“Taaaaaaaaake onnnnnnnn me,
Taaaaaaaake meeeeee on!
I’ll beeeeeeee goonnnnnnne,
In a day or TWOOOOOOO!”
What the hell does that mean? Who cares!
All I know is that I can’t get a-ha’s “Take on Me” out of my head. It’s been there ever since the trailer dropped for the nerdy nostalgia-bomb that is Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” a blockbuster movie out now, based on the best-selling book of the same name:
As a child of the Oregon Trail generation, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the pop culture and nerd references throughout the novel and could certainly relate to the main character Wade Watts, an overweight awkward teenager who loves 80’s pop culture and escapes a crappy existence by spending most of his time in virtual worlds.
It had me thinking deeply about how technology is creeping into every aspect of our lives, in both good ways and bad.
We can’t not check our email every 3 seconds. We can’t stop watching Netflix. We can’t stop scrolling through photos on Instagram. We can’t sit through a conversation with a person in front of us without habitually checking our phone every time it buzzes.
And then we all wonder why we are too busy, distracted, unhealthy, unhappy, and can’t get our shit together.
These days, it’s becoming more and more commonplace to use technology for convenience and quick bouts of entertainment and happiness to shield us from the reality that there are parts of our lives or our health we’re unhappy with.
In Ready Player One, we get a very plausible look into a dystopian future where those societal trends have continued: technology gets better and more convenient, and people spend more and more time escaping into more exciting virtual lives online.
And society has nearly collapsed as a result.
Although this book is partly a cautionary tale about where we’re heading if we don’t change our behavior, it’s also a charming Hero’s Journey, deep fried in neon-tinted nostalgia, that I couldn’t put down.
As a gamer who thinks about life like a game (and even wrote a book about this very idea), every page of this book had me grinning from ear to ear.
Today I want to quickly discuss the pitfalls of technology and then share my 10 favorite ways to use technology to get ourselves to actually do the stuff that matters every day.
This is Nerd Fitness, after all.
So…ready, player one?
Why Ready Player ONe Matters
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology.
Technology has allowed me to create Nerd Fitness and deliver this article to you. It’s changed my life decidedly for the better and made literally everything easier.
The problem comes when technology gets TOO damn good. Video games are getting TOO well designed and addicting. TV shows and the delivery of those shows is so well done that you can lose an entire Saturday to 10 episodes in a row of Stranger Things before you realize it. Social media can be TOO pervasive, causing us to cast aside real life friendships and deep conversation in instead spend our time virtually – and superficially – connecting with people.
We trade likes and thumbs up in this unwritten but very real economy of fluffing each other’s egos.
If you’ve read any of the recent studies on this stuff, you know that social media is actually making us unhappier and more anxious, and yet we can’t get ourselves to stop seeking “just another hit.”
It’s getting easier and easier to say “one more level” or “I’ll just check Instagram quickly” and 10-15 minutes of your life is lost in a black hole of junk-food style entertainment.
And this causes us to forgo what is ACTUALLY important in our lives: Eating healthy. Exercising regularly. Practicing self-care. Getting enough sleep. Connecting with people in real life. 
Which brings me back to Ready Player One.
If you haven’t read the book or don’t plan on seeing the movie,
how did you end up on Nerd Fitness allow me to quickly explain the premise:
The year is 2045, and technology has advanced dramatically while the rest of society has devolved. Our main character Wade Watts is an overweight, awkward high school senior with little money to his name.
Every day, Wade puts on a virtual reality headset to plug into The OASIS, a MMOSG (massively multiplayer online simulation game) – think Second Life or World of Warcraft on steroids. OASIS has become so successful that its something pretty much everybody on the planet now uses.
In the OASIS, Wade attends school, hangs out with friends, and gets to create this alternate life for himself. Depending on how much in-game currency you have, you can visit various worlds, level up your character by completing quests, and make a life for yourself.
For most people, life in the OASIS kicks the crap out of their miserable real life, which means they use this second life as an escape from the harsh reality. And the more time they spend in game, the more they neglect their real-life health happiness, which further perpetuates a negative downward spiral.
So how does one stop letting the Matrix run their lives and instead take control back?
Let’s see what Wade did.
Wade Gets in Shape to Level Up His Life
Wade’s in a not-so-great place.
He lives in isolation, is very unhappy with his physical appearance, struggles socially, and chooses to withdraw more and more into an anonymous character online that’s much more exciting than his real world counterpart.
This is already happening today, with people losing their jobs, relationships, families, and even their lives due to online gaming or technology addictions.
Fortunately, Wade did something that was so freaking smart and clever that gets the 100% Nerd Fitness Stamp of Approval.
[Note to self: buy stamp of approval.]
