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Calorie Count Blog

Getting Paid to Lose Weight


By Mary_RD on Sep 17, 2009 12:00 PM in Dieting & You
Edited By +Rachel Berman

Think about the money you’ve spent for years trying to get slim.  Here’s a switch:  Now someone might want to pay you for losing weight. 

Governments, health insurers, and employers are experimenting with rewarding people for weight loss. They figure that obesity is linked to high medical bills (including the colossal expense of obesity surgery) and since money motivates people, perhaps paying people to lose weight will impact the bottom line.

Hard-earned cash?

Consider this sampler of weight loss interventions:

  • A well-designed study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that people who won - or didn’t lose - money were about 8.5 times more likely to lose weight in a 16-week program.
  • An interesting study from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill showed  that employees who were paid $14 for every 1% drop in body weight lost more weight than those paid $7; and, overall, those paid any money lost more weight than those not paid at all.
  • A financial services firm in Texas pays employees $300 when they lose 10% of their weight within one year.
  • An insurance plan in Milwaukee pays employees $5 for every 1% of weight loss up to 10% per quarter.  They pay $5 a quarter just for trying!
  • IBM employees can earn $300 a year for tracking their intake and output.
  • The British National Health Service is sponsoring a trial of Weight Wins, a 13-month weight loss program that pays overweight people up to  £425 ($700) to get down to their target weight and stay there for six months.
  • The Mayor of Varallo, Italy paid 50 euros ($70) to men who lost 4 kg (8.8 lb) and women who lost 3 kg (6.6 lb) in a month.  They got another 200 euros ($280) for maintaining the loss five months later.

Still Learning

In the University of Pennsylvania study, seven months after the 16-week study ended, some of the dieters in the incentive group regained weight.  But still, the rewarded groups still weighed less than they did before the study began.

It’s safe to say that we don’t know much about how money affects weight loss.  How much money does it take to get one’s attention?  And for how long?  What's the better incentive: a small cash payment or admission to a big lottery? withholding your own money and earning it back? or paying a penalty for not reaching goal?  Do incentives work better for the poor?  Do incentives reinforce disordered eating behaviors? 

Bear in mind that people willingly take part and enjoy the game.  Check out websites stickK, Make Money Losing Weight, and Fat Bet where dieters bet against their own ability to meet their resolutions.


Your thoughts….

Have you ever been paid to lose weight?  Would you wager a bet against yourself? Are financial rewards appropriate for weight loss?



Comments


safe drivers and non-smokers are rewarded with lower insurance premiums.  why shouldn't other healthy habits be rewarded?  i think it's a good idea



or at least obese people get penalized and the heavier you get the more you pay since there is a direct correlation between obesity and the consumption of health care.



The only problem with penalizing is that SOMEONE will get offended and defensive and start a socio-political movement (like the various fat-acceptance groups).  It's all still deeply-rooted excuses, just like any reason to not quit smoking, but an uproar is guaranteed if obesity is punished.

The more self-entitled we as a society get, the louder these tantrums will be.



I don't think I agree with paying money for weightloss. What about people with a healthy bmi? Are these companies giving them incentives to stay healthy? I think it would be better to give incentives to everyone to maintain a healthy lifestyle like the IBM one. Keeping track of intake and output is something everyone can benefit from.

Also, what happens if the person gains the weight back? Losing weight is a lot easier than keeping it off.



Maybe a discount on your health insurance or a cash incentive for maintaining a healthy weight or working to lose weight.  If you pay people $5 for losing weight, there is no reward for those who are already at their ideal weight.



This would be a great idea in Canada, where our health care is free through the government.  An epidemic of people needing health care because of an avoidable problem isn't great for the national deficit...

Maybe the federal government should start giving us tax incentives - we already get them for keeping kids healthy (you can deduct the cost of sports programs & equipment (i think) on your income taxes), why not continue it into adulthood?



At my work once, we had this program where you would wear a pedometer all day and then download your steps every day. When you reached a certain step, you would receive money. The more steps= more money. It was great! I lost ten pounds and was rewarded for it. They would also have challenges where people would compete with one another to see who did the most steps. I would definitely do this again.



