Weight Loss Plans that Offer Cash to Take Off Pounds Work Best

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – April 9, 2013 – When it comes to weight loss, a study by University of Michigan Assistant Professor Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren finds money to be the top incentive. The study, published April 1 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that when competition is added to the mix, the combination becomes the perfect motivation for participants to lose extra weight quickly. Whether they will be successful in keeping the weight off is unclear.

Many employers wanted to find a plan to help employees lose weight, but they knew that changing behavior is difficult. Studies show that once a new routine is established and becomes a habit, people are likely to continue the modified behavior. Repetition is the key to establishing a new routine, but the problem was finding an incentive to encourage employees to follow a weight loss plan until a goal weight was achieved. Studies have shown that it is easier to make healthier choices once a new routine is established.

Dr. Kullgren’s study was partially motivated by the many employers who were considering offering cash to employees as an incentive to losing weight. Corporate executives wanted to first make sure it had a reasonable chance of success before implementing cash incentive programs in their organizations.

Dr. Kullgren divided 104 overweight subjects into three groups. The first group was told they would receive $100 if they met their individual weight loss goals at four weeks, eight weeks, twelve weeks, sixteen weeks, and twenty weeks. The second group was separated into groups of five, but wasn’t told the names of others in their group. They too were told they could win $100 if they met their weight loss goal every four weeks. However, they were also told they could receive more money if others in their group didn’t reach their goal. The control group was given information on losing weight and scheduled to weigh in monthly.

After the twenty-four week study, the weight loss group competing against each other lost about seven pounds more than the group with individual goals and ten pounds more than the control group. Twelve months after the end of the study, participants in the group incentive plan sustained more weight loss than those in the control group. However, those in the individual incentive plan maintained the most weight loss.

It appears that when it comes to creating weight loss programs for employees, the amount of money offered can make a big difference in results. Individuals who don’t have employer-based programs can create incentives between friends and themselves. Participants could design contracts stating their personal goals of losing weight and a monetary penalty if they fail.



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