When exercising feels like the last thing on earth that you want to do, what motivates you to move: the knowledge that you’re staying healthy; the feeling of accomplishment afterward; or cold, hard cash? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone. In fact, an entrepreneur named David Roddenberry built an entire company around the scientifically demonstrated ability of cash incentives to encourage weight loss efforts.
Betting on Success
Since 2009, HealthyWage has made a contest out of weight loss, getting entire corporations on board to compete with fellow employees for cash prizes. One contest offers teams of five the ability to win as much as $10,000 for losing the most weight, another focuses on lowering BMIs, and the third challenges participants to drop 10 percent of their body weight in six months.
“HealthyWage aims to make weight loss fun so our tools and philosophy are about bringing the fun to whatever other weight management program you are pursuing,” Roddenberry shared during a recent interview. Participants choose which program they want to follow, like Weight Watchers or Atkins, and then HealthyWage structures a routine to keep them on track. “For instance, one week is called a ‘makeover’ week and the teams are given tips on making swaps to make their meals healthier,” he explained.
One Contestant Looks Back, 130 Pounds Later
One of HealthyWage’s biggest success stories, Jon Whicker, lost almost 130 pounds while participating in the program. He talks about his experiences participating in a HealthyWage challenge in the interview below.
WorldLifestyle: What was your motivation for taking part in the challenge?
Jon Whicker: I had been overweight for a long time and had tried a couple different times to lose weight, but was always frustrated because I either worked out too hard as I started and couldn’t continue, or I would fall off the diet bandwagon and throw in the towel. I had a niece who also struggles with her weight and our family decided it was time to finally make a decision and stick with it. Once we had a team set up, we were all fully committed. Not only had we paid the entrance fee, but we now had four other individuals who were counting on us to do our part! I was both excited and nervous.
WL: What was your main goal?
JW: Personally, my main goal was to win and get the payout. I was willing to do whatever it took to get the weight off and help my team win the money… As the challenge moved on, and I dedicated more and more time to getting out and exercising and eating healthy, my goals began to shift and the true impact of the weight loss came into focus for me. I started to feel better, to be able to get out and spend time with my kids, and at that point I realized that I needed to make these changes permanently in my life.
WL: How drastic of a lifestyle change was it?
JW: Having already cut out my three 50-ounce diet sodas each day, I now had to make changes to my meal and snacks. Instead of going out to eat and trying to get as much food as possible for the amount of money I was spending, I decided to start bringing in lunches to work with me. When I did go out to eat, I started to worry more about quality and health than quantity.
WL: What was it like participating as a group?
JW: Everyone was very supportive and we tried to get together on a regular basis to keep track of progress and celebrate victories. If things weren’t working and you weren’t [having] success, you had the ability to talk with the group and make changes to what you were doing in order to see the positive results.
WL: Did you feel more pressure, more motivation, etc.?
JW: You absolutely feel more pressure working on a team. Everyone is counting on you to do your part, just like any team. I also found it better when the team would actually get together from time to time and discuss progress, challenges, and victories. We felt more camaraderie and more dedication to the group as a whole. Not only do you get more pressure, but you also get more support by being a part of the team.
Safely Playing the Game
While programs like HealthyWage could encourage unhealthy weight loss methods like crash dieting in the pursuit of cash prizes — especially when other people are counting on your success — it’s worth noting that there are attempts to prevent that. For example, HealthyWage puts a cap on weight loss every week, and anything that goes above that doesn’t help participants win. “Most participants can win the challenge by losing roughly one pound per week,” Roddenberry says. “We structure our programs to focus on long-term healthy weight loss.” For more information about this program, visit HealthyWage’s website.