I think I have a great Idea, for health care. there should be an incentive once a year for your physical. if you check out good and healthy. bmi, and the likes that you get a tax credit or a lower insurance premium. its like the car insurance stay accident free and you get a lower premium. I think thats fantastic what they are doing to keep people motivated to lose the weight, once its gone you never want it back with or without the money....



We had a  competition at my office and our HR dept was pretty awesome at giving us gift cards along with what we put into the pot.  It was so many dollars to enter...  each Monday for 8 weeks: if you lost lbs you were all set however if you gained under 1lbs you owed $1 and over 1lbs $2.  It helped because 98% lost some weight.  It was all calculated as percentage lost.  But it wasn't just the money that was the incentive, it helped when your team leader was motivating enough to get 7 people to the office gym at 5am for a team workout!

Yes Money is a great incentive but I would say that having a support system either through team mates, leaders or family helps just as much!



The reward for those who are already at their ideal weight and/or already have already have a healthy bmi is the fact that you are already at your ideal weight and/or bmi.  Its selfish and short-sighted to cry foul at companies or programs that offer incentives to those trying to improve their health.  One should consider the big picture and realize that we are all better served in the long run by our peers improving their health. With that said, it would likely behoove those same companies to offer a portion of the program in which those who have or reach and maintain a healthy weight or bmi receive an incentive as well.  I think its a great idea since it appears to be a success.



I think the idea of being paid for weight loss is bang on! As an employee in the Canadian Health System I have worked alongside many overweight/unfit people who struggle with back and knee problems. Our employer pays for smoking cessation help so employees will quit smoking but there is never an incentive to lose weight. I've been saying there should be help to lose weight for years! I agree with thegoodpotato, this would be another step in the right direction for the health of Canadians.



We have a wellness program at work, and although it is $8/month to be in it, you get a nice percentage off of your health insurance premiums, so you come out ahead.  You just track your activities and have to do an average of 2-3 times a week to stay active and get your discount.  It helps maintain, at the very least, and does not discriminate against those who are already considered healthy.



This is an interesting concept.

However, we can all try to adopt the attitude of thinking how we pay ourselves when we lose: less money wasted on junk food, we get "free" clothes (the stuff at the back of the closet), etc. Not to mention a huge quality of life improvement at no added cost!



Check out www.virginhealthmiles.com.  Our company has been participating in it for the last 2 years and the more you are active, the more "miles" you earn.  "Miles" translate into cash.  It's a great wellness program that uses a pedometer that updates your personal account with your steps.  There are additional "miles" given for improved weight, BMI and blood pressure.



Original Post by: lauderdal

or at least obese people get penalized and the heavier you get the more you pay since there is a direct correlation between obesity and the consumption of health care.


insurance companies do tend to charge people if they have very high BMI's (above 36, if i remember correctly) and of course, all the comorbidities that go along with being obese can up your premiums as well (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.)



I like the idea but am a psych major (and health lifestyle change class) and this will lead to problems in the long run. The only reason they're doing it is to get money. Once the money is taken out, they will probably get back to their old habits since there is nothing making them stay at that weight/lifestyle. There will be some people who will adjust to the new lifestyle and stay with it but that's a very low percentage. There needs to be a personal motivation (internal) rather than an external motivation (money, rewards, etc.)

It's like a job. You work to make money, not for fun, UNLESS you want to do it because you just like it (real reasons why there are teachers, doctors, philosophers, artists, scientists like Einstein, etc. who do it for internal reasons, not money)



I work in the corporate wellness field and my company works with other companies to find ways to help lower health related risks for their employees.  Although the idea of the incentives is fantastic when it comes to weight loss, it doesn't stick.  We typically provide services to employees and if they are compliant they have a reduction in the health care premium, sometimes by as much as 50%!

If the employees complete a physical, go over their results with our health educators, and receive counseling if they are at high risk for developing health complications they get the discount.  I think this is a fantastic plan; it helps make the employees more happy and more productive at work when they are healthy and reaping the benefits of this free program at work.  But on the flip side, if these employees don't complete all of the initial steps, their premium doubles!  It brings awareness to the individuals and allows them to make changes if they are willing.  We have helped catch cancer early and prevent strokes from happening with our program.  It truly is a life saver!



