Weight watchers are now gambling on their own ability to meet weight loss goals through mobile apps and online programs, which motivate players by having them put their own money at risk. If players meet their goal, they win money; if they don’t lose the pounds by their timeframe, they lose cash.
“I put my money where my mouth is,” 26-year-old Jasmin Hashi, who played HealthyWage, told the Daily News. Hashi bet $150 that she could lose a certain amount of weight within six months and managed to surpass her goal and won double the amount she bet—$300.
Another app called GymPact keeps track of whether or not players go to the gym by linking the players’ phones with fitness apps.
This is an example of extrinsic, rather than intrinsic, motivation. Being motivated for the sake of doing something in and of itself – because it makes a person feel good, relaxes them, or because they enjoy learning, for example – is intrinsic motivation. Being motivated by external factors like the opinion of others, or money, is considered extrinsic motivation.
But several health experts have already noted in the past that money can indeed be a significant motivator for people trying to lose weight. Earlier this month, researchers at University of Texas Arlington found that employees were more likely to lose weight if employers offered financial incentives in company-run weight loss programs.
“We discovered that the best results for weight loss were through a more regular payment of refundable participation fees,” Joshua Price, a UT Arlington assistant professor of economics and author of the study, said. “The payments seem to work as a reinforcement for people to continue to lose weight.”
But when it comes to putting your own money on the line, you may be even more likely to lose more pounds. The same study measured weight loss among people who tried different types of programs, and found that those who put up their own money were able to slim down more.
As obesity continues to be a concern for Americans, especially in terms of raising health care costs by $190.2 billion annually, businesses turn to financial incentives to get their employees moving. Many companies use HealthyWage, a program that organizes weight loss contests and gives cash prizes to those who win.
DietBet is another online program that offers financial incentives for people to lose their pounds. They submit photos and videos of their “Before” and “After” selves, which are then checked by DietBet officials.
Whether financial incentives are enough motivation to lose the pounds and maintain lower weight, is an individual choice. For Hashi, it was a way to take responsibility for her decisions and goals.
“I am so proud,” she told the Daily News, “and I get a lot of, ‘Oh my God you look great, what is your secret?'"