Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Serious about Serious Things

My appointment officially starts on May 1st, so I have dedicated the time until then to revamping my physique.

I’ve lost about 20 pounds, an estimated 12 pounds of fat over the last three weeks. That puts me on track for 80 total pounds by May 1st – the most svelte since I was wrestling.

The point of this story, however, has to do with my methods. Being a through and through nerd I created a spreadsheet model where I tracked everything I ate, all of my exercise and my basal metabolic rate. I could then predict the changes in physique based on the actions I took.

Of course I bought a body fat estimator and new scale so that I could empirically validate the predictions of my model. So, far the two have tracked each other closely with the empirics every so often lagging the model (I attribute this to the way the body fat estimator treats food still in my digestive tract).

Despite the fact that model building and testing is what I do for a living my friends and family have continued to find my methods hysterically funny.


I suppose it is because they are abnormal. However, I am looking for abnormal results – shouldn’t that require abnormal methods?

Moreover, maintaining my health is important to me – perhaps more important than the work I do. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that I would use at least as powerful tools that I use at work at home?

Yet, I know that none of this stands to reason. The reasonable, or at least normal, thing to do would be to copy what others who try to lose weight do - despite the fact that most of them fail to achieve the type of results that I am after.

All of this builds to my true point, which is that cultural evolution rather than rational maximization is probably the origin of most normal behavior. It appears as if people are maximizing because they are copying behavior that has been refined over hundreds, in some cases thousands, of years by cultural evolution.

As such we should expect economic theory to be most successful at analyzing behavior that has changed little over time. Unfortunately, it is often most interesting to analyze behavior that is changing rapidly.


Doug said...

Congrats on the weight loss, I have lost about 30 pounds over the last 4 months, and have about 8 left. Like you, I bought a new scale since the old scale was pretty inaccurate.

I was given crap about weighing myself so often, but I wanted to know if what I was doing was working. (but I do have low level OCD which explains part of it)

dWj said...

I keep my running journal in Excel. I've noticed patterns between the relative values of exponential moving averages of distance run per day and my tendency to develop low-grade injuries. I try to keep my four-day moving average below multiples of my ten-day and forty-day averages.