Can money motivate weight loss? Perhaps at first

Tue Feb 8, 2011 9:19pm EST
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Obese people may be more likely to slim down if they have money riding on their success through financial incentives -- but the weight might creep back once the monetary carrot is gone, according to a U.S. study.

A program in which people stood to lose cash if they failed to lose weight appeared to motivate them, but the motivation didn't last, the study -- published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine -- found.

All participants received weight loss counseling, but some also signed a "deposit contract," where the funds they deposited in an account were matched and awarded to them at the end of a certain period of time if they achieved their weight loss goals.

If they failed to hit their goal, they lost the money.

People with the "deposit contract" lost an average of nine pounds (4.1 kg) over eight months, while the participants with no money to lose lost only one pound.

"Financial incentives produced significant weight loss over an eight-month intervention," wrote Leslie John at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who led the study.

"However, participants regained weight post-intervention."

For the study, John and her colleagues randomly assigned 66 adults with BMIs -- body mass indexes -- of 30 to 40, mostly men, to either have a counseling session with a dietician plus monthly weigh-ins, or the same program plus the deposit contract.

BMI is a measure of weight for height. Obese is classified as 30 and above.   Continued...