Habits and Happiness Part 7: Celebrate Success and lay off the Butter

The success I celebrate is the fact that I have managed to stay out of the pub, eat reasonably healthily and got to the health club 3 times weekly as promised. I have fulfilled all of these obligations and I have lost 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilos). What has motivated me? One thing has been the welter of programmes on TV about fat people losing weight. It made me realise (to bring the insights of behavioural psychology into the picture again), that for too long I have been "anchoring" my own weight against people who I consider to be really fat. Anchoring is what happens when you see a £1.99 price as significantly cheaper than £2, even though logic tells you it isn’t. It’s because you become sensitised to certain levels and quantities of things, to the extent that your brain subconsciously relates those levels to your decision. There is a lot of evidence on this. Once again Dan Ariely is the "go to" for this stuff. I take the irrational view that a thirty stone guy is really fat when he is actually really really really fat and I am quite fat.(if you follow my logic).

Talking of logic what about the heart surgeon who would ban butter, a simple whole food made from the freshest ingredients because he sees some patients who need heart bypasses at a young age? Now butter bingers or saturated fat abusers do themselves harm and cost the NHS lots but banning whole food is just plain daft. No subject invites the spouting of more rubbish than nutrition. It’s a field where it easy to call yourself a professional without any training and just adopt faddy approach like "strawberries are the ultimate super food just eat them and you’ll get all your nutritional needs." Doctors are generally very evidence based and heart surgeons especially command great respect. That means they get listened to sometimes when what they say is ill researched nonsense. Dr Atkins for example whose own fat laden diet actually killed him was a heart doctor for example. So, even if a doctor said something like ."To ward off heart disease go to the bottom of your garden and talk to the fairies". It it would get published. Maybe the surgeon was suffering from a condition called known as "availability bias" when we focus attention too much on the area we know to the exclusion of the stuff we don’t/can’t know. It must be depressing treating 32 year old bypass patients but there aren’t that many relative to the number in the higher risk older age groups, and , being a top surgeon he sees more of them. Maybe the stats rich NHS will prove him right in time but at the moment the idea of banning a food because his patients and some others overindulge is likely to do more for headlines more than waistlines or arteries.

Anyway now I have that off my chest and 3.5 pounds lost off somewhere I will celebrate success probably too much at my Burns night on Monday.

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  • Great to hear the progres - love the public accountability - very brave. Have fun on Burns Night.

    All the best from Brighton,


  • Good luck with the fitness regime. I too started one on 1st Jan by rescuing my bike from the shed and setting off into the sunny frost feeling righteous. On 2nd, encouraged by the previous days exploits I went Ice skating - 1 hour of whizzing around Ally Pally rink followed by - crack - a broken leg. Now getting used to alternative exercise which incorporate leg in plaster, upper body weights and sit ups. The point being that if we are forced to look at things differently we can be quite creative and adaptive. So building on your comment about availability bias I support getting out of our comfort zone and seeing what else is out there and what else we may be capable of. Here's to an adventurous 2010!