is pretty awful, can someone who has used it explain it to me?
I guess you use it as a pedometer, there is some sort of puzzle, and you get points(?) for walking a certain distance?
posted by madajb at 7:31 PM on February 17, 2015


It's never acceptable to shame people, and it's always correct to ask people not to shame you.

This, many times over. Life is complicated and no one is perfect; shaming people for non-normative aspects of their lives is just plain shitty and never produces good results.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:33 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


But, the website for "The Walk" is pretty awful, can someone who has used it explain it to me?
I guess you use it as a pedometer, there is some sort of puzzle, and you get points(?) for walking a certain distance?


As you walk, it unlocks story elements. You have the option of listening to them as they happen (if you're walking with earbuds and listening to music or whatever, the app will ping you when a new story element is available) or all at once at the end of each episode.

I loved it and am hoping Six to Start come out with a second storyline — I'd gladly pay for more.
posted by Lexica at 7:48 PM on February 17, 2015


I kinda understand Zombies.
You go out running, then it beeps(makes zombie noises) at you and you run faster, right?
I think it's actually much more involved than that. There's a plot, and you're a character in the plot. When you have your faster intervals, it's because there's something in the story that requires you to run (or walk faster.) The story unfolds over the course of your training program, so you're not just exercising but also finding out what happens next. It's kind of like a cross between the Walking Dead and the Couch to 5K app. I prefer to listen to crappy, embarrassing books on tape while I run, but I have a friend who's a big fan of it and says it's really well done.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:53 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


As you walk, it unlocks story elements. You have the option of listening to them as they happen (if you're walking with earbuds and listening to music or whatever, the app will ping you when a new story element is available) or all at once at the end of each episode.


So, kind of an audiobook based on mileage?
Interesting.

How far do you walk per "episode"?
posted by madajb at 8:04 PM on February 17, 2015


Depending on how you set the options, from half an hour to an hour of walking time (which doesn't need to be done all at once, and can be spread out over a day). There are also special "missions" where you have 24 hours to cover a certain distance which you select at the beginning of each mission, with a longer distance resulting in more achievement. (For example, if the mission is to find and collect a certain number of whatevers, you get more points for getting 25 of them than you do for 15 or 20.) However, I'm not sure that the mission achievements have any effect on how the game plays out in the long run — you could probably do the entire game going for 15 whatevers per special mission and you'd get the same story as if you went for 25 whatevers.

I really enjoyed the game and actually cared about what happened to the characters. I used to come home and gripe to my husband, "I can't believe what they did to Character X, I'm worried about Character Y, and I knew Character Z was untrustworthy from the beginning!"
posted by Lexica at 8:43 PM on February 17, 2015


I love me some Zombies Run! (Or in my case, Zombies Amble.) Between depression and an ankle injury, I haven't been to the gym in too fucking long and I need to find out what happens!
posted by rmd1023 at 9:12 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I can't believe what they did to Character X, I'm worried about Character Y, and I knew Character Z was untrustworthy from the beginning!"

Character Z is such a total asshole.
posted by juv3nal at 2:53 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Character Z is just misunderstood.
posted by naomialderman at 3:09 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


(Also, because I know what this looks like, I have been a MeFi member for years - mostly lurky years - under a handle, but thought I'd make a new account because, eh, my handle has me commenting on some personal issues and *stuff* that I don't necessarily want under my own name. I dunno, it's not that big of a secret. Just felt weird.)

So: author of the article here. I am really thrilled by the response this piece has had, and by the number of people who've said that they've taken just what we hoped from Zombies, Run! .

Regarding *morality* and such, I guess everyone's free to think bodies and exercise or lack thereof are immoral if they want. Someone made a good point I thought in an email to me about the piece that there's a difference between feeling *better about yourself* and feeling like you're *better than other people*.

I think we all feel better about *ourselves* when we meet goals, stick to our plans, do hard things - and indeed we mostly feel better *in* ourselves when we're getting to sleep at a reasonable hour and remembering to eat vegetables. I suppose I object to the idea that this makes you actually *a better person* than eg the harassed parents who are also caring for their own ageing relatives and holding down jobs and you know somehow fail to get to the gym for three years and eat a bunch of fast food because their priorities are elsewhere.

It's that thing: "be very kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle". Feeling better about yourself when you're living the way you want: totally cool. Feeling like you're *better than other people* because of the way you're living: eh, it seems kind of a sad thing when people need that sense of superiority. Especially because we just don't know other people's lives and what they've had to go through to be here today.

