Harvard Scientists Identify The Way to Triple Your Weight Loss Success

New academic studies have found an easy way to triple your success at losing weight. Money.

Academic research has long shown that cash prizes can make weight loss more successful, and private companies are bringing financial weight loss incentives to consumers.

“It’s human nature that we tend to make choices that provide immediate gratification,” says Steven Driver, MD, of the Mayo Clinic. “Financial incentives help by counteracting immediate rewards and promoting healthy behavior changes that we wish we would do more often.”

The research began in 2008 when several professors at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania published a groundbreaking study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) about the connection between cash and weight loss.

The study showed that people participating in a weight loss program with financial incentives are three times more likely to lose weight than people in the same weight loss program without financial incentives.

In the study, the people in the financial incentive group had to provide a cash deposit of their own money at the start of the study. Researchers told the participants that if they achieved the weight loss goal, they would get their money back (triggering a phenomenon researchers call “loss avoidance”) and that they would win a prize (which researchers call “positive reinforcement”).

The study revealed that financial incentives can play a powerful role in helping people lose weight.

The outcome of this study and subsequent studies was exciting, but no one was sure these kinds of programs would ever be widely available in the real world.

A lot has changed. HealthyWage — a New York-based company — entered the market in 2009 and offers a weight loss challenge that closely mimics the JAMA study.

HealthyWage lets participants lay down a “wager” on their own weight loss and, if they achieve their goal, they win a cash prize.

Some HealthyWage Success Stories

Jill was unsuccessful at losing weight until she started her challenge with HealthyWage. 

“I was starting a new diet every Monday. The ‘same old, same old’ where I would maybe make it a day or two before I fell back into my old patterns. I had very low self worth,” Jill explains as she details what her life was like before HealthyWage.

“I had a doctor’s appointment and talked about being depressed, and felt that was contributing to my weight gain. She recommended a diet that she had heard about, and I thought I’d give it a try. Meanwhile, I saw a post on Facebook about HealthyWage. I signed up the next day.”

Since then Jill hasn’t looked back. She’s lost 45 pounds and earned $2,150 after wagering $100 a month for 8 months!

“The financial payout was definitely a huge incentive. I’ve already purchased an entire wardrobe, and have a vacation coming up next month where I’ll be wearing form fitting dresses and cute swimsuits along with my grown daughters.”

Brett M. lost 103 pounds in 12 months and won $2,800!

When Brett was shopping for a Halloween costume to go trick or treating with his son, the “Fat Santa” costume was the only option that would work for him. That spurred him into starting a personal challenge, something he’d been thinking about doing for nearly 5 years. He had been not feeling well for awhile; he was always achy and tired. As he says, “when you’re heavier, it’s harder.”

The financial incentive of HealthyWage was just what Brett needed. “I wrote the $2,800 on my hand every morning as a reminder. I work at a grocery store so there’s temptation everywhere, but I don’t think that burrito is worth $2,800!”

After successfully hitting his goal and losing over 100 pounds, Brett feels amazing and has more energy. He is excited about life and more agile on his feet. He credits the financial incentive of HealthyWage for changing his life.

“Having that $100 coming out each month was a good reminder — so much accountability.”

How Does HealthyWager Work?

If you want to get paid to lose weight, here’s how to get started:

1. Start with the HealthyWage Prize Calculator, where you’ll enter how much weight you want to lose (10-150 pounds, minimum 10% of your starting weight), how long you’ll take (6 to 18 months) and how much you want to bet ($20-$150/month).

Based on that information, the calculator will determine your prize amount, up to $10,000. You can play with the calculator until you get the payout and goal just right, and you’ll know your payout amount before officially placing your bet.

2. Sign up and lay down your bet. You agree to pay the monthly amount for the duration of the challenge.

3. Achieve your weight-loss goal, and win your prize!

You’ll start and end your challenge with a video-recorded weigh-in to demonstrate your weight loss. Throughout the challenge, it’s recommended that you use the HealthyWage app to log weekly weigh-ins (these are just self-reported, not verified by video). It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable and on track to meeting your goal!

4. If you don’t hit your goal, your money goes to support HealthyWage, including prizes for others who achieve their goals.

Ready to get started?  Enter your information in the HealthyWage Prize Calculator to find out how much you can win!

Kate Miller
Kate Miller

Kate Miller, mom of 5, is on a mission to stay fit and healthy. As HealthyWage's Community Manager, she's fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring success stories day after day. In 2012, Kate lost 50 pounds and documented most of her journey right here on the HealthyWage blog. Since then, she's had to learn the subtle intricacies of staying on track by mastering the daily ebb and flow (and parties and holidays and periods of extreme laziness) of life.

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