Art Carden  

Better Living Through Economics: Using Incentives to Get Fitter

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My latest article at Forbes.com explains the set of self-imposed constraints I'm using to eat better and exercise. I'm threatening myself with a very sharp stick; for every goal I don't meet, I have to give the Democratic Party $5 and the Republican Party $5. Out of four goals related to diet, exercise, Bible reading, and coffee/water intake, which has been hardest? From the article:

Drink two ounces of water for every ounce of coffee. This, actually, has been the hardest of the goals, largely because I have to think about it more. I drink massive amounts of coffee, and I'll sit and drink it all day, every day if I'm not very deliberate about moderating my intake. I've persevered, though, and I've cut the amount of coffee I'm drinking while increasing my water intake.

This failed last summer because I had an end date; I thought I would have developed habits and would no longer need strong incentives. I was wrong. This time around, there is no end date.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Maniel writes:

Art,
Under the expanded heading of "equities," I wrote about related outcomes from investing in ourselves (at the URL shown for "Returning America to Prosperity"). The thesis is that if I invest in myself (my health, education, career, etc.), I am more able to be productive and of service to others. By the way, IMO, positive reinforcement, celebrating your successes, is more likely to lead to positive outcomes than penalties.
Good luck!
Maniel

MingoV writes:

If you drink coffee black and without sugar, then there is no reason to cut back, and definitely no reason to increase water intake. Coffee's metabolic stimulation effect can help you lose weight. The caveat is drinking coffee in the evening: if it keeps you from sleeping, then you'll have less energy for exercising.

PrometheeFeu writes:

I'm kind of curious on how you instrument the coffee goal. I know my problem (if I drank coffee) would be figuring out how much coffee and water I drank.

I need to try this. Except I need to come up with non-monetary punishment since one of my goals would be to increase my savings rate. (and throwing my money at politicians would be somewhat counter-productive)

MikeP writes:

I'm with MingoV. Your forced consumption of water based on coffee simply seems like a way to drink an awful lot of water, which really doesn't have much benefit.

How about something easier to keep track of and less punishing on the bladder, such as, never have coffee after noon.

Hazel Meade writes:

Just switch to decaf.
Coffee doesn't really give you that much of a boost once you develop a tolerance, anyway. If you're going to drink coffee all day long, you're probably going to get enough caffiene from decaf to make up for the smaller number of cups you would otherwise be drinking, and you won't have to stop to drink water.

Art Carden writes:

Thanks, as always, for great comments. The coffee thing is hard because of measurement. I usually drink coffee and water from the same size cups at the office, so 2-to-1 works. At home, I usually drink coffee from a 10-12 ounce mug and water from a 32-ounce cup: thus, I drink just over two cups of water for every three cups of coffee.

Perhaps I'm going on bad information about coffee. I remember reading about kidney stones and net dehydration, and the conventional wisdom is "don't drink too much coffee."

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