crasch (crasch) wrote,

The Blackmail Diet

As some of you may recall, on May 5th, 2004, I made a commitment to:
a. reduce my body fat percentage to around 5%
b. build upper body strength such that I can do 20 consecutive pull-ups
c. build my lower body strength such that I can squat 200 lbs.
I also promised:
On January 15, 2005, I will post nude photos of myself to this blog. Full body. Good lighting. Front, back, and side.
So how did I do?

I failed utterly.

And, to my shame, I chickened out on publishing the pictures.

(Several of you asked about them, including kitiara, ladykalana, gustavolacerda and others. My thanks to you for holding me to my promise. Please see the next post (NSFW) for my efforts to fulfill my promise as best as I can now.)

Now, nearly four years later, I weigh 198.6 lb, 20 lbs heavier than I did back then.

At 6 ft. tall, I have a 40 in. waist, and a BMI of 27. According to, ideally I should weigh 162 lbs, giving me a BMI of 22.

As you can see below, I'm right on the border of a rapidly rising slope of health risks, if my weight should increase further:

Picture 2

My failure to maintain my ideal weight is not uncommon. Even among those who have already suffered heart attacks, few change their eating habits. Our taste for fat, sugar, and salt is so powerful that even fear of death itself is often not sufficient to change.

Moreover, as you might expect, our weight appears to be heavily genetically influenced. In a study of twins raised apart, Albert J. Stunkard and his colleagues reported that "....the identical twins had nearly identical body mass indexes, whether they had been raised apart or together. There was more variation in the fraternal twins, who, like any siblings, share some, but not all, genes. They concluded that “70 percent of the variation in people’s weights may be accounted for by inheritance, which means that a tendency toward a certain weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other tendency....”

Unfortunately for me, both of my parents are obese. I've probably inherited a genetic profile that makes it hard for me to maintain a low body fat percentage.

Despite these difficulties, it's clear that I could lose weight. For example, if I lived in a completely controlled environment, where someone else controlled all my food intake, I could lose weight. There were no fat guys in Auschwitz.

However, I don't live in a controlled environment, and I don't have the money to pay someone to follow me around and make sure I don't eat too much of the wrong foods. So what can I do instead?

In analyzing why I failed, I came to the following conclusions:
  1. The goal was too distant. A year is a long time to wait. The further into the future before we receive a good, the less we value it now. Economists call this hyperbolic discounting.
  2. I didn't monitor myself often enough. Therefore, had no idea whether I was on track to reach my weight goals. My failure to monitor frequently also allowed me to "forget" my commitment when I was tempted.
  3. As we saw, I chickened out when I was only accountable to myself. I need to be accountable to an objective third party that won't let me wriggle out of my commitment.
  4. The incentives for success were not high enough. I needed to make the incentives greater so that i valued the achievement of weight loss in the future greater than the pleasure of eating now.
  5. I did not have a detailed eating plan.
  6. I did not have a detailed exercise plan.
So, how am I going to do it different this time?

I'm going to blackmail myself.

I've put $600 dollars in an escrow account with the website I've also established a contract with specifying that I will weigh 180 lbs 3 months from today.

Each week I must report whether I've reached my target for the week. If I fail to reach my weight target, $50 will be sent to my anti-charity, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (a gun control group). evillinn has agreed to be my referee. She will judge whether I have met my weight target.

Since evillinn does not live nearby, I will also post my weight and a picture of myself to my livejournal so that she can evaluate my progress. If any of you would also like to track my progress, let me know and I will send you an invite to

I plan to lose weight through both diet and exercise.

For the exercise component, I've signed up with the local Crossfit gym for a twice weekly workout. I'm also taking a twice weekly self-defense class. On the weekends, I plan to sponsor more Hike the Geeks.

For the diet component, I plan to follow the uniform eating plan recommended by Clarence Bass. The idea is that you eat mostly the same dishes every day, consisting of lot's of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some fish or poultry. This frees you having to constantly calculate how many calories you're eating, and makes eating the right foods a habit.

In order to prevent appetite fatigue, and allow for social eating, I will also allow one cheat day, on either Saturday or Sunday. On my cheat days, I can eat as much as I want of whatever I want.

If I get too tired of the uniform menu, I can also change it from week to week. (Though not within a given week.)

In addition, I will follow these rules:
  1. Only eat at the table
  2. Only put food on the table that I plan to eat
  3. Weigh myself daily and log the results to my blog
  4. Measure my waist daily
Once I reach my target weight of 180, I'm going to re-evaluate my goals. Most likely, I'm going to change my goal from a weight target to a waist target. Instead of shooting for a particular weight, I'll shoot for a particular waist measurement.

Weight isn't a particularly good measure of health, since it doesn't distinguish between fat loss (good) and muscle loss (bad). Belly fat is associated with a lot of health problems, so measuring it will be a good way of judging progress towards my health and aesthetic goals. I may also set a fitness target, such as completing one of the standardized Crossfit workouts in a given amount of time.

Finally, I can't go back in time and keep my commitment to post nude photos on the date that I promised. The best that I can do is post them now. Therefore, in the following post, I've published un-retouched nude photos of myself, taken 1 week ago. Please consider them the "before" shots for this experiment.

Here's the menu:


1/2 cantaloupe
1 cup cottage cheese

Mid-morning snack

apple/banana/pear/orange (pick one)


2 slices of Food For Life Ezekiel 4:19 bread with almond butter
1 cup non-fat yogurt, Pavels, vanilla flavored
3 cups mixed greens

Mid-afternoon snack

fruit (see above)


grilled fish (salmon, trout, or talipia)
2 cups steamed mixed vegetables

Bedtime snack

1 slice Ezekiel 4:19 raisin bread.
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