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The Bet Switch Mechanism (Part 1/2)– The One Simple Social Tactic That Will Get You In The Best Shape Of Your Life

10/23/2012

in Exercise, Make Money, Productivity

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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 :P

Some results:

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.

  1. Set a specific goal (with tangible infractions)
  2. 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.

Did you learn anything from this article? Please share it on Facebook and Twitter. And post a comment, about the sort of change you want to make in your life.

{ 16 comments… }

Ariella October 23, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Brilliant post Maneesh. You look great in the first picture. My biggest obstacle is putting off doing something has meaning and make contribution in my life. I am relatively consistent with my work out routine because It has been habit for me. BUT on other things like I need to work on my business plan but I am surfing the Internet instead or I should be making an important phone call, yet I get involved in baking a cake or reorganising my kitchen draws. I used still in the past and donated money to my friend. I think I need stronger reasons to commit and stick with it.

Reply

Manny August 2, 2013 at 3:51 am

How does one get you to try 300 PFT for 30 days :)))))

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Tom March 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I think you are a genius. I have been doing fairly well with the battle but just can’t get rid of the last 20 percent of the fat. But you know what? I do cheat at least once every other day and your idea might just fix my problem so thank you very much!

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Jessica March 26, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I love this advice.
My biggest thing is that I think I would be likely to “fudge” the truth. AKA lie to my friend/stikk/etc.
Do you have any thoughts on that?
Also, I didn’t think your before photo was bad at all! I still think you looked good! But it has to feel great to lose that weight. :)

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πως να χασω κιλα February 10, 2013 at 7:20 am

Great work! This is the type of information that are meant to be shared around the internet.
Disgrace on Google for now not positioning this put up higher!
Come on over and seek advice from my website . Thank you =)

Reply

Financial Samurai November 28, 2012 at 8:16 am

Maneesh, you gotta smile a little for the ladies!

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Manfred Huber November 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

Great, for me it works.
I did it for mounten biking and skiing.
A bet gives the leisure aktivities higher priority ;-)
Its a win win.
Best wishes from Bavaria
Manfred :-)

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Rishabh October 29, 2012 at 5:01 am

Awesome Manish! Its really Awesome method. Thank you!!

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Rishabh October 29, 2012 at 5:00 am

Aweosme Manish! Its really Awesome method. Thank you!!

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Mentor Palokaj October 28, 2012 at 5:17 am

I love the Paleo diet. Being Dutch I modified it to include dairy though… And as it happens I’m doing IF as well, though I’m 16:00-Bedtime. Takes getting used to, but it is AWESOME.

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Vic Magary October 24, 2012 at 8:24 am

Dude, how have I never heard of Stikk.com before?! Thanks for sharing that awesome resource and keep up the great work leading the way with putting your money where your mouth is.

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Paul October 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Great post, Maneesh. Incentives (and in this case anti-incentives) can be important in achieving goals. I read your post and it inspired me to use it with my daughter who is struggling in school. She’s brilliant, but only applies herself to classes she’s interested in. I told her I’d pay for good grades — $100 for every A, $50 for every B and $25 for every C. The caveat is that for every D or F she receives I’m going to subtract $300. If the worst case scenario happens she could end up having to pay me! I know my kid will do everything in her power to make sure her old man forks up a bundle of money! Is it bribery? Absolutely. If it gets her GPA up and she gets scholarships then it will be worth every penny. Looking forward to part 2.

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Jules October 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Awesome! I have to pay my sister $20 every morning that I’m not up by 6:30 am. So far I haven’t paid her a red cent.

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Kate October 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Love this- It seriously works. I have a bet with a friend who teaches crossfit that if I don’t make it to her 6am class at least once a week (she teaches 2) I have to pay her $5. Since I told her that, I haven’t missed a week.
Can’t wait for part 2!

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Cody Wheeler October 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Nice. I like it man. And well explained. I actually used a modified version of in the Spring of 2012 to drop 20 pounds and get to 10% body fat myself – Paleo and all.

It was a contest at my CrossFit gym. Our bet was only $1 each cheat day, but even at a dollar it was still enough of a deterrent because of the simple fact that I didn’t want to “lose.”

Glad to see your blog blowing up dude. Your content is great. I’ll keep an eye on it for sure.

Reply

Armin October 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

This method works really great, I would do everything just that my brother/friend don’t get my money :D

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