Last month, I entered into a DietBet.
While most people would tell me I don’t need to lose weight, and while I would happily agree with them and take another cookie, the fact that my body fat percentage was 22 irked me. And I figured that if I could lose a few pounds I might find those abs I’ve been working hard on all winter, not to mention gain some running speed by carrying around a lighter me.
What exactly is a DietBet? It’s a four week online social dieting game. Anyone can sign up to play, and all the players compete for a share of the “pot” – the money paid to play. You win by losing 4% of your bodyweight. It’s not a competition to lose the most weight, just to lose 4%. If you lose 4% or more, you win. If you don’t, you lose. I entered the FitFluential January DietBet, which had just 4 players at the time I signed up but 582 and a pot of $14,550 by the time the game started!
Here’s a short video explaining how the DietBet works:
So why a DietBet? Why not just lose the weight on my own? The answer is because I have no self-control. This may sound strange from someone as driven and competitive as me, but when it comes to food, it’s true. I don’t eat fast food. I don’t drink soda. But I have issues when it comes to the cookie jar. I needed motivation and accountability. I found both when I laid down $25 to enter the DietBet. I hate losing. To steal from Brad Pitt (as Billy Beane) in Moneyball, “I hate losing more than I love winning. There is a difference.” It’s true. I didn’t care about winning a huge wad of cash (although that would have been nice), but I didn’t want someone else to get my $25. To me, that would have been like handing $25 to a stranger on the street. I wouldn’t have it.
The other reason people enter a DietBet is because of the social aspect. They get to chat with other players, post their results online (facebook and twitter), and see how they’re stacking up against the other players with self-reported progress indicators. I chose not to post to facebook but did have twitter enabled, and was surprised every now and then to see I had posted an update! I also signed up to receive e-mails, which would tell me how other players were doing as well as remind me to weigh in. Players choose which of these tools to use so you can make it as public or as private as you like.
My husband (the sceptic) asked how people could be kept from cheating. Granted, it was a valid question. After all, no-one’s standing over you reading the scale. You have to submit a picture of yourself on the scale and then another of your feet on it with the readout visible both at the beginning and the end of the bet, but I guess as with everything there’s a way to fudge it. Not that I’m suggesting anyone did. But here’s the answer I gave my husband: if someone really feels the need to cheat, then they have bigger issues than losing weight. I’m certainly not going to waste my energy worrying about other people. I’m entering this for myself, because I need to motivation and accountability, and if I’m honest, with myself, well, that’s all that matters to me.
So I put down the money, stepped on the scale, and entered the bet.
I thought it would be easy. I just had to lose a little over 4 pounds, and I had 4 weeks to do it. I actually hit my target in 3 weeks. But it wasn’t easy. I had to work for it. What I hadn’t bargained for was how much I’d learn about myself in 4 weeks:
- I thought I was a “grazer” but I’m actually a chronic snacker. I snack all day long. Sometimes I don’t even eat a meal and so I think I’m not eating much, but all those snacks…they add up.
- I reward myself with food. Ran a few miles? Have something to eat. Swam for an hour? Eat. Biked for two hours? Eat, eat, eat. Yes, I know I’m supposed to refuel after exercise, but this was different. I wasn’t refueling as much as restocking as if the shelves had been emptied after a winter storm warning. I was a rabid animal loose in the pantry.
- I actually weigh more first thing in the morning. I would step on the scale in the morning and freak out. I would have breakfast, get the kids off to school, go for a run, come back, weigh myself again, and I’d have lost 2 pounds. I don’t think I was losing that weight on the run. I think I just wake up full of water weight or something. One night, I actually gained weight while asleep. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t raid the cookie jar in my sleep.
- I won’t pass out if I go for a few hours without food. In the past, I’ve gotten a little lightheaded or have felt nauseous if I didn’t eat every couple of hours. I always carried snacks with me “just in case I get hungry,” which, of course, I would eat regardless of my hunger. My body had become accustomed to being fed every couple of hours and simply needed retraining.
- I can say no. And I did. I thought I had no willpower. That wasn’t true. I managed not to eat the bad stuff at several parties and just focused on the healthy stuff. I knew once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I didn’t start. And I found that the less I ate the bad stuff, the less I wanted it.
At the end of the DietBet, 277 people had won. That’s just under 50%. And many others posted on the DietBet wall that they’d gotten oh-so-close.
So, how did I do in the DietBet? I made the 4% goal and lost 2% body fat. I made twenty bucks. Yeah, no big payday. Still, the biggest payout was in the things I learned about myself.
Interested in DietBet? Just go to the website to join any game or start your own.
Have you played in a DietBet?
How do you keep yourself motivated and accountable?