FREAK Shots: Nudging the Calorie Counters

We blogged about musical stairs in Stockholm that try to encourage stair-climbing rather than escalator-riding. One of the issues with this “nudge,” as Dubner wrote, is that it’s probably more fun for people to descend them than to ascend.

These stairs in Lisbon, however, address that problem by appealing to the calorie conscious.

A similar nudge at an Israeli park encourages people to walk the long distance from the parking lot to a cave. As Flickr user goldberg explains, a series of signs along the route tell you how many calories you’ve burned.

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: goldberg

But since the people most influenced by calorie counts may be the least likely to go looking for cheese fries, what kind of effect does this kind of sign have?

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: kevharb

Or this one, at Coney Island?

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: bluespf42

Flickr user bluespf45, who took the Coney Island photo, puts it succinctly: “I really didn’t want to know.”

(Send your FREAK-worthy photos here.)

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. Josh says:

    Perhaps the greatest part of the Israeli sign is that it reminds the reader that they will burn the equivalent of an order of falaffel.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. jesse says:

    i don’t understand how that works, so many factors weight, height, muscle mass, exertion for the same ‘work’ at a heart rate level all factor into calorie consumption- a 700 calorie cheeseburger is that no matter who eats it- but the walk to a cave or a flight of stairs etc is dependent on too many variable to make that make sense to put on a sign.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Anne says:

    About the calorie-marked stairs: Am I the only one who’s usually discouraged by how few calories exercise actually burns? Even though I usually take the stairs for exercise, seeing those tiny numbers might just make me think it basically makes no difference, and take the escalator.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Paul L. says:

    You should look for a brazilian book called “Brasil das Placas”, in which the autor shows a lot of pictures of signs that can be found in the country side. Real funny. All of them spelled wrong and most of them with great ideas.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Boldizar says:

    Funny, I was just in a cafe today and first time ever asked how many calories were in their banana bread. They looked at me like I was nuts. And they were probably right, but, still, it would have been nice to know. If it turned out to be like those Nathan’s cheese fries, I would have limited myself to coffee.

    (1364 calories? Are they kidding? That’s 50% of a normal-to-large man’s daily calorie intake.)

    Perhaps the nudge will only work if people become aware of where the baseline is. If you don’t know what a normal calorie maintenance intake is, the numbers mean little.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Cinnamon says:

    If anything, there should be signs reminding people of the ‘fist rule’, which is:

    1 fist-size portion: a snack
    2 fist-size portion: a proper meal

    3 meals, 2 snacks at set times, 4 hours apart.

    Stick to those rules and you not only will not put on weight ever, but also won’t end up feeling bloated since you’re not walking about with buckets full of fermenting food inside your guts.

    Calorie counting just drives people crazy, it’s the amount you eat, not what you eat that is the problem.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. David says:

    The truth is that it is much easier to eat a whole lot of calories than it is to burn it off. One large fry and a hot dog at NAthan’s (based on the photos above) will run you about 1300 calories and you can consume that in about ten minutes. Will take you about 200 minutes of walking at 4.5 MPH (I used an online calorie burn calculator).

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. Sam says:

    I take the stairs at work (6 levels), most of the time I just go down which DOES burn calories, but two to three times a week I go up, it takes 5 minutes. I read, actually here in the NYT, that taking the stairs 3 levels once a day will keep of the weight people tend to put on due to age.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0