Betting on Weight Loss: A Blogger Tries DietBet

By Bethany Sanders

Credit: Lisa Kong, sxc.hu

What motivates you to lose weight?

Is it health?  More energy, less risk of disease, a longer life?

Is it fitness?  Maybe you’re inspired by the thought of running a 10k or building stronger muscles.

Is it appearance?  Who doesn’t love sliding into a smaller pair of jeans?

What About Money?

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that when employees competed to lose weight as a group, they lost up to three times more weight than those who received individual incentives to take pounds off.

The details:

  • The study involved obese employees at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
  • In one group, participants were offered $100 per month for meeting weight loss goals.
  • In the other group, participants were placed into groups of 5 and were offered $500 to split as a monthly reward.  If a member did not achieve their goal, their reward was divided among other members.
  • Participants were notified each month about the money they earned or would have earned if they had been successful.
  • After six months, the group-incentive participants had lost more weight than the individual-incentive participants and the control group.

In a press release, the study’s lead author Jeffrey T. Kullgren, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., health services researcher at the U-M Medical School wrote:

There is broad and growing enthusiasm for rewarding healthy behaviors in the workplace, but there is little evidence on the effects of these strategies.  We anticipate more employers to offer these awards in an effort to help control health care costs while also improving the health of employees.  We found that these incentives were substantially more powerful when delivered in groups, which has important implications for both policymakers and the employers who are considering offering them.

Inspiration

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This study got me thinking.

If you’ve been reading, then you know that I kicked off an attempt to lose 50 pounds back in February. (See my posts on my 30-day primal challenge, parts one, two, three, and four.)

I’ve been happy with my progress so far, but I wondered:  “Would a financial incentive give me a little extra motivation?”

Spring is coming fast, and I’d like to be closer to my goal by the time the warm weather hits.  And I enjoy changing things up to keep myself from getting bored.

I don’t know if money will motivate me, but I decided to give it a shot.

I headed over to DietBet.

What Is DietBet?

At DietBet, participants put down their hard-earned cash with the hope they’ll earn it back — and more — at the end of the challenge.  Here’s how it works:

  • Start or join a challenge by betting the required amount.
  • Stick to your diet plan in an attempt to lose 4% of your body weight in a month.

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  • Keep tabs on your fellow challengers.
  • Split the pot if you succeed.

The group I joined, for $35, is called Danny-J’s Diet Bet, and the pot is currently $27,505.  That’s certainly a big enough incentive for me to kick my weight loss into high gear, but with 785 other members it’s far more likely I’ll win $50 or so.

The challenge starts tomorrow and ends on May 5, so check back then for a full review.

Would money motivate you to lose weight?

My contest is over and my update is found here.

9 Comments

  1. Courtney Tucker

    I’m doing it too! Same game.

    I really don’t think 4% of your body weight is too much too lose in a month even if you’re not just starting out. After all, they say it only takes 21 days to make a habbit and you get 28 with DietBet. The first Weight Watchers goal is 5% and though they don’t give you a deadline, you’re not playing for money either!

    Reply
  2. Ron

    HealthyWage.com (the company I work for) has a slightly different model where we have both individual challenges (BMI & 10%) as well as team-based competitions combined with large financial incentives. We give out almost $20,000 per challenge (each 12 weeks) and have several running every month. We also have great success working with recent mothers to lose baby weight. In fact, late last year we had a challenge with BabyCenter specifically designed for new mothers. Check it out if you are serious about losing weight but would like to have fun while doing it!

    Reply
  3. Kristen

    Hmm…very interesting question. I love that there is some use for this with employers (especially given some recent trends to just not hire those with “unhealthy” behaviors, like smoking…or one day obesity?). I think it would work to some degree for me. I’m much more motivated to get off my last 10 pounds of baby weight because I know otherwise I have to spend money on new (bigger) clothes. This is a reverse financial incentive, but it’s still incentivizing!!

    Reply
    • Bethany

      I understand, Kristen! I’m less than 5 pounds, I think, from the next size down. Definitely a motivator!

      Reply
  4. Michelle

    I’ve looked into different sites that give financial incentives and I think DietBet seems extreme. 4% of your body weight in one month is doable if you are just starting a fitness program, when you tend to drop pounds fast, but it’s unrealistic (and unhealthy) for a lot of people. I’m considering HealthyWage which has a challenge where you try to lose 10% of your body weight in six months. I personally think that’s a much healthier goal.

    Reply
    • Bethany

      I agree, Michelle. I have a lot of weight left to lose, so I think that this weight will come off fairly easily, but if I was near my goal it would be a tough month.

      Reply
  5. Spectra

    Money would sure be nice, that’s for sure. They did a program similar to this at my workplace–we gett $25 for completing a health risk assessment and completing online workshops, tracking our food and exercise, etc. A lot of people got more interested in their health all of a sudden…If the DietBet website has challenges other than losing weight (I can’t physically lose any more and still be healthy), I’d sign up today.

    Reply
    • Bethany

      That’s an interesting idea, Spectra — health challenges unrelated to weight loss. Maybe you should start your own website. 🙂 My employer also runs a group weight loss challenge (Biggest Loser takes all), but my job requires me to be out of the office most of each work day, so it’s hard to feel part of a team and I would have to drive 20 minutes out of my way to weigh in, so I have never taken part.

      Reply