Do Weight-Loss Bets Really Work?
The fear of losing dough is helping some people lose extra inches around their waists. Last year Rick and Kay Woollen of Tobaccoville, North Carolina, signed up for HealthyWage, a program that allows users to place cash weight-loss bets on whether you can shed unwanted pounds. (Learn more about tech-based weight-loss bet options below.) The Wollens dropped a combined total of more than 120 pounds—and cashed in on more than $6,000.
The extra incentive (ahem, losing money you could spend on your next vacation!) appears to be the motivation some people need. Even science says a little healthy gambling via a weight-loss bet may pay off: A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that dieters who had financial incentives—the prospect of gaining or losing money—to drop weight were more successful than those who did not. (Related: 23 Best Weight-Loss Motivation Tips)
The bad news about weight-loss bets, experts say, is that this type of weight-loss program doesn't necessarily teach you how to maintain your loss. (But we can help with that!)
"When you're accustomed to getting external rewards for a behavior-and in essence, tying your behavior to that reward-and then when those rewards cease to exist, it's difficult to sustain the behavior," says Gregory Chertok, the director of sport psychology at Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in New Jersey. A study from Obesity Review confirms it: Participants who used cash-driven plans, such as a weight-loss bet, to get slim were not able to keep the weight off a year or so later.
3 Ways to Make the Most of a Weight-Loss Bet
The good news, Chertok assures, is if you shift your attention just slightly, then a weight-loss bet could possibly work. His top tips:
- Screw the Scale. Sure, you've got to weigh in at some point to check on progress during your weight-loss bet, but that number is not the end goal. More than anything, you want to be able to step off that scale as a new person, not just looking like one. "Focus on behavioral changes, such as the process of losing weight rather than the outcome," Chertok says. It'll be way easier to maintain your new weight if you've created real healthy habits that stick. (Take notice of these non-scale victories instead.)
- Use Your Network. There's nothing like family and friends who ask “how was spin class?” or “ready to meal prep together?” to help keep you accountable. You know they've got your back, so recruit them to hold you accountable and cheer you on. Better yet, invite them to place a weight-loss bet with you and win together! The mindset of not letting your teammates down will help drive you, even long after the challenge is over, Chertok says.
- Dig Deep. While extra green in the bank is definitely appealing, it's not nearly as powerful a motivator as an incentive that hits closer to home: you. "Make it a personal choice to feel good, be healthier, enjoy life more, and get involved in fun activities," Chertok says. "When we exercise for intrinsic reasons as opposed to extrinsic ones like looking good or fitting into a pair of jeans, we gain feelings of self-control and autonomy. We do it for us." (Related: 4 Tips for Staying Motivated Without Making Yourself Miserable)
3 Apps Where You Can Place a Fitness or Weight Loss Bet
- DietBet. Research shows a healthy weight-loss goal is to drop 4 percent of your body weight over four weeks, so that's what DietBet has you aim for when you toss at least $20 into the pot (amounts vary depending on the bet you choose to join). If you nail your weight-loss bet—which you will, obvi—you walk away with a cut of the cash. If you don't, your portion goes to those that do. Bonus: You can join challenges with some of your fave celeb trainers, like Blogilates' Cassey Ho (we love how real she is, BTW!) and score extra workout tips.
- Charity Miles. This app isn't about putting money in your pocket, but rather about placing it in the hands of those in need. Every mile you bike (commuting or as a cardio workout) is 10 cents donated to the charity of your choice and every mile you run is 25 cents. And it's super easy to use: Once you've selected an organization to support, the app automatically tracks the distance you cover, so all you have to do is sweat—no recording required.
- HealthyWage. Whether you want to join a team challenge with friends or place a weight-loss bet solo, HealthyWage ups the ante for at least 90 days (the minimum amount of time you can participate). Once you submit a 30-second weigh-in video and decide how much to wager, you're off and running. The app calculates your possible winnings based on the specifics of your weight-loss bet—like how much weight you'll lose over a certain period of time—then tracks your progress and offers up social games to help keep you accountable. (Psst...joining an online support group may help you reach your goals, too.) Verify your weight in a finish-line video, and if you've met your goal, you can bring home the money through PayPal or Amazon credit—up to $10,000, if you bet big!