The Economically-Balanced Diet

The last thing didn’t work all that well, so I’m trying a variation that is more explicit in its incentivization.

If you want to eat well you should probably eat mostly plants. That’s the thesis of In Defense of Food, and it’s one I agree with. I’ve agreed with it for about 150 pounds of weight gain, however, so that’s not quite the success story I might have hoped for.

The problem for me is behaviour, not knowledge. I know what my caloric limit is, I know how many calories are in the food I’m eating, I know how much water I drink, and on and on and on.

I’m interested in behaviour on a societal level. In that rarefied domain it often shows up as economics in one way or another; at this point I reduce a lot of social issues to questions around how one drives human behaviour, which often points to economic incentives.

My thought then, is if it works for everybody, why not for me?

The Economically Balanced Diet is a rate-limited credit-debit system of eating. Your daily calorie target (mine: 2600 calories) is your total transaction limit per day. Fruit and vegetables act as credit. Other foods act as debits. Credit in this system is measured in calories (aside: certain science fiction authors have advanced this economic measure for other reasons, which kind of makes me love the idea that little bit extra).

So before one eats a Coffee Crisp (debit: 250) or a chicken salad sandwich (debit: ~500), one must consume an equal number of calories in the form of spinach (23 cal/100g), broccoli (34 cal/100g), rutabaga (38 cal/100g), carrot (41 cal/100g), apple (52 cal/100g), kiwi (61 cal/100g), or any other plant source. I like raw fruit and veg, so this works extra-nicely for me.

It also makes me much more immediately aware of how incredibly calorie-dense foods like bread are. A bagel without spread costs me 3-4 apples. With spread, it’s closer to 5 apples. That’s a hell of a lot of apples.

I’ve applied one modifier to the system for my own eating: every day I eat 60g (~400 calories) of nuts (unsalted). Nuts are, by and large, quite expensive in both the money and calorie senses, but they’re a pretty great food for nearly everybody. They have good fats and protein, so they’re satisfying, and they pack in plenty of fibre.

It would be super easy to overindulge in nuts, so I put that strict 60g limit on my nut consumption. But they’re really important to me for a number of reasons, not least because I have had a section of colon surgically removed and digestive regularity can be a challenge. So I keep my little allotment outside the credit-debit system. They don’t give me credit, they don’t cost me debit. In small enough quantities, nuts are non-economic.

I don’t know how this will work out, but it’s much less work than other ideas I’ve tried, and I feel like I’ve had a perspective shift since coming up with this idea, so that’s promising.

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  1. Pingback: Diet Budget: the EBD in action | The Odd Magpie

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