As with welfare moochers (or 'benefit cheats' as we call them in the UK), it's always possible to find an edge case of someone who *really has done it on purpose or claims to anyway* - but I prefer in all these things to stick with the side of compassion.
posted by naomialderman at 3:29 AM on February 18, 2015 [30 favorites]


Someone made a good point I thought in an email to me about the piece that there's a difference between feeling *better about yourself* and feeling like you're *better than other people*.

I think that David Cain, in his Raptitude blog discussed why people make moral judgements in contexts where they have no agency quite well.
But when other people enter the picture, when a person can somehow be blamed for something unpleasant we experience, our resentment seems to take on a heightened momentum. It is much easier to resent a person than a situation, (especially a stranger) because we can make moral arguments for why this person should have (or should not have) done this or that.

You see, a moral argument finally gives us what we hapless human beings have always wanted: a way of arguing with what is.
posted by mikelieman at 3:37 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


the method assumes you can tell by the simple external fact of someone's obesity that they are going to cost more in the long run

there are studies demonstrating this. obviously I'm not a social scientist so I'm not well educated enough to simply consign all these studies into a 'neoliberal' box of economic morality plays. obviously people will choose to assume what they will from the research but the fact of an economic burden exists whether or not it's necessarily a 'good' or a 'bad' thing.

I'm not so sure that means you're "good to go." + The idea that health is going to be a "burden" to "someone else" amounts to real-life concern trolling

not super sure where exactly I implied this. as someone who was once fat and who has been repeatedly namecalled while in the process of attempting to control my weight, I was referring to your individual level of engagement and satisfaction. my point was that if you should still find yourself anxious even though you're doing your due diligence (even if, globally speaking, that due diligence reflects a lower bar), then you're 'good to go.'

I'm not into shaming anyone as you've implied. I thought I made it pretty clear that I was talking about individual engagement and the narratives provided which influence your personal interpretation of your weight in the world. I was not talking about what it is that I thought of others or the values that I placed on their appearance or my aesthetics or whatever. I was posting as, I've said, a formerly obese person who was not helped out by the narrative of 'fat is beautiful' and found another way of engaging with the myriad issues that I've had regarding weight, anxiety, and depression

if the intense need for a soapbox in this forum overrides all desires to offer a charitable interpretation of what I've said, and if the goal then is to label me some kind of sociopath from classical antiquity whose only metric of judgement for others is their physical fitness, then perhaps it's best if I leave it here and let you all to talk amongst yourselves
posted by saucy_knave at 6:18 AM on February 18, 2015


that if you should still find yourself anxious even though you're doing your due diligence (even if, globally speaking, that due diligence reflects a lower bar), then you're 'good to go.'

to clarify, rather that if you should still find yourself anxious even though you're doing your due diligence, then the anxiety is coming from another source because you're 'good to go' concerning your weight. it could be that the source stems from value-laden beliefs held by society at large or it could be mental health issues or it could be something else entirely. figuring that out is a difficult personal battle that I don't think this narrative of 'fat is beautiful' provides relief for. 'fat is beautiful' forces you to adopt a kind of disengagement that I've always found incredibly uncomfortable and which only produced a deeper, more intrinsic kind of anxiety. relief, for me, was actually exercising within the standards set by the medical establishment because, at this point, it becomes possible to be satisfied with your due diligence based on medical research. and that narrative allows you to say fuck you, who the fuck do you think you are to people who might judge you about your weight because you have essentially the backing of a really powerful institution that concerns itself directly with this kind of issue.

of course, not everybody has the time to exercise that much and it involves a difficult lifestyle change but this path seems so much better than the path that expects society at large to adopt the same set of standards as you regarding issues of privilege, at least within your lifetime.
posted by saucy_knave at 6:32 AM on February 18, 2015


The issues is that that logic doesn't scale very well. Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid cancer? All cancers? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid heart disease? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid depression? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid anxiety? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid osteoporosis? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid brain injury? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid gum disease? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid respiratory problems? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid stroke? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid diabetes? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid kidney problems? Are you doing everything medically recommended to avoid liver problems?

How about socioeconomic factors: Are you doing everything you can to avoid poverty? Are you doing everything you can to avoid living, working, or spending time in high-crime areas? Are you doing everything you can to avoid becoming a single parent? Are you doing everything you can to avoid race-based violence? Gender violence?

