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standing on the scale

This is crossposted on the Fat Cyclist blog.

Greetings not-so-fat cyclists! We’re pretty much beside ourselves with how the first annual (oh presumption!) Beeminder Fat Cyclist Weight Loss Competition turned out. When we say we’re beside ourselves we mean that literally — Beeminder is a husband-and-wife team and we hack on it day and night shoulder-to-shoulder. Ok, but also figuratively beside ourselves. This thing had everything: drama and suspense on the leaderboard, you all lost a ton of weight, and we raised just over $4000 for The Hammer’s World Bicycle Relief fundraising.

And when we say you all lost a ton of weight we mean that literally too. (We’re very literal. It’s a programmer thing.) To be exact, you lost a total of 1912 pounds, or 14 pounds per person.

Let’s back up for those just tuning in. In March Fatty announced a new kind of weight loss contest using Beeminder where the objective would be consistent progress, not about how much you could lose or how fast. There’s a shorter version on the Beeminder blog. The extra short version is that you create a Yellow Brick Road to your goal weight — totally up to you to pick it — and then you get points each day you weigh in based on how closely you hew to your chosen path. Importantly, you get fewer points for losing weight faster than you intended. As for what good the points were, we’ll get to that.

To limit the contest to those who were ready to take it seriously, Fatty decided on a $20 ante to charity. That’s where most of the $4000 we raised came from — more than $3000 of it. As for the rest of it, well, this is the crazy part. Losing weight too fast cost you points. But actually failing to lose weight? That cost you money. Not the first time, that one’s free, but each subsequent time you derailed, as we call it, from your Yellow Brick Road, you coughed up ever greater penalties: $5, $10, $30, $90, etc. Normally those penalties are Beeminder’s revenue. For this contest we donated half of them to World Bicycle Relief.

Of course the top competitors never went off track. And that brings us to the exciting part. I hope you’re imagining a drum roll right now. Ringcycles eked out a victory with a near perfect score of 304 points. His prize is a pair of Rapha Classic Bib Shorts, courtesy of Fatty himself.

The contest started out slow, the pack holding together like a peloton. But the competition thinned over the course of the first few weeks, and eventually we got down to just a handful of people vying for the top slot. Mukrider and Actionplant held out longest with perfect scores, but eventually slipped. Ringcycles started out with a couple datapoints below the road so didn’t appear as a top contender at first, but then his subsequent rock solid consistency eventually paid off. Nobody else ended up as close to a perfect score (306 points).

Honorable mention goes to third place, Dena, who had some serious medical issues to contend with but anticipated them almost flawlessly. When her doctor put her on a clear liquid diet, she adjusted the steepness of her Yellow Brick Road accordingly (you’re always allowed to do that with Beeminder, the catch being that any changes have a one-week delay). The most impressive part is that she’s still forging ahead now that the contest is over. Check out that graph!

That brings us to our final plea. The contest was structured to encourage you to lose weight steadily, following the path you set out for yourself, i.e., staying on Beeminder’s yellow brick road. We wanted to encourage sustainable weight loss, rather than just dropping weight like The Hammer dropping Fatty on the descent at Frog Hollow. So even though the contest is over, we want to encourage you to continue minding your weight. If you’re now at your ideal weight, set your yellow brick road flat, and keep weighing in, to ensure you don’t squander all this progress. You can even set your road to slope up during vacations or holidays if you’re ok with gaining weight during those times. The pattern we’ve seen over and over is that as soon as you stop minding your weight, it starts creeping up.