The Gambler’s Way to Lose Weight (and Make Money)

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If you really want to lose weight or get that six-pack, put some of your cold, hard cash on the line.

Betting money on your ability to shed weight might be an effective way to stick to your fitness goals, according to a new report from NPR.

Here’s why: Rather than relying on mere desire to look or feel better (which is a hazy, nonspecific motivator) the prospect of immediate cash gains—and the natural human aversion to losing money—might be one of the best motivators for getting to the gym.

Research backs it up: Heather Royer, an economist at UC Santa Barbara, found that people were far more likely to go to the gym if their company paid them $10 a visit, then signed them up for a “commitment contract” that only released their own money to them if they worked out, as The Upshot reported.

The NPR report follows Ben Carnes, a teacher and football coach from Indiana, who signed up with a program called HealthyWage to shed some of his 370 pounds. Carnes wagered $60 every month that he could lose about 100 pounds. If he did, he’d double his money; if he failed, he’d lose all $720 he’d accumulated over the year.

When the going got tough, his (and his wife’s) unwillingness to lose the money was a powerful motivator to stick with his goal. That risk aversion helps explain why programs like HealthWage are effective, whereas longer-term rewards without an immediate risk factor, like discounts on health insurance premiums, are not, per this University of Pennsylvania study.

“My wife actually at one point called me out,” he told NPR. “She kinda yelled at me and said, ‘We’re paying way too much money for you to just bail on this now.'”

Curious? Considering it for yourself? Check out the full story at NPR.

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