If you have children or dependent adults for whom you're responsible, are you ensuring that they are meeting all of these obligations?

At a certain point, the idea that we're not allowed to live our lives unless we're fulfilling the "rules" means that we'll never live our lives. It's completely ok for people to enjoy their lives without spending the entirety of them obsessed with doing every little thing right; everyone is allowed to prioritize what's important to them. Societal standards, however, tend to insist that some things are more important than others, and they don't always correspond to what's actually important to any given individual. Which is why it's important for all given individuals to be able to say, "Fuck that noise, I'm good," to any particular mandate. Sometimes that may be a good decision, sometimes that may be a poor decision, but it's that individual's decision to make, not society's.
posted by jaguar at 6:48 AM on February 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


So here's my thing. For me, personally, it doesn't work to think about food, exercise and weight as moral issues. I have a whole fraught history with that stuff, like many people and probably like most women, and viewing it all in moral terms sends me straight to crazy-town. I can't make good or healthy decisions about food or exercise when I'm thinking in those terms, because I'm too distracted by all the emotional crap that goes along with viewing myself as a bad or good person because of how I'm treating my body. So for me, strategically, I need to think about how the things that I'm doing are fun and pleasurable and will make me feel good. I need to think of exercise as a reward, not a punishment for my unruly and sinful body.

I also think that I'm in no position to judge other people for how they treat their bodies, but that's not even why the whole "exercise is not a moral issue" thing resonates so much for me. It resonates because I need the reminder to be compassionate and to withhold judgement towards myself, not just towards other people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:48 AM on February 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


if I am obese, I am doing everything the medical establishment recommends to avoid obesity

if my family has a history of certain illnesses, I am doing everything I can to avoid these illnesses

if I have anxiety and depression, you can sure bet that I am doing everything I can to treat these illnesses. likewise, if my doctor recommends that I am developing diabetes, I will be doing what he recommends. if he has not, of course I will not address the issue

you can't account for everything. assuming that I'm advising you to avoid all illnesses in every way possible is a ludicrously bad interpretation of what I'm attempting to say and it also assumes that I'm attempting to advocate for public policy or value-laden judgements which, for the last goddamn time, I am not
posted by saucy_knave at 7:06 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


If one is obese then one hasn't avoided obesity, but regardless: Your point seems to be that everyone should be avoiding getting to a place where anything in their lives might somehow be a financial burden to other people. That's impossible. And if that's not your point, and it's only that obesity should be avoided, then why only obesity?

And what happens when priorities conflict? Antipsychotic medications tend to cause immense weight gain. Should people not treat schizophrenia because doing so will cause obesity?

There's just no reason that anyone's weight should be assumed to be the most important health issue for that person.
posted by jaguar at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your point seems to be that everyone should be avoiding getting to a place where anything in their lives might somehow be a financial burden to other people

I have clearly said that that was not my point whatsoever something like three times now

this is going nowhere. to be frank, it kind of sucks talking about my personal experience with weight related issues on this forum and it's definitely a trend that I've noticed in previous threads. consider me finally and officially out
posted by saucy_knave at 7:33 AM on February 18, 2015


> I was posting as, I've said, a formerly obese person who was not helped out by the narrative of 'fat is beautiful' and found another way of engaging with the myriad issues that I've had regarding weight, anxiety, and depression

If you had just stuck to this, and not carried it over into, what, some kind of universalizing of this experience, then I think you would not have gotten the pushback you've gotten here. If you think it sucks to feel judged for talking the way you've talked, can I ask that you please consider that you have made people right here also feel judged? Even something as benign sounding as your "good to go" framing sets up a dynamic where you are the one who sets the standard to be met, for people whom you do not know at all: you are not their friend or family member or doctor. It's not surprising that people are going to feel "who the fuck are you?!?" about that.
posted by rtha at 8:12 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dr.s Rudolph Leibel and Michael Rosenbaum, Columbia University scientists behind an NIH-supported study about keeping weight off after a diet, seem to have come up with data that says keeping weight off is not just hard but nearly impossible. Unless of course you want to be on a hardcore diet and exercise routine for the rest of your life. Their data implies that weight gain and dieting resets the metabolism so that when you use a reduced calorie diet to lose weight your body will then require less calories to maintain a higher weight. If this is the case, for me it points to some conclusions that are pretty depressing especially if we combine that with some government or insurance sanction or mandate concerning weight.

