Have you ever made promises to yourself about minimizing your fast food consumption from once a week to once a month, only to find yourself stuffing your mouth with a bucket of fries on day 2? Or maybe you committed to exercising everyday after work at 6:30 in the evening. But somehow, dinner plans always get in the way. Does this sound frustratingly familiar? Don’t worry. It’s normal human behavior. 

Behavioral economics findings indicate that inside us lies a ‘planner’ and a ‘doer’. The planner is in touch with your desired future, and is focused on mapping out the exact ways to get to your ideal state. 

Unfortunately, the doer inside us can’t always get with the planner’s program! The doer is more concerned about what it wants in the present – like ordering fries on a stressful Tuesday afternoon, or unwinding with a drink or two after work. 

This behavioral phenomenon is exemplified by Richard Thaler and Hersh Shefrin’s Dual Processing Model. It explains why we find it hard to do the things we know are good for us. 

Everything I know about Behavioral Economics, I learned from the University of Toronto’s certification course in 2020 – exactly two years after I lost 20 pounds through healthy eating and regular exercise. 

That’s right! Two years before I actually learned about Behavioral Economics, I intuitively and unthinkingly incorporated nudges to achieve my weightloss goals.

So if you’re planning to transform your body and your life, then you’re reading the right article! Here, I will share with you the tactics and behavioral nudges that helped me start and sustain a healthy and active lifestyle. These tactics changed my life. I hope it will change yours too. 

  1. Go for workouts that are fun for you

Nudge: “If you want people to do something, make it easy and make it fun!” – Richard Thaler

When I started gaining weight, physical movement became more challenging. Going for a hike in Mount Pinatubo made me want to give up in life! Waking up at 4:30am and going home at 10pm, thanks to Manila traffic, made it hard for me to exercise consistently. 

So when my former company organized kickboxing sessions every night on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I considered it a blessing. The proximity made it easy to stay consistent, because I just had to go 7 floors down to join the class. 

Kickboxing is also fun for me! I love releasing my pent-up angst on a boxing pad. It also pushed me to finish work effectively and on-time so I can regularly attend these classes. 

Tip: If you want to start an exercise routine, always consider proximity and your disposition towards the activity. As much as possible, choose gyms that are near your home or your office building. And make sure you actually enjoy the activity! If it’s not easy and fun, it will be difficult to sustain it. 

  1. Harness the Power of (Positive) Peer Pressure

I hated running. I always thought it was torture. Whenever I went for a jog around the University, 10 minutes felt like an hour. But my best friend fell in love with long-distance running. It transformed her body, chiselled her physique, and made her look great in a bikini! 

I wanted to achieve the same transformation, and she willingly pushed me to achieve it! So every weekend, we woke up at 5am, and ran around the Marikina River at 6am until 7am. A year later, I was receiving an award for being able to complete a 50 kilometer run within a week. 

As I got deeper into my fitness routine,  I availed of gym membership with like-minded work buddies.We religiously went to the gym after work to bond and blow off steam. 

Based on my observation, positive peer pressure can help us change for the better. If you want to develop a consistent exercise routine, then build strong relationships with people who exercise regularly, who eat healthy food, and who take their health habits seriously. The power of positive peer pressure will help you overcome your lapse zones, and help you stay focused on building better systems.

  1. Fill your body with good food

Don’t starve yourself! The more you starve yourself, the more you’ll crave for junk. Eat healthy meals and snacks that help you stay full – such as sweet potatoes, oats, hard boiled eggs, and fruits. You can’t go wrong with a  high-protein and a high-fiber diet. Filling your body with the good options leaves less room for junk. 

  1. Be a healthy-choice architect

I don’t believe in eating clean all the time. It’s good to eat some fries or cake at most once a month. Moderation is key to sustaining your progress. 

To effectively practice moderation, the planner/architect in you needs to redesign your food cabinet and refrigerator. Fill your pantries with healthy options – such as oats, fiber, fruits and vegetables. 

Minimize junk food and sweets in your grocery list. If well-meaning people give you pastries while you’re doing a one-week cleanse, try to hide the pastries in places you don’t always check. Mine tends to go to the back of the fridge, hidden behind the fruits, the overnight oats, and the pasta.

On Creating Good Habits

Within only a year, these tactics helped me shred the 20 pounds I gained from three years of overeating and lack of physical movement. 

But these nudges did more for me than just helping me achieve my weightloss goal. These nudges helped me develop good systems and healthy habits that will stay with me for a very long time.

During this pandemic, these habits serve me well and those around me too. I hope your habits will serve you well too, especially amidst these strange times where health and vitality are the major currency. 

I still do new nudges to push myself to stay healthy in the middle of a pandemic. The planner in me is constantly coming up with new tactics to influence the workaholic and binge-watching doer in me . And that is what I’ll write about in the next post.