Sep 162014


I was listening to the podcast Freakonomics Radio (it’s really fascinating and worth a listen!) that was discussing the epidemic of childhood obesity. The topic was “Why You Should Bribe Your Kids“. They did experiments with kids and trying to get them to eat healthier. What was the most effective method?

The conclusion was that kids responded best to being “talked at” (i.e. instructed how to eat healthy and make healthy choices) but only if there were incentives attached. In one experiment they bribed kids with toys if they chose the healthier dessert over the sugary-fattening one. The toys weren’t anything special, it was like rubber bracelets and a ball or something. But the researchers found that the incentive worked and something like 80% of the kids chose the healthier dessert option if it meant they got the toy afterward.

This got me thinking about my own upbringing and struggle with weight. I didn’t really struggle with childhood obesity. I didn’t gain my weight until I was 17. Sure I was a little on the chubby side in my teen years, but I wasn’t heavy. I don’t know that I was making great choices as a kid and teen, but apparently I was doing okay.

Things are different now. The podcast said 1 in 5 kids is struggling with obesity now. That made me really sad and I could empathize with the kids and parents dealing with this. It’s so hard not to make food the enemy and a BAD thing. But that doesn’t really teach the kids to make better choices…it leads to binge eating and sneaking food, or restrictive habits that lead to anorexia and bulimia. (If you missed it, read my review of The Heavy– a book about a mother trying to help her young daughter lose weight.)

“They tried several methods to see what would make kids choose fruit over a cookie. The conversation then broadens, addressing the fact that so many people — kids and adults — have a hard time making good short-term decisions that will have a long-term benefit. As List puts it:

LIST: The general point here about all of this is that you have many problems where what you do now affects what happens later, and usually we choose the easier decision or the easier action now. You think about savings for retirement, you think about getting doctor check-ups, you think about going to school, you think about engaging in risky behaviors, you think about adopting green technologies for our houses. In all of these cases we usually choose the bad action. And that action is to do what’s best for us now to the detriment of the future, to the detriment of our future self. And nutritional choices right now are just one of these elements that we face in society where we need kids to recognize the choice that you make now will critically affect your outcome in the future.”

When it comes to food it’s easy to think IN THE MOMENT and not the future. If I eat this piece of cake, I will have instant gratification. I don’t think about how that piece of cake is 500 calories and about the same calories as my lunch should be. So do I skip lunch and just eat cake for those 500 calories? Of course not, we eat both. That leads to weight gain. For me, I try and think about my meals in advance and plan for them so that I am not AS tempted by other things throughout the day. Am I successful? Most of the time. There are definitely days where I am not as successful as I should be!

I do try to use some kind of incentive for myself, even if I’m not naming it. It might be something small, like: “I will skip this candy at work because I’m going out to dinner tonight and want to be able to splurge a little.” That’s an incentive, whether I recognize it or not. You can also use an incentive like: “I want to reach my weight loss goal for this month so I will do my best to resist the temptations to binge.” Thinking of a long term AND a short term goal work much better for me. What about you?

So what kind of incentives work with kids? I’ve written before about how you can’t reward YOURSELF, Rewarding Yourself,  for weight loss with food. It sabotages your efforts. So rewarding yourself with a bunch of cookies after you reach your weekly goal at Weight Watchers just isn’t smart. I think the same thing goes for kids. Rewarding kids for eating healthy foods with treats later, kind of defeats the whole purpose.

I think incentives that would work with kids and still keep with the positive message, is to use ACTIVITIES as rewards and incentives. Perhaps an outing or going to a park, or getting to go to a toy store and pick something. This probably works for really young kids. I imagine it would be harder with teenagers. I found this article, which was really interesting and had a few good tips: 10 Ways to Get Kids to Eat Healthier. Some other articles I found on the topic encouraged parents to have their kids help them cook the meals. I LOVE this idea. I think it would be beneficial in so many ways. Not only does it get kids involved in making choices, they can take pride in what they created and perhaps they would be more apt to eat it?