I think it is a great idea, because money talks and BS walks. I would try to lose weight anyway without the money for my health and appearance, but it is more motivation to keep going.

But for the people who doesn't need to lose weight, are they still encourage to lose weight also? And what happen after you get to your ideal weight? Do they stop paying you, or encourage you to lose more?



What people may not realize is that we already get paid to lose weight. After overdoing it for many years I had no idea the kind of money I spent on food. Not including fast food, just groceries. Ive probably ended up spending a few hundred dollars less a month by not buying processed packaged foods. I use that to justify my gym membership costs and I splurge on fun and unique fruits and veggies (cucumbers are expensive!).

I think the money may be an incentive to get people started ( I mean who doesn't want to get paid to lose weight, we all want to do it anyway). But as always, for it to really matter or last people need the stupport and assistance of people who actually care about them.

Unfortunately, with people like "wagu" still likening overweight people as tantruming children and mocking thier efforts to be treated kindly. It's not about supporting an unhealthy lifestyle, it's about not treating them like lazy disgusting losers when they/we already feel that way. I think this attempt to motivate people has all the right intentions, unfortunately its kinda like paying someone to stay clean, they have to want it for themselves.



When I was 14 years old I was 5'5" and wieghed in at 197, weighed too much and my grandfather saw this and was not afraid of hurting anyones feelings so he told me he would pay me $1 for every pound I lost (don't remember if there was a deadline or not).  So I woke up everymorning and walked on a treadmil for 1/2hr everyday (not weekends) and watched very carefully what I ate.  I eventually started doing situps and reached 500/day.  I lost 32lbs in several months while growing a few inches.  I got paid $32 and I was able to keep that weight off and stay around 150lb throughout my school years and into my twenties. 

So, I think now after having had a child 11years ago and gaining over 100lbs and then battling even more weight on and off since then I would be happy to have someone offer me a substantial amount of money to loose weight. I don't think $1/lb would be good enough now as I can make that easily in my job whereas when I was 14yr old that was a lot of money at the time.  Give me a million dollars or even 1/2 mil to lose the 150lbs I need to lose would motivate me a whole lot!!!



Comment Removed

Too bad weight alone is not a complete metric for health.  This ignores body composition.  For example, two men at 6 ft & 175 lbs are both at a bmi just under 24.  However, if one is at 10% body fat while the other is at 20 %, that's a significant difference in body composition.   One would be carrying an extra 17.5 lbs of fat.

If that extra fat is carried mainly in the belly area, it would lead to increase risk of heart attack.

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20080129/why-belly-f at-hurts-the-heart

Body composition including body fat and body measurements, is probably a better overall indicator of health than weight / BMI alone.



Comment Removed

I agree with bits and pieces of most of the other comments...however, I am using myself as an example of money may not be a long-term motivation for some people.  I have paid for aerobic classes and then don't go; I workout with a personal trainer 3 days a week and still am not motivated to watch my diet as carefully as I should...I think maybe money combined with competition might work for me: the money would be a bonus to winning!

Thanks to everyone for some food for thought...it gives me an idea of a program I would like to look into for our employees combining money, competition, something for the already healthy (maybe I can put  a healthy lifestyle person with a not so healthy one and make it a team payoff?)

Positive motivation is definitely the best for most people and we all need to be on the same side of this major health issue. Good luck to everyone who tries any of these programs!

 



Will someone please pay me to lose weight?  I would be in heaven.  Actually losing is easy for me, it is maintaing that I tend to "fall off the wagon".

 

 



Oh god, I wish someone would pay me for it. *w* Extra motivation~



I like the idea of monetary incentives for tracking consumption and exercise, but not for the weight loss itself. 

Speaking for myself, dieting is almost as much of a temptation as rich foods.  Most of my problem lies in yo-yo dieting; losing weight quickly then gaining it all back plus more.  I have to resist the temptation to diet and try to make gradual healthy lifestyle changes. 

