Pizza Industry Spokesman

Company Weight Loss Challenge

Up the Ante, Drop the Pounds

Diet bets are popping up everywhere — online, in gyms, at weight-loss classes, and as informal wagers among friends, spouses, and coworkers. They’re big because they work. A multicenter study of 57 dieters found those who stood to lose money if they didn’t succeed in shedding weight were about five times as likely to reach their goal as those with no financial stake in the outcome. Half of the bettors dropped 16 pounds in 16 weeks, compared with just 10.5 percent of the no-wager group. And in a study of more than 200 dieters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, those who were told they’d pocket $14 for every 1 percent of body weight they shed were nearly five and a half times as likely to take off 5 percent of their body weight as participants not offered cash.

Putting money, ego, and bragging rights on the line is a potent formula for keeping up your motivation. “If eating chocolate cake tonight means you’ll lose $10 or $50 at your next weigh-in, dessert suddenly isn’t very attractive,” notes Dean Karlan, Ph.D., a Yale University behavioral economist. After losing 40 pounds in a personal bet with a friend, Karlan went on to found, one of the first online weight-loss betting sites. “When there’s something big at stake, you can’t say, ‘Oh, I’ll eat less next week. I’ll work out longer tomorrow.’ You have to stay on track all the time, because doing the wrong thing would be very expensive.”

Nobody wants to lose a bet. “More than anything I didn’t want to be beaten by my opponents and feel embarrassed,” admits Amy Orr, 32, of Brooklyn, who dropped 61 pounds in a series of bets with friends and even her former husband. “I’ve been on every diet out there — Atkins, Weight Watchers, raw foods — you name it. None worked as well as this.”

Wagering on weight loss might even set off feel-good fireworks in the brain. In brain-scan studies at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard researchers found that gambling lit up the same little gray cells activated by morphine and cocaine.

Then there’s the accountability factor. “Checking in with somebody every week is definitely going to help you stay on course,” says New York City diet expert and registered dietitian Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D. “It’s competitive in a playful way.”

The extra ka-ching doesn’t hurt, either. “Some people are definitely in it to win the money,” says wellness coach Lisa Sallin of Thousand Oaks, CA, who runs 12-week healthy-weight-loss challenges. About $25 of each participant’s $39 course fee goes into a pot. The winner gets half; second place earns 30 percent; third, 20. And we’re not talking pocket change: “The winner in my biggest group dropped 13 percent of his body weight and took home $200,” says Sallin.

Read more: Weight Loss Bets – How Betting Can Help You Lose Weight – Good Housekeeping – See more at:

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