Automatic Weight Loss

Why Habits trump Willpower

Dr. Jason Fung
6 min readAug 11, 2021

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We often think that we are in control of the decisions that we make, but behavioral psychology suggests otherwise. The Nobel Prize winning work of Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler in behavioral economics showed that humans are, as Dan Ariely put it, Predictably Irrational. Consider organ donation rates. In Germany there is about a 12% rate of organ donation. In neighbouring Austria, that rate is 99%. In Denmark the rate is 4% and in neighbouring Sweden it is 89%. The Danes and Swedes are very much similar in almost all respects, so why the huge discrepancy? The answer is that in Denmark, you check the box if you would like to opt into the organ donor program. In Sweden, you check the box if you would like to opt out of the organ donor program.

The difference does not lie in the people or their values. The difference is the default state. For the same reason, I signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime, and was automatically enrolled. Long after it ceased to be beneficial for me, I’m still a member. This phenomenon, of course, is well known. If a problem is too complex or overwhelming, then inertia takes over. When we don’t know what to do, we simply take the choice that’s already been made for us.

Complexity is the enemy of execution. As Tony Robbins writes “Knowing information is not the same as owning it…

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Dr. Jason Fung

Nephrologist. New York Times best selling author. Interest in type 2 diabetes reversal and intermittent fasting. Founder www.TheFastingMethod.com.