Why Losing my Second (and Third!) DietBets Helped my Long-term Weight Loss

"Winning" comes in many different forms.

I had a fantasy when I started DietBet. I saw the number of pounds I needed to lose and thought, “It’s so small! I fluctuate almost that much without meaning to!” I wasn’t exactly wrong; though it took more working out and putting down the dessert fork than I expected, I finished my first Dietbet successfully. I felt a bit of pride and an instant surge of excitement: maybe I’d be able to get healthier without very much effort!

This gets to the heart of a quality I think a lot of ambitious folks have. When we try a small, short-term goal and succeed, we often jump in to a bigger, more long-term goal quickly and without thinking too much about how tough it will be. I’m starting realize that healthy living is a mental game, one where sometimes you have to accept the limits of your body (they aren’t all created the same!) and sometimes you have to notice how your own choices affect your outcomes. It isn’t possible to attribute everything to nature or everything to willpower; it’s just more complicated than that. My own next moves assumed that one success guaranteed more success, despite the potential difficulties.

What I probably should have done, after successfully losing some relatively “easy pounds,” would have been to sign up for a Transformer, where I could lose the next few pounds at slower and slower rates as they got harder and harder. That, after all, was the point of the Transformer – it gets you more overall progress but through more incremental work. Instead, I signed up two days later for two more Kickstarter bets. I have no problem with folks who sign up for quick turn-around DietBets, but I discovered the problem of signing up quickly when you aren’t ready to change your lifestyle significantly.

Obviously, the same amount of exercise and the same somewhat-bad food habits that didn’t hurt me the first go-round definitely hurt me the second time around. I realized a couple of days before the end of the new DietBets that there was just no way – it was going to be a fail for me. I did lose a bit of extra weight, but I didn’t meet my goal. The dollars I’d gained in my first DietBet were washed away by the second two DietBets that I failed.

One of the reasons why I don’t regret this at all is that it really made me think about what I was doing: was I trying to make a little side cash doing something I thought was easy, or was I committed to actually changing my eating habits, my lifestyle of exercise, and my shape? I don’t think I had consciously thought about how doing a DietBet once could just be another blip, a down-and-then-up-again in the long-term journey of weight loss and gain. That second bet was my wake-up call: this isn’t easy. It’s not going to make you money when you aren’t working at it.

One of the good things about DietBet is that lots of people who do these challenges are successful – this is good because it means so many people are feeling the accomplishment of success. I’d submit, though, that losing a DietBet can make you think about whether you are serious or not.

I’ve never committed to a health regimen before; I was always “okay” and didn’t care about being healthy as much as I should have. I told my husband that I didn’t mind eating unhealthy foods and avoiding exercise, but he’d point out that I often felt crummy or low-energy, and he’d note how that made me unhappy. DietBet, both the success of winning one and then the surprise and sadness of failing the next two, woke me up. I am not immune to the effects of unhealthy eating and low exercise. I needed to change my life.

It was this realization that made me pour more money into my process – you’d think that if I had such low willpower in my second and third Kickstarters, I might have just quit. Instead, I saw the investment in the full six-month Transformer as my way of admitting that I needed it: I needed a slow progressive ramping-up of my weight loss, because I couldn’t just magically change years of habits. Just today, I completed that Transformer successfully. Even in that, though, I had a weak month and didn’t make that round’s goal – and I didn’t mind, because the stumbles make me refocus and make me realize how much I have to work to change how I’ve lived for years.

"Losing a DietBet can make you think about whether you are serious or not."

I worry that our culture sees dieting in such a black-and-white terms that people who try something once or twice but don’t see insanely fast results feel that they have to stop forever or look silly. I personally am way more proud of the people who come back to DietBet, or whatever weight loss regimen they are pursuing, after a failure than those who come back after a win. It shows that we’re taking this seriously, that we want to be the healthiest version of ourselves, and that we’ve found a way that we know can work for us and our unique motivators.

What has been your experience of losing DietBets? How does it motivate you to make healthier choices the next time? I hope my experience can be of some use, because I am just as ashamed as the next person to fail at something I set out to do, but the goal of being healthier was important enough to push me past my feelings of embarrassment, and it has really transformed my habits in the past year.

Make it WayBetter

Next time you "lose" a DietBet, StepBet, or anything else in life, take a step back - what can you learn from the situation? What you get out of any loss can turn it into a win.