This week (or next) many of us are “transitioning” back to school; although we may not actually be going “back” to school, many of us have children that are doing so. The “transition” back to school impacts us in many actual and perceived ways. Inasmuch as we do not “lose” focus on our careers during the summer, it does shift a bit; as we all try to make that extra effort to spend some additional quality time with our families.

Loyalty Diets and BehaviorFrom sun and pools to soccer moms and pre-algebra, from weekends at the beach to weekends at swim meets. It is not that we do not have numerous activities during the summer, our behavior does change; we are more active, outside and engaged. Yet as the sunset comes earlier and earlier each night, we realize that like the bear preparing for hibernation (like the rash of recent attacks) that we are going to be a little more sedentary this fall. Sedentary means more pounds to carry around; yet never fear the diet brigade is here.

Yet this summer, I have noticed a BARAGE of diet and health plans that are using this “change in season” and the “transition” back to school as an opportunity to sell me (my family) on the most recent diet fad. They all seem to be preying on my wife (who is tiny) and the need for my kids to achieve high athletic success to “engage” / sell me. I will not name names as I really do not know enough about any of the companies to state their efficacy or lack thereof.

First off, diets are like a bad loyalty program or new loyalty feature. It is the new “shiny” object of which the allure has great promise, yet mostly it rarely materializes into its great promise. So these new “cleanse” programs seem to be the new rage, yet do they really impact behavior. The challenge with all diets and loyalty programs (the ones that are not run well) is to create a SUSTAINABLE behavioral change. I supposed that is why there is a new fad almost every year, as we are all individual and have our own unique expectation for diet, exercise and our own wellbeing.

How many of us have joined Jenny Craig, or the Adkins diet or the Colorado Diet (I do love that state – reported this week it has the LOWEST % of obese) or signed up for that new gym membership January 1st,  yet in short order changed / dropped the program, quit the gym. At first we see the weight fall off, we get excited, and commit to the program, yet at some point we are vexed by the lack of progress. What happened? There was no sustainable behavioral change. Did it work, yes; did it work, yes it worked in the short run. Yet we as a consumer did not learn or change our behavior and therefore the old recalcitrant behavior reappeared. This is similar to the out dated loyalty program, where brands to do take a behaviorally based approach to understanding the current and optimal behavior.

Interesting piece here:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/19/fix-your-metabolism-diet-book/2613489/

I tend to think myself in pretty good shape for my age. I try my best to eat as well as I can, yet I also love that occasional burger, medium (I mean large) French Fries, or NY Strip Steak (at Longhorn of course), yet I have always enjoyed working out, I love to lift weights and ride the bike in the basement. YET, that said I have NEVER been able to take up running; I run for a week, stop for a couple of month, start again. I have never been able to create that sustained behavior. Yet getting up in the AM, picking up the Wall Street Journal, heading off to the basement and riding for 30 minutes is a behavior deeply engrained.

So when we look at the most recent fad diet or new “engagement” technology and aside from the potentially OUTRAGIOUS costs ($300 a month to cleanse my system? Really who can afford that aside those in the Ponzi scheme – I mean the program itself), we need to look at short term and more importantly LONG term behavior. That should always be our focus.

I would love your thoughts.

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