Forget The Fat Tax! Pay People To Lose Weight

Study finds financial incentives produce average weight loss of two stone - more than double weight loss of slimming clubs

Financial rewards for sustained weight loss could be the key to solving the obesity epidemic, according to the results of a UK-wide trial run by Weight Wins, an innovator in weight loss incentives. Participants who were active in the programme after a year had achieved an average weight loss of 21 lbs (one and a half stone). After two years, the average weight loss was 33 lbs (nearly two and a half stone). This is more than double the average 11 lbs long term weight loss of active members of slimming clubs.

214 women and 50 men participated in the trial between October 2009 and December 2012. Participants chose and paid for a weight loss incentive plan with monthly weight targets and rewards. Plans extended for up to 24 months and rewards were as high as £3,000. Participants could choose to pay higher fees in order to earn higher rewards. 47% of participants were active in the programme at 12 months and 31% were active at 24 months.

Weight Wins is part of the new diet trend using financial incentives. Several companies in the US offer a similar service, including StickK, HealthyWage and DietBet, but none have published weight loss results of their customers.

Dr. David Haslam, an obesity physician and chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: "Weight Wins is novel, innovative and exciting. Their methods are different, even counter-intuitive, and their trials are unusual, in reporting the results of only those who complete the studies. However that is exactly what clinicians need; the results for people who manage to maintain a programme, and here, the results are impressive in losing and sustaining weight loss."

Winton Rossiter, founder of Weight Wins, said: "Instead of taxing soft drinks and fast food, we can now reward people for eating a healthy diet."

31 million UK adults (63%) are overweight or obese, according to official statistics. The government estimates that obesity costs the UK economy £16 billion every year, including the £4 billion cost to the NHS of treating the diseases associated with obesity. In the trial, 45% of participants lost 5% or more of body weight, deemed to be medically significant. 33% of participants in the trial reported improvement in one or more medical condition, and 40% of morbidly obese patients left the category.

Only 10% of participants required a weight loss group to progress towards their goal, and only 24% belonged to a gym; 66% succeeded on their own simply by eating more sensibly and taking moderate exercise. The 'Biggest Loser' in Weight Wins lost 119 lbs (eight and a half stone).

Individual successes
Richard Gibbs, a 49 year old photographer who lost 35 lbs in the scheme, said: "I had been successful dieting, but my problem was keeping the weight off. The monthly weigh-ins gave me a reality check each month, and by the time my final weigh-in came along I was still below my target weight. I am still around this weight and have cut down rather than cut out on drinks and takeaways."

Hilary Askew, a 54 year old teacher, lost 32 lbs on the scheme said: "I have dieted before on my own but have never been able to reach my target or maintain the weight loss. The programme made me accountable to someone else and set me realistic targets. I think the period of maintenance has helped me to establish good eating habits rather than unsustainable ways of eating that I could not fit into my lifestyle."

Sharon Smith, Kent, a 37 year old student who lost 58 lbs, said: "At my heaviest I was 19 stone and, being diabetic, it caused other health problems. Weight Wins offered a big incentive and were on hand whenever I needed a bit of moral support. The weight started dropping off and my health has improved a lot. I've never been this healthy or happy can't wait to go shopping for all my new size 18 clothes with the money I earned."

Scheme now open to public
Because of the success of Weight Wins' programme, the company has opened its service to members of the public and increased the maximum reward to £5,000 for a weight loss of more than 10 stone (150 lbs), which must be achieved and maintained over two years. The fee for the service is a one-off registration sum of £45 plus £10 a month.


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