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Investing in weight-loss results in slim waistlines and bulging wallets

Monday, December 15, 2008 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
A new study suggests that monetary reward may be a more potent motivator for behavior change and ultimately, weight-loss, than the commonly touted health benefits.

The Bank of Canada recently declared that the Canadian economy, much like that of the U.S., is officially moving into a recession. Given the current global economic crisis, which sees almost every sector plummeting, there appears to be a dearth of viable investment options (for those who still have any funds to invest). However, the smartest decision during this time of economic turmoil may be to invest in your own weight-loss, or so suggests a study published just last week in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Dr. Volpp and colleagues tracked the weight change in 57 obese individuals (30-70 years of age) who were randomized to either a no-treatment control group or to 1 of 2 financial incentive programs (a lottery incentive group, or a deposit incentive group). All participants were instructed to lower their weight (via diet and exercise) by 1 lb per week for the duration of the 16 week intervention, thus aiming for a total target weight-loss of 16 lbs. Individuals in the incentive groups received their financial rewards on a monthly basis, only if they had met or exceeded their target weight loss (1lb/wk). Those that failed to make the weight-loss goal were merely told how much money they would have received if they had been successful, whereas the control group received no reward regardless of their progress.

Over the course of the 4 month intervention individuals in the incentive groups earned an average of approximately $300, in contrast to $0 awarded to those in the control group. Not surprisingly, the average weight loss achieved by those receiving a financial incentive was significantly greater as compared to that of the control group (13-14lbs vs. 4 lbs, respectively). Furthermore, only 10% of individuals in the control group versus approximately 50% of those in the incentive groups achieved the target weight-loss of 16lbs.

However, during a subsequent 3-month follow-up, study participants gained back much of the lost weight after the cessation of the financial incentives – a finding which is common to most, if not all, weight-loss intervention studies.

This study extends findings of a previous investigation in which participants who were offered $14 per percent decrease in weight lost about 5lbs, while those who were offered no compensation lost 2lbs during the 3 month intervention.

So how can any of this be applied in the real-world?

The thinking goes - if an overweight individual has previously had trouble adhering to a diet and/or exercise program, investing some of his/her own money may provide a strong incentive to stay on track in order to avoid losing money – the basic concept of loss aversion. An associated article in Time suggests, for example, handing over $100 to a trusted friend/spouse/family member and signing a contract before embarking on a lifestyle change. This trusted individual is instructed to return the money in full if the goal is achieved, or otherwise to donate your money to a cause that you find distasteful – i.e. NRA if you are Michael Moore.

Thus, for the sake of financial security and health, overweight individuals may want to move their money from their mutual funds to their weight-loss funds.

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2 Response to "Investing in weight-loss results in slim waistlines and bulging wallets"

  1. Fairy Said,

    I lost 13 lbs in only two weeks by obeying this one easy rule

    Posted on December 15, 2008 at 9:22 AM

  2. luccy Said,

    If you have fallen prey to obesity and would like to trigger off weight loss as soon as possible, then you should opt for diet pills such as Phentermine and Adipex that are extremely popular for inducing rapid weight loss among people across the world. You will find the relevant details of weight loss pills at that inform you that Phentermine is to be taken only after procuring a Phentermine prescription and also in accordance with the instructions of the doctor. So, get hold of a Phentermine prescription, administer the drug properly and transform your weight loss dreams into reality.

    Posted on December 16, 2008 at 4:40 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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