Instant Gratification

Obesity reflects bad long-term thinking. Which makes me wonder why I'm not fat

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Illustration by Tomasz Walenta for TIME; Doughnut: Getty Images

Instant Gratification. Obesity reflects bad long-term thinking. Which makes me wonder why I'm not fat.

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I asked A.J. Jacobs, who lost a bunch of weight for his hilarious new book, Drop Dead Healthy, how he did it. Jacobs, who has never been poor, used to think fatalistically about his future, as a poor person might: "I rationalized it and said even if you eat right and go to the gym three times a week, you get hit by a bus, so what's the point?" In his head, Jacobs lived a chaotic, violent Upper West Side life where young homies were constantly being iced by the M79 crosstown.

So Jacobs tricked himself into thinking long-term results were immediate. "I try to visualize what that doughnut would do to my body. I do that CSI thing where you go inside your body like a bullet, and you visualize the arteries and a big chunk of doughnut blocking the artery," he said. He also stuck a computerized image of himself at 80 on his refrigerator. He agreed to start a company with me that would create an app that updates the elderly-you photo in real time, depending on how much you eat and exercise. "So if you eat a Paula Deen fritter, you will look horrible and fat," he explained. My next business plan is to call Paula Deen and see if she'll start a company with me making Paula Deen fritters.

Jacobs spent that evening looking for food at the airport, which is the only food desert rich people run into. "I went to a place called something like the Health Shack. They sold gummy bears and chocolate-chip cookies," he said. Jacobs resisted temptation. Though if this book doesn't sell, next time he probably won't.

An earlier version of this article misstated Mari Gallagher's name as 'Marie Gallagher'.

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