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Peloton, Gaming and Weight-Escapism
Escaping Feeling Fat
So, I’ve spent part of today grinding Peloton.
When I’m in New York from Thursday for a week, I’ll be stopping in to do a class in the actual Peloton studio in the Flatiron district. Like most games when there’s a particular thing I want or an event I have to prepare for, I wanted to get the “thing” from Peloton - in this case, the shoutout for hitting ride 300, which you’d likely get if you were doing it at home, but especially will get if you’re, like me, going to do your 300th class in person, in the front row.
This was problematic as of last Wednesday I was sitting at 283 rides. So naturally I did what any sane human would do - mathematically work out how I’d do it by the end of day Wednesday. In the same way I’d grind for EXP or materials in Diablo 3, I ground out 10 classes today - 9 5 minutes and a 10 minute - to get to 293 rides. Tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll do 3 rides a piece - one warmup, one working ride, one cooldown. This leaves me with 299 rides as I get on my flight Thursday, and as I walk into the studio Saturday.
This extremely normal way of doing a bike reflects exactly how I play any game I like. Peloton has challenges (split into bronze, silver and gold) for mileage (50 miles, 100 miles, 150 miles) and activity (5, 10 and 15 days using the bike/app-based yoga or stretching stuff). I honestly wish they had more, but also think I’d destroy myself if they did. The shoutouts for milestones are important to me in a sense of pride, but also so that there is now, however small, a tiny little mark of “me” on one or two rides that I’ve taken live and they’ve said “Ed Zitron” on, because I have my real name as my username.
I think that part is a spiteful thing inside me - I spent just under half my life about 300lbs (and only really started admitting I was that heavy to myself this year), and having put physical effort into forcing a fit person to say my name in a sentence around fitness is about as strong an act of industry against my internal monologue of feeling fat and ugly as I could ask.
I’m also being ballsy enough to go in the front row, which is apparently an act of confidence and/or willingness to “lead,” at least in the case of SoulCycle, the popular spin cycle class where you get to do weird tap-back things that probably hurt you. That being said, I’ve never really approached this as a social thing, nor do I have any kind of worry about peer pressure. I’m not gonna read the paper, but it seems extremely funny that someone would get mad at me for not “leading the pack in rhythm.” Isn’t that the instructor’s job?
Anyway, the whole thing is weird for me. When you’ve spent your whole life feeling heavy, even when you’re not, you always consider any kind of public exposure - going to the beach, for example - extremely daunting. For some reason the idea of doing Peloton on camera with people in a room with me doesn’t scare me, because I know I’ve got big legs and, honestly, nobody looks good doing this. I’ll spandex up and enjoy it, even though I’ll likely feel fat as shit the entire time. The numbers are what keep me in it though. I can argue a lot with how I physically look, or what I weigh, or whether I’m fitting my jeans, but I cannot argue with output, time or attendance of a class.
A lot of what I write about weight is brutal to unload. I don’t think it’s a case of people not wanting to understand - it’s that it’s very hard to understand from the outside looking in. It’s different to just self-loathing or self-hatred - it’s self-criticism, at all times, from all sides, anywhere you feel uncomfortable. Note, “anywhere” doesn’t refer to an external location but a location actually on your body. If your pants don’t fit perfectly for whatever reason, if you don’t like a particular way your shirt feels or looks, just anything can really drag you down to Hell when your body doesn’t feel right. The most important part to remember here is that “right” is not something you’ve ever felt, and your ideal body image is impossible to pin down.
What also upsets me are the people who offer not simply dumb but bad advice. The amount of actual working out you have to do to lose weight independently of an aggressive change in your diet is, well, a lot. I do it! On a bad day I’ll do 500 calories, on a good day 1200-1700. Beyond the people who are physically just able to lose weight easier, the idea of simple time in the gym is an obnoxious and incorrect thing. An hour of recumbent bike where you’re not breaking a sweat isn’t really doing much for you, nor is a leisurely lap of all the gym machines.
I lost a ton of weight a while ago lifting weights, but I also had an incredibly managed diet, as I was single and lived alone. The truth is, cutting calories or just working out an insanely large amount is the only way to get it done. The truth of the matter is that when I’ve got heavier, it’s because I ate a bunch of shit I shouldn’t, or drank a bunch of beer. And that’s it. If I ate badly, I knew it, and I felt bad about it, and then the thing I knew would happen happened - I’d get heavier. Right now I don’t even know my weight and go on feeling and the amount I work out.
And honest to god, I think unless I somehow dropped 50lbs and most of that in bodyfat, I’m going to feel like garbage about my weight forever. Only through grinding Peloton have I found anything that dulls that feeling.
That language wasn’t deliberately drug-adjacent but there is absolutely a way that I ride - a specific thing I do that mimics the way I will grind a part of a game I like to dust. I’ve done over 2000 games of Crucible on Destiny 2 - because I love it. I get bored when I start losing. With Peloton I don’t - the way I ride on my work days is to push my heartrate to over 170 for as much of the ride as I can, leaving me at the end with a powerful runner’s high and, in most cases, a high average output or overall output. The caloric burn is also a nice, if not questionable number. But I can, if I feel like I should be doing more to not be fat, say to myself that I rode X miles, I burned Y, and my heartrate was Z. And I felt amazing after it - a weird, irreplaceable rush. It’s a high. I have real numbers to say how well I did, and unlike Destiny, I don’t really have the chance to fail.
I guess it’s escaping from my “real life” where I feel fat and ugly, and giving me the rest of the day to not feel like I’ve failed to hold back the tide.
As far as Peloton goes, I’ll be on the Saturday 5/11 12:45pm 75 minute class with Matt Wilpers, then the 45 minute 5PM “Club Bangers” ride with Alex Touissant. I’ll be in NYC from May 9 through May 16. I’ll be staying in Soho, and I’ll be at the Consensus conference. I will also be at a certain premiere on May 9.
If you like what I’m writing here let me know. I really do love hearing from people, as part of my issue with writing regularly on my Substack is my belief that nobody actually reads it, which the statistics say the opposite of. If you don’t wanna read this, well, that’s fine, I’ll be fine, we’re fine, we’re all fine here. How are you?