One year ago today, I left the wilderness—23 Lbs lighter. (See: How to lose 23 Lbs in 28 days)
It’s hard to keep that weight off. When I arrived back in civilization, I wasn’t prepared for the unlimited quantities of cookies and pizza at every street corner—so that weight quickly returned. Un-frickin-acceptable.
So I resorted to a tactic that I’ve used multiple times in my life: The Bet Switch Mechanism.
Precommitment, Betting, and the Quest for a Sexy Body
I’m a binge eater. I said it. I’m a veritable Ron Swanson:
I needed to fix myself. I needed to manage my eating. So I decided to use the Bet Switch Mechanism.
The process is simple—you decide on your desired behavior change. Then, you turn it into a bet. And every time you do the undesired action, you owe your friend/enemy money.
My desired behavior change was “Exercise daily, eat right, and lose weight.” So, I got in contact with Vic Magary, an awesome physical fitness trainer—I like to call him the “Virtual Trainer for Bloggers”. Both Steve Kamb and Joel Runyon had used Vic as their trainer, so I had him construct a diet plan.
It was simple: Paleo. Meat, veggies, eggs, handfuls of nuts and fruits—and nothing else.
And then I made it real.
I called up my friend James, who writes about how to become a journalist (who I interviewed recently about how he became an ESPN cohost) and asked him if he’d join me in an experiment. I would pay him $50 for every dietary infraction, up to $200 / day.
Here is the email I wrote to him:
Subject: New contract bet
For the next two months, I am doing a new bet
Intermittent Fasting paleo. 12-8pm feeding period.
I can eat from 12-8 pm. Purely paleo. No dairy, no nuts. no alcohol, no fruit. Only cheat allowed is coffee. Paleo = unlimited amounts of meat, vegetables, eggs. Oh, and no coconut milk ice cream. That shit is paleo, but is f$&%ing killing me.
Allowed: 1 cheat day per 7 day period where I can consume anything, beginning 11am and ending midnight. Includes alcohol. Alcohol gets an extra 2 hours, if I go out—I can consume until 2am the next day.
Bet starts 9/4 until 12:01am, 11/4. Day of 11/4, I’ll eat whatever the f#%$ I want. Any cheat is equivalent to $50 for the first cheat item, $25/item afterwards (up to $200 max / day )
A simple, specific bet. No big deal, just a single email. But the mental and physical differences were astounding.
Normally, when I attempt to do a special diet, I find myself on a slippery slope. “Just one cookie isn’t so bad!” But then I would have 15. “Hey, maybe just one bite of ice cream.” But it’s never only one bite, is it?
The simple threat of financial loss—to none other than my arch nemesis and best friend James—completely changed the way that I looked at food. That wasn’t just any cookie—it was a $50 cookie. Screw that.
The act of adding an accountability partner, and throwing a bet in the mix, made it a complete mind shift. I only cheated once—after a cheat night of heavy drinking, I woke up to an empty Skittles wrapper in my pocket. Sigh, goodbye $50.
But other than that, I built muscle, lost weight, and got back down to 167 lbs—losing 15 lbs in the process.
And I feel freaking great. You can enjoy my not-so-sexy body at the end of this video—and see what happened after a little Paleo.. Cause this is me now, ladies.
You want some of that, don’t you 😛
I tracked every item I ate for a long period of time. You’ll see the kind of food that entered my system, during this diet phase.
My workout plan was perfect, as well.
The real shift occurred mentally—it never once crossed my mind to cheat, because there was no way in hell that I would pay James $50. That’s ridiculous.
Joel Runyon lost 34 lbs and got six pack abs in a very similar way. Check out his guest post, Hacking the Six Pack.
A Summary of the Paleo Bet Switch Experiment
The Bet Switch Mechanism works like this.
- Set a specific goal (with tangible infractions)
- Make a bet with a friend about it. Every time you cheat, you owe your friend money.
If you don’t have any friends who are up for this plan, check out http://stickk.com. It’s the same service—every time you cheat, you donate money to some charity. The most popular charities? The George W. Bush Presidential Library, and the Ku Klux Klan. You REALLY don’t want to give money to the KKK because of a cookie, do you?
Set a specific deadline, and MAKE SURE that you follow through.
In this way, you’re hacking a system—building a formula, a plan, a system that ENSURES you will succeed—and precludes failure.
This is the first example of the Bet Switch Mechanism. In my next post in the series, you’ll learn about how I used the same tactic to quintuple the size of my Web site in just 90 days.