Betting On Weight Loss


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Would a cash incentive make you more likely to stick with your weight loss program? Recent studies suggest that "diet bets" work for many people who haven't been successful at losing weight by other methods. So how exactly does it work? People who enter into the bet lose cash if they don't lose more weight than their competition. Money becomes the big incentive to shed the pounds.

A study in the December issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who had financial incentives to lose weight were much more successful at dieting than those who did not. Dieters were especially successful when the money was not awarded until the end of the competition. Weekly progress reports and feedback were also a key to keeping participants motivated.

Internet sites that facilitate diet betting have recently seen an increase in traffic. One site requires members to sign contracts related to their goals. Members provide credit card information and are charged weekly if they don't meet those goals. Most participants set goals related to losing weight.

Perhaps you've participated in the annual office pool to lose weight. Winning money and bragging rights can be a great incentive. You're much less likely to reach for the doughnut during the morning meeting if you know your competitors are watching your every move. How's that for peer pressure? Or maybe you've made a bet with your spouse that whoever loses the least amount of weight has to do laundry for a month. Even if the bet isn't financial, it can still be a huge source of motivation.

What do you think? Is money a good motivator for weight loss? Would you be tempted to join a site that charged you money for failing to meet your goals?

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  • 155
    A gimmick that might work for some, at least temporarily, I think. However, it doesn't seem like a great way to promote healthy permanent lifestyle changes with an inner motivation to do so, which should be the real goal. - 7/6/2010   5:30:43 AM
  • KATH0063
    My husband recently won a bet to lose the most weight. He was not the heaviest, but he was the oldest. He won the bet. He was definetly the most competitve. :-) - 7/5/2010   9:02:06 AM
  • 153
    I've been "betting" with a group of friends for over a year now. It worked and was fun at first, but now that I've hit a tough plateau, I'm really struggling. And now my husband is reading a book that says money doesn't motivate people. They've done multiple studies showing how people do much better with some kind of intrinsic motivation - I need to read this and see if I can find a key for me. The book is "Drive" by Daniel Pink. - 6/26/2010   1:18:07 PM
    I am not a big fan of betting on anything, I like challenges, like the next person. I just have a problem with using money something I don't have any to spare. Like the lady in the commercial says "there's no budge in my budget". Anyway I prefer to reward myself in milestones, with awards that mean something to me. So no betting for me! - 6/25/2010   10:53:05 AM
  • 151
    Well I am a big fan of competition love it love it.. (use to sell real estate) but I am not sure the betting of Money would be healthy for me.. seeing I don''t have much to work with - 6/24/2010   9:37:31 PM
  • SHB1964
    Interesting idea... Without realizing it, I guess I did put a money wager on this because the week before I discovered Sparkpeople, I joined a Weight Watchers chapter. I probably wont' rejoin, but I do like the thought of having put money at stake in the form of dues fees. I'm a thrifty girl so I won't want to have wasted that money! - 6/23/2010   9:41:08 AM
  • 149
    I actually think a friend and I had a better plan. Rather than competing with each other, since out bodies were so different and goals were so different, we each wrote out our plan including our goals. What we did was put money in the pot only if we didn't stick to our own plan. (exercise, count calories, count carbs, eat veggies, etc). Our plans were our own. At the end of the time, the winner took all. However, we had such fun doing it, we decided to do something together. We both were winners in weight loss and in success. Another time, I asked my husband to rewards me with money per pound by such and such a date. It worked. But neither was a lifestyle change. Ahhhh that is the catch, now , isn't it? - 6/20/2010   8:54:36 PM
  • 148
    I had a "bet" with myself. I put $5 in an envelope for every pound I lost. (And I removed it, if I gained a pound). When I reached goal, I had enough to treat myself to a spa day a day before our wedding anniversary. - 6/18/2010   10:53:26 AM
  • 147
    Every spring we do a "reach for the beach" competition. Each person sets a goal (which must be at least 5% of your body weight.) Everyone puts in a dollar a week, and at the end of ten weeks, all the money is divided evenly among all those people who met their goal. We weigh in each week with the nurse. I found the money incentive quite effective for keeping me on target. - 6/17/2010   8:29:59 PM
  • 146
    I would bet on the man who weighs the most .... statistics say men lose quicker than women and the more you weigh the greater amount you would lose compared to someone who weighs less or closer to their ideal weight..that is what I would bet on... not bet on myself - 6/11/2010   12:32:46 AM
    I guess it depends. The first time around my husband offered me $500 to buy new clothes. I had 30 lbs to lose and gave up after 5 as I just was not that into losing the weight. Now I have 50 lbs to lose, but the reason is there - this time it is for me and I want to do it for me. However I think I would get into it if it was an office pool or something with a friend as my competitive side would come out. - 6/9/2010   5:41:09 PM
  • 144
    Heck yea, where do I sign up??? I read a lot of people's comments and wish I knew people at my job or in my area that I could do something like the Biggest Loser with. I guess the only down fall when competing against others is that people with a higher BMI will have a slight advantage as weight tends to come off a little easier with the more you have. But if someone said, "I'll give you $100 if you lose 10 pounds this month." I would definitely be more motivated. I mean, I am already trying to lose weight, what could be bad about a little bonus? Even better if I had to pay them $100 if I couldn't lose the ten pounds! - 3/30/2010   6:04:19 PM
  • 143
    It would have to be a decent size sum to be tempting for me. I'd rather have some other goal to set for myself, like not consuming processed foods. More fun, still challenging, and better for your budget. - 3/30/2010   2:39:41 PM
  • 142
    I have been losing weight on my own for about 14 monthes. During that time I have lost 20lbs. but continued to bubble up and down a few pounds in that range. Then I made a bet with two friends. The first to 170lbs wins $50 and with the other sister the first to 150lbs wins $50.

