A deal with the devil and Christmas is collateral

The fate of Christmas rests on my thighs. Or rather, my ability to make them smaller.

You see, I struck a deal with the devil last night. And the devil’s name is Scrooge.

Feeling restless, I plopped down between Mr. T and a project he was working on. (Dangerous, yes, but I’m a risk taker.) Sensing a mood, he asked what was up.

“I need an incentive to lose weight,” I said. “And I need you to help me.”

His and-how-do-you-suppose-I-do-that eye brow lifted.

“Do you want to be guilt-tripped?”

“No!”

“Badgered?”

“No.”

“Insulted?”

“Um, no.”

“Then what?”

I confessed, I didn’t know. But I explained how good I am at accomplishing tasks with appropriate motivation. Like in January, when he promised to stop giving me crap about going to Disneyland if I got every single Christmas* decoration put away that night, which I did. And how over the last couple weeks, I’ve finally gotten my new blogs developed (more on that soon). The pressure of the new job starting got that motivation in gear.

But what could help in the weight department? I’ve been participating in a friendly “Biggest Loser” contest on Facebook, where a group of ladies and I throw in $20 each, and whoever loses the biggest percentage of weight in a given time period wins the pot. There’s weekly weight pictures, motivational messaging, the whole nine. And I’ve lost (money, not weight) in the last two rounds since January. In fact, I’ve gained over the summer (thank you, Oshkosh fried everything). Blergh. And considering that I’ve tried calorie counting, willing myself into regular exercise habits, and posting skimpy, skinny pictures of myself on the fridge as motivation, all to no avail: I need something else.

So I thought, what about a present incentive? I proposed: “If I can get to my goal weight by November 1, can I have a Vitamix for Christmas?”

T said sure–I’ve been coveting the Vitamix for years now. “But that’s not enough. What happens if you don’t make it?”

I recalled reading an article** that said the keys to fitness goals were contracts and penalties. A team of economists examined the relationship between incentives and health behaviors. They wanted to see if workplace incentives and commitments would increase the rate that people went to the gym. Turns out, being paid to exercise will work, but when the money stops, so does the gym-going.

The researchers also found that when people put some skin in the game – risking their own money – they were much more successful at making gym goals stick. For instance, people would set goals and then give money to the researchers to hold. If goals were achieved, participants got their money back; otherwise, the money went to charity. Turns out, those who made commitment contracts exercised 25% more than those who didn’t. And, it seems that the behavioral changes of exercise contracts are long-lasting. Meaning, the good habits last for years. Exactly what I need!

Talk about high stakes.

But I couldn’t think of an appropriate stake. If I give T money to hold, it’s really our money, and if I lose it, we still keep it? Not helpful.

After a few minutes, his eyebrow again lifted, now in a devious way. “I think I’ve got it.”

“If you make your goal, you get the Vitamix for Christmas.”

“Okay, yes…”

“And if you don’t… you don’t get to put up the Christmas tree.”

An electric wave of shock and alarm ran up my spine. Oh. My. GAWD.

I screamed. I laughed. I cackled.

The man is a damn genius because he found the ONE thing that could seriously motivate me. The thought of Christmas without my 9-foot straight-out-of-Martha-Stewart-land tree? No foyer full of the fourteen boxes of decorations brought down from the attic?  No elaborate three-movie, Black Friday tree decorating ritual!? Absurd.

So, with sweaty pits and trembling hands (seriously), I shook on it. I will lose 13 pounds by December 1, or face the loss of Christmas joy as I know it.

I wrote out a contract on an index card and posted it to the fridge last night after we both signed. I’m not sure exactly how yet, but I am on the train to healthy town.

And my beautiful tree will have a fancy blender under it this year, dammit.

xoxo,
shawna

P/S HUGE props to T for successfully navigating the quintessential marital landmine. Trust me to take the “Does this make me look fat” quandary to epic proportions.

* This may seem like no big deal, but I am the person who left a Christmas tree up for an entire calendar year, and then some.

** Reference: Joe Pinsker’s “How to make a gym commitment stick

Related links:
– “Stealing” someone’s spot: Loathing and loving (?) fitness class characters
– Fitness class characters
– Humbugs and elves can co-exist, I swear
– Feeling like a summer sausage
– Magical thinking doesn’t make my pants fit: Developing a fitness plan

Applying “The Power of Habit”: Making exercise a “keystone habit”
– Desperate times in the pants fitting department
Rated R fridge art as diet motivation
Decking the halls: A photo tour

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