Thursday, January 26, 2012

An App for Those That Need External Motivation

Feature Entry: An App for Those That Need External Motivation

Here is what Carolyn See of the Washington Post said about law officer Sunderson: “He is still sick-in-love with Diane, who’s married again, and he’s a compendium of bad habits, but he walks every day and somehow keeps his life in balance.” It seems that many of us are a ‘compendium of bad habits.’

Another bad habit is related to exercise and the store front fitness centers in your neighborhood. January is their busiest time of the year for these usually worthy entrepreneurs. We gain weight, we repent, and then we join a fitness center. The centers charge a non-refundable minimum membership fee and a length-of-time contract, three months minimum due at signing. Joining is not the bad habit, regular attendance is. Too many people join, attend a time or two and then lose interest or motivation to continue. Then at the end of the year, we purchase new clothes, one or two sizes larger than the year before.

Want to change the cycle? Harvard behavioral economists may have the answer. Professor Sendhil Mullainathan teaches that people are more motivated by “immediate consequences than by future possibilities.” Two of his students moved from theory to practice and created a rapidly growing company based on an app that works off of their customers iSO phone (think iphone, ipad, ipod, and others). The company??? Gym Pact!

Gym Pact works with local fitness centers. When you sign up, you make a commitment to exercise a certain amount of time. If you skip your workout, you get fined $5 a day. The money goes into a user’s pool and at the end of the week, surplus dollars are given to the people that honored their pact. When the exercisers checks in to their fitness center using their iSO phone, Gym Pact confirms your presence via the GPS. The money is handled through credit cards and PayPal. In their beta test, 90% met their pact requirements.

It is that simple: “When you sign up, you make a commitment to exercise a certain amount of time.” There are four simple steps: 1) join, 2) set your pact, 3) check in at your gym, and 4) get rewarded.

Somewhere, in some dimension, B.F. Skinner has a big smile on his face. Go ahead, check out the Gym Pact url listed above.


Photo by Richmond College Fitness Center

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Refrigeration Door Wisdom for Weight Loss

Feature Entry: Refrigeration Door Wisdom for Weight Loss

A nice lady well known to the MoneyWalkers has an interesting habit of creating and posting great advice on her refrigeration door; we will call her “G”. On a recent visit, we noticed this gem posted as if her teen daughters had provided a reminder note for her benefit. It read as follows:
Mom, remember…
• No sugar or alcohol on weekdays.
• Eat only fresh vegetables for smacks
• Select smaller portions during the regular meals
• Eat only whole grains

These are great pithy reminders and easy to remember. G is not forsaking sweets and a fine glass of wine; instead she is using these treats as rewards for healthy vigilance. She is not eliminated snacking. In fact she implies that snacks are important component of strategies for losing or maintaining weight loss. Eating snacks reduces hunger cues which often lead to eating sweet or over processed treats. The Moneywalker really enjoys raw carrots.

It takes discipline but G has learned to take smaller portions of her delicious entrees, and then eats more slowly so as to send a “filling” message to her appetite sensors. She doesn’t forgo breads and pastas but is careful to eat more digestible and less fattening whole grain varieties.

G is an exerciser, but as a busy mom, she knows that completing time consuming calorie burning exercise often is set aside so as to meet her obligations as a busy house of pre-teens and teens. She is correct; calorie management is a more efficient weight loss/maintenance tool than is aerobic exercise, although both are importance.

Want my pithy addition? What she said!


Weight Scale Data: 177.0 lbs
Money Found today: $1.47 with several “sweet” finds; very motivating

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Altruistic Walking

Altruistic Walking

The MoneyWalker is intrinsically motivated to sustain his walking habit because he has internalized and accepts the scientifically demonstrated values of walking e.g. weight management, emotional energy, avoidance of premature memory loss, cut the risk of heart disease, and reduce the chance of type 2 diabetes. There are more. However, walking is not necessarily a strong ally of intrinsic motivation. The steady routine can lead to boredom and walkers’ burn-out. One cure for walkers’ burn-out is altruistic walking, a fence straddler it turns out on the motivation internal/external continuum.

How so external motivation as a tenant of altruistic behavior? The research of Alberto Oliverio, a genetic and molecular biologist, leads him to believe that one of the important motives of altruism and moral judgments is grounded on the principle of reciprocity. In other words, we expect to be treated as we take care of other people. Neuroscientists including “evolutionary psychologists” are now able to probe deep into the brain lobes and learn much about behavior, much of it traced to evolutionary sources. Interestingly, the area of the brain that fires neurons during selfless behavior is the same area that fires during selfish behavior and with the same intensity and duration. For the ancients, success in the survival game might have been just as dependent on being a helper as being helped.

As a near daily walker, opportunities for altruism abound. For example, during a Christmas morning walk, the MoneyWalker found a Louisiana drivers license. It belonged to a Mario with an Hispanic surname and included his address. My first thought ran to selfishness; not my culture, dump the card. Then selfless behavior kicked in and I sought to find his telephone number from the address. No success. I then remembered that an Hispanic work crew had been renovating a building behind the curb where the license was found. Later, finding the crew at work, I stepped into the building and was greeted with coolness by one of the workers (not his culture group). Not deterred, “Do you know someone named Mario?” as I showed him the license. He exclaimed in a loud voice to one of his co-workers, the one that seemed to be the boss, “Mario, come here, look at this (In English obviously for my benefit.)” One look told me the license belonged to Mario. “Thank you, Thank you”, he repeated over and over; “You have made my Christmas!” And his joy helped make mine.

Now will someone help me find my cell phone, it must be out there somewhere!

Happy New Year everyone.

Remember the big four resolutions for weight lost: Weigh every day and journal the results; eat a healthy breakfast; walk 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day; and practice portion control.

The MoneyWalker

Recent money success: Found a $20 dollar bill during last Sunday’s walk. It, like all found money goes into the charity bag.

Recent weight gain/loss: Up two pounds from the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holidays. In the words of Governor Perry—Opps!