    So far it is working great for me because I intentionally chose a friend that I dont want to lose to. There is always competition between us since high school and so I am much better at staying my calorie range and working out a few minutes whenever I think about her beating me and her bragging and taking my money at the end of the 19week challenge.

    It is certainly something that depends on the person. I chose a friend I couldn't bear to lose to. I had a challenge between me and my boyfriend for an ipod nano and it didn't motivate as much. I know he is going to love me whatever the weight so he isn't going to push or motivate me the same. But the thought that my friend will be wearing the sexy bikini looking fabulous while I am hiding in a one piece come summer time. . . can't bear it. I am currently at my lowest weight since having my daughter 2 years ago and hoping to leave the 200's by saturday. - 3/9/2010   10:05:50 PM
  • 141
    I did bet with my husband, and I won! My husband bet me that if I lose 20 pounds he will take me shopping for my birthday with a minimum budget of $200. I have lost 23 pounds and counting... My husband will take me shopping in November 27th, the day after my birthday. If hope I will find a lot of good stuff. - 11/4/2009   12:41:52 PM
  • 140
    We set up something like this at work about two months ago. Each week four of us put in a dollar and we weigh ourselves. Whoever has lost the greatest percentage since their last lowest weight gets the pot.

    One of my coworkers who has had numerous health problems is finally losing weight again because of this project. If there weren't money involved I'm sure he wouldn't be doing it. I'm as proud of us getting him to lose weight as I am of my own losses!

