Sunday, November 14, 2004

The disruption diet

New Scientist reports that forcing oneself to do uncharacteristic things on a daily basis leads to weight loss (and happiness - of course). ("How to lose weight without even trying, New Scientist, 11 Sep 2004, p 7.) Ben Fletcher of the University of Hertfordshire has apparently devised a scheme whereby volunteers had to pick a word from a contrasting pair every day (reactive/proactive, introvert/extrovert) and try to act that way. The idea is that forcing people to change their routines makes them think harder about the decisions they take.

There may be something to this - I've found that when I'm traveling my appetite decreases. It's probably just jet lag, but perhaps being in unusual situations every day reduces the need to ameliorate ennui through eating.

I couldn't find any publications by Prof. Fletcher on this topic, so this may just be another conviction-powered self-help scheme.

I chanced upon a less self-conscious approach along the same lines on the New Scientist's wonderful Christmas gift site, It's This Diary Will Change Your Life 2005, described by one Amazon reviewer as "Clinically insane but in a funny kind of way." According to Benrik's web site, the 2004 version included such classic life-changing tasks as "today be gay for a day", "today, tattoo a banana" and "today find a way of including the word vortex in all your conversations". The site alleges that it contains material offensive to the IRS, the KKK and the French

Which leads me to think about some paradoxical challenges:
  1. Construct a sentence that offends both George W Bush and Jacques Chirac
  2. Devise the "Eat more ice cream and lose weight" diet (aka the Federal budget)
  3. Find a product that has fewer features than its previous version
Actually, that last one isn't paradoxical; it's simply in the much larger Contradiction in Terms category.

P.S. Now there's a thing: according to Merriam Webster, the word oxymoron comes from Greek oxymoros, "pointedly foolish," oxy-, "sharp" + moros, "dull, stupid, foolish." That's the same oxy- as in oxygen, from the Greek oxus, "sharp, acid".

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