Monetary rewards for quick weight loss would only "feed the addiction" and promote more unhealthy behavior.  Monetary rewards for exercising, tracking food intake, healthy sleeping schedules and other lifestyle changes would help to promote gradual changes that could develop into lifelong habits.



i think its a great idea i think ill make a bet with my sister we both want to loose weight so who ever looses the most weight gets paid the most it will motivate us to loose more weight



It might add a little motivation to lose, but what about the people who are already maintaining a healthy weight?

Maybe it's the broke college student in me but it would only seem like an encouragement to start eating whatever fried monstrosity I felt like at the residence buffet because 'well they'll be paying me to lose this later'



At my last job...we had a competition called "dollars for losers" (or something like that).

Each Monday, the competitors would pitch in $5 each and weigh in.  The person with the highest percentage weight loss would get the pot the following Monday.  There were roughly 10 people competing, which made the pot $50/week.  It was GREAT motivation!!  But people started to drop out because they were constantly losing, so we stopped the competition.



I jsaw a clip on TV that mentioned that the US is thinking of taxing soft drinks and the like ( a sin tax so to speak ) I think this is the way to go.  If the bad stuff costs more, the less likely someone is to abuse it.

I also agree with the health insurance reduction in premiums, but only if the health insurance company is willing to send a person to a certified professional to help them get on track.  Just saying youll pay less if you reach it is no incentive for people who are addicted to food. 



In life you pay one way or another- money, time, convenience, happiness etc. There is also another old saying "Virtue is its own reward." Having worked in medical research for 35 years I know it is routine to offer study subjects money as well as free medical care and other incentives. For many people these studies have been life savers.

I have never qualified for a study that is based on weight for which I am grateful because it meant that I was not "fat" enough for them. If I had qualified would it have made a difference? Yes, because the people running these programs are specialists on metabolic processes, exercise physiology etc. I would never join a "drug" study for weight control though. Studies that work on permanent life style changes and have nothing to sell but good health are the ones that help the most.

 



We get an incentive at work: you get a discount on your health insurance ($20 a month) if you verify each quarter that you are doing five out of seven steps to good health. I can't remember them all, but they include having a healthy blood sugar level or being in a blood sugar maintenance program (same with cholesterol, blood sugar and weight), exercising so many days a week and eating five fruit/veggies a day. There's one more, but I can't remember what it is. Nobody checks that you've done these things, but you have to verify each quarter you're doing them, so at least once a quarter you are thinking about your health. 

We also have competitions for physical activity that includes prize drawings, but no one is openly compensated for weight loss. I think compensation for healthy lifestyles is a much better idea that compensation for weight loss/weight in general, especially since weight is all a relative number -- BMI is only a general guesstimate on what could be considered healthy and it would be irresponsible to gauge incentives/penalties only on weight (think "skinny fat" people and body builders).



I sure wouldn't want to be anymore penalized for obesity than I already am.  And at nearly 62 years of age, I'm having a heck of a time trying to lose anything.  Ten pounds and I plateau, get discouraged, etc.  Money for losing weight would be nice, but as a veteran of 40+ years of dieting, I'm not real optimistic.  I lost weight and stayed thin when I was younger, but the last two babies and a depressing move, asthma, and a few other physical ailments seem to have done me in.  Still trying to lean more about my body and food, though -- something I didn't do during my early dieting years.



I think financial incentives are great, but only in addition to losing for your health, which should be the primary reason. I am a member of a TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) group and we have several ongoing contests with money as rewards. TOPS is a great support group in many ways. Lots cheaper than Weight Watchers! So far I have lost 14 lbs. with about 30 more to go. To find TOPS near you, go to www.tops.org

 

 



Just thought I'd quickly point out an error in the post.  Early in the second paragraph you mention "the colossal expense of obesity surgery."  It should be pointed out that research consistently shows that patients undergoing bariatric surgery actually SAVE their health insurers significant amounts of money.  Insurance companies generally recoup their investment within two-three years and then begin to see increased cash flow from these patients as they generally no longer require many medications and treatments associated with obesity.  It should also be noted that bariatric surgery is the ONLY procedure that has shown long-term success in the reduction of morbid obesity in medical studies.  Obesity is a much more complicated issue than people generally believe, and the over-simplification of the issue only hurts people afflicted by it and prevents them from getting the appropriate medical treatment.