    Also, several other people have started coming just to weigh themselves but not participate in the penny ante aspect. So what started as a way for me to get my colleagues involved in my goals has turned into an ad-hoc wellness program! - 6/30/2009   10:54:33 AM
  • 139
    Yes it's a great incentive to me personally and it's not for personal gain, because for every pound I lose, a pound sterling goes to my favorite charity. My family and friends are so keen to see me lose weight and become more healthy that they will all meet my amount and double 6 weeks that's 28 pounds x 2 x 10.....not too shabby!!! Their generosity only makes me more determined. - 3/15/2009   10:57:02 AM
    You bedt money is a motivator. Not the only one, mind you -- I joined TOPS and SparkPeople at the same time because I finally admitted it was time. However, accountability to the scale and my TOPS group is so important -- AND getting paid to lose weight is wonderful. On the other hand, having to pay to gain is really painful, so I try to avoid that at all costs! And the combination of all those things has encouraged and allowed me to lose more than 40 pounds since last June! Yahoo!! - 3/12/2009   8:06:37 PM
    We started a Biggest Loser contest at work last June- since then I have lost 64 lbs.! I am very competitive, so, at the beginning, it was a great motivator to get and keep me going. But now that I've been at it, pushing myself to do well is much more of an isssue. To me, it is the motivation to work harder at the gym and workout more often. My mom stays with my son one might a week so I have a nice long workout and I treat it like my "last chance workout". We have a weekly prize, so almost everyone has won at least once. The biggest reason it has worked is that everyone in the group is supporting each other and sharing nutrition and fitness ideas and keeping each other going.
    I've tried multiple times to lose the weight, but this was just the thing that got me started this time. This time I'm doing it the "right" way and not trying some non-realistic fad. This time is the last time. - 3/4/2009   1:17:55 PM
    Ah, Tops Club! I keep taking their money every month... Works for me! I have lost 16 pounds in December, 8 Pounds in January and 11 in February... - 3/2/2009   11:46:15 PM
  • 135
    I actually started my weight loss with through an office contest. Everyone paid $50 to enter. It really helped me. I was too embarrassed too lose, so I worked really hard at it. I came in 3rd place, which got me my money back, but I would have paid $50 to lose the 18 lbs I lost. This contest was back in October 2008. I've been sticking with my weight loss since then and now I'm currently down 33 lbs. If it wasn't for a silly bet, I'm not sure I'd be where I am right now. - 2/27/2009   2:21:04 PM
  • 134
    i do not have a competitive bone in my body
    if anything it is an anti-motivator
    I tend to do worse when I am in something with others or against others.
    weird - 2/25/2009   7:25:35 AM
  • 133
    For me, simply the perception that someone thinks I CAN'T do something means that I most definitely WILL do it. In that sense, I suppose that diet bets could work. However, competing with others pound by pound could be potentially damaging to someone's efforts, leading to less of a sense of accomplishment simply because they didn't win the bet. - 2/25/2009   12:26:01 AM
    Wow! Alot of animosity here. I currently have a bet going with 2 other girlfriends. $5 a month over who can lose the most inches. Obviously with that tiny amount of cash on the line, it isn't the money but the constant reminder to keep on task that keeps me going. It works too. I've lost over 2 inches each on my waist and hips in 11 days. - 2/24/2009   9:14:37 PM
  • WOMAN15R
    This isn't terribly surprising, as people are more motivated by greed. It's human nature to act on the possibility of getting something / reward, than to act based on fear.

    I mean, look at all the silly forums of people who just post anything so they can get more points (motivated by greed).

    We all know that high fat diets are bad, but we eat fatty food anyway, because it tastes good (not motivated by the fear of a heart attack). - 2/24/2009   9:00:48 PM
    I lost 30 pounds about three years ago with a lot of hard work. No contest, a lot of hard work. I had kept it off until this year where I've gained about 12 back. I generally eat healthy, but I started to be very careless and was just stressed with grad school and a full time job. However, it started to make me feel really, really bad about myself. I was trying to get back on track and had not been able to and then a few weeks ago I joined the biggest loser competition at my job (I'm a public educator). I lost my first three pounds these past two weeks. I am doing pilates, running and not eating after 7 p.m. Although it is not the money that motivates me (I actually think my team will not win), I am so excited about my weigh in today and I love that I am doing the contest at school and that my $50 will go to a group of teachers who loses the most weight. Last years winners won like $800 as a team. - 2/24/2009   5:08:51 PM
  • 129
    a friend bet me $100 if i get to 65kg before December this year. This came at a time when I was so broke!! Someone else has promised me an all expense trip to a wonderful destination - too good to pass up. Those are such great motivators for me.....I do not want to lose the bet, and I want to take the trip so i would have to agree that money is a good motivator for me. - 2/24/2009   12:38:12 PM
    I have 15 weeks of a 52 week program left that has help me lose 44lbs so far. That is 44lbs lost by the motivation of money. If I fail to lose a lb a week I lose $20 to a charity of my choice that week. My charity just so happens to be something I DO NOT want to donate it to. This motivates me to stay on track and continue to lose weight. If I lose a lb, I get to keep $20 that week. I am saving the money until I have reached the end of the 52 weeks. When I reach my goal I will be able to use that money for what I want.

