About two weeks into the COVID-19 lock down, I found myself slowly gaining weight. Being home all day was leading to more snacking. Being able to sleep later in the morning was leading to more late nights watching Netflix. The late nights led to more snacking. It started to feel like a vicious cycle. I gained 10 pounds in two weeks and I had to do something.
My wife has a wise saying, that after 8 pm “the kitchen is closed”. It was mostly for our kids. But I knew it was important advice for me too. If I don’t eat or drink anything after 8 pm, I sleep better and feel better the next day. But I still found myself cheating on this rule. How could I make myself follow this kitchen-closed rule?
Willpower is a funny thing. It certainly varies by person. But more important, it varies with temptation and cost. It’s easier not to snack if there are no snacks in the pantry. It’s easier not to have another glass of wine if there’s not an open bottle in the fridge. So could I just get rid of everything tasty? Short answer is – No. I tried, and my family revolted. “Dad, why can’t we have chips or crackers in the house?” Even worse, they all decided to take up baking as a favorite pastime during the lockdown. So every day there were new fresh baked cookies or bread on the counter. The temptations were inevitable.
So how could I increase the cost of overindulging? Could I put locks on the pantry and refrigerator? How would I keep myself from having the key?
Then I had an idea: I could shame myself. I could create a social cost for breaking my promise not to eat or drink after 8 pm. I figured out a way to use the Ooma Smart Home Security system to help me.
Ooma provides little wireless sensors that can detect when a door opens or closes. I put one of these sensors on the refrigerator door. And I put one on the pantry door, as seen in the pictures. Then, I used the Ooma Smart Security app to set up modes to control how the sensors behave.
At 8 pm each night, the Ooma system automatically switches to Night mode. If the doors open in Night mode, they set off an “alarm”. The alarm can be whatever you want. I chose not to sound the siren (although it could come to that). Instead, I play a voice announcement, “Refrigerator is open,” or “Pantry is open,” which can be heard through the entire house.
The system also sends a notification to the iPhones of everyone in my family. It can send a SMS text message or make a phone call too.
My kids are more than happy to “catch” me trying to cheat. Having them as a sponsor is key. I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of them. And I don’t want to wake them up. It’s kind of fun for everyone.
I’ve gone five nights now with no eating or drinking after 8 pm. And I’ve lost five pounds! I expect it to keep dropping.
Here are some tips on making this work:
1) Find a sponsor. If you live by yourself, pick a friend or neighbor or family member. All the other party has to do is agree to get notifications by installing the Ooma Smart Security app on their phone. It works on iPhones or Android phones and you can get it free in the iTunes App Store or Google Play. If they prefer text messages or phone call alerts, they don’t need even the app – just enter their cell phone number when setting up the alerts.
2) Install the sensors. For the refrigerator, I put the sensor on top, so it’s out of sight. The sensors come with adhesives that will stick to almost anything. For the pantry, I used screws to mount them to the inside of the door frame. In the app, you can name the sensors whatever you want. For example, if you have multiple doors to food and drinks, you could name the sensors “Cereal Cabinet” or “Liquor Cabinet.”
3) Use Voice notifications. I have set up announcements that play on the speaker of the Ooma base station in the kitchen. I also have the announcements play through an Ooma HD3 cordless phone in the master bedroom. Between these two speakers, the announcement can be heard throughout the house. You can set the volume too.
4) Set Mode Schedule. I set up the system to switch to Night mode every night at 8pm, and then back to Home mode every morning at 5am. Note that if you also have Geofencing mode switches, for burglary protection, these can work together. I have Geofencing set up to switch to Away mode when the last of the family’s phones leaves the house, and switch to Home mode when the first phone gets home.
5) Additional checks. A savvy user might realize that one way to cheat the system would be to change modes temporarily while you open the refrigerator. To prevent that, you can choose to alert your sponsor when the mode changes. That way, they’ll know if you try to circumvent the alerts. Another way to cheat would be to physically remove the sensors. If you’re worried about that, you can enable “tamper alerts” to ensure your sponsor will be notified if anything happens to the sensors.
The Ooma system is available online at retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy. Or you can buy it from Ooma security. The base station with two door sensors will cost about $150. There’s no monthly service fee for the features I described using in my house.
I hope this helps someone else.