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Making a resolution? Diet betting may offer incentive to lose weight

December 19, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • With diet betting, it's a race to the finish to see who can lose weight first.
With diet betting, it's a race to the finish to see who can lose weight… (Stuart Cahill / AFP )

You have only days until you start your New Year's resolutions, and we're going to bet a lot of you have resolved to slim down in 2012.

Speaking of betting...that's become a popular way to diet, with diet betting sites popping up on the Internet promising to help you lose a reasonable amount of weight by betting among your friends who will get there first in a set amount of time, and the winner gets the pot. Some sites allow you to bet against yourself. And by betting we mean money, which has been shown in studies to be a good incentive to get people to drop some pounds.

Some companies also use money and other tangible incentives to get people to lose weight, sometimes forming teams that compete against each other.

Obviously this appeals to competitive types and those who may need an extra kick to get their rear ends off the couch. In addition to companies such as HealthyWage and stickK, a new kid on the block is DietBet, which offers to host your challenges and has an app coming out next year.

We realize there has to be some honesty involved here--it's great if you can all weigh in on the same scale, but what if you can't? Skype might allow participants to watch weigh-ins, but what if someone fixed their scale? Sure, we're assuming the worst of human nature, but when there's cash at stake there's no telling what people might do.

Dirty tricks aside, there is research to back up the theory that when it comes to dieting, money changes everything--in a good way. In a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., 57 overweight and obese people were randomly assigned to monthly weigh-ins (this was the control group), or one of two weight-loss incentive programs: a lottery or deposit contract. The goal was to lose a pound a week over 16 weeks.

Those in the incentive groups lost an average of about 13 to 14 pounds, while among the controls the average was about four pounds. And about half of those in the incentive groups reached the 16-pound weight loss goal, compared with about 11% in the control group.

And if you think the effects wore off after a while, think again: After seven months those in the incentive groups weighed substantially less than they did at the start of the study, while the controls did not.

Have you ever used group betting as a way to lose weight? What were the results?

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