Getty Images In one month’s time, the entire country will reluctantly be stepping onto their scales to see what kind of damage the holidays inflicted on their waistlines. And the weight-loss and fitness industries will be counting their piles of cash as we all scramble to buy the latest fad diet book, yoga DVD, or gym pass. To get the number on the scale back to where we want it, we do things we generally don’t enjoy doing — like running or eating kale — and we pay money to do them! But what if we could get paid to inflict that torture on ourselves? Well, last January, I did just that.
Just as the new year rolled in, my husband and I welcomed our first baby into the family. After the excitement, sleep deprivation soon set in, and I was faced with the fact that I’d gained one — OK, 15 — pounds too many during my pregnancy. I told myself I’d do whatever it took to get my pre-pregnancy jeans out of the angry heap I’d thrown them into and back onto my body. Nothing was safe (including our bank account) if it meant finding a way to lose my baby weight.
I’d tried almost everything to lose weight, but I’d never been motivated by money before.
But before I could do anything too drastic, I saw that one of my favorite bloggers was hosting a weight loss challenge called DietBet. Here’s how it worked: Every participant ponied up $20. We each had four weeks to lose 4 percent of our body weight. At the end of four weeks, those who had lost their 4 percent got to split the pot of money.
It sounded so simple; I was intrigued. I’d tried almost everything to lose weight, but I’d never been motivated by money before.
So I took the plunge and laid down 20 bones in the hopes of getting it — and more — back in four weeks. Of course, if I didn’t meet the challenge, I’d lose it all (except some weight, obviously). But what’s a reward without a little risk involved? So for the next four weeks, I worked hard. And I found that the idea of losing $20 was more motivating than actually losing the weight. The Oreos calling my name weren’t nearly as loud as my wallet wailing over its missing $20. And lo and behold, when the four weeks were up, I’d miraculously lost the 4 percent. After everyone’s final weigh-in, 40 percent of the participants had lost their 4 percent, too. When the pot was split, I got back $39. The $20 I’d put in had almost doubled in just four weeks! How’s that for a lucrative ROI?
My first bet had gone so well that I decided to do a second DietBet with $30 this time, reinvesting some of the money I’d just made. Four weeks later, I’d lost another 4 percent. And my $20 had grown to $58 in just eight weeks. Now 10 pounds lighter, I could fit into my old jeans, and I’d made enough money to buy myself a new pair to boot. Satisfied, I quit while I was ahead, still feeling good about dropping 10 pounds.
Come January, if I’ve eaten one too many slices of pecan pie — which is pretty much a guarantee — I might try my hand at making money by losing weight again. Here are some of the options I’ll consider, and that you might want to try, too:
1. DietBet: This is where it all started for me. DietBet now has two different “betting” formats: a quick 4 percent of your weight in four weeks and a loftier 10 percent weight-loss in six months. To keep things fair and square, participants weigh in and verify with scale and full-body photos before and after. At game’s end, the winners (aka, the real “losers”) split the pot.
2. GymPact: This app is all about helping you keep your commitment to hit the gym. And unlike DietBet, you set the terms. Decide how many days a week you want to work out, and what it will cost you if you don’t follow through. Then when you’re at the gym, check in with your smartphone. If you haven’t played hooky, you’ll split the non-exercisers’ loot with your fellow stingy fitness-motivated friends.
3. HealthyWage: While DietBet and GymPact primarily focus on the little strides, HealthyWage wants you to go big or go home. Their program will dish out $100 to any participant who moves from an obese BMI (BMI>30) to a healthy one (BMI<25) in one year. And that's without any of your own skin in the game! They also have a 10 percent weight loss in six months betting program, as well as a team challenge where the highest cumulative percentage loss wins a $10,000 prize.
Joanna and Johnny are the writing duo behind OurFreakingBudget.com, a personal finance blog documenting the joys, pains and realities of living on a budget. Here are a few popular posts from their blog: