It’s All In the Numbers

Collectively, Capital Bikeshare participants have burned roughly 382,499,362 calories since September 2010. How do I know that? Recently, the D.C. based effort to reduce its carbon footprint and shrink America’s waistline, introduced the technology to calculate the calories burned each time someone mounts a Bikeshare bike. The bike uses 180 lbs. as the average size adult to make its calculations, although you can change the data to your specifications. Using information beyond my reach, the bikes also indicate how much CO2 each rider spares the atmosphere.

I love working out. Honestly, I am more committed to tomorrow morning’s workout than I am to things I should probably esteem more highly than jumping jacks. But, I am also hyper aware of the numbers plague. This is an insidious disease that attacks indiscriminately, but prefers young women.

It begins with the fine print on the side of a box of Cheerios. Then, suddenly it can be seen glaring from a menu board at McDonald’s, peering up from watch bands, blaring from billboards and murmured by fearful friends. “How many calories are in that pretzel?”

“Seriously, I have to go running (bike riding) so I can burn off my 400 calorie lunch!”

Do you think it’s a good thing that public transportation now measures the success of your commute by how many calories you burn?

But wait! You don’t have to count calories anymore – you can count your bites!  I have serious doubts about the accuracy, but this new little gizmo will tally how many times you use that special wrist movement called “fork to mouth.” Apparently, we humans are so finely tuned that we use the same special movement whether we are eating with a spoon, a fork or our hands. Even eating a whole apple involves this wrist twist. Just don’t stoop to mimicking your dog when you eat – you’ll confuse the bite-o’meter (maybe that’s the point).

Using technology designed to help the military track repetitive body movements involved in clearing buildings in Iraq, (a much more noble pursuit) your new watch can record each 25 calorie bite. There’s the subjectivity – the counter assumes that each bite you take is an average of 25 calories.

In and of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with these clever new inventions. I do wonder though, given the state of our floundering economy: How much in government grants went toward research and development?

The only lie I am uncovering here is the repetitive insinuation that we must count our output, tally our intake and monitor our measurements. Are we ever just OK? Is it possible to simply enjoy deeply breathing fresh air while biking to work? (Probably not in D.C.) What if you chew too much? Will your new gadget condemn you for excessive mastication?