food, glorious food... and behavioral economics

I'm taking a few nutrition/epidemiology classes this semester, and in one of them today we had a lecture about behavioral economics and the implications for nutrition and public health. I read a book called Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely last year (as most of you know... I yammered on about that one for a good while, as I am wont to do) and loved it. Ariely is currently a professor at Duke, and the guest lecturer was actually one of his post-docs. I was fascinated all over again. Some of the take-homes were that food labeling (like New York's caloric labeling for fast food chains) and sin taxes aren't necessarily effective. Don't get me wrong. Tax the heck out of cigarettes and soda. But there are other (substantially more) effective ways to effect change from a policy level.

One of the funnier things to come out of class today was a website called www.stickK.com. Subtitle: "Put a contract out on yourself!" It's a no-fee website created by a couple of economics, law, and management professors/students, and the idea is that you will stick to your goals with a whole lot more determination if your reputation is at stake. "If you are unsuccessful, we'll let your friends know about it." But my favorite part is this:

"Sometimes losing face with your friends might not be enough to keep you on track. So, what is the one thing no one can stand to part with? You guessed it! Cold hard cash. As a true test of your commitment, stickK will let you put your money on the line for any Commitment Contract. Achieve your goal and you don't pay a thing (and you're much happier than efore, aren't you?). But if you aren't successful, you forfeit your money to a charity, an anti-charity or even that neighbor who keeps stealing your newspaper. "

Brilliant. Now that's a motivator.

Another food-related great thing... Jamie Oliver at TED. He's a bit dramatic at times, but the point he's driving home should be shouted from the rooftops. If you can't make it through the whole talk, the take-home is this:

"I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity."

So. Great. Like Michael Pollan has become famous for saying, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

1 comment:

Chelsea said...

OMG. Jen I'm so glad you found my blog and commented! I totally miss you. Sus and Ben are our BFF's here and it would be so fun to see ya'll in June. p.s. I LOVE ted.com. Did you know I went to TEDIndia this year. It was AMAZING!