Want to Lose Weight? Put Your Money Where Your Tummy Is!

Losing weight is hard. Even with a diet buddy, it is difficult to stick with a diet, especially during those agonizing plateau periods. Staying motivated is key, with temptation around every corner. The Mayo Clinic tried something creative: they paid people to lose weight.

People pay their children for good grades. Employees pay bonuses to their staff for exceptional achievement. It only makes sense that someone would think of paying for weight loss. The Mayo Clinic did exactly that; paying their employees to lose weight and keep it off.

This was an in-depth study of the concept of paying for weight loss. The Mayo Clinic selected 100 clinic employees or their dependents to participate for an entire year. All volunteers had a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30. This is the level at which the centers for Disease Control considers a person to be obese.

All of the volunteers had the same goal: lose four pounds per month.  They were dividing into groups to compare their success rates.  Some people were placed into an “incentive” group, where there were rewards and penalties based on their monthly weigh-in results. If they lost four pounds over the month, they received $20. If they didn’t lose at least four pounds, they paid $20 into a bonus pool. At the end of the year-long study, people in the incentive group who were still participating were entered into a drawing to win all of the “penalty” money that was paid for missing monthly weight loss goals.

The results were not surprising. People in the incentive group lost more weight than people without a financial incentive. The incentive group volunteers lost an average of nine pounds over the year, while participants in the non-incentive group lost an average of a bit over two pounds.

Also not surprisingly, people in the incentive group were more than twice as likely to remain in the study for the entire year. Clearly, they wanted a shot at winning the drawing for the penalty payments.

What does this mean for you? Check with your employer about their weight loss incentive program. Nearly nine out of ten large companies now offer some variation on pay for performance dieting. You might discover that your employer has such a program.

If your employer doesn't have a dollars for pounds incentive, make up one of your own! Get together with some weight loss buddies, pick a diet, and agree to a reward and penalty program. It doesn't have to be $20, just as long as it means something to the group. The important part is to build a mutual encouragement system that can keep you motivated long enough that your diet program becomes a lifestyle program. Only then can those hard-earned lost pounds stay off.

So aren't you really just betting on yourself?

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