Category Archives: Health

How Much Pact Pays Me To Exercise [Updated 2017-07]

UPDATE: As of July 2017 the Pact service has shutdown.

The idea of getting charged for failing to meet my fitness goals was off-putting at first. Now the idea of being paid for meeting them was a lot more appealing. Pact is a mobile app which encourages healthier behavior by charging users who fail to meet their goals and rewarding those who meet them. Before starting it I wanted to know if the rewards were worth the work. Some articles mentioned vague amounts after a few months of use, but nothing with a breakdown per activity. So I’ve made one that is automatically updated weekly from my data.

Graph of max possible last week
This completionist graph shows that one can typically earn the most from veggies in a week. Though at 5 per day that’s a total of 35 photos to submit.

Graph of earnings per activity
As can be seen each individual activity does not pay much, and clearly exercise is the highest payout. But committing to a dozen or so activities per week does provide a nice little bonus for exercise and healthier eating. So far I get about $8 per month by exercising 6 days, logging one day, and recording veggies half the week. Even if the reward were only a few pennies I’ve found the bonus improves my consistency. Avoiding being charged for failure certainly motivates as well.

Around the 2014 holidays the payout was a little higher. So I imagine the busyness and temptations of that season made reaching these goals more challenging. Regardless, despite some misses, these kinds of pacts can provide the needed push to get one moving more and eating healthier. If you’re on the fence I’d recommend giving it a try with some modest goals.

Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with Pact, Inc. (a.k.a. Gym-Pact) except as a user of their app and service. The data provided is my own, and it cannot predict future earnings.

Exercise That Saves Me Hundreds Per Year

Needing more exercise and reducing fossil fuel use are two birds. My bicycle is one stone, and with it I hit them both by schlepping groceries and other purchases after shopping. Let’s call it ‘schlopping’. My guess is that in the past 2 years of doing so I’ve saved about $1600 and 670 gallons of fuel. It’s also helped me stay in shape.

Having a desk job for over a decade has not made me the healthiest worker. So after my bike’s saddle bags spent a year rotting in the basement I finally got around to installing them. Since then any trip around town has been a good excuse to get some exercise. As long as there isn’t too much snow, ice, or salt in the way it can work well. Even in northern Ohio this has only prevented me from riding twice.

Safety equipment like a helmet, lights, and gloves also reduce some of the risk factors. Careful riding also helps. But to be honest, it is tempting to cut corners and ignore traffic laws; especially on long rides. Thankfully, I’ve only had one moderately serious accident thus far. Strangely enough it was not one of my frequent shopping runs but a relatively rare joy ride.

Still, keep in mind that all our sitting has risks too, more so when when driving/riding. Of course how the risks of walking/riding vs. driving/riding stack up to each other vary quite a bit. Things like distance of trips, traffic volumes, kind of vehicle, physical health, and availability of bicycle lanes are complicating factors. Your mileage may vary.

Despite the modest costs, different risks, and extra time involved in bicycling or walking the gains are certainly worth it for me. Improved health, reduced environmental impact, and net savings of hundreds per year are too much to pass up.

Poisoning Ourselves With Plastic

It’s easy to overlook just how much plastic one uses day-to-day. But the earth is a closed system that notes every wrapper, foam cup, and throwaway bag on it’s very permanent record. And as the refuse breaks down it works its way back to us through the food chain.

Since the oceans act like a sponge the creatures living there consume the plastic bits left behind. While this isn’t recent news there has been some recent attention. Catalyst ABC’s Plastic Ocean piece explains the situation. Around half way through the video I began to take stock of how I have been unintentionally contributing to the problem myself.

Being ecologically minded I thought I was doing well by shopping with reusable bags, drinking from reusable bottles, and harvesting some tea and coffee grounds for composting. Living in a recycling community also helps reduce the problem. But they don’t accept plastic bags, wax paper, Styrofoam, or complex items like electronic gadgets.

