the bathroom scale that talks to you and tells the truth on the screen: you're beautiful! the bathroom scale that talks to you and tells the truth on the screen: you're beautiful! Are the numbers on a scale simply a distraction on the way to a bigger goal? (Photo: pmmart / Shutterstock)

A new way to lose weight without worrying about the scale

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely developed a new kind of scale that uses science, not numbers, to help you lose weight.

Trying to lose weight? You ran that extra mile; ate a salad without dressing; skipped dessert; drank water instead of soda. And then you step on the scale – and find that you've actually gained weight. What?!? Turns out that with weight loss you don't always get that direct, clear and immediate connection between your behavior and your weight. Sort of makes you want to just give up, doesn't it?

It's a phenomenon that acclaimed behavioral economist Dan Ariely, an Israeli-born professor at Duke University, has been studying closely for years. It's even got a name: "loss aversion," or in the case of weight gain, "gain aversion." Ariely explains more in a series of videos, like this one:

"... The bad feeling that accompanies the notion we gained some weight has more emotional power over us than the good feeling that we get when we find out we lost some weight," said Ariely, who studied psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel. It's a big reason that some people stop weighing themselves, or stop trying to lose weight altogether.

To help overcome loss aversion and the resulting lack of motivation that can derail weight loss, Ariely teamed up with a Silicon Valley web development company to create his own scale. It's called Shapa, and it's like a scale without a display. Instead of pounds, the Shapa measures progress and overall health within a five-point margin. This machine keeps tracks of your regular weight fluctuations so you don't freak out if you weigh yourself after a big meal.

It also connects to an app where you can find recommendations for activities that fit your lifestyle and help you lose weight naturally and safely.

shapa scales

Shapa scales measure progress, not weight. (Photo: Shapa)

But why, exactly, would a scale without numbers work better than a traditional one? Ariely says it's because it's normal for our weight to fluctuate, and it's simply a distraction on the way to a bigger goal.

"Our scale helps you avoid the confusing love-hate feeling most of us associate with scales by replacing the weight display with a simpler, five-level feedback mechanism. If you're essentially staying the same weight, that is already reason to celebrate," he explained. "If you go beyond your normal weight range, we'll tell you that as well, whether you've gained or lost. We use the average weight of the last three weeks to make the calculation. This enables an experience that involves less gain aversion and less confusion."

Dan Ariely hopes his new approach upends an industry set in its ways.Dan Ariely wants to redefine how we lose weight. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Shapa used to be sold out, but it's back now, just in time for the holidays. Intrigued? You can get one here. Buy it for yourself though; we don't recommend getting a scale for anyone as a present, no matter how high tech it is.


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Related Topics: Apps, Science