“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” — Albert Einstein
Lost in a technological daze, we easily forget our basic human needs. We sit and stare at Twitter jams and traffic feeds. We forget to eat or mindlessly munch. We don’t get enough sleep. We don’t notice our aches and pains until they scream at us.
When our health falters, we’re told to start counting. Carbs, calories, reps, steps. We tally our behaviors on spreadsheets and expect results at the bottom line. Only what’s counted counts. Here are two examples:
Rather than prepare her own food a dieter recently told me it was easier to buy the prepackaged frozen dinners with their allotted points.
Sedentary for most of the day, we atone with exercise i.e. movement that can be quantified and commodified. The treadmill calculates mileage, minutes, and target heart rate. Does that measure our stamina or our ability to withstand the monotony of the cardio machine?
The marketplace brims with health counting devices: bathroom scales, low tech pedometers, and high tech arm bands. The more sophisticated instruments tell us when to sleep, how much to eat, and remind us to move. Call me old-fashioned, but shouldn’t we be able to perceive our basic needs?
I recognize that it’s easy to get lost in the deluge of fitness, dietary, and health advice. We all get confused and can delude ourselves. So how do we uncover our blind spots and stay on track?
Instead of a gadget, self perception might be what needs constant tuning. Sensing the self builds a sense of self. I’m not opposed to using the available tools but wonder what we are asking them. We buy the gizmo because we feel fat and would rather feel healthy and attractive. The bathroom scale could be a scolding tyrant or a wake up call. Just don’t ask it, “Do I have permission to feel good today?” The scale is not inherently evil, it’s an appliance like a toaster. Tracking feelings and sensations is as important as the numbers.
I suggest keep asking questions that can’t be answered with a number. What feeds me? What moves me? What soothes me? How do I numb out? When it comes to our health, I argue that what matters most, can’t be measured.