Nobody likes breaking a promise. Whether or not you think you’re cool enough not to care what other people think of you, when you tell someone you’re going to do something and you don’t come through you feel like a turd. Well, maybe we can use this feeling of turdery to help make sure you get to your stated goals.

You do have goals, right? You’ve thought about them long and hard, written them down and you read them every day? Oh, good. You’ve been paying attention.

In the journal Psychology and Marketing, Nyer and Dellande investigated whether or not a public commitment to a weight loss goal would affect the chances they would hit their goals. It did.

Subjects of the study made either no public commitment, a short-term public commitment (3 weeks), or a long-term public commitment (16 weeks) when entering a 16-week weight loss program at a weight loss facility. Their weight loss goals were set by a health professional after careful consideration of their individual situation regardless of commitment level. Turns out the group who made a long-term commitment achieved the largest percentage of their weight loss goal (102% at 16 weeks, 97% at 24 week follow-up), with the short-term group next in line and finally the no-commitment group last.

The coolest part of it? The public commitment was simply an index card with the subject’s name and weight loss goal displayed for other members of the weight loss facility – not the general public – to see. No picture. No progress updates. Just a name and a goal. Pretty cool, huh?

So think about how you could use this to your advantage. You could simply ask you gym if you could post something on the bulletin board with your name and goal. Or you could make a commitment on Facebook, either on your wall or on the SPEED page, or on a forum. Post it on the outside of your cubicle at work. You get the idea.

This might work better for some than it will for others. In the paper, the authors measured a thing called susceptibility to normative influence, which basically means whether or not a person cares about what others think is cool. Those who cared more about what others think is cool were more affected by their public commitment. This shouldn’t worry the individualists out there, however, since those who scored low in susceptibility to normative influence still garnered much benefit from their public commitment.

So, while others are wasting time worrying about whether two pieces of fruit are better than one – or is it three as long as it’s not high in fructose blah blah blah – here’s something you can use right now that will actually make a difference as to whether or not you are successful in your weight loss endeavor. You can thank me later.




Nyer PU, Dellande S. Public commitment as a motivator for weight loss. Psychology and Marketing. 2010;27(1):1-12.

Public Commitment for Weight Loss
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