5 Reasons Why Getting Paid To Lose Weight Doesn’t Work {Plus How To Make It Successful}

Would getting paid to drop a few (or lots) pounds help motivate you?

What about motivate you to keep it off?

With sites like…

Diet Bet

Healthy Wage


Fat Bet

It’s easy to see that betting away your weight is becoming more and more of a trend. In fact, businesses have been using incentives to help their employees drop pounds for years now…

Over 86% of large employees offer some sort of incentive program.

The Power Of Being Paid For Weight Loss

It sounds awesome, lose some weight, get a bonus. In theory it is great.

Who doesn’t love cash!?

Study after study after study shows that offering financial bonuses improves the likelihood of losing weight!

I mean, look at Hollywood… shake some money in their faces, and stars will get whatever body you want them to have.



Of course the same is true for us “normal” folk. Perhaps not to the extent of Matthew Mcconaughey… but it’s a perfect example.

Sounds awesome, right? You lose weight, and you end up with a fatter wallet.

To talk specifics…

this study found that 62% of participants that were offered incentives achieved their goals, versus only 26% were successful out of the group that did not receive financial incentives.

You don’t have to be good at math to know, that’s a big difference!

There are two successful weight loss incentive programs that are most popular at the moment…

  • The deposit approach (like DietBet) where you put down your own money into a pot, and then if you meet your goals you earn back that money, plus the money that is either matched by your company or you split the pot of money from those that did not meet their goal.
  • The there is the straight awards approach which the company gives you a reward for weight loss at each weigh-in. Your personal money isn’t on the line.

Personally, I immediately thought that the deposit approach would be far more successful because people don’t want to lose their own hard earned money. But turns out that people don’t care where the money comes from, as long as money is won. Both have proven to help weight loss equally.

It seems, being bribed works.

At least for short term weight loss.

Why Getting Paid For Weight Loss Isn’t Going To Help Obesity

One dollar banknotes tied up with measuring tape against white background

Research doesn’t lie (okay sometimes it does but now when results are the same time and time again).

If you want to lose weight or you want your employees to lose weight, putting together an incentive plan isn’t a bad idea.

At least for short term success.

This past weekend, Dan and I sat together after our climbing workout (more on that tomorrow) and discussed weight loss payment award programs.

What got us on such an electric topic? We were watching part of the World Cup Game and from there we began talking about Europe.

You see, I remember reading some time ago that the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) has been trying to start it’s own incentive program for the country.

Their obesity numbers are going up and up just like ours, and they have decided to take on a more pro-active role to try and turn their unhealthy country around.

And while I give them credit for having such gusto, I can’t help but wonder… is it worth it?

I don’t think so, but let me explain…

5 Reasons Incentive Programs Won’t Work

Plus How We Can Make Them Successful

1. Research Shows It Doesn’t.

Research shows getting paid helps to drop weight, but what about keeping it off?

Luckily, studies have been done on this too!

And it’s not good.

It shows that individuals are successful at losing weight, but once the program is over, the odds of them gaining the weight back is incredibly high… like over 80%.

2. What About Maintenance?

Incentives are great, but what about educating people on long term health? After weight loss is achieved, the incentives are dried up. There are no more fancy dollar bills being flashed, so motivation goes out the window.

Here’s what I think:

I know that people prefer immediate satisfaction, but what if their incentive prize money is put away for 9 months. And only after 9 months, if they have kept the weight off are they able to collect?

What if after that 9 months, their money has been collecting interest?

9 months of weight loss leads to a much better chance that the weight will remain lost!

3. They Don’t Educate.

Here’s the thing… everyone knows the secret to losing weight:

Eat less, move more.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that one out. But what people don’t know is how food affects them, their bodies and their health. They don’t know how to properly go from a weight loss program, into a mantenece mode. It’s that period that destroys so many success stories.

Weight loss isn’t about just losing weight, it’s about learning how to be healthier, being mentally ready for a different lifestyle and it’s a psychological battle as well.

If these areas aren’t addressed then it’s pointless to try and lose weight.

Here’s what I think…

If you want to see real results, then instead of paying people to lose weight, pay for them to attend weight loss education classes. Something similar to AA meetings so that they can address fears, confidence, cravings, and learn how to properly fuel their bodies.

4. They Promote Weight Gain.

If a company gives $50 extra a month or more to lose weight, think about how many people will suddenly feel an urge to gain enough weight to be allowed into the incentive program.

If people were willing to gain hundreds of pounds to go on to Biggest Loser, I can only imagine how many people will be willing to put on weight for a raise at work.

Here’s what I think:

Instead of awarding people that need to lose weight, award the people that work hard to be healthy. Change the system around and encourage people to live an active, healthy lifestyle.

Perhaps give tax breaks to people who workout at least 2 or 3 times a week. Give extra PTO to employees who receive a clean bill of health at physicals…

I am a huge believer that people should be rewarded for good acts. Rewards those that lead by example.

Is that crazy?

5. Just Another Yo-Yo Diet.

I always tell clients… they didn’t gain their weight overnight, and they aren’t going to drop it over night either. Yet many incentive programs work like the Biggest Loser, urging participants to drop weight by whatever means possible in order to hit specific numbers of lost pounds each month.

Goals are great of course, but this simply teaches them that anything goes.

Just like any fad diet, incentive diets can be lumped in the “yo-yo” category. You lose weight by cutting calories severely, which then lowers your metabolism so that when the weight is gone and re-introduce a normal diet back into your life, the pounds rush right back on.

Here’s what I think:

If an incentive program is going to work, then perhaps give a proper nutrition program to follow. And in order to collect, those on the program must follow the nutritional guild lines and provide proof (some how) that they have stuck to it. That means no fat loss pills (sorry Dr Oz), no extremely low calorie diets, etc.

Real nutrition, real food for real results. That way they may just be able to lose weight and have the knowledge to keep it off.

And the metabolism!

I know this is quite a conversational piece. I am aware that some people may completely agree and some people may think I’m crazy. It’s cool! We’re allowed to have different views, and I would love to hear yours!

Do you think paying people to lose weight is a good way to help battle the obesity issue? Would you lose weight if someone offered you $100?


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