Weight Loss Aversion

Does this sound fair to you?

Picture this:

Someone just gave me $10 and said I need to find someone to share it with. Whomever I pick, we have two minutes to agree on a share, or else I have to give the money back.

I come to you, explain the situation, and we begin to negotiate.

How much are you willing to accept, considering the circumstances?

If I offer you $5 - $5 split, I’m sure you take it - that seems fair.

How about $6 - $4, as I am the one who came into the deal, and you were lucky I selected you?

What about $7 - $3? Maybe…?

But I doubt you’d consider $8 - $2, and definitely not $9 - $1 – that just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

If I did offer you $9 - $1, you’d probably say no, because I am being greedy. You’d rather see us both get nothing, than me take it all. I think most people would agree with you.

Now let’s consider a different scenario: I come to you and say do you want $1 – yes or no?

Most people would say yes. In fact, it makes perfect financial sense to say yes, as you are gaining something for no expenditure.

Now think back to scenario one, where you declined the $1 offer because it was unfair. However, that was also $1 for no expenditure.

Your ability to make a rational financial decision was clouded by what you think is fair. 

This is partly due to a theory called Loss Aversion, whereby we fear loss more than desire gains.

The $1 in the first offer feels like $4 lost, whereas the $1 in offer two feels like $1 gained.

The funny thing about Loss Aversion is that it leads to irrational decisions when the odds are in our favour.

For example:

You have the following choices: a 95% chance of winning $10,000 or a 100% chance of winning $9400.

Which would you take?

Most would select the guaranteed $9400.

On the flipside, select either a 95% chance of losing $10,000 or a 100% chance of losing $9400.

Most people would rather risk losing more money, because there is the slight chance that they might be able to hold onto it. Even though they took the opposite risk when it came to making the money!


What does this have to do with body composition?

We hate to feel as if we are missing out, because we are losing the opportunity to do something enjoyable. But it’s making weight gain easier and weight loss even harder!

We prioritise not missing opportunities to enjoy ourselves, but miss the health gains of being more active.

As food becomes more accessible and we have even more ways to entertain ourselves in place of exercise, there become more ‘opportunities’ that must be turned down to facilitate weight loss or maintenance.

It’s well-established that your morning gym sessions come at the cost of an extra hours sleep in your warm bed, and the evening sessions could have been spent having drinks with friends.

But now you see the Uber Eats app sitting there every time you unlock your phone, which adds another hundred temptations every day.

Instagram gets a bad wrap for body image aspirations, but what about the impact food porn is having on the enjoyment of eating your humble salad that contains soggy lettuce, slightly overcooked chicken, and has been sitting in the work fridge all day.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of temptations or opportunities that you have to decline. Sure, many never reach the conscious state of saying ‘no thank you’, but the temptation is omnipresent, and requires discipline to stick to plan. Using willpower takes a toll, but it does get stronger - like a muscle.


Are your friends helping?

What makes this even more difficult are social circles that are also increasing in weight, often as a result of opportunities not being lost. It’s a lot harder to walk past the bar, to the gym, when your friends are having fun inside.

But when you walk past and your friends aren’t there, you feel slightly gleeful about the people who are in there, not exercising, as you head to the gym to train. You might even post a gym picture with the old ‘happy hour at my favourite bar’ caption to Instagram, which, although lacking any form of originality, is always a strong life choice.

But as soon as your friends return, you feel pulled back in there, because you are missing out...

Part of it comes down to what is fair, or at least what we perceive as fair. Why should you spend an hour at the gym when your friends are all at home watching Netflix, and you are always out of the loop when they discuss the latest series?

At time, maintaining a healthy weight is going to involve missing out on what the majority are doing, particularly when the adult rate of overweight and obesity is 63.8% of the population.

In effect, if you want to avoid joining the majority, you will have to forsake at least some of what they are doing. This means missing out, and being OK with that.

I am not advocating removing all pleasure from your life. Of course, moderation is the key. But we are all familiar with that, yet many struggle to implement it.

So instead, let’s focus on getting comfortable with missing out, every now and again.


Unfair is an advantage

When you accept maintaining a healthy weight will be unfair, relative to what everyone else is doing, you are creating a massive advantage for yourself, your health, and your wealth (or maybe not your wealth, but it sounded too good to leave out).

Similar to the $10 agreement I outlined before, splitting the difference - or accepting the norm - isn't always the best deal. 

Essentially, we are want to be exchanging short-term pleasure for long-term gains.

Those dry chicken salads you consumed instead of a fresh chicken schnitzels might keep a few kilograms off, and then you feel unreal standing in front of an audience delivering your presentations.

Those 6 am gym sessions might have cost a few days of sleep over the years, but when going to the park with your kids is fun, not a burden, you won't be having any regrets.

While this might sound extreme, confronting, or even judgemental, the intentions are always to deliver a message that can be implemented from tomorrow.

This message is simple: embrace the unfairness, because it will pay off in the long run.