I vaguely remember a UK politician getting a huge amount of flack a while ago for defending the right of poor people to smoke, that they shouldn't be punished for it because it was one of the few pleasures they had in life. Well, a person can quit smoking and will want a cig due to a chemical and psychological yearning, but not smoking ever again won't kill you. No one can stop eating and live. Should we disallow the cheap pleasure of fast food? Not to mention I would have to question if a person can ever really enjoy food again after dieting and then trying to maintain that loss. It seems like a life where you had to deprive yourself of food constantly to maintain an appearance of health would be stressful in a way detrimental to health.

Encourage people to move and eat healthfully and make healthy food available. Don't punish for non-malicious bad choices.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


'fat is beautiful' forces you to adopt a kind of disengagement that I've always found incredibly uncomfortable and which only produced a deeper, more intrinsic kind of anxiety

Could you please own this point of view? It may have forced you to adopt disengagement, but you really have no idea how others react to it or find it useful, so don't generalize to the second person. That's basically projecting this thinking onto other people. Then you suggest that they must be suffering from anxiety or mental health problems if they don't agree with you, when in fact, there's a good argument that it's really the general social more that's mentally unhealthy, not the individual.

this path seems so much better than the path that expects society at large to adopt the same set of standards as you regarding issues of privilege

So your argument is that because it's easier and more common, it's "better" - more morally correct? No. Ironically, you're asking others to adopt your standards here - so it shouldn't surprise you that people can find a strong and sound basis for rejecting them based on their personal experience, social criticism, and political conviction. It may not the right choice for you, but it's not wrong for someone else, and not wrong to question the very construction of body, health and illness in our society.

assuming that I'm advising you to avoid all illnesses in every way possible is a ludicrously bad interpretation of what I'm attempting to say

It is, unfortunately, the logical extension of what you are saying. You may not have thought it all the way through to its conclusions, but you have essentially been saying that yes, people have a moral obligation to avoid all illnesses in every way science can recommend that they do. If that is not true, then your argument about obesity is not true. If your argument about obesity is true, then this is also true. I'm sorry it's been a frustrating discussion for you, but these statements are in fact logically related.
posted by Miko at 10:53 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was in adaptive PE from around age 7 through 8th grade. I was scrawny-thin as a kid, so it wasn't about weight, but I was awkward/uncoordinated, and somehow that ended up being medicalized. (I don't know/remember the whole story.) In elementary school, while PE in general was dreadful, the "adaptive" part was just an extra thing going out of class to do extra exercises.

But in junior high, that meant I was in "special ed gym class", which I still feel intense embarrassment even thinking about. To some extent, I'm embarrassed about being embarrassed, because some of that is feelings from being associated with the retarded kids. Almost everyone in that very small gym class those three years had developmental or cognitive disabilities that also had physical effects; basically everyone but me and my best friend, who was a severe burn victim. (That's how we became best friends: because we didn't require a lot of attention, we just kinda walked around the track or pretended to play handball, etc, and talked about books & stuff.) And then on top of everything else our class met at the beginning of the period in a little office just off of the entrance to the boys' "side" of the gym, which meant going in that way as all the "normal" BOYS were going out. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Like: that was more than 25 years ago, and I STILL just want to curl up under my desk and hide.

In high school I got mainstreamed, which meant that gym class was just normal terrible. Adaptive PE, as far as I can tell, did absolutely nothing for improving my coordination or anything else about my physical aptitude.

So organized physical activities are something I just don't.

And yet I've discovered that physical activity is really important for me! Not just (or even mostly) for physical fitness or to lose weight, but for my mental outlook. Sweating out the feelings, I guess? Which when I'm in a situation that I perceive as competitive, it's hard for me to get out of my own head enough to do. And wow, when I'm anxious/depressed enough to need to sweat out the feelings, everything looks like a competitive situation.

I've been thinking about giving Zombies, Run a try for a bit now; maybe it's time.

(At my last job, I bike-commuted 5 miles each way. It was amazing. That's much less feasible in my current job, and boy do I miss it.)
posted by epersonae at 11:39 AM on February 18, 2015


I'm a big-state liberal and I'm pretty OK with the government taking fairly applied public health measures and actually putting the tools in place to achieve them. That's pragmatism. What I'm not OK with is singling out individuals as though we can isolate any one of them and their personal and particular behaviors and issue blame to them as an individual for damage they are supposedly doing to our economy.

