Wii Need to Exercise Some Common Sense

After hearing several stories about the Wii being designed to make people feel bad about themselves, I decided to try it for myself.

I started by creating my Mii (my avatar, it’s like playing paperdolls with WAY too many options).  Much time was taken on what type of eyebrows were most representative of me, and whether or not I wanted to wear sunglasses.  I tried to accurately represent my body type but, like so many misguided clothing designers, the Wii assumes that the shorter you are the thinner you must be, so I wasn’t able to get an accurate representation of my figure.  Disappointed by undaunted I moved on.

My Mii created, I started Wii’s assessment process.  It asked me for my height, the weight of my clothes, and my birthday.  It didn’t ask anything about bone structure, build, or workout habits.

In the “things I wish someone had told me category”, when you step on the balance board it makes a surprised “Oh!” sound.  Apparently it does that for people of any weight, but it could be a bit off-putting.

Then the fun really began.  It gave me a little lecture about posture, then looked at how good my posture is (almost perfectly as it turns out).

Then it weighed me in.  My Mii started to expand – ah, I thought, that looks much more like me.  I was quite pleased.

But then the bad thing happened.   It played some music that was as  ominous as simple digitized notes can be, and my Mii began to look very sad and concerned.  So now my body was right, but my happy chipper disposition was gone.  I looked depressed and worried.  That’s not like me.

My Body Mass Index (a calculation of weight and height – more about this later) popped up on the screen along with a scale of underweight to obese.  My marker shot up to the top of the obese category and a chipper voice said “That’s Obese!”

Then it told me that my real age was 45 (at which point my Mii bent over and held her back in pain) and that my BMI told it that my body was weaker than it should be.  Having just leg-pressed about a thousand pounds  a few days before, I was curious what the Mii thought I should be able to lift.  Plus I don’t have any back pain and I wanted to ask it why it thought I (and apparently 45 year old women everywhere) did.  Unfortunately  it doesn’t really respond to questions.

Now the kicker.  It told me that a healthy weight for me might be 119.5lbs.  Many of you know that during college I developed a little  issue with not eating and working out all the time.  I went to the hospital briefly and was diagnosed as an EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).   I weighed 135lbs.  So I’m going to disagree with the Mii about my goal weight.

Once we got through that and played the actual games, they were fun and some of them were a at least a bit of a workout.  I had high hopes for the Wii because I’m a big advocate of people having fun ways to add movement to their lives if they choose.   My conclusion is that it would be fun if it didn’t come with all that shame piled on top.  I haven’t tested this but I’ve been told that if you don’t weigh in it constantly bugs you about it.

It’s not just big people either, a friend of mine told me that her son is underweight due to kidney problems and his Mii looks small and wimpy and makes him feel bad.

Here’s where Wii need to apply just a little bit of common sense.

First, BMI was meant to be used over extremely broad, statistically significant sample sizes.  It was not meant to be used on an individual basis due to it’s propensity for being grossly inaccurate in those cases.  Take me, for example.  I’m a healthy athlete but according to my BMI (which falls into Category 3:  Super Obese – which is as fat as you can get on the BMI chart), I should be pretty much be dead right no

You cannot tell someone’s health based on their height and weight.  You just can’t.  Wii need to stop being so lazy.

Even if my BMI was correct, representing me as  fat and depressed, and telling me that my body is weak and old is pretty much the crappiest motivation technique ever.

If you want to get healthier, I would suggest that the first step is to start appreciating the health that you have now – whatever that is.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably breathing so start there.  You don’t even ask it to, yet there your body is, breathing in and out just when you need it to.  Your eyes are probably blinking – there’s your body again, supporting your ability to see through healthy eyes.  Start appreciating the little things.  Can you walk or wheel yourself across the room?  Pat yourself on the back, thank your body for that.  Stop focusing on the things that you have been taught aren’t good enough, or pretty enough or whatever enough.  Refuse to buy into a culture of body hate.  Love yourself, then make choices.  If you haven’t already, find foods that you and your body both like, find ways to move that make you and your body health.  Start loving your body right now and you’ll be healthier, mentally and physically, right now.

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 7:49 am  Comments (12)  

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. For whatever it’s worth, when I do the self test on the balance board, because I am really quite uncoordinated and typically unbalanced (I am talking physically here) the Wii usually declares me to be in my 60s or 70s and usually asks me some snarky question like, “Do you find yourself falling down a lot?” Um, yes.

    • It said something snarky to my friends to. I’m wondering why on Earth they would have programmed the thing to be rude. How the crap does being ridiculed by a machine help you improve your balance?

