Nutrition-wise blog

Money talks when it comes to weight loss

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. April 4, 2013

We know money talks. Do you think it can talk you into choosing healthier portions, passing on dessert, and exercising more? Can money, gained or lost, be a motivator when it comes to weight loss?

A recent weight loss study at the Mayo Clinic asked employees to volunteer for such a test. The participants in the study were divided into groups — those who would have a financial incentive and those who would not. The groups started the first 10 weeks by spending several days a week meeting with a dietitian and an exercise specialist. Some groups also had a wellness (lifestyle) coach. Educational materials came from "The Mayo Clinic Diet" book and the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid.

Those in the financial incentive group had the opportunity to either receive or pay $20 a month if they met or failed to meet a weight loss goal of 4 pounds each month. Additionally, everyone was eligible for a lottery prize at the end, regardless of whether they met their weight loss goal or not. The study was 12 months, the longest of this type of study to date.

The idea of a including rewards is not new to the world of weight loss. However, a penalty, such as having to hand over $20, ups the stakes. Whether as a reward or a penalty, money appears to be a decent motivator as 62 percent of the participants in the incentive group completed the study. Fewer people (26 percent) completed the study in the group that wasn't given financial incentives. Average weight loss for the financially motivated was 9.1 pounds, while the other group lost an average of 2.6 pounds.

An average weight loss of 9 pounds after one year might not sound like much, but consider that most Americans gain weight every year. Sticking to lifestyle changes is a challenge and this group did it for a year.

So it appears that money may indeed be a motivator for some. What motivates you? Have you lost weight and kept it off? How do you hold yourself accountable?

To your health,

Katherine

Apr. 04, 2013