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Articles & Essays

"A fitness Wii and a maxi Mii"

Published 04/04/10
The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Those of you who have been hanging around here for a while know that if I'm going to exercise, I prefer that it be cloaked as a social event - like a nice dinner party.

I do belong to a gym, and I go there regularly to say hi and see whether I can pick up any recipes. If you need recipes, gyms are the best places to get them, because everyone - even the taciturn guy with an iPod in his ears who's bench-pressing their own body weight - is thinking about food.

When my husband suggested purchasing a Wii Fit, I thought it would fit right in with my party fitness philosophy. Play some games, have some fun and still be within reach of popcorn and cookies - oops, I meant bananas and granola bars.

The first thing the Wii asked was for me to create a little stand-in called a Mii. It offered neither options for attractive hair highlights nor adequate accessorizing opportunities. (No earrings? Barbaric.) But I came up with a reasonable facsimile of the original.

Then, it told me to step on the Balance Board. It does not reveal, as it's pleasantly asking you to input your height, that there's a scale in the board. The machine calculates the user's body mass index, which has been criticized as a measurement of fitness, but apparently no one told the Wii.

When my husband went through this process, the screen calmly told him that he was slightly overweight (a surprise to both of us) and went on.

When it was my turn, the screen flashed "obese!" and zoomed up its little BMI thermometer into the red. According to the Wii, I should be dead.

The biggest insult: When it calculated the BMI, it immediately ballooned up my Mii like it was inflating a blimp. It gave me a fat Mii, which looked like a purple soccer ball with pencil legs and a blond wig.

This is supposed to be motivation?

I've told this story to virtually everyone, including people at my actual gym. All have offered responses that are variations of my friend Chuck's: "That's so rude."

And the rudeness doesn't end there.

When my husband logs in, he gets pleasant little messages like, "This is a nice evening to exercise, isn't it?" What does the thing say to me? "Watch those afternoon snacks." It's like getting fortune cookies written by my doctor.

The Wii Fit is a nag.

"You need to see this," my husband called out one night.

I walked in to see on the screen: "So, how do you think Moose is doing?"

The little stinker was talking about me behind my back.

He continued, and the next screen asked, "Does Moose look thinner or about the same?" Before I could control my sputtering outrage, my husband clicked "about the same," and headed for the Rhythm Boxing workout, which is one of his favorites (even though I regularly get the high score, nyah, nyah).

He gave the wrong answer. Very wrong answer. I made unauthorized use of my bow (I had been practicing my fiddle) to make sure he was aware that the correct choice was "thinner."

No matter. I'd had enough abuse from this machine.

I called up the User Settings screen. I clicked on the height option. And clicked. And clicked. Until my height reached 6 feet 1 inch.

When I clicked "Enter," my Mii turned tall and willowy in a flash, just as it was meant to be. The BMI thermometer floated placidly near the center.

Now, that's what I call a workout.


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