  2. I suspect the programmers thought they were being funny or something. Remember who is doing the programming here- pasty guys who don’t see the sun much; not generally known for their excellent balance either

  3. My mom has Wii, and I hate that machine- it is mean even in games. And Wii Fit is just bad for you. The Wii does make a video game playing couch potato like me get up and at least move as I shoot things and blow things up- but it isn’t going to make anyone more “fit” and I have seen article after article supporting exactly what you are talking about. According to it- I am just fine, but there is nowhere to put in my high cholesterol blood sample.

    Want to move and have fun- any game system and “Dance Dance Revolution”- I guarantee it is more fun- it isn’t real dancing but it is fun to do.

  4. The very end of this made me cry. Thank you.

  5. I second Kim. Ragen I am so happy to have found your blog. :)

  6. I’ve been using Wii Fit Plus for a while now and I enjoy it, however it did take me a while to get my head around all the oohs and ahhs and OH MY’S from the board.

    Firstly I agree about how crappy it feels to see you Mii have a little breakdown every time you weigh in. I also think their BMI reading is in no way accurate, but sadly thats the same BMI prediction youre gonna get from any non-professional reading.

    There are few things I’ve done to make my time on the Wii more enjoyable. First I do the simple test to weign in. This option pops up before you enter in your password – the board doesnt talk to you, guilt trip you, make any noise at all. You go straight into the body test and your weight and balance results appear on one page!

    Next I stopped weighing in every day. As if seeing my little weight line zig-zig up and down across a week wasnt bad enough, having the board as me why I gained 1.2 pounds in a day over and over was terribly annoying. I ended up always using “indigestion” as my “excuse” for my 1.2 pound weight gain. So now I only weigh in once a week to avoid nagging on a daily basis and I use the simple test to get quick, straight forward results.

    As for the actual training exercises I do the free step 6 days a week on a raised platform. There are lots of brands out there to try. I purchased mine for 6 dollars a while back and its well worth the money. Keep in mind it makes the “calories burned” indicator on the game totally off, but they were off to begin with anyway.

    So basically Wiifit Plus is something I use all the time and have had great results so far. But it’s important that users keep in mind the design flaws and just have fun with it.

  7. I just found this blog and I have read a couple other similar subject blogs and I have to say this one and one other are my favorites. I completely agree with this entire post. I have two very major annoyances with the Wii Fit. The first being that it doesn’t take muscle into account so my Mii looks like it weighs fifty pounds more than I do which is not a very good motivation for me. My other problem with it is that it does not take into account the fact that people exercise in the “real world” (for lack of a better term) and not just on the Wii. The Wii constantly asks me why I don’t get on it enough and says that I should be exercising more. Mostly I just want to yell at it and say I exercise in the real world and I have muscle haha!

  8. Oh man, at the end you just preempted all the things I use when I say “Well should I be patting myself on the back for doing this incredibly simple thing?” (Considering I don’t have a disability.) Now I can’t argue with you! Well, I did fail at walking across the room one time this week but I was half asleep at the time.

    I was royally pissed off at the Wii Fit for saying that everyone should have a BMI of 22 and using this as one of very few criteria to evaluate your progress, but it hadn’t occurred to me just how triggering that would be for someone who had had an eating disorder. Yikes. I hate that game even more now.

    In a less Wii-Fit-specific topic (that Anna mentioned above), I hate when games pester you for not playing them enough. I hate being guilted for not playing a *game* (whose business should be to maximize my enjoyment when I do play it) so once I let it slip for a while I probably won’t ever play it again, whereas if it were easier to pick up after an absence I would.

  9. My daughter climbed onto my friend’s Wii fit not too long ago. My friend is a gamer with two gamer roommates, and my little girl is a very active but non-competitive nine-year-old. It told her that she was a perfect weight for her height, and she blew away my gamer friends balance scores. She enjoyed the games, and she likes to master things and beat her own score, but she felt kind of bad for bumping my friend off his own leaderboard. I wonder what she would have thought if he had gotten on and the Wii had chirped at him about his BMI, or chastised him for not playing as often as it wanted him to?

    She’s getting a Wii for Christmas this year. I wonder what she’ll say when the game chastises me for being obese? It’ll certainly be a teachable moment.

    • Sounds like you are an awesome Mom. Have fun with the Wii!

  10. “so many misguided clothing designers, the Wii assumes that the shorter you are the thinner you must be”
    Who with the what now? Granted, I’m 5’10″ and can’t say I have ever had to purchase petite clothing but my experience has been that it’s pretty much the same for the tall. No one seems to believe you can be pushing 6′ AND be larger than a size 10.


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