At a turning point in the story, Wade makes a decision that probably seemed small at the time but forever altered his life’s path. He turned on the voluntary Fitness Lockout protocol of the OASIS. This meant that every day, Wade had his biometrics tracked, and rigged his system so that he was locked out of using the OASIS until he got enough physical activity every day.
What this means: Wade used technology to make his life decidedly better instead of making it worse. He was so addicted to using the OASIS that he needed to be in there. Which meant if he wanted to play, he had only ONE path to connection:
Doing the damn exercise!
Unsurprisingly, this changed Wade’s negative downward spiral into a positive virtuous cycle. Getting all that exercise started to make him feel better about himself and gave him more energy. He got hooked on how he felt after exercise and how much more pride he felt looking in the mirror. In other words, it felt like he had regained control, and this caused him to want to continue to chase that feeling.
Wade was smart enough to build a system that forced himself to do what was best for him, and stuck with it long enough until that activity because his new default behavior.
Depending on where you’re at in your fitness journey, this might sound like a pipe dream. However, I can tell you that there’s one common thread in every one of our success stories – whether it’s single moms or opera-singing IT professionals, they all say the same thing:
“I don’t know how it happened, but somehow…I now actually look forward to exercising.”
Here’s how you can be like Wade.
10 Ways to Make Technology Work For You
I don’t believe technology is inherently good or bad.
It’s a tool that can be used to improve or harm our lives. Oftentimes, a little bit is good, a lot is detrimental.
Inspired by Ready Player One, I wanted to go through some ways I’ve implemented technological hurdles in my life to actually make my life LESS convenient. I’m using it to keep me from devolving too far down rabbit holes of gaming, Netflix, and instead just do the damn things I need to do every day to make my life better.
Here are my favorite examples:
1) I WANT TO EXERCISE MORE AND WATCH LESS NETFLIX:
Although we can’t do EXACTLY what Wade did in Ready Player One, we can emulate it pretty closely. For example, give your spouse/friend/roommate/coworker your login credentials to Netflix/Hulu/whatever. Have them change the password and not tell you.
Only after you do the thing you’ve agreed to do that day (send them a photo of you at the gym) will they give you the password.
2) I CAN’T GET MYSELF TO GO TO THE GYM ENOUGH:
Do temptation bundling. Download your favorite audiobook or your favorite shows on Netflix. ONLY allow yourself to watch/listen to these while you’re walking on a treadmill at the gym or exercising.
How to do this? Download the shows to your iPad. Next time you to go to gym, ask the general manager to set the password on your iPad so that he’s the only one that can unlock it. If you want to watch the show, they’ll have to let you in!
3) I WANT TO SPEND LESS TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
I know there’s a big movement to #deleteFacebook right now, but we use Facebook to connect with members of the community and our products and services. But I know everytime I go to Facebook for work reasons, I end up scrolling through my newsfeed for 10-15 min and I get VERY little out of it.
So I use tech to my advantage. In addition to deleting social media off my phone, I turned off my newsfeed. If you use Google Chrome, install newsfeed eradicator. Now my time spent on Facebook is minimal, the distraction is gone, and I can still connect with people when it fits my life. This is what I see when I sign into Facebook:
BORING. I might as well get back to work!
My friend Sol has given his facebook password to his girlfriend and makes sure he isn’t logged in on any of his computers. So he only uses it when it fits into his schedule. There’s no compulsive checking during the day.
4) I CAN’T GET MYSELF TO PLAY FEWER VIDEO GAMES:
Be your own parent! I have installed parental controls on my Nintendo Switch and PS4. It locks the system during certain hours, or I can limit myself to playing only during a certain number of hours. When you’re in the right mindset, install these controls and have somebody else set your passwords so you can’t just turn it off.
Stop relying on willpower – these games are too damn good. I’m currently hooked on Assassin’s Creed: Origins and the struggle is real. I imagine if I even took one hit of Fortnite I’d be mainlining battle royales all the way to rehab by next Tuesday.
5) I WANT TO WAKE UP EARLIER:
Hat tip to my friend Thomas Frank on this one. Schedule a really embarrassing tweet/photo to publish 5 min after you need to wake up, and put your phone across the room. You have to wake up, walk across the room, and stop the scheduled tweet from sending. WAYYYY more effective than an alarm clock you can just snooze!
6) I WANT TO STOP EATING FAST FOOD:
Leave your ATM debit card at home, and only bring a credit card with you to work, preferably one that you share with your spouse. Have them receive an email notification for every time the card is used. And if it is used at a fast food restaurant, they’ll donate $50 you gave them to a cause you hate.
7) I CAN’T GET MY KIDS TO DO THEIR CHORES:
Be like this awesome mom:
8) I WANT TO MOVE MORE EVERY DAY:
Get yourself a cheap fitbit (I have a Flex 2 and LOVE it for sleep tracking purposes, but also interesting to see my step count). Take somebody you trust, and friend them on Fitbit’s platform. Then, agree to an amount of steps you need to take every day before you can watch TV, play video games, etc. If you don’t reach said steps before you slack off for the day, they will post a super embarrassing photo that you’ve sent them on social media.
