Losing real weight in a virtual world

I use a manual wheelchair every day. So for me, one of the best features of the GoWoman Weight Management Program was participating in the “virtual world” of Second Life.

At first I strongly resisted Second Life (SL), figuring it was a fantasy world full of 13 year-old boys. But then I actually entered it after a training session and walked, flew, and jumped around the beautiful “world” our program instructors built just for us.

We had sparkly, poofy cushions in front of a screen for presentations. There were water features such as shorelines, pools, and lakes, and every kind of landscape imaginable. Much of the GoWoman “world” felt like a private, luxury resort to me.

At the back of the “world,” was our outdoor workout space with a rock climbing wall, yoga and stretching mats, punching bags, bicycles and other great equipment.

It was a space with no intimidation. There were no problems due to inaccessible equipment, no sweaty locker rooms and no long drive across town to the gym. In other words, it was perfect!

I especially liked seeing myself (meaning my ‘avatar’) high kicking a punching bag over and over with no achy muscles or loss of balance. Talk about therapeutic!

You may be wondering how useful a virtual workout is in a digital world that isn’t real? I felt it created a strong message through my neural pathways in the brain when watching “me” perform physical feats I couldn’t do IRL (In Real Life, another SL abbreviation).

Maybe I didn’t lose 20 pounds as my avatar jumped up and down hitting that bag, but to see “myself” this physically active and able, works on a deeper level. I feel creates possibility within me.

I don’t understand all of the science behind Second Life virtual movement, but the enjoyment factor kept me going in a long, rigorous program when I could have dropped out. I didn’t and I’m glad.

-By Terri O’Hare, guest blogger and member of the GoWoman Community Advisory Board


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