Since I don’t have kids, I am just musing here. I would love to hear from other parents who have struggled with this issue, or are using other methods of encouraging their kids to eat healthy. Please share! And check out this post for ideas on how to get kids more active: Should You Lose Weight With Your Kids? And this post about sugar in kid’s foods: 2 Pounds of Sugar?

Sep 082014


I haven’t been weighing myself consistently this year. I had gained a few pounds over the winter due to a lot of stress eating and while I only weigh myself once a month, I even quit that. I wasn’t giving up, I wasn’t quitting what I was doing (i.e. counting calories and exercising) I just needed a break. I didn’t want to deal with it.

I didn’t get on the scale again for a number of reasons. Part of it was that I just forgot. Life got busy and I missed the window in November to weigh myself and get an accurate number so I decided to just skip it. The other reason was the holidays. Blah, blah blah….Thanksgiving, Christmas, cookies, pie, candy….I just didn’t want to see that number. I told myself I’d wait until after Christmas but then I changed my mind.

Denial does not work with weight loss and maintenance. Seeing the number on the scale is a (sometimes brutal) reminder of where I am at and whether or not I’ve been LAZY about my food. Those CREEPING CALORIES add up. I finally decided to get back on that scale.

Just to recap my disappointing winter/spring…January I weighed 149. Still under goal weight. But too high for my liking. Fast forward to April and I weighed 147. Some progress. I was feeling a little better about seeing that number instead of the first. In May I got down to 146. Feeling okay! Moving in the right direction! Then…I stopped getting on the scale. Between May and August I gained 1 pound. I was back to 147. I was disappointed for sure. I had hoped that I would get back down to 145 (how much I weighed last summer at this summer).

While I wasn’t entirely focused on the wedding, it was in the back of my mind. During this last year I was engaged, I had a few ups and downs about my weight. Sometimes I felt pressure to lose weight for the wedding. Sometimes I felt okay with my body the way it is. With the wedding less than a month away, I admit I have had more of those feelings…Less than a month away! Can I lose any weight? Then I chastise myself and think, Why? This is me. Why would I try to lose a bunch of weight for one day?

And to be honest, my dress fits so I am kind of ok with where I am at.  

I was talking to some other weight loss maintainers on Twitter recently and both of them confessed to weighing daily. One blogger said:it’s not for everybody… But to me just data, scale should not be a surprise to me.”

I chimed in and said that I couldn’t do that because it makes me mental. Seriously. I got super obsessed at one point where I was weighing myself all the time and whatever that number on the scale said, my entire day and mood could be ruined. It held TOO MUCH control over my life and emotions. So I quit and decided to weigh myself once a month to check in. That works for me (usually).

It got me thinking. If I weighed myself every day would it change my outlook? Would I think about the scale in a different way? Would it have less power over my feelings if I just sucked it up and got on the scale every morning? A few things could happen:

First, it could make me obsessive again.

Second, it could make me less sensitive to the number on the scale.

Third, I would see massive fluctuations from day to day and perhaps that would take ALL of the power out of that number because I would see just how fluid weight is.

Lastly, weighing daily COULD lead to emotional/binge eating.

So many things can effect the number on the scale that don’t necessarily indicate weight gain. You could be retaining water, you could have sore muscles that are trying to repair themselves and holding on to water. You could be dehydrated. You could be constipated. You could have eating especially carb-y foods, or foods that cause inflammation in your body. It could be anything. And, of course, weight gain.

Seeing the changes every day could really take the sting out of it. I am considering trying this. Maybe for one month just to see if it changes my outlook. (Obviously not right now, maybe after the wedding.) Then I think…does it really matter? Is it an accurate gauge of your health? I mean, if you are counting your calories or points every day, eating right and exercising on a regular basis, you shouldn’t HAVE to monitor that number so closely.

How often do you weigh yourself?