Comment Removed

I like this idea a lot - think it could be a useful and effective motivator for me when I start to backslide. I would enthusiastically participate in a program like this.



I recently lost 50 pounds because I was rejected by a private insurance company for being obese with high BP. After the weight loss and high BP (an unanticipated perk) I was still penalized and would only be allowed insurance with a permanent stipulation to never have coverage for any heart related issues though I had never been diagnosed with heart problems. All this to say that regardless of not having been paid to lose weight, and being penalized for having been overweight. The actual weight loss is far payment enough. I am doing it for life....MINE!!! I feel so much better and am doing things I haven't done in a long time. I am 20 pounds shy of my goal weight but am far from giving up. Again my payment is getting to live longer.

Choose life



My employer offers cash incentives to pregnant women who took a prenatal class or to smokers who took smoking cessation classes.  Made me want to start smoking so I could get the free money! (notice that it didn't make me want to get pregnant just for the free money).  What was worse was that our program was all online or via telephone.  Someone could pretend to be a smoker, go through the online class, claim that they quit, and get free money.  What's to stop someone from gaining weight so they can lose the weight and get free money?  Sounds crazy to those of us who struggle with weight loss, but think about the people you know who gain and lose very easily (and I think we all know someone like that). 

What I don't understand is why, in most US health plans, do families with one child pay the same amount in premiums as a family with 4 children (or any other amount of children)?  Children require a lot more doctors visits and health care, especially early in life, and are therefore more expensive to health insurance companies than healthy adults.  I think if you have children, you should have to pay insurance per child, not just one lump "family" rate. 



I think it is ridiculous to penalize people. I like the pedometer idea in which you have to meet a certain amount of steps. Some people can eat anything and not gain anything. Other people work out daily and still have trouble losing weight. Metabolisms are different in different people.

Give money incentives for those that are working out, not those that aren't doing anything.



I think this is a great idea.   I'm 66 and on a journey to lose at least 80 lbs. my doctor says 125.   All these programs that accept people to lose weight are younger.   It's like no one thinks older people still want to lose weight.   I think the government should penalize the companies that are adding all this junk to food that doesn't really need to be added like HFCS it's in things that don't make sense, like why would you need Corn syrup in salty crackers?   I'm almost a the point where if you want a healthy sweet snack you better make it yourself.   Our Paper just done an article on it and it came out in 70.   Now thank back about 10 years later we start hearing more and more about obesity, and 20 years later it's even out of control with children.  



I don't know about a medical discount.  What about people who have a medical condition where they can't lose weight?  It seems that the weight loss surgeries would become more prevalent. 



I think It would woulk to help lose.  My husband and I have a bet right now to see who can lose 15 lbs first.  The winner gets to gets the hat of their choice.  (there are hats that we are both wanting).



We do a weigth loss contest at work, we each put in $20.00 and go for 4 months.  The person with the highest % (based on starting weight)  of weight loss wins all the money but they pick a store they like and get a gift card so they can buy clothes or something nice to put on their new body!!  It's great incentive and we all motivate each other but when it gets close to the end we all get a bit competitive!!



i think parents who feed there children nothing but takeaway should be penalised,  i think more nutrition education should be given in schools, i think that would solve alot simply buy not passing on the obesidy epidemic.    i say help the kids!



Original Post by: amyosburn

When I was 14 years old I was 5'5" and wieghed in at 197, weighed too much and my grandfather saw this and was not afraid of hurting anyones feelings so he told me he would pay me $1 for every pound I lost (don't remember if there was a deadline or not).  So I woke up everymorning and walked on a treadmil for 1/2hr everyday (not weekends) and watched very carefully what I ate.  I eventually started doing situps and reached 500/day.  I lost 32lbs in several months while growing a few inches.  I got paid $32 and I was able to keep that weight off and stay around 150lb throughout my school years and into my twenties. 

