UPDATE: check my progress via this link!
I want to lose four kilograms in January. I’m old enough to realise that midriff fat is not only unsightly but a health risk. I think I know the incentives that will make losing it a cinch.*
That’s not to say that losing 4 kilos is easy. But I have a three-pronged strategy that I believe will work on me.
1. Cash incentives. Humans hate losses more than they enjoy gains. I pledge to pay $500 in penalties if the 4kg is not lost by the morning of February 1. This is the concept behind the website stickk, set up by Yale Economics Professor Dean Karlan, which currently has $16 million of incentives pending. Enforceable contracts are powerful incentives.**
2. Writing down everything I eat, and its kilojoule content. I’ve done this before when I’ve wanted to lose weight. It works in two ways – I learn a lot about portion sizes, and what snacks are “bad value”; it also discourages me from eating something, because I know I will have to write it down and add it up at the end of the day.***
3. Transparency. I will create a separate page on this blog in which I will place a daily photo of my scales. Public enforcement alone can be insufficient, as News Limited economics editor Jessica Irvine so publicly proved at Dietonomics. The long-abandoned blog’s three weeks of sad posts stands as testimony to the difficulty of losing weight. But I think it will add to the power of the other two prongs
But that’s not all.
Just to ramp up the suspense, the donation I give if I fail will be to the Motoring Enthusiasts Party. ”Ugh!” I hear you say. “You are a sicko… Why would you want to donate to them?”
My response: “Precisely.”
The Motoring Enthusiasts could not be further from my affections. The thought of a slice of my recent redundancy payment going to them will be a strong motivator in case anyone opens a Haighs Dessert Block in front of me during January. The Motoring Enthusiasts will not see a cent. This is my pledge.
If you would like to get involved, please do so! Pledge a goal and an incentive and I can report your progress too. Doesn’t matter if you’ve missed the start of the month.
*Classic economic models of human behaviour do not make such a distinction between short-run and long-run incentives. Economics says if you are a bit overweight, that reveals a preference for being fat. Thomas the Think Engine adopts a more nuanced theory of human behaviour, including the possibility of hyperbolic discounting.
** This blog is run on these methods. As a self-manager, I know I want to post daily by 12.30pm. But my tendency is to procrastinate. So I must pay a $60 fine to my significant other if the blog is not updated by that time. Works a treat.
*** I’ve done this before when I’ve wanted to shed a few kilos, and I’ve learned a lot of very disappointing things about cheese.