Digitize me, or don’t digitize me–that is the question: whether it is healthier to be with oneself and experience the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take up digital arms against a sea of trouble by opposing, end them.
Lyndsay Crouse, a New York Times editor and producer, took up this question in her op-ed, I Ditched my Smart Watch and I Don’t Regret It. Crouse takes on what happens when we turn over control of our bodies to digital devices. It is worth the one-dollar special offer for a week’s access. She describes how, at some point, the information from her devices overtook her own confidence in her body’s wisdom.
“It (a device) can interfere with our ability to know our own bodies. Once you outsource your well-being to a device and convert it into a number, it stops being yours. The data stands in for self-awareness. We let the device tell us when and how to move, when we’re tired and when we’re hungry.” Lindsay Crouse
My First Digitized Experiences
The first device that determined my worth was the scale. When I hit puberty, I gained weight. It happened at the same time my mother began worrying about her weight. We went on Weight Watchers together. The process included weighing ourselves every week in a public place to determine whether or not we had successfully lost some pounds. We were happy if the scale told us we did and sad and ashamed if we didn’t. We got claps or sighs from our group depending on if we lost weight or not. Before digital devices, a scale had diabolical power over my sense of self-worth.
As an educational administrator, I worked in a large NYC high school with two and a half miles of hallways. I know this because my Fitbit told me so. The building had five floors and was three blocks long. My goal was 10,000 steps a day. I seldom missed my mark, adding the distance to and from public transportation. It made me happy to quantify how much energy I expended during my day. The Fitbit information matched my exhaustion when I arrived home. I would need a 20 minute Yoga Nidra to get me to the dinner table, after which I slept on the couch while I pretended to watch TV until I was dragged to bed at 9:30 PM by my husband. Because I was achieving this magic healthy step goal every day, I didn’t question if my life style was out of wack.
Not Digitize Me
At the same time, I studied Wholebody Focusing with Kevin McEvenue and Karen Whalen in a three-year-long training program. I was learning to sense into my body. It was a delightful and exciting process. I became fond of being in grounded presence without words or goals. Starting in a standing position, I grounded to the energy of gravity and the planet Jupiter. There was a simple question. “What does by body need now?” My body responded with movement, sounds, smells, images, and sometimes answers.
I became entranced with the idea that my body was creating sign language to help me understand it. When I Give My Body Permission to Lead When I held space for something in particular, for example, my relationship with my mother, a specific movement would show up. My right hand would rest on the upper left corner of my chest area. Sometimes, a tapping movement would start at various velocities as the time spent in this position continued. I didn’t necessarily “know” what it meant, but some part of me had a process to work through, and I was a willing partner to give it the time and space it needed.
My Body Shows Up
The next stage came when my body took the lead even if I was not in grounded presence. It sometimes shows up when I need to make a choice, even if I wasn’t aware of that need.
I was on a treadmill even though I had never been an athlete. When I retired, something in me said that this was my time to “get into shape.” What I didn’t expect was how there was another part of me that didn’t want to “get into shape.” I started having panic attacks over whether to go faster or not on the treadmill. While my mind was arguing about the benefits of going faster, my right hand lifted and moved toward the button to go faster. I stopped that movement and then realized this was my body wisdom speaking. My hand moved again toward the machine and pressed the button to go faster.
I was in a gem store walking around picking up stones and enjoying being in the presence of all these new gems. As I got to a particular spot, my hand reached out, picked up a clear green rock, and placed it under my nose. It was a swift and determined action that didn’t leave me any time for me to censor it. I read the explanation of the benefits of the gem. It was not only suitable for my emotional state (anxiety) my hand had moved the stone to a point under my nose that in acupuncture helps reduce stress. I immediately went to the cash register and bought gem, and we have lived happily ever after.
The New Devices
Covid-19 and my lifelong struggle with weight and insulin resistance brought me back to digital devices. By this time, the devices had advanced from measuring your steps to including heart rate, sleep quality, blood sugar levels, sleep apnea, stress management, daily readiness, heart, lung brain synchronicity, level of exercise, health metrics, and hydration.
I deeply wanted what the devise seller promised—to become a healthier person. But, unfortunately, using these devises led to every moment of my day was being measured. I was trying to feel the security in that, but it raised my anxiety levels and had no actual positive outcomes. So I joined Lindsay Crouse in ditching my devices and have gone back to my WBF practice in a new way.
As a child, I felt “less than” because of the numbers on a scale. Even if I lost weight, some part of me thought, “I can eat “forbidden foods” because I lost weight. The numbers on the scale had a profound impact on me, no matter what they were.
The same was true when I monitored the number of carbs, fat, and protein I ate. The goals set by the apps were not realistic for my body. Instead of having a “coach,” it felt more like my grammar school teachers, who were nuns. The nuns gave us impossible goals to meet without real change occurring, along with warnings about our failures.
Return to Body Wisdom
First, I ditched the apps and devices. Second I did nothing. Without the “critics,” I could enjoy some space to sense into “I’m okay just as I am.” Then I allowed myself to notice what made my body feel good and what made it feel worse. Two culprits emerged–dairy products and wheat. So I decided to eliminate them from my diet again and wait to see what would happen.
I had so much less digestive stress, and, subsequently, I slept a bit better. Not surprisingly, my weight also started to decline. This time I wasn’t thinking, “I can eat these foods again.” I felt a calmness that supported keeping away from these foods. Instead of an outside source telling me not to eat certain foods, my body was clear that these foods caused me distress, and I had a choice to eat them or not. It seems easier not to eat them because it is a body choice.
I see this process as a path to a more authentic self, guided by body wisdom instead of electronic device calculations, app priorities, and the abundant pseudo health industry that markets all kinds of cures for bodily discomforts. My junk email usually has numerous invitations to lose belly fat, sleep better, and be perfect by taking magic pills.
Living guided by body wisdom is not a solution. But, each step of the way, my body wisdom is central to any deliberate change I might have about how I can be healthier and happier. It also frees up a considerable amount of time I was monitoring apps, feeding information into them, and living with a sense of failure created by what Crouse describes as some app’s aspirational goals.
This video shows how an Apple iOS upgrade changed my desktop about the same time I start thinking about how digital devices impact our relationship to our bodies. --Diana Scalera