While walking the dog recently, I found myself intrigued by an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Freakonomics. Entitled “The Cheesburger Diet,” the story chronicled one woman’s year-long search for the best cheeseburger in Louisville, Kentucky.
While not exactly a quest for world peace, her project interested me in that not only did she wish to find the tastiest burger, but she also wanted to know how eating burgers with fries twice a week for 52 weeks would affect her weight and cholesterol levels.
Check out the episode for specifics, but it turned out that after 101 cheeseburgers, her weight had not changed and her cholesterol had budged upwards only slightly. How could this be? Well, because she knew that the burgers would have a negative (but very tasty) impact on her health, she ate very well for the other 19 meals each week, avoiding all other fast food, increasing her vegetable intake, eliminating dessert and other junk calories, and exercising regularly. She made an excellent point in stating that because she had a clear goal in mind (in this case finding a great cheeseburger), she found it easier to maintain discipline in the rest of her activities.
Interestingly, once she completed her project, she started visiting her favorite fast-food restaurants again, and exercised less often. Not surprisingly, she began to gain weight. So now, she has decided to find the best pizza in Louisville!
I always ask my patients who have made significant lifestyle changes to share their stories with me. All of the successful patients had very specific goals in mind, just like the cheeseburger woman. Those who say, “I want to quit smoking by January 15 so I can go on a hiking vacation with my children in May” will more likely achieve their goal than those who simply state, “I wish to quit smoking.” The same applies to weight loss, and we discuss this with patients regularly. Surgery is always safer, and the cosmetic results always better, the closer one is to her goal weight.
I have several goals in mind as we come to the start of a new year, but for now, let me simply wish all of our friends a very happy and prosperous 2016!