It’s an aphorism, apparently, that also works for people who need to jumpstart a weight-loss regimen. In the digital age, looking and feeling good just doesn’t cut it anymore.
A study presented by the Mayo Clinic at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session in 2013 revealed that participants who received financial incentives were more likely to lose weight and stick to a diet plan, compared to those who received none.
If you’ve been putting off a weight-loss program year after year, then perhaps betting on yourself will help realize your goals. The thought of losing money, for most people, is often a more powerful motivator than losing pounds. It’s a personal gamble that can turn into a commitment mechanism.
Since January is a period of renewed hopes and goals—no matter how many times we may have failed to meet them in the past—today we look into two popular apps that pays you money to lose weight or to go to the gym.
Social diet game
Currently a favorite among weight-watchers is DietBet (it has a website and free apps for iOS and Android). This “social diet game” has two types of bets. There’s the 28-day challenge where participants must lose 4 percent of their body weight to win, and a six-month challenge to lose 10 percent of their body weight.
The pot prize can sometimes go as high as $100,000—depending on the number of participants. Everyone who hits the target weight splits the pot, paid for by those who lose.
Buy-in (your bet) starts at $10. That means your $10 bet could earn you a few more extra dollars. Be aware, though, that the game’s organizers take a 10 to 20 percent cut from the winning pot, so prizes can be smaller than expected.
Participants will need to photograph their initial and final weigh-in, and special codes will have to be written out on index cards next to the weighing scale to ensure no cheating occurs.
“Airport security attire” must be the dress code for each weigh-in, meaning no shoes, belts, hats, accessories, jewelry, watches, or outerwear, and pockets must be empty. When an e-mail from DietBet verifies your photograph as authentic, you’re good to go.
While this is an excellent way to motivate anybody into finally going on that long-overdue diet, the method raises some concerns. Anyone who has been on a diet knows that weight loss fluctuates and plateaus. It is never a steady ride.
To expect the same weight loss week after week is not realistic, and may force you to resort to unhealthy, extreme measures. There is, after all, money involved here.
If losing 4 percent of your body weight in a four-week period means burning off a pound or two each week, then that’s okay.
Losing 1 to 2 pounds is generally considered a healthy weight loss. Whether this is achievable is now your challenge.
But if 4 percent means you’ll need to lose three or more pounds each week, then this is not the right program for you. You will, inescapably, resort to starvation just to meet your goal.
Another popular app pays you to work out, log your food, or eat veggies. Called GymPact (with a website, and free apps for iOS and Android), it’s an app that makes you sign into a pact on the number of days you can commit to visit the gym each week.
The default is set to three times a week. Each time you visit the gym, you get rewarded an average of $.50 to $.75. The reward money comes from people who fail to keep their pacts. If you miss a workout session, the app charges you $5 (that’s the default; it can go higher depending on your settings).
Your gym check-ins and workouts will be verified via your phone’s GPS, and partner apps like RunnerKeeper and fitness trackers such as Jawbone Up. (See website for complete list.)
The same goes for eating veggies. The VeggiePact feature makes you commit to the number of fruits and vegetables you consume per week. If you pledge to eat, for example, two servings of veggies per day, and you meet this, you will get paid. Again, money will come from those who fail to honor their pacts.
You’ll need to snap photos before you eat them. A variety of criteria will verify the authenticity of your photos.
There have been reports from participants about their gyms not showing up during check-ins, cards being charged even when a pact is kept, and workouts the app fails to log in or cancels for no reason. But there’s a customer service that takes care of this.
Both DietBet and GymPact can help you lose weight, but all that money earned will not suffice to make healthy, long-term lifestyle changes.
But hey, you have to start somewhere. If you could restrain yourself from cheating (because you can, in moments of weakness), then these tools just might teach you how to make better, healthier lifestyle decisions.