Want to lose weight?
Just utter these four simple words: Show me the money.
Far fetched? Believe it or not, the Journal of the American Medical Association says no.
In a JAMA study conducted by researchers at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion in Philadelphia, nearly 60 obese subjects were divided into three groups.
One group simply participated in monthly weigh-ins, while subjects in the other two groups were eligible to earn cash based on their performance.
I’m sure you can imagine where this is going: Subjects in the two incentive groups lost significantly more weight than subjects in the weigh-in group.
The follow-up here is predictable: After the 16-week intervention period, incentive group subjects regained at least some of their weight. The authors write: “The longer- term use of incentives should be evaluated.”
They can evaluate all they want – I’ll tell them what they’ll find. Take away the incentives and all you have is another backsliding diet. But gradually increase incentives, and you just might have a moneymaking scheme that sheds unhealthy pounds.
But what about smoking? Could smokers actually quit their long-entrenched habits in exchange for a little cash?
The New England Journal of Medicine says yes.
Seriously. This is not an early April fool.
The same CHERP team recruited nearly 900 General Electric employees – all dedicated smokers – and divided them into two groups.
One group received information about smoking-cessation programs, while the other group received the same information…plus bucks: $100 for completion of a smoking- cessation class, $250 for six months smoke-free, and $400 for an additional six months without a cigarette. (A biochemical test was used to determine genuine abstinence.)
Results: In the information-only group, five percent of the subjects quit smoking for at least one year. In the information-plus-money group, nearly 15 percent quit smoking.
In the e-Alert “Warm in the Tropics” (1/26/04) I told you about a long-term incentive plan that helped me quit smoking. And I can tell you that when you’re doing something that difficult “for your own good,” a well-placed incentive, followed by another and another makes a very big difference.
This coming March 14, Sunday, at about 10:00 AM, I’ll be smoke-free for 17 years.
Hey, but who’s counting?
To Your Good Health,
“A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Financial Incentives for Smoking Cessation” The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 360, No. 7, 2/12/09, content.nejm.org
“Financial Incentive-Based Approaches for Weight Loss” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 300, No. 22, 12/10/09, jama.ama-assn.org