9) I WANT TO COOK HEALTHIER MEALS:
Throw all of the junk food out of your house. Instead of using Amazon Prime to just deliver you useless crap you don’t need, have it set to auto-deliver you fresh groceries or meal kits regularly. Use technology and convenience to your advantage and make the most convenient option the healthiest one. Once you eliminate fast food, junk food, and crap you don’t need to buy, you can increase your food budget to compensate for the increased of convenience here.
You can also set up a mission with friends where you have to batch cook your meals on Sunday (how to batch cook here). If you don’t cook your meals on Sunday, no Netflix that week (your friend would have the password), and vice versa. Diabolical. Effective.
10) I LOOK AT MY DAMN PHONE TOO MUCH:
Change your phone to greyscale. Suddenly everything is way less vibrant and fun and the phone starts to lose its appeal. Turn on parental controls on your phone, have somebody else set your parental lock password, and delete all unnecessary apps from your phone – email, social media, YouTube, etc. Tough to get distracted by a device that doesn’t have anything fun to do on it, right?
Instead, have a real life conversation, even with a stranger! Read a damn book!
Maybe Ready Player One! Maybe THIS one 🙂
Or if you’re looking for some free literature to help change your life, you can join The NF Rebellion and download a plethora (I don’t get to use that word enough) of free ebooks as our way of welcoming you to our community!
- The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
- Full guide to the most effective diet and why it works.
- Complete and track your first workout today, no gym required.
Use Technology to Change Your Default Behavior
We’re creatures of habit, and products of our environment. If we’re not intentional with our time, our default behavior becomes:
- Netflix and ice cream after work instead of hitting the gym.
- Gaming late into the night instead of getting quality sleep.
- Fast food instead of taking the time to batch-cook our meals for the week.
When we don’t take control, we give that control subconsciously to what’s most convenient. And technology will gladly take that control from you, because every company’s stock price and profit margin depend on it.
These are companies with tens of thousands of employees, scientists, psychologists, and billions of dollars of research at their disposal and their only goal is to get more of your attention/time/focus/money.
Sure, you can lament the fact that you don’t have enough willpower or motivation or whatever to avoid all of these temptations to do the boring, challenging activity that will dramatically improve your life in the long term.
You can EITHER:
- Beat yourself up for what you THINK you should be doing but can’t.
- Accept that this is reality, and that you need to stop relying on yourself and instead start relying on systems.
I mean this in a good way, but I gave up on myself a long time ago, and it was the best decision I ever made. Because games and social media and TV are too enjoyable! So I don’t even give myself the option to get tempted by this stuff by using technology to my benefit.
So have some fun with this! There’s no reason you can’t combine good natured but effective ‘consequences’ to help you build the habit of getting healthy until that virtuous cycle of “holy crap I love how this makes me feel, I’m hooked on feeling good” kicks in.
Be more like Wade Watts and build systems in your life and use the Matrix to your advantage.
Which tech hack is your favorite for getting you to make healthier decisions daily?
Do you have a strategy that you’ve put in place to level up your own life?
Share them in the comments below and help your fellow nerds out!
And then go read/see Ready Player One 🙂
PS: This week’s Rebel of the Week: Katie from Gainesville, FL. Nerd Fitness tank top. She rocked her new in the Great Inflatable Race and had a damn fun time doing so! Rumor has it that thanks to the +5 speed attribute on the shirt, she set a course record and also broke the sound barrier. Not bad, Katie!
Want to be our next Rebel Hero? Send us a photo of you in your NF Battle Gear doing something epic! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo credit: Profound Whatever 8-bit Basement, jjackowski, Safety Protocols Disabled, JD Hancock Wocka Wocka Wocka!,
20 thoughts on “Ready Player One: 10 Tech Hacks to Lose Weight and Level Up Your Life”
Huzzah! A new post! Very delightful read, Steve
Hey Nerdfitness, I typically get an email when a new article is released. I don’t recall seeing this one, any chance something changed?
Thanks for the tips.
An absolute livesafer when I have a paper due or something like that is the app SelfControl for my laptop. It blocks websites of your choice for an amount of time that you choose, and nothing you can do can override that until the time is up. It forces you to focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.
