Bet on your weight loss goals and you might win twice.
Money is a big motivator. And the prospect of any cash return from gambling is enticing – just think of this week’s powerball buzz.
So what happens when financial incentives are associated with weight loss goals? There is growing evidence that this is not necessarily a dunk.
Last week, our sister blog Shots reported on a workplace initiative that promises to cut health insurance premiums for workers if they lose weight. It turned out to be a failure. On average, workers lost less than two pounds.
Why is that? So for beginners, says Mitesh Patel of the university of Pennsylvania’s centre for health incentives and behavioural economics, one of the study’s authors, “people are motivated by direct incentives.
As it turns out, because of the discounted health insurance costs, asking people to look for extra money in their future pay, the result isn’t sexy or inspiring.
So this is a high-profile choice: a good old-fashioned bet. Through programs like HealthyWage, people are betting on their weight.
Another company, StickK, USES a similar approach. Participants set personal contracts for weight loss and other types of goals. As I reported in 2008, when the company started, if you didn’t live up to the end of the contract, StickK would donate the money to a charity or someone you appointed.
There’s also a motivational strategy: get them to pick an organization or charity they disagree with (or their objections). For example, a bird-watcher who favours tighter gun control would donate money to the national rifle association if they failed to meet their goals. Or the republican party’s commitment to the democratic national committee.
HealthyWage has attracted Ben Carnes, a teacher and football coach from Westfield, indiana, who has climbed to 370 pounds.
“I know that if I put money into the production line, it would be a double incentive,” Carnes told us. He signed with HealthyWage in 2014. The idea behind the plan is to use carrots at the same time (with the chance to win cash prizes) and stick to (the threat of loss) to motivate people.
“I don’t want to lose my money,” says Carnes. “(and) my wife and I agree that if I win, I have to spend it on anything I want.” So, that’s the motivation.
Here’s how his bet works: he puts down about $60 a month and aims to lose nearly 100 pounds. If he achieves his goal, he will double his money. If he doesn’t meet his weight loss goals, he’ll lose his money. (for more than a year, he invested $720.)
In the first few months, the weight went down. But things get tough.
In the middle of the bet, kearns said, his weight had reached a plateau. “I feel sorry for myself,” he said. “I don’t lose weight like I did three weeks ago. He wants to eat burgers and fries and bail.
“My wife once asked me to go out… … She kind of yelled at me and said, ‘we paid you too much money and we’re on bail. ”
Kearns – and his wife – an aversion to losing more than $700, was a powerful motivator.
Eventually, kearns won his bet. He reached his goal in December 2015, losing 100.2 pounds. He cashed the check for about $1,500.
He is currently undergoing triathlon training and says he no longer needs to take high blood pressure or cholesterol drugs. “I feel better,” he told us.
I submitted this question to David Roddenberry, the founder of HealthyWage, a former health care consultant. “About 30 to 40 percent of the participants won the challenge,” he told me.
The other? Yes, they did not reach the target weight. They lost their stakes.
But Roddenberry says the model sounds good. He pointed out that in the “journal of the American medical association (JAMA), according to a study published in the compared with those who have no money, have economic stimulus dieters lose weight are more likely to achieve their goals.
So, good odds? You’re the judge