Making It Easier to Be Honest

I was a little scared to get on the scale this morning.? I had eaten copious amounts this weekend – including a quarter pounder at McDonalds.

But my fear was heightened because I knew that my weight would be automatically tweeted at


You see, last week I received a wonderful new piece of technology, the withings wifi scale, and I have synched it to automatically report to a special Twitter account.


The scale is a bit pricey ($145 on Amazon), but works like a dream.? Within 25 minutes of opening the box, I had the scale connected to the Internet and publishing my weight, BMI and body fat percentage (based somewhat crudely on bioelectrical impedance) data to, to the withings iPhone app, and to twitter.? Easy-peasy.? Since then, it has worked like a charm.? Somehow it magically distinguishes between the four members of my family and tracks our info separately.? Each member can separately choose whether and with whom to share the data.? Consider this an unsolicited rave review.

(I am not sure how “withings” is pronounced – maybe “WI-things,” because they produce things that are wi-fi enabled.)

My biggest surprise is experiencing a new range of emotions (including excitement and a kind of fear) when I’m about to stand on the scale.? I’m committed to reporting my weight honestly to and stand ready to step up whenever my referee calls me to his scale.? But notwithstanding my commitment to honesty, it’s a little scary to give up control over how I report the weight.? What if the scale goes haywire and mistakenly reports that I weight more than 185 lbs?? I’d have some explaining to do if I didn’t report a forfeiture that week on my maintenance contract.

The withings scale provides two connected values for dieters.? First, it makes it easier for you to keep track of your weight.? It seems like it shouldn’t be that much of a hassle to write down your weight after getting on the scale.? For more than a year, I did that on Google docs.? But every extra click reduces the chance that you will sustain the behavior.? The automation of the recording process means that a lot of people are going to remain a lot more “mindful” of where they are and where they’ve been.? Second, it makes it harder to fudge when you’re telling your weight to others.? Even though “ianweight” currently has zero followers, the information is there for anyone to see.

Making it easier for others to verify my true weight should also reduce one anxiety bidders have about whether to plunk down money on my ebay auction.? Because of the withings scale, they shouldn’t worry as much that they will have trouble finding out whether I violate the terms of my weight maintenance contract.? The transparency of publishing my withings data to a Twitter account makes lying harder.? On the other hand, the public disclosure of my weight is yet another form of accountability that might make it more likely that I will keep my weight in line.

By the way, as of this morning, the high bid in my auction was $110.

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  1. Justin James says:

    The problem is, the things you need to do to get *healthy* are not the things you need to do to *lose weight*. Starving yourself and doing tons of meaningless cardio will make you lose weight and win your bet. Doing a variety of resistance exercises combined with some high intensity interval training will make you quite healthy, but you won’t lose as much weight because you’ll be adding muscle.

    In other words, you are setting yourself up for failure. I will GLADLY take you up on a long term (2+ year) bet that you cannot stay below 185 for that period of time, because I know that the things you will need to do to yourself to maintain that are not going to be sustainable.

    Make a choice: be healthy, or be below an arbitrary weight number.


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  2. Nik says:

    How do the bidders on your auction know that the tweets really come from a scale that measures your weight accurately ? It could be that you just manually publish a tweet once a day where you type in some reasonable-sounding number for the weight. Or maybe you’re leaning on a towel holder while stepping on the scale.

    The bottom line, as the X-Files have tought us: Trust no one, Mr Mulder.

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  3. James Curran says:

    An interesting device. I had a similar idea some time ago. A friend’s father was in the hospital in serious condition, and several members of the family were regularly calling the floor nurses to find out his latest condition. I thought it would be easier for all concerned if the monitoring machines he was hooked up to would just send out a periodic tweet with a summary of the information.

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  4. clarification says:

    I have a question about the payout:

    Which of the following describes the payout scheme?

    1. You weigh yourself everyday over a week. And if the maximum of that week is > 185, you pay 500 to the owner of the contract.
    2. You weigh yourself and report the average of a week. And if that average is >185, you pay out 500.
    3. You weight yourself ONCE during a week and if that number happens to be >185, you pay out.


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  5. BSK says:


    That is a bit of an exaggeration and creates a false dilemma. There are steps people can take to get healthy AND lose weight. It is entirely possible that Ian’s healthy weight is below 185. There are a variety of ways that people can get healthier. Losing weight is one. Gaining muscle is another. Moderation is key. Artificially suppressing one’s weight is certainly not healthy. Too much muscle mass can lead to additional health problems.

    Losing weight and getting healthy are not mutually exclusive, even if many people do lose weight in unhealthy ways.

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  6. di says:

    I’m going to invent an app that lets the users’ followers contemplate the user’s navel along with them.

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  7. JohnMcG says:

    The title of this should be “making it more difficult to be dishonest” rather than “making it easier to be honest.”

    It was never difficult for you to accurately measure and report your weight. It would be difficult for the rest of us to be sure you are telling the truth. These systems make it easier.

    But let’s not kid ourselves that we would be honest if only we had the technology to do so. All the technology does is help enforce our commitments to be honest.

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  8. Justin James says:

    BSK -

    It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ll say that if he’s been overweight for long term (say, 215), maintaining 185 will be very, very difficult. The body sets very used to a particular weight and works *hard* to return to it. The more you push it to go outside of its comfort zone, the harder your body fights to get back to it. You’ve got to gradually re-adjust the body’s preferred weight (unless you just need to crash diet, say, to look good for a wedding or compete in a sport that has weight classes) for long term weight loss, and that’s just not how our “instant results” society works.

    There are a couple of statistically safe things to bet against in this world, and long term weight loss is one of them, right next to long term clean and sober for a drug addict or alcoholic and reduction of of the federal debt.


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