fortune cookieThey say money can’t buy you happiness but a new study shows that for some overweight people, it just might. The new study from the Mayo Clinic found that people are motivated to lose weight when money is involved. When it comes to slimming down, financial incentives are king. For some reason, we are willing to gamble with our health, but not our money. It's pretty sad that we are more afraid of being broke than we are of being dead.

The study looked at 100 obese Mayo Clinic employees. Half of the employees received weight loss counseling, monthly weigh-ins and a three-month gym membership. Think Weight Watchers with a Curves membership thrown in for good measure. Sounds pretty good to me. But the big question is, could it motivate them to get up and take advantage of all that was provided?

The other half of the employees received weight loss counseling, monthly weigh-ins, a three-month gym membership and were financially compensated. They were required to lose four pounds a month. If they succeeded, they were paid $20. If they failed, they had to pay in $20.

A year later, the paid group had lost an average of 9 pounds while those who were not compensated lost an average of 2 pounds. The moral of the story is that those who weren't being paid to lose weight got bored and quit. Those who were getting paid kept trying to earn some money or earn back what they had lost.

This study blows my mind. Shouldn't the #1 motivator for weight loss be to get healthy? Shouldn't the possibility of falling over dead from a heart attack at 40 scare the shit out of anyone? Yet, it does not. We keep on eating super-sized French fries, atomic-sized Big Gulps, bleached flour, and refined sugar like it’s the only food on earth.

I did a little poll myself on Facebook and the number one motivator was to look good for a reunion/wedding/party, the second motivator was money and the third and final motivator was health. The fact that you could die was the least motivating factor. This makes no sense to me.

Hey, we’ve all been there and done that -- trying to look good for a reunion or wedding. I know that I've even gone so far off the rails that I’ve tried to lose weight in the least healthy ways imaginable, but money could ever motivate me or at least I don’t think it could.

Now, maybe if I was forced to lose weight in order to earn money to buy more groceries, that might work, but this study really shocked me. Are we really so superficial and financially motivated that monetary gain or loss must be involved in order for us to take care of our own health?

Could money motivate you to lose weight? Would it depend on the amount?


Image via Flickr/Scomedy