    I am not using any fad diets. I am doing the right thing by cutting my calories and exercising. The money helps me stay motivated and on track. It works. I have never lost so much weight in my life. When the 52 weeks are up, I am going to do the program again to maintain the weight. This is a life long journey. - 2/24/2009   11:48:30 AM
    I participated in a cmpetition at work at won $400 after winnign the challenge. I used the money to pay a portion of my upcoming Honeymoon! I think that money is a GREAT incentive to lost weight. But honestly, it was the support of the group that really motivated me to lose weight. Having the support of your coworkers regardless if there is a competition is so great. I lost weight safely and steadily and am STILL losing. If you need the cash, why not enter into the competition, but if you have a long term goal and you need to lose weight for health reasons, it's important that you go into a competition like this with realistic goals and you do it safely. - 2/24/2009   9:27:20 AM
    Money is always a great motivator, however for my weight loss it would not be a factor to make me stick to it. I look at it this way once I begin to loose weight I begin saving money on medicine, clothes and such in the long run so the benefit is greater than a bet/wager. - 2/24/2009   8:25:54 AM
  • 125
    I don't bet. What gets me going is making the decision and following through. I don't like leaving anything unfinish, if I can help it. - 2/23/2009   6:13:05 PM
  • 124
    Doesn't work for me. I need accountability. When I report what I've been doing I find I do better. So I feel as though I'm still a winner!:) - 2/23/2009   5:34:10 PM
  • 123
    Nice thought, but no. Being a grownup, I don't find that playing "games" to help with weight loss is of any value. My ultimate goal, to get the rest of my weight off and keep it off. I would LOVE to be a success story in one of Anne Fletchers books...when she updates....THIN FOR LIFE! That would be an incentive for me! - 2/23/2009   12:35:50 PM
  • APRIL_V_2
    This worked really well for my co-workers and me. We did it based on # of hours of exercise. We all wound up exercising a LOT more because of the competition. We each put in $20. We had a big chart on the wall, and used stars/stickers to mark how many 15 minute increments of exercise we each did daily. It was fun and very motivating! The second round was going to be at least twice the pot because when other co-workers saw our chart, they wanted to join too. Unfortunately, i had to move for hubby's job, so i never got to participate in the next round. I must say it is a GREAT motivating tool. Everyone was glad they had participated, whether they had won or not. They all said they exercised more and were healthier because of it. We actually wound up having a first place and a runner's up, to split the cash up, which seemed to motivate people more, knowing they didn't have to beat the #1 person who exercised exponentially more than everyone else. - 2/23/2009   10:25:51 AM
  • 121
    hey, i think whatever motivates somebody is positive. doing it healthfully is the key. some of these challenges do not provide long-term results of behavior modification, cognitive enlightenment, and weight management because the goal is the cash and weight loss, not necessarily a lifestyle change and commitment to wellness. i have taken to rewarding myself with money by putting cash in a jar. for every mile i walk i put in a dollar (if i have it...if not, i put in whatever spare change is in my wallet). i a few months, not only am i going to have my walking back to where it's a habit (although i HATE getting up at 4 a.m. to do it), but i'm going to treat myself to something nice. i deserve it!

    yours in healthy choices,


    - 2/23/2009   9:04:27 AM
    A Bet is a short term goal that you can win if you put your mind to it. But the question isÖafter winning would you keep the weight off or just put it right back on because there is no more motivation??? - 2/23/2009   7:06:55 AM
    I won $90 at my office in January for being the biggest loser in a 2 month weight loss contest. Most of the girls in it kind of gave up after about 1 month. - 2/23/2009   6:19:03 AM
  • 118
    It's not really a bet, but it's related to money - I have stockpiled my credit card points, and it's now enough to buy a $200 Myer/David Jones card, and once I've lost 10kg I'm cashing them in and going shopping for clothes! I'll still have about 5kg to go, but already most of my work clothes are slipping off my hips now that the love handles have shrunk.