Yeah, I was going to drop in and say I could solve this entire argument (and the entire dem/repub, liberal/conservative, red/blue, rural/urban etc etc etc divides) in two fairly simple sentences that are pretty much exactly what you said:

Government and society has to create positive possibilities and it has to encourage. But it can't (and shouldn't) force or blame.

Regardless of your political persuasion, option #1 (encouragement/incentives/persuasion) works at least sometimes, and option #2 (force/blame) just doesn't work, most of the time.

This is especially true of things that are normally considered matters of personal choice like fitness, health, eating, smoking, drinking, toking, personal finance, sex, etc. etc. etc.
posted by flug at 1:33 PM on February 18, 2015


Government and society has to create positive possibilities and it has to encourage. But it can't (and shouldn't) force or blame.

BTW what mean by 'create positive possibilities' is things like:

- My kids would like to walk to school, good for fitness, health, mental health, saving traffic, emissions, pollution, etc. But, they can't because government/society/our city/our state DOT forgot to put in sidewalks, crosswalks, etc on the way to school.

This isn't a problem I can just solve personally. I can't just take my personal fortune and build sidewalks around my town, even if I wanted to & had the money. Taking care of roads, streets, sidewalks, crosswalks is very clearly a government responsibility.

- I would like to each better, healthier food but I live in an area with no grocery stores nearby and the small convenience stores don't have decent produce, plus I don't have time between working two different jobs etc to spend time cooking.

This hypothetical is one we've talked to death already on MeFi, but I'll just point out that it's a problem that can't be solved by any individual alone. Somehow society has to find a way to make better choices available, create incentives to choose those rather than the cheap high calorie stuff, create an economy where working people have enough time to cook and generally take care of themselves and their households, etc.
posted by flug at 1:41 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


RobotHero: "salvia: "So true! Every time I look into those, I see the "compete against your friends!" bullet point in the marketing materials and get perplexed by why this appeals. Let's bring achievement culture and competitiveness into walking now?""

I've always wondered why the prevailing gamification culture is competing AGAINST. Because that turns everything into something with a loser (you) and a winner (not you).

Like, why not "gamify" something like Zombies, Run! so that you and your team all need to collect various items to get a set of super-awesome ZR shirts, and every teammate has to collect one part of the puzzle (so nobody winds up in the "I'll just collect them all myself" thing). Like, if your teammate has one part and you have the other part, you can BOTH get the part by running to meet halfway between their place and yours. So you're both having fun, you're both working out, and if you plot it right, you can meet at that one coffeeshop you both like.

I feel like the "build up together" attitude, versus "tear down separately" attitude, is a major explanation for why Minecraft has been so incredibly popular with kids. It punches directly into that LEGO space in kids' heads where the whole point is that the more people you have the more crazy ideas you can generate, and the reward is in the collaboration.

I love this game. I love its creators. I hope there are many more games like this.
posted by scrump at 2:00 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


It always puzzles me why there's such a big disconnect between digital game design and everything we know and have tried out in game design before this with analog games and interpersonal games. As a group facilitator, camp counselor, ropes course instructor, and museum programmer I've worked with all kinds of games that are silly, competitive, collaborative, cooperative, some combination of all of these, rigged games, art games, etc. MAny of you probably even remember the New Games movement from the 70s/80s which was all about deconstructing the game to recombine its elements in ways that weren't always zero-sum, progressive, winning oriented games but were just fun. Lots of non-tech pervasive games, hunts, puzzle and problem-solving games, initiative games, and team-building games also have a different structure. I'm still not sure why all this game experience and knowledge hasn't migrated that well onto digital playing platforms yet; the world of "games" is so, so much wider than the world of "get points, beat the clock, level up, do it again."
posted by Miko at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


From a game design perspective, I feel like co-op games - as opposed to single player or competitive games - are hard to make work well, both financially and creatively. There's lots of balancing and matchmaking you need to do, and they can be tough to grow fast.

When you add on the need to actually help people get fit/healthy in a safe way, it's even tougher - such is the problem with all 'serious games'. And finally, because there are basically no good examples out there to copy from (unlike, say, making another FPS or RPG or traditional F2P game) it's a very risky business venture indeed.

