Gym membership will spike, cigarettes will be tossed and dating websites will experience a surge of singles looking for new love. The season of resolutions is upon us.
But for those looking to lose weight, willpower and the one-size-too-small “thinspiration” T-shirt don’t have to be the only motivators. Sure, many will turn to their neighborhood LVAC and be more discerning at the grocery store, but some will also rely on their financial security (or insecurity) and the Internet to slim down in 2016, thanks to trendy diet-betting websites like HealthyWage and DietBet.
The premise is simple: Throw some money down, eat better and exercise, and in a short period of time you could maximize your bank account while minimizing your waistline. HealthyWage asserts that, since its 2009 founding, it has awarded more than 200,000 users more than $2.5 million for collectively losing more than 10 million pounds, while DietBet says its 300,000+ users have earned more than $16 million since 2013.
Such sites offer various ways to win cash, from personal weight-loss bets with prizes calculated on loss percentages, to team challenges in which winning participants split the pot. One DietBet group contest starting this week includes more than 1,000 participants, each betting $25 with the hope of winning part of a $120,000-plus prize. “The thought of being a part of each player’s journey is heartwarming and encouraging,” says DietBet Success Story No. 103 Teresa, who won $857 for shedding 59 pounds.
The sites monitor weight loss through video and photo verification and have strict rules. DietBet requires participants to have specific body mass index numbers and prohibits the use of “unsafe and unsportsmanlike behavior” like purging, excessive dehydration and medical procedures.
Does a potential financial hit really drive one to get fit more than a look in the mirror or a glance at the scale? HealthyWage points to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that dieters with a financial incentive were nearly five times more likely to reach goals. HealthyWage also cites a 2013 study by the Mayo Clinic in which 62 percent of incentivized participants slimmed down, compared to 26 percent in the non-incentivized group.
As someone who has lost 150 pounds during my lifelong weight-loss roller coaster, it’s difficult to dismiss those numbers. But as a Las Vegan, it’s also hard to ignore my hometown’s conventional wisdom: the house always wins. I’ll still order a salad and go for a run in the new year, but it’ll be for me, not for money.