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My Experiment With Incentives - March 2008

Did I Meet My Weight Loss Goals With My Weight Loss Gamble?


March 2008 Weight Loss Results
I did it. Despite the incentives, I didn't think I would make it - but I did.

The plan, as described by My Experiment in Economic Incentives Begins Today
    I need to lose one percentage-point of body fat (BF) between the first week in March and the first week in April, or I will be forced to pay $300. For the first week in March my average body fat was 20.79 so I need to be at less than 19.79 for the first week in April.
The first week of April is over and my 7 day average was... 19.23! A 1.56% reduction is more than I would have guessed possible. That is a bit of a mixed blessing, though, as it means that for the first week in May I need to have a body fat percentage under 18.23.

How I Did It

Being a bit of a stats geek, the first thing I did was create an Excel sheet to record my daily weight results. I realized that a month was a long period of time and that it would be easy to fall behind. To combat that I created a target for each day. The target was set that if I hit it each day, I would lose 1.4 body fat over the month, because I wanted to leave room for error. My overall goal for the month, my declining targets and my actual results can be seen here:

March 2008 Results

My approach was largely mathematical - given that there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat and I needed to lose about a pound a week, I realized I needed to create a caloric deficit of at least that much a week. I settled on a higher one, measured relative to my previous actions, of 5600 a week or 800 a day. The more aggressive target was due to the facts that:
  1. I not only needed to lose weight, but I needed to stop gaining weight, so I had to take that into account.

  2. I was going to naturally 'miss' my target some days. March was a difficult starting month to cut back on eating too much sugary food, due to it containing my birthday, Easter, and my father's birthday. (These dates actually show up on my results chart as times when I had setbacks).
Out of the 800 calories, I allocated 400 to eating and 400 to working out more. The first part was the easier of the two. I mainly tried to avoid eating too much in one sitting, and as much as possible I tried to avoid the simple carbohydrates that seem to do me in - candy, nachos and red wine.

The 400 extra calories lost working out came mainly from hitting the exercise bike at least once a day (often twice) and from running more with my dog. I became rather addicted to biking - so much so that I needed to cut back on it, because I was getting too much tightness in my leg muscles - even with a great deal of stretching.

This gamble had one obvious benefit - I feel better than I have in my life. But as importantly, I feel I have learned a fair bit about incentives and what motivates me. On the next page, I will describe what I discovered.

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