Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Micro-Choices

This is a post from earlier this year. I find that I'm in need of some motivation and a reminder of where I started so I'm bringing this to the top and rereading it!

I stumbled across this article a while ago and thought it quite valuable because it describes the methodology that I used without even knowing there was a term for it.  The average person makes around 250 food related decisions every day, and that doesn't even include the exercise related decisions! That sure seems like a lot of decision making for just food, and especially when some of the decisions you're making are what the article calls memory-based. 

I recall the day I decided to really take control of my weight clearly.  I had gotten a new issue of All You in the mail the night before, and I was leafing through it while I was waiting for something to download at work.  I noticed this tiny blurb about a website called Stickk, where a user could set up a binding contract with a specific goal for a user-determined amount of time.  Each contract would have weekly or daily reporting, based upon your choice and reporting failure would cost you. Now, I'm a pretty big penny pincher. I hate wasting or losing money. I rarely ever gamble and have been known to put off buying things I need because I don't want to spend money.  Then it clicked, if I put money at stake on my weight loss, I would be extremely motivated and aware of my food decisions.

I signed up for a contract that very day.  The contract length was 13 weeks and my starting weight was 156 with a goal weight of 145, a mere 11 pounds.  I set the stakes at $50 per failed weigh in period, with a total $650 dollars on the line.  I only had to lose 0.85 lbs each week to succeed.  I can proudly say that I did not lose a single penny, and I blew past my initial goal of 145 to end the contract at 136.8.

What does this all have to do with memory-based micro-choices about food? Well, when you put $50 on the line, you start to think about what goes into your mouth a bit more readily.  Thoughts like this began to cross my mind:
  • Is that chocolate cake really worth $50? Well...no, not really.
  • Do I really need a second helping of tacos? Well...no, not really.
  • Is eating out really worth an extra $50? Not really!
Putting money at stake really helped me stop and analyze what I was putting into my body.  It started simple at first, I was just not eating the extra crappy calories that were making me gain weight.  It started to get serious when I was logging my food one day and I looked at my macronutrient targets. I began cleaning my diet up and switching to unprocessed foods in an attempt to get a personal idea ratio of 50% carbs/30% fat/20% protein.  Soon enough my memory-based decisions started becoming healthy. I'd reach for an apple with a stick of low-fat mozzarella instead of a candy bar.

While I still have a current Stickk contract to maintain my weight at or below 127 lbs, it's more of a safety net these days.  I no longer think about whether is something worth x amount of dollars, but instead think about the quality of the food I'm eating. I've been able to maintain my successfully for six months now and the forecast is looking good.