Saturday, February 28, 2009

Does Money Motivate People to Lose Weight?

I think having contests over a long period of time (12 weeks, for instance) can be very helpful and motivating for people who are trying to lose weight. If they give it time they can lose weight in a healthy way and feel a sense of accomplishment. Working in groups like this helps even more, with members of the group motivating each other.

Money, alone, is certainly not enough to motivate most people. I was involved in a work-related contest to lose weight one spring. About 60 staff members signed up. After the first three weeks I think about 10 people were still trying to lose weight. As with any weight loss program, people are very motivated in the beginning. After time they lose their resolve, unless they have a commitment to continuing the work and the changes they have to make.

Often, though, diet betting is done over a short period of time and simply for the purpose of 'winning a bet'. Not to generalize, but from what I've seen this type of diet bet is more often played by men as opposed to women. Maybe in part it's because men actually can lose weight so much more quickly because of their body physiology.

"I can lose 10 pounds in a week" they challenge a friend. And they do: by starvation, exercising in over-heated environments to lose water weight (which, of course is extremely dangerous), and sometimes using laxatives or other cathartics to rid their body of anything that translates to "weight"... this can be absolutely life-threatening. But the bet is about winning--not about healthy or permanent weight loss.

Finding a way to motivate people to lose weight is an ongoing effort. If adding money to the pot helps, then it can be an effective aid to the process. But making a bet to lose weight and doing anything to get the weight off to win--that's just plain dangerous and downright stupid.

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