A little bit about me
For most of my life, I’ve been overweight. In fact, I don’t remember not being fat — I was always bigger than my classmates. While most of them were nice, I was called names and mocked mercilessly by the others.
A sort of cloud hangs over you when you’re overweight. You understand that simple behavioral changes could improve your life, but at the same time it feels so hard — like running in water. You make excuses (those other people have faster metabolisms). You complain (it’s unfair). You become resigned (I’ll always be this way). Life has this way of sometimes sapping away all your motivation, putting you in a zone where you are unhappy with your current state, but unwilling to do anything about it.
What if you could hack your motivations to do more?
Which brings me to the point of this post — losing and keeping weight off is really, really hard. While the fundamentals of weight loss are actually pretty simple (if you burn more calories than you consume, your weight decreases), it requires a highly disciplined approach to eating and exercising. You have to be willing to accept downslides. You can’t let early successes make you take for granted the sacrifices that came first. Above all, you have to keep your eyes on the prize and maintain a sense of motivation that comes from within.
I did a weight loss challenge a few years ago that changed my life — it helped motivate me to get off my butt and push myself. Sure, winning money was nice, but it was the interaction with like minded peers with the same objectives that finally pushed me to start working out more and eating better. Even if my boss had me down and I hadn’t slept in a few days, I could always muster up 30 minutes to try and lose one more pound than whomever I was competing against.
In the challenge I lost 15 pounds within 6 weeks (about 10% of my weight at the time) and went on to reach the lowest weight of my adult life. The changes weren’t just physical — I had so much more energy and confidence. I truly believe that one challenge reset the course of my life.
My attempt to make America fit again
The difficulty with trying to get in shape led me to start building a solution almost two years ago. I wanted to leverage some cutting edge research on behavioral economics to drive weight loss, building on the components of that first challenge. My goal was to extend a hand to all those needing help in taking the first few steps to better health. What I ended up creating was a fitness competition app called Competish that taps into the most primal motivating factors: our social network and our wallet. Some have compared it to a cross between fantasy football and weight loss challenges, though my lack of sports knowledge precludes me from offering an opinion on that.
Here’s how it works — it’s actually quite simple:
- Download the app, create a group, invite your friends, and pledge money as a buy-in. You can set your Competish to last between 4 and 12 weeks.
- Each week, you’re matched with someone different in your group. You compete within your pairs and against the entire group to see who can lose the most weight
- Win your match-up for the week and you win money! If you are the biggest loser in your group for the week, you win more.
- At the end of the entire competition, the biggest losers claim the remaining pot.
The objective of this app is to keep people motivated over a long enough period of time to build good habits (e.g., tracking their foods, weighing in constantly) that translate to positive outcomes (e.g., losing weight). Our hope is that our users will be armed with the routines that will keep them in shape long after the competition ends.
In future posts I’ll share some of the interesting (and heartening!) data that is being generated by beta users. If you’re interested, sign up for the waitlist — we should be releasing the next version in the upcoming weeks.
Please let me know your questions, thoughts, successes, and failures below in the comments!