Getting Fat People to Gamble on Weight Loss Is Cruel

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weight lossTypically, I'm of the anything-that-works mentality when it comes to weight loss -- anything healthy, that is. But as long as you're ridding your body of dangerous fat, I don't think it matters if it's by acupuncture, diet, exercise, or wearing weight-loss underwear -- different strokes for different folks, and all of that. However, when it comes to plying people with cold, hard cash to shed the pounds, that just seems mean, especially in this economy.

HealthyWage is a weight loss company that essentially lets dieters gamble that they'll lose the weight. "Win money for losing weight" is their slogan. "I've got my life back ... and $1,000!" one user claims. "I'm in the best shape of my life ... and won $10,000," states another testimonial on the site.

Oh my gawd, sign me up!!! What's there to lose but weight, right? Not quite ...

First, you have to pony up your bet. During the site's current 10 percent challenge, you put up $100. If you lose 10 percent of your body weight in six months, you get $200. If you don't, well, you just lost your money. So now we're curing one addictive behavior (overeating) with another (gambling), brilliant.

Sure you can call it an incentive, which organizers do. David Roddenberry, co-founder of HealthyWage, recently told The Huffington Post:

A gamble is a game of chance and this is a game of skill. If you lose the weight you will get paid -- there is no chance involved. From a legal perspective, we are comfortable that is a contract between a participant and us.

Legalities aside, it just seems cruel, especially when people now really need money. We all think we can lose weight if we just try, and we go into diets with all the determination in the world. It's when we actually get a few days (or hours) into it that our efforts are derailed for a hundred different reasons. So I see all these people who really need the money putting down their bet then losing it, because frankly it's just not that easy. Also, I worry about those who so desperately need money that they'll starve themselves or resort to other unhealthy methods to collect the cash.

Weight loss is really always a gamble. We've all spent plenty of money on "goal" jeans that still have the tags hanging from them mocking us in our closets, or have loaded up our refrigerator with healthy fruits and vegetables only to notice that they've gone bad as we reach in to find the chocolate sauce for our ice cream. But gambling our money in such a straightforward way seems worse somehow and like something I'm afraid Vegas is going to find some weird way to jump on soon.

What do you think of the idea of gambling on weight loss?


Image via alancleaver_2000/Flickr

diets, weight loss

45 Comments

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amomo... amomonous

i do agree! i think it is better to make bets with family members! my husband and i did it once. He is slender. 5'11" at 175 pounds (about a year ago) i had put on some "happy weight" about 20 pounds more than my small frame could manage. so we made a bet: he had to gain 10 pounds of Muscle/fat and I had to lose 20 pounds. considering how hard it is to gain muscle and lose fat, i figured we were even and we were!! whoever reached their goal first was taken out on a shopping spree on the other's dime... we have join and separate accounts, so it was really fun! I reached my goal first!! and he kept his end of the deal...apparently losing weight makes you more fertile and shortly thereafter i became pregnant. fine by me considering my healthy choices have carried over to this pregnancy and i am right on track (he also took me on a cute maternity clothes shopping spree because he felt guilty that i never enjoyed my skinny clothes for long enough)

Carly Elizabeth

To each their own. I have a very over weight friend that throws away thousands of dollars a year on gym memberships she never uses, weight watchers that she doesn't follow and any thing that seems "easy" to loose weight. I think it's just a brilliant marketing idea but no, I work to loose weight and maintain my healthy body, I wouldn't gamble on it, I earn it.

nonmember avatar Jill

I see your point, but I think it's a little one-sided. Aren't Weight Watchers and other programs that charge an upfront fee really just a gamble anyhow? The difference with HealthyWage is that you get your money back, plus more. I think it's less about gambling over your weight and more about investing in it.

Trace D Hillman

I think that if the individual needs the external motivation and they can afford the loss (of money) then go for it.

Dave Roddenberry

Julie--

You could have shared with your readers the robust academic literature on the effectiveness of incentives to help people lose weight. Research at Harvard and Wharton shows--Cash incentives work!

