What’s Your Incentive for Weight Loss?
Most of us are always looking for extra motivation to pursue better fitness. The goals of looking good, feeling good, and being healthy are generally important, but they also tend to be non-specific. Partially because of this, a lot of us have an easy time “cheating” even on fairly regular fitness routines. We might convince ourselves another day without a workout isn’t a big deal, or that an unhealthy lunch in the middle of a busy workday really shouldn’t make much difference. To some extent this is fine.
Some would suggest that “cheat days” are vital to success in long-term fitness efforts. However, if your wellness goals are vague, you might not hold yourself accountable. Cheat days might become too much of a habit.
This is why specific goals and extra motivation can be so valuable. Think about it this way. If you vaguely want to get fit, you might not hesitate to have that unhealthy meal or take a day off your workout schedule. But if you know you have to reach a certain weight loss goal or run a certain distance by the end of the month, you’re less likely to be casual about cheating – at least in theory. One way that people have long attempted to establish this kind of responsibility is through financial incentives. These can be arranged in any number of ways. The question is, do they actually work? Studies and examples appear to be inconclusive.
Workplace Incentives Are Ineffective
Particularly in the U.S., there have at times been trends of workplaces offering financial incentives for overweight employees. While this may seem almost discriminatory, the general idea is to promote wellness, and the incentives are merely bonus offerings. However, controlled studies have indicated that these programs don’t work. It’s not particularly easy to determine why, though one theory that’s been proposed is that the amount of financial assistance offered matters less than the creativity or inventiveness of the incentive structure. That is to say, it could be more about keeping people engaged during the effort than tempting them with a final result.
Independent Efforts Can Succeed
There’s a fascinating story from back in 2014 that serves as perhaps the most extreme example of a financial incentive, specifically for weight loss. For the whole 2013 year, a man had a £50 bet (with an official betting firm) to win £5000 on losing 100 pounds. And despite the fact that he fell ill with pneumonia at the start of the year and claims he really couldn’t start training until August, he pulled it off! This is just one story rather than a scientific study or even a collection of data, but it’s a clear indication that a hefty financial incentive can serve as motivation for a nearly miraculous physical transformation.
Non-Workplace Studies Are Positive
Taking the workplace out of it, there have also been studies that indicate financial incentives further weight loss. Specifically, one study showed that the mean weight loss in a group with financial incentives was 9.08 pounds, while their counterparts in a group without such incentives lost 2.34 pounds. That’s a stark difference, and clearly indicates that there are cases in which a financial offering can motivate someone to lose weight – and not just in special circumstances or uniquely dramatic examples like the one illustrated above.
It’s hard to form any kind of conclusion about this topic. Generally, however, we can see that there is evidence financial incentives can be effective in weight loss efforts. It does seem to matter, however, how the incentives are arranged and where they’re coming from (perhaps even more than how much money is involved).