So, I think now after having had a child 11years ago and gaining over 100lbs and then battling even more weight on and off since then I would be happy to have someone offer me a substantial amount of money to loose weight. I don't think $1/lb would be good enough now as I can make that easily in my job whereas when I was 14yr old that was a lot of money at the time.  Give me a million dollars or even 1/2 mil to lose the 150lbs I need to lose would motivate me a whole lot!!!


aimers19 said:

"Unfortunately, with people like "wagu" still likening overweight people as tantruming children and mocking thier efforts to be treated kindly. It's not about supporting an unhealthy lifestyle, it's about not treating them like lazy disgusting losers when they/we already feel that way."

I don't think it was "Wagu" who said that, It was Crimson667 and he wasn't mocking anyone or calling overweight people children.

He said:

"It's all still deeply-rooted excuses, just like any reason to not quit smoking"

Which is very true and it's how we got to this unhealthy place by justifying our eating habits and/or lack of excersize to the point where we can't hide it anymore.

I know people who are fat activists and there is a lot of denial. I agree that everyone should be able to feel beautiful in their own skin and not be judged so harshly by society, but it is, I believe, an illness that we need to own up to and take responsibility for. Making it political risks enabling the behavior. Like politically active smokers here in Germany who fight for their right to smoke meanwhile they are slowly killing themselves and poisoning people around them. 

Financial incentives may help in the immediate, but it's certainly not a cure for what's really making us so self destructive. Only we as individuals know that.  

 

 



Weight is not the sole indicator of the health crisis in the United States!  We must stop promoting the myth that heavy = unhealthy while thin = healthy.  Not that there is not a connection between serious obesity and risk of health problems - there is!

But, we have many young adults with extremely unhealthy diets, blissfully unaware because their metabolism has not yet slowed enough for the damage that they are doing to their bodies to be highly evident.  And, there are others who are starving themselves thin to try to attain some preconceived notion of beauty.  These people, too, are going to amass healthcare bills over the years to come.

And, we have parents who are pumping their children full of fast food and prepackaged junk food, while leading inactive lifestyles.  This sets the stage for a lifetime of unhealthy habits.

Instead of rewarding for weight loss only, why not award points for time logged in exercise and sports classes, lap swims, etc. at a gym or park?  Activity classes could include some parent/child offerings, helping role model for a younger generation. 

In addition, points could offered be for meal and snack tracking submitted to a dietician, who could offer feedback to help participants stay on the right track, find healthy recipes, etc. Points could also be given for participation in support groups for weight loss, eating disorders, smoking cessation, etc. 

Points accrued could be exchanged for a cash bonus, additional vacation time, or other rewards.

More work for the employer, but more real change! Reward for healthy habits, rather than quantifying by pounds alone.



Froggywt's analysis is excellent.  Steps like that would do me much more good than pay for pounds lost.  Hey, if I could pick up a little money every time I went to the gym, I would be much more regular.



Original Post by: aimers19

What people may not realize is that we already get paid to lose weight. After overdoing it for many years I had no idea the kind of money I spent on food. Not including fast food, just groceries. Ive probably ended up spending a few hundred dollars less a month by not buying processed packaged foods. I use that to justify my gym membership costs and I splurge on fun and unique fruits and veggies (cucumbers are expensive!).

I think the money may be an incentive to get people started ( I mean who doesn't want to get paid to lose weight, we all want to do it anyway). But as always, for it to really matter or last people need the stupport and assistance of people who actually care about them.

Unfortunately, with people like "wagu" still likening overweight people as tantruming children and mocking thier efforts to be treated kindly. It's not about supporting an unhealthy lifestyle, it's about not treating them like lazy disgusting losers when they/we already feel that way. I think this attempt to motivate people has all the right intentions, unfortunately its kinda like paying someone to stay clean, they have to want it for themselves.


No one is likening overweight people to children, I have no idea where you got that impression from. I don't have a problem with people working hard to lose weight. I merely feel that they should do it for the right reasons. People losing weight for money really need to think harder about why they're doing it. I just feel that paying money to them does not necessarily put them in the right mindset for motive and long-term goals. I have no idea why you feel I'm mocking people who are trying hard to lose weight, I just don't think that everyone would do it for the right reasons.



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