When I began to consider everything I consume it became obvious there is more room to improve. During any given week my non-recyclable consumption breaks down as follows:

  • 4 plastic, single-cup, coffee containers
  • 4 plastic wrappers for tea
  • 3 plastic, vegetable wrappers
  • 2-3 thin, plastic, produce bags
  • 2 plastic, zip bags for nuts
  • 1 wax and cardboard fruit container

Given 52 weeks in a year that makes 754 items that have to go somewhere. One idea is to switch to tea that comes in paper wrappers but even that may not be the optimal considering how the paper is produced. Of course this isn’t the whole picture. There are also holiday gifts, treats offered, and packages purchased at various times throughout the year.

Reuse and recycling can help too. Though ultimately, the best solution is to reduce consumption. Saying ‘no’ to oneself and others can be awkward and occasionally painful. Yet if one wants to enjoy food, especially from the sea, without plastic contamination then the bigger picture must be kept in mind every time temptation arises.

Too Easily Influenced When Reading?

Of all mediums of communication I find myself most easily taken by the written word. Deep skepticism often accompanies my evaluations of visual and auditory expressions. Yet there is something magical about reading that makes the author’s argument so much more believable. Then after gaining the perspective of more critical assessments I wonder how I could have been so naive.

Being a fan of visual effects in film and art may have contributed to a greater skepticism of images. When shown videos of seemingly impossible things my mind goes immediately into thinking how it could have been faked. This approach stands in sharp contrast to my romanticizing manner of reading.

Thoughts communicated verbally are another means met without my overeager acceptance. Experiences with informal, spoken discussions tended to be based upon anecdotal evidence. Combined with an argumentative style of communicating during younger years may explain why I’m so critical of oral arguments.

However, while reading any popular or widely respected work I find myself caught up in it like a child taken by an imaginative game of make believe. Even my own past experience is no antidote to this phenomenon. As a young adult I can recall being engrossed in long novels such as Jurassic Park and others by Michael Crichton. It is such a blessing when enjoying fiction as it allows nearly complete suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately this requires conscience effort to step away from non-fiction works in order to remain grounded in reality.

One technique that has helped greatly is borrowing instead of buying books. Without the financial investment I’m less inclined to fall in line with the author out of a need to justify my purchase. It also provides an opportunity to read beyond the “honeymoon phase” without the risk of buyer’s remorse.

Another approach is to seek out critical reviews before reading too far into the work. Topics such as entrepreneurs, small business, financial independence, and self-help appear to be an ocean of choices of “best sellers”. Having started down the path of reading many such books I’ve been saved wasted time by exploring critiques along with the introductions and praise.

At the end of the day we all have to decide who and what to believe. And while it’s tempting to follow the crowd or put absolute faith in established authorities, maintaining a balanced, critical perspective is a healthy habit no matter the medium.

Help Or Perfection

Each of us has our own idea of what is ideal for any given endeavor. That unique perspective also means involving others introduces the risk that the reality won’t exactly match our personal vision. As a recovering perfectionist I often feel getting help and achieving perfection are mutually exclusive. Yet my experience has also been that the results are often fruitful when I step aside and let others do what they do best.

Of course allowing someone with no experience or talent undertake a significant or fundamental part of a project, especially without any supervision, is unwise. Still, any undertaking involving others must find the balance between a learner-friendly environment and encouraging laziness or incompetence.

One key factor is the significance of the project itself. Imagine the construction of a nuclear power plant compared to a painting for a friend as a personal favor. If the power plant were not well constructed it could impact millions of lives for hundreds of years. If the artwork didn’t turn out well then it would only disappoint a friend. I find such comparisons help maintain a healthy perspective when it is tempting to stress over someone’s work.

Remembering my own past work is another tactic that helps overcome an unhealthy obsession with perfection. If I were still working and reworking those same early efforts then I’d never have left preschool. They also demonstrate how far each of us has progressed precisely because we were allowed to make mistakes.

Working alone for long periods is one contributing factor to perfectionism. When making something solely for oneself it can lead to an extreme where the work is never quite good enough.

Sometimes even the learning itself leads to an endless cycle of improvement. In such cases it is helpful to have another, unbiased perspective. Consider the friend who looks over your shoulder to say how good it looks or how great it’s working; despite the flaws that jump out at you. People experienced in mentoring are best for this, assuming they aren’t overly concerned with perfection.

Despite the freedom and independence working solo has brought me over the years perfection is actually closer the more I interact with other skilled professionals. We introverts may be a productive bunch, but there is still much to learn from the more social among us.