I’ve realized that I’m addicted to social media, and I can sometimes accidentally spend hours mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. A simple thing I’ve done to try and start to break the habit of clicking on those little app icons whenever I’m even a little bit bored is that I’ve set a goal to not use social media at all for a whole week. When I complete a day without going on social media, I get to put a little check mark beside that goal on a white board in my room. I started this about a month ago, and I haven’t reached a week yet, but it has still helped me cut down significantly on my social media time, because even when I fail, each day is a new start toward my goal. Checklists are surprisingly effective to motivate me, as well as the decision to have no leniency to break bad habits. It’s not “I’ll only use it for 15 minutes”, it’s making the decision not to use it at all, because I know 15 minutes will turn into an hour, and I’ll end up wasting even more hours of my life than I already have.
Sorry for the long comment.
I got the email. Try checking your junk mail folder. No matter what I do, my email sometimes sorts NF emails as junk.
Surprisingly, I like the tip about using parental controls to restrict game console time. I’m a passionate gamer and own just about every console on the market from the past 3 generations, but I find myself getting caught up in Netflix, youtube, or other non-gaming apps way more than I’d like. At that point it’s just passing the time, not being productive or deliberate. I feel like if I set a time restriction, I’ll be far more likely to use my game time deliberately and not squander the power of my ps4 away on menial tasks like Hulu binge watching. I’ll give it a go and see how it works out for me. Fingers crossed!
I’ve discovered there’s some great causes online that have the effect of encouraging people to get out and active. I discovered the “Greatest Virtual Run” on Facebook a few months ago. The idea is you donate to the charity, and commit to one or more of several goals, which are:
walk or run a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon between April 13 and April 16. With Parkruns available around the world, it’s pretty easy to do the 5k with other people, and walking is perfectly fine there! The really keen people are doing the monthly challenge, which is run, walk or cycle 150 or 300km for the month. The money raised goes to providing running shoes to autistic people (in New Zealand at this stage), meaning we’re helping others start their fitness journey too.
But that’s not the end of it. Every month, they have team challenges, where the group are divided up by age or geography, and then the challenge is to collectively “beat” the other team. Challenges I’ve seen so far are highest average mileage and greatest average elevation gain.
The group are both encouraging and there’s a culture of sharing activity (like Strava tracks and photos) and being generally supportive, and they welcome diversity. I’m the only sprinter in a bunch of distance runners, walkers and cyclists, which leads to some interesting sharing. 🙂
Oh, and as for my challenge, I’m only doing the 5k, but that’s a strategic decision, so I don’t compromise speed. However, April here in the state of Victoria, Australia is “Active April”, which is a state government initiative to get people to do at least 30 minutes of exercise/day for the month of April. It comes with virtual trophies and the chance to win some decent prizes (I have won in the past myself). The program comes with its own tracker, and uses technology to get you out doing something that’s good for you. 🙂 Even for an active person like me, it’s sometimes a challenge to find that 30 minutes of something to work up my day’s quota, but I make sure I do! 😉 If there’s any other Victorians who want to take part, contact me, I do get entries into other prize draws for referrals. 😉
And for fun, I am sharing my progress with the virtual runners. 🙂
I have to thank Level Up Your Life for actually making this happen: when I go to sleep, I enter Google Drive on my phone, put a Notepad text I wrote with my daily habits and starting with the quote “How can I make this fun?” During the day I know what I can do to get better every day in the things I care about most. Even if I do not do all of them in a day because of college or whatever, at least sleeping knowing I did something today to go forward makes me happy. Plus I decided to put my bookmarks and gaming things like Steam or Origin into additional folders so it’s more work to enter than it is to do what I have to do.
What a damn good article. I’ve been doing the Newsfeed Eradicator and phone in grayscale for a while now and love them both. Added benefit on the grayscale: your phone battery lasts way longer.
I’ve used parental controls on my Blizzard account many times, but it doesn’t work for all the other PC stuff, until I discovered the Task Scheduler (in Windows – not sure what the Mac version is called, but I know it has one). Then I was able to set up an automatic shutdown time for the computer, which helps a bunch. Problem is, I want to be able to just shut down games so I can do, for example, my journal before bed. I think I’ll try out the SelfControl thing Jaz mentioned.
One of my many guilty pleasures is watching Big Bang Theory in the evenings. But instead of feeling bad about it, I use that time to do pesky chores during commercials like washing dishes and doing laundry… and during the show, I brush and floss my teeth!
There area some really great tips in here. Control locks/restrictions never really worked for me, but saving new videos/podcasts/music for workouts (sort of like temptation bundling) has made all the difference in my life. Sometimes it’s the only opportunity I have for escapism, so I’m eager to do it. I’ve also made fewer excuses to stretch and do light cardio by doing it while watching a show at the same time. Kills two birds with one stone!
Also, I think there are beneficial ways to use Facebook when trying to lose weight. There are a lot of fitness groups related to your particular interests that can help motivate you and help you overcome personal challenges. Once you find these groups, you’ll probably spend more time searching them while on FB than scrolling on your home feed. It’s a good alternative if you can’t quit FB altogether.
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