June 15

The Cobra Effect

Back in colonial India, Delhi had a dangerously high cobra population. In order to get the community to help out with this problem, the British government monetised the culling of cobras, basically creating a ransom on snakes’ heads.

You brought in a cobra’s head, you got paid. Less cobras on the streets = Win!

Unfortunately, the people of Delhi were smarter than that. They started breeding cobras in order to cash in on this government initiative. Eventually the British caught on and scrapped the scheme, which led to hundreds of cobras being released onto the streets of Delhi making the original problem even worse than before. #fail

This is a great example of Goodhart’s law, which states:

When a feature of a system is picked as an indicator of the system’s quality, then that feature immediately ceases to become a good indicator of the quality of that system, because people will focus solely on improving that one feature, not the whole system.

But what has a story about cobras got to do with health and fitness?

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that your weight on the scales isn’t a reliable indicator of your health… or your progress on your weight loss journey… or your body fat percentage.

If you wanted to weigh in as light as possible on the scales there are so many things you can do to cheat this system. None of which would make you any healthier or leaner.

Again, this is Goodhart’s law in action.

As soon as we focus solely on scale weight as a marker for improved health, it ceases to be a useful indicator of health.

You could dehydrate before a weigh in.

You could cut carbs for 24 hours before a weigh in and lose some weight in glycogen and water.

You could drop your food really low for a day.

You could even make sure your bowels were totally empty.

All of the above would make you lighter on the scale, none of the above would make you any healthier or make you look any better in your swimwear.

The process, not the goal is where the magic happens.

Showing up and training 3 times a week, getting your steps in, drinking plenty of water making better food choices (90% of the time), limiting alcohol.

It’s these things done consistently that will lead to reduced bodyfat, cholesterol and blood pressure, a sexier physique, better mental health and improved body confidence. Not just focusing on one piece of the puzzle.

On that bombshell,

I’m out.



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