    7.5kg down, 2.5kg to go... - 2/23/2009   4:14:14 AM
  • 117
    I am in a contest at work right now, we are losing for 200.00. when I lose the weight that I am out to lose though, I will feel like a winner either way. I really want that money though to buy a new wedding dress, my hubby & I are renewing our vows in August. - 2/22/2009   9:01:44 PM
  • 116
    I heard that L.A. Weight Loss is so expensive, that it's kind of like betting you'll lose the weight - after spending all the money to join, you'd be foolish not to follow the program and lose the weight!

    I don't think I'm motivated by money. I'm motivated by how my clothes fit and how I feel. - 2/22/2009   8:56:13 PM
    i have tried the betting and i won the bet but i wouldn't do it again. - 2/22/2009   7:48:39 PM
  • 114
    I've had bets with friends and family regarding weightloss. Won some, lost some... My only problem was that I did what it took while the contest was on, but immediately afterwards, resumed all my bad habits. It was a temporary weight loss, and I yoyo'd right back up.

    Now, thanks to SparkPeople, I'm experiencing weight loss through a lifestyle change! And the weight is staying off!!! - 2/22/2009   7:11:22 PM
  • 113
    Money might be a good motivator for some, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be for me. The stress would be difficult for me to deal with, and we all know what stress does to weight management. Now, if someone offered me a financial reward for losing weight without any loss of my own money as a consequence of not reaching my goal, that would be a whole different story. - 2/22/2009   3:14:38 PM
  • 112
    Interesting! I think that money can be as good a motivator as many other things. - 2/22/2009   2:07:42 PM
  • 111
    I can see how it would work but it's kind of bad you have to sign up to a website that CHARGES you for failing some expectations. As if upsetting ourselves by not achieving what we wanted wasn't hard enough! I prefer 'happy' incentives like i'if I lose 10lbs, I will treat myself to a facial'. I have made goals like his but feel bad spending the money on such things even though I really want it! (Student budget, need I say more) - 2/22/2009   2:03:36 PM
  • 110
    money is always good. LOL That is the reason we WORK. - 2/22/2009   11:23:09 AM
  • 109
    I don't like the idea. I think it promotes less healthy, more desperate methods just to try to beat someone, or reach some arbitrary goal by some random deadline. When the competition is over, do you just go right back to what you were doing before? I bet many people would. That's not going to sustain any weight loss long-term.

    I believe in doing it for yourself, and for no one -- or nothing -- else. - 2/22/2009   11:00:49 AM
  • 108
    I bet on weight loss all the time. But it isn't for actual cash it is for prizes. I've made bets with my sisters and friends. The rewards have been everything from movie tickets to shoes to a fun weekend. It has helped me stay motivated and has been a way to motivate my family.

    From what I have seen on Sparkpeople there are a lot of people that "bet" on weight loss. How many people give themselves rewards when they meet a milestone. I see that as a bet, you are betting you can make it to that mile stone and then you get your winnings for accomplishing it.

    For me I will keep the bets going because I still have more pounds to lose. - 2/22/2009   10:37:43 AM
    I do not bet, I don't approve of betting -- even for bingo, and I don't have the money for that kind of thing. Yuck!!! - 2/22/2009   10:16:18 AM
  • 106
    That might work for others but I don't think I would want to do that.
    For some it might turn it into doing it for the money instead of getting healthier. What are the odds the winner would resort back to their old habits after the contest was over? - 2/22/2009   9:27:56 AM

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