We're applying that literature to give everyone the opportunity to enhance their weight loss success with a cash incentive. Most importantly, we're getting great results--over 800,000 pounds lost by our members and hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash winnings.

Our goal is to offer programs where we get lots of winners and have a meaningful, positive, impact on participants health. Our 10% challenge lets you double your money for losing 10% of your weight (your biometrics improve with a 10% weight loss).

Have you tried the accountability of a cash incentive program? If not, I'd hate to see you discourage others from taking advantage of a program that will help them get healthy.

David
Co-founder, HealthyWage

Rachel Styles

Most people think they can just starve themselves to lose weight but you can't do that because your body will go into something called starvation mode. What happens is your body will slowly eat itself. If you want to know why you can't starve yourself to lose weight, this article gives a great explanation on it.

http://explainlikeakid.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-you-cant-starve-yourself-to-lose.html

Cathy Taylor Cox

Losing weight is harder than ever in our world of technology and convenience. You don't even have to get out of your car and WALK to a pay phone anymore! It has been proven that money is a HUGE motivator to lose weight and it gives you a sense of competition, even if you are just competing with yourself to win a little money. If someone does not lose weight or does it in a unhealthy manner,  it isn't the fault of HealthyWage(HW). They email those enrolled with healthy tips and ideas to be successful and post on their Facebook encouragement to stay focused. People need to be responsible for their own actions and not blame someone else. I have emailed them numerous times with questions. They have always been very nice and helpful. It does cost money to keep programs like this alive. HW has found a way to keep it affordable for the average person while paying their own bills. I hope they keep their original focus while growing and improving their website and keeping the contests interesting. I have done the corporate challenge and am working on the 10% challenge now. It is hard, nothing is easy about losing weight for many of us, but hard work and a support team will get you a little prize at the end. I put in the hard work,HW supports me, and hopefully the prize will be mine in the end.

nonmember avatar Mandy

I do not agree with this article at all. I myself am very overweight. I have tried countless methods of weight loss such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, slim fast, ect. Nothing seemed to work, not because the program didn't work, but because I had no motivation. HealthyWage has given me motivation. Not only is it cheaper than most weight loss programs, but it lets you group up with family, friends, and co-workers to meet a healthy goal. You have HealthyWage supporters and you have your own support systems. I am currently enrolled in the Match-Up competition and when I first started, I though, WOW, lose weight and get $10,000!!! What a great idea. I am now 1 month into the competition and I have forgotten about the money and I am now thriving on support, motivation and success. HealthyWage's program is not mean, it is inspiring. I am down 25 pounds so far, and it is teaching me a healthy way to live the rest of my life. This program is one of the best programs I have ever been a part of, and I do not think you should criticize something you know nothing about. Instead of jumping to ridiculous conclusions, why don't you ask the opinions of the people you mention, and others like myself. Whats the old saying, "Don't knock it until you try it"!!!! I think that says it all!

nonmember avatar James

I did the team challenge on Healthy Wage about a year ago (teams of 5, 3 months, ~$200/team to enter, $10000/$5000/$3000 1st/2nd/3rd...I think this is right).
First "Getting Fat people to gamble on weight loss" is an interesting title... I had a BMI under 30 when I started and a BMI between 20-25 when I ended. I feel that I went from being unheathly to healthy, I never really though of myself as fat... As far as far as "best shape of my life goes," that was very true for me.
Maybe this program is not for everyone, but it worked great for me. I was happy at my weight before the challenge, but how I am happy and healthy. Anything short of this challenge or actually getting what I would consider "fat," was going to make me lose weight. Which do you think is better?
All in all, I lost weight, got healthy, and won $2000...My team won :)
I usually do not comment on blogs, but I feel like this is a great program that really helped me out, and I feel like the only way someone would say something bad about it is if they have not tried it and have not known anyone that was in it.

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