In some situations it is deemed optimal for a decision-maker to commit to a line a action in such a way that diverging from that action would be extremely costly, if not impossible. From Wikipaedia,
Precommitment is a strategy first discussed by Thomas Schelling that a party to a conflict can strengthen its position by cutting off some of its options to make its threats more credible (e.g., an army that burns its bridge behind it making retreat impossible). A famous example of this tactic is when Hernán Cortés had his men scuttle the ships in order to eliminate any means of desertion.A simple version of the precommitment strategy for weight-loss is to decide while at the store not to buy high-calorie junk food. This is a precommitment that raises the costs of snacking later when you are home and have the munchies, especially if there are no convenience stores near where you live.
But for me the precommitment saga is more drawn-out (and a tad more serious) than that.
About six months ago, while Ms. Eclectic was away for awhile, I spent most of my days watching television, ordering pizza, having big bags of cookies as a meal, etc. At one point when my pants were getting pretty tight, even those pants with the "invisible" elastic sections in the waistband, I realized it was time to get some exercise and lose some weight. Also driving this decision was a plan I had made to do some hiking in June and July with friends in the Yorkshire Dales.
Although I didn't think of it this way at the time, making the hiking plans was precommitment strategy. I would have been embarrassed if they had had to give up the hikes or go on without me because I wasn't fit enough to go with them.
But even that was not what I wanted to write about in this piece.
By the time we were packing to leave Ontario for our year in Regina, Saskatchewan, I had done well enough that my weight was down nearly twenty pounds and my waist had shrunk about two inches. I could just about fit into a my old wardrobe I had saved and that I really like. But it was snug.
So which clothes should I pack for our 10 months away? My fat clothes or my thin(ner) clothes?
I opted for the thin clothes. If I gain weight (especially if I gain girth), it'll cost me a fortune to replace my wardrobe while I'm here.... a serious expense and yet another precommitment strategy.
Addendum: A few years ago, former student Mike Moffatt engaged in a different type of precommitment strategy to induce himself to lose weight and increase his fitness level. See this.