Can you lose weight faster if someone pays you to do it?


Behavioral Economics and Weight Loss
Web sites like stickK (pictured here), Healthy Wage and DietBet enable users to commit to personal challenges that pay off if the goal is met.
Web sites like stickK (pictured here), Healthy Wage and DietBet enable users to commit to personal challenges that pay off if the goal is met.
Screen capture by HowStuffWorks staff

Sometimes, spending money to motivate people to lose weight and stay healthy actually costs less than the medical expenses associated with obesity-related illnesses. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that in 2008 alone the health costs for a person with a BMI greater than 30 were $1,429 higher than a peer with a normal BMI (between 18.5 and 24.9) -- that's nearly $150 billion spent treating obesity-related conditions [source: CDC]. That's a lot more than we wager on our own weight loss.

Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. (the number one cause of preventable deaths is tobacco smoking) [source: Get America Fit Foundation, National Cancer Institute]. Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and stroke are all obesity-related problems, as are type II diabetes, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease and certain cancers (including breast cancer and colon cancer). Eighty percent of type II diabetes cases are obesity-related, for example, and treating Americans with type II diabetes costs nearly $64 billion annually [source: Get America Fit Foundation]. Getting Americans to wager on their own weight loss not only has the potential to reduce waistlines but healthcare costs as well.

Participation in a structured weight-loss program is shown to help us lose those extra pounds, especially if that program offers financial rewards for losing pounds. Programs vary, and some are set up to reward you with cash prizes. Others are set up for you to bet your own money on your own weight loss. Some pool prize money in a lottery. And some are a combination of your own contributions matched with cash prizes given for meeting your wellness goals. All participants (whether gaining, losing or plateaued) in incentive programs with their own cash on the line still bet on their weight loss; in fact, more than 50 percent of participants who are not meeting their goals still make contributions to their deposit contracts -- consider it wishful thinking or wishful wagering, but if weight isn't lost, money isn't paid out [source: John].

Author's Note: Can you lose weight faster if someone pays you to do it?

Researching this article, I learned that losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can decrease your risk of developing obesity-related illnesses; for example, it's estimated that nearly 800,000 Californians could avoid developing type II diabetes by losing just 5 percent of their current weight. While we won't all win $250,000 like Danni Allen, for instance, who lost 121 pounds and won season 14 of "The Biggest Loser," it can pay to try weight-loss incentives -- just beware of weight gain once the rewards go away.

Related Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Armour, Stephanie. "Fast-Food Calorie Consumption Declines in U.S., CDC Says." Bloomberg. Feb. 20, 2013. (March 24, 2013) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-21/fast-food-calorie-consumption-declines-in-u-s-cdc-says.html
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Adult Obesity Facts." Aug. 13, 2012. (March 24, 2013) http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "How much physical activity do adults need?" Dec. 1, 2011 (March 24, 2013) http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html
  • Get America Fit Foundation. "Obesity Related Statistics in America." (March 24, 2013) http://www.getamericafit.org/statistics-obesity-in-america.html
  • John, Leslie K.; Loewenstein, George; Troxel, Andrea B.; Norton, Laurie, Fassbender, Jennifer B.; and Kevin G. Volpp. "Financial Incentives for Extended Weight Loss: A Randomized, Controlled Trial." Journal of General Internal Medicine. Vol. 26, No. 6. Pages 621-626. Jan. 20, 2011. (March 24, 2013) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3101962/
  • Mayo Clinic. "Weight loss: 6 Strategies for Success." Dec. 18, 2010. (March 24, 2013) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/HQ01625
  • Miller, Stephen. "Mayo Clinic Study: Financial Incentives Further Weight Loss." Society for Human Resource Management. March 18, 2013. (March 24, 2013) http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/Articles/Pages/Weight-Loss-Incentives.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+shrm%2Fnews%2Fhr+(SHRM+Online%3A+HR+News)
  • Nainggolan, Lisa. "More Bang for Your Buck? Payment Scheme Ups Weight Loss." Medscape News. March 10, 2013. (March 24, 2013) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/780542
  • National Cancer Institute. "Tobacco Facts." Nov. 9, 2012 (March 24, 2013) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/tobacco/statisticssnapshot
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). "Facts About Healthy Weight." (March 24, 2013) http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/heart/obesity/aim_kit/healthy_wt_facts.htm
  • Phend, Crystal. "Financial 'Carrot' Keeps Weight Loss Going Short Term." MedPage Today. Dec. 9, 2008. (March 24, 2013) http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/Obesity/12072
  • Pisani, Joseph. "Resolving to lose weight? Put some money on it." The Boston Globe. Feb. 21, 2013. (March 24, 2013) http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/02/21/putting-cash-line-lose-weight/iuZn6qZPI0l1AhHcsm76GJ/story.html
  • Sayre, Carolyn. "A New Weight-Loss Plan: Getting Paid to Shed Pounds." Time. Jan. 4, 2010. (March 24, 2013) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1952309,00.html
  • Scherzer, Lisa. "Financial Incentives to Get Healthy: A Diet Don't." Yahoo! Finance. March 8, 2013. (March 24, 2013) http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/financial-incentives-healthy-diet-don-t-211802972.html
  • Smith, Cheryl F.; and Rena R. Wing. "New Directions in Behavioral Weight-Loss Programs." Diabetes Spectrum. Vol. 13, No. 3. Pages 142. 2000. (March 24, 2013) http://journal.diabetes.org/diabetesspectrum/00v13n3/pg142.htm
  • Trust for American's Health. "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens American's Future 2012." September 2012. (March 24, 2013) http://www.healthyamericans.org/report/100/

More to Explore