Wagering on weight loss

April 1, 2009 7:36:18 AM PDT
There are several different ways to wager on weight loss. Some people compete for a winner-take-all pot, others have to pay if they don't lose weight. And a local researcher says it can all add up to getting healthy and earning cash. Like most siblings Nayan and Aalap Patel are competitive, whether it's on the tennis court or playing poker.

So when they both wanted to lose weigh, they made a wager. They signed up on Stickk.com. It's a website designed to help people stick to their commitments. Over 22 weeks, Nayan bet he'll lose 18 pounds. Aalap, 22. Using the Wii fit, they weigh in weekly and whoever doesn't meet their weekly goal has to pay $20 bucks.

"If I lose every week for the whole period of the bet, it'll be $440," Aalap said. "When you start breaking it down, $400 is a plane ticket to Ireland, a phone bill for three to four months, then you're like that's a lot of money to lose," Nayan chimed in.

And putting money on line is proven to help people lose weight. Dr. Kevin Volpp is a doctor at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

He recently worked on a study looking at the effects of financial incentives on losing weight. In the study, about 60 volunteers were divided into three groups all with the goal of losing a pound a week. The "lottery" group was given the chance to win up to $100 a day if they met their weight loss goal, the"deposit" group put their own money in and had the chance to double or triple it. The third group was a control group with no financial incentives. After 4 months, Dr. Volpp said, "Clearly we can say the people who received the incentives were much more successful at losing weight than the people who did not."

The lottery group lost an average of 13 pounds, the deposit group 14, and the control group lost an average of just four pounds. Dr. Volpp said it's the immediate gratification of cash that helps dieters stick to a plan and lose weight.

It worked for Roz Manson, of Cherry Hill, N.J. She's competes in "Weight Loss Challenges" in South Jersey. So far in a year's time, she's lost nearly 30 pounds and she's won several cash prizes totalling nearly $200 dollars.

"Martha, our coach pays in cash so she's dole out one dollar at a time and it kept coming and coming and when I came home I had a whole wad of cash to show my husband," Manson said.

Welness coach Martha Stem of the Weight Loss Challenge said the money gets people's attention initially but feeling better and getting healthy is still the real prize.

Dr. Volpp also said there's a catch. When his study was over and the financial incentives were gone, volunteers starting gaining weight back.

Manson is avoiding that by focusing not on the money but on her health. For the Patels, they say they're motivated to not lose money, but also driving them is bragging rights.

"I would be really angry if he was thin and in really good shape and I was still overweight, that would be the worst probably, Aalap said.

There are ongoing weight loss challenges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The cost is about $30 for a 12-week challenge. The group meets each week for weekly tips and weigh -ins. The competition is based on percentage of weight loss. First place wins 50% of the pot, second wins 30% and third wins 20%.

For sessions in Voorhees and Cherry Hill, call 1-856-489-9125.

For sessions starting in April in Voorhees and Lindenwold, call 609-314-5545.

The challenges are affiliated with the Herbalife but supplements are not required for participation.

For more information on the Weight Loss Challenges, call the numbers above or visit: www.WLC-NJ.com

To find out more about the website managing the Patels' committment, visit: www.stickk.com

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