January weight loss wrap-up and future pledge

Many readers of this blog will be aware of the weight-loss challenge I undertook in January – to lose 4 kilograms.

The challenge got interesting because of the unusual motivation I chose. If I failed to shed the flab, I would owe the Australian Motoring Enthuisasts Party $500.

A lot was on the line. I updated my daily weight loss page, and even the Guardian took an interest, publishing a story I wrote about the challenge.

So it is with pleasure that I announce that the challenge has been successfully completed. I had to get from 78.5 kg to 74.5 kg, and I surpassed the goal.


The blue bars represent my daily food intake in KJ. I averaged just under 8000, a big discount on my real-life intake of probably closer to 12000-15000. There was plenty of cycling, walking and strength exercises during the month too. But of course it was easier to lose the first few kilos than the last few. And the peaks of the blue lines toward the end show that superhuman feats of self-control are hard to keep up, especially on Australia Day.

The use of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party as a motivator was a spectacular success, the only downside perhaps being a commentator on the Guardian Piece who wrote:

“I pledge to give $2,000 to the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party if Jason Murphy looses weight this month.”

Nevertheless, his pledge did not impede me and I trust his cheque has already arrived at AMEP HQ.

Now the challenge is to not put the weight back on. To that end I make another pledge. To weigh less than 74 kg (i.e. my current weight) at the end of February.  I will put $100 on the line this time and I open up the comments section to suggestions on who the money should be kept from…

January weight-loss challenge

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.

Weight Dec 31: 78.5kg

*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.

EPILOGUE: I made it. See my progress at this link!