Which is not to say that it's impossible, but the incentives are not well-aligned for such a game to be made - whereas if you want to make another Candy Crush or Clash of Clans, by all means step into this money fountain! For Zombies, Run!, Kickstarter was the solution, but we had an amazing hook and we had great timing. Perhaps Kickstarter will be the solution again for a co-op thing, perhaps someone can just bootstrap it, perhaps there are investors out there that will take a punt, perhaps there's govt or grant funding - but it's tough.
posted by adrianhon at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Miko: Well, a lot of the games you mention can require a fair amount of setup or skill in running, plus they are difficult to scale well, meaning it could be trickier to make money from them. I come from an 'alternate reality games' background, so I love urban games and treasure hunts and all of that sort of thing, but they are devilishly hard to design and run in a sustainable, profitable way.

There are actually many digital urban co-op games out there, some of which are very neat, and basically none have become big successes (other than Zombies, Run!, which sort of doesn't count anyway). Google's Ingress is very popular, but they've spent millions - maybe even tens of millions - on it, with practically no financial return that I'm aware of.
posted by adrianhon at 2:38 PM on February 18, 2015


I kind of liked Ingress but I felt it didn't go far enough in the direction of being not about points and blowing stuff up. The financial side I'm less familiar with. You're right that a lot of these games depend upon intensive and elegant design, which isn't cheap, but also many depend on real-world facilitation to make work.

I wonder about episodic games - game events that might unfold over a given week or weekend or month or part of the year. IT would take a while to build a following, but I think you could devote the facilitation resources needed to make something great for a shorter-term intensive serious game.
posted by Miko at 2:55 PM on February 18, 2015


I wonder about episodic games - game events that might unfold over a given week or weekend or month or part of the year.

The problem with an episodic game like that is they require you to continue paying a dev team to implement those events. The ROI becomes really nebulous, and that's putting it kindly. Nobody ever found a great long-term business model for alternate reality games...
posted by Andrhia at 6:45 PM on February 18, 2015


they require you to continue paying a dev team to implement those events.

Maybe the problem is really the financial model, then. This is true in real life, as well, yet between the efforts of independent producers and projects based in larger organizations, these games happen.
posted by Miko at 7:17 PM on February 18, 2015


Indeed they do happen, but on a much smaller scale than fitness mega-apps like Runkeeper, Fitbit, etc. There are all sorts of interesting and complex reasons for this and I hope that new tech and new ways of funding well help different kinds of 'active/urban games' thrive and be played by more people.
posted by adrianhon at 3:35 AM on February 19, 2015


The whole morality argument cracks me up especially as Lent began yesterday for many Christians and it's the time to give up chocolate and beer for Jesus. Or because summer is right around the corner. You decide.

Yes, sloth and gluttony are indeed sins if you believe in that but that doesn't make vanity and pride virtues. While eating organic kale all day and spending a couple hours at the gym may make someone feel superior let's not pretend it's the same thing as spending a few hours visiting the elderly, sick, imprisoned, and otherwise forgotten. Y'know? There's doing something that is actually a moral good for society and doing something so you can rock those designer jeans. And I don't think there's anything wrong with the latter but let's be real, the money I spend on indulgences such as Whole Foods specialty chia seeds and a gym membership is money that could go to feed the homeless. The time I spend working out is time that could be spent visiting with someone who doesn't have much time left on earth because they're in a hospice care and just don't have time left.

Seriously, Fitness Calvinists, don't even try to get on my level. I was raised Catholic, I am so much better at guilt trips.
posted by bgal81 at 8:03 AM on February 19, 2015 [15 favorites]


Sometimes, though, the short-term (but very real) good feelings this creates are outweighed by the bad feelings created by the consequences. This isn't always about a personal moral failure, just about learning to shift what is most valued and opt for the value that's become really more important - feeling better all the time on average as opposed to feeling comfortable/satiated in the short term.

maybe to overgeneralize (since the discussion broadened out to moral fungibility and collective agency?) but this struck me as something i've been reading about lately that may also work for... oh and speaking of gamification -- monotonic/closed/finite/competitive & nonmonotonic/open/infinite/cooperative -- and algorithmic abuse/grace (Life in the Algorithm), if we're not careful the NPCs might start taking over! [re: 'the business venture to make money' (is driving interest rates below zero ;)]
posted by kliuless at 8:42 AM on February 24, 2015


Well, Walkr is certainly getting me to move more. (I'm not into zombies at all.) I downloaded it not with any intention of changing my habits, but figured as long as I'm already walking I may as well explore planets. And now I'm plotting ways to get more steps in because I want more plants and the really cute Doggi spaceship. That was unexpected.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:34 AM on February 24, 2015


« Older Pot Kids   |   Richard Dawson and his music Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments