It seems like there's something to the argument that celebrity dieters with endorsement deals are successful in their weight loss goals because they are getting paid. A new study finds that willpower can be bought with cold hard cash—even considerably smaller amounts of money compared to the big paychecks Jennifer Hudson and Jessica Simpson earn from Weight Watchers—with people who had a chance of winning or losing $20 a month losing four times the amount of weight as dieters without financial incentives.
The study, conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, involved 100 obese employees of the clinic, who were all given weight-loss counseling, monthly weigh-ins, and a gym membership and followed their progress for a year. But half of them were also given financial incentives for losing weight, and penalties when they didn't. With a weight-loss goal of up to four pounds a month, the employees had to pay $20 into a kitty if they failed. If they met or surpassed their goal, they were able to collect $20. On top of that, the group receiving incentives also received $10 a month and "lottery tickets" to win the excess cash in the kitty.
Of the course of the year, the group receiving incentives lost an average of 9 pounds, while the group not receiving money lost an average of 2.3 pounds. Study leader, Dr. Steve Driver, said:
Incentives are "not like training wheels where people learn healthy habits and then will continue them on their own" - you have to keep them up for them to work.
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