Getting paid to lose weight with HealthyWage

I struggle with weight. In fact, it's a far more difficult issue for me than personal finance. Honestly, I'm not completely sure why, but it's true.

There are many similarities between paying off debt and creating a healthy lifestyle. For starters:

    1. Correcting both issues starts with awareness. The key to turning around my financial life was realizing exactly how bad it was. After that, I was able to connect deeply with the burden that my lazy financial habits created in my life. While I understand that I'm unhealthy, I haven't fully connected with the burden it brings into my life.
    2. Both issues have simple solutions. Notice I said simple, not easy. Personal finance can really be boiled down to “spend less than you earn“. There are plenty of details, techniques, and strategies, but it all comes back around to that one basic concept. Creating a healthier lifestyle is also simple: Eat fewer unhealthy foods, exercise more. Remembering these simple foundations can help us from distracting ourselves in a search for a mythical secret solution.
    3. Both issues require more motivation than “it's good for you”. The vast majority of people who struggle with money realize that consumer debt is bad for them. Most people who carry credit card balances know “they shouldn't”. But this doesn't keep them from doing it or help them from being susceptible to credit card tricks which can increase their fees. I know my diet is poor and I'm not as active as I should be. Just because eating better and exercising is “good for me”, doesn't mean I'm going to do it. Sadly, most of us need more motivation (and more specific motivation) to overcome either issue.

Even though intellectually I can identify these similarities, I haven't been able to bridge the strides in my financial life to my health. I need more awareness and a more specific type of motivation. I recently stumbled upon an interesting concept that may help me with the latter.

HealthyWage.com Pays You to Lose Weight!

Early last week, I was approached by a group of personal finance bloggers who were entering a team-based weight loss contest at HealthyWage.com. Unlike many of the free sites and competitions, this one was different. Teams of five had to cough up $100 total ($20 per member) to sign-up. As a result, there are some big prizes, including $10,000 to the winning team!

The winning team is defined as the team of five that has the highest average percentage weight loss. In order to compete, you have to have an official weigh-in at the beginning and end of the competition at an approved gym or doctor's office.

In addition, there's weekly accountability, casual weigh-ins, forums, and conference calls with former Biggest Loser participants and health professionals. The current competition starts May 15th and runs for 3 months.

Aside from this team-based competition, anyone can also attempt to achieve a healthy BMI in order to receive $100 from HealthyWage.com's sponsors. In this case your physician has to actually phone HealthyWage at the beginning and end of your personal challenge.

For those who want to take it even further, you can pay $300 before you start. If you chose to fork over the money up front and are still able to hit your goal, you'll receive $1000 back. If you fall short, though, you are out the $300!

I can't believe I hadn't bumped into this concept before! I find it extremely intriguing. On their website, HealthyWage points out two recent studies that suggest cash incentives can triple the success of a weight loss program:

For me, there are a couple of incentives beyond just the cash. I'm highly motivated by the accountability in a team-based competition. I won't want to let my teammates down, especially if at least a couple are motivated themselves. This allows each member to stumble a little, without completely falling off the wagon.

Also, I'm a firm believer in changing your environment when attempting any lifestyle change. The added benefit of conference calls, forums, and the ability to track the progress of other teams lends itself to creating a powerful community interaction. Immersing yourself inside a community like this is a great way to maintain motivation (just like many active members of this community have done).

Potential Pitfalls of the Model

While I'm already signed up and eagerly awaiting the start of the competition, I do have a few reservations about the pay-for-weight-loss model. While HealthyWage makes an active effort to promote safe weight loss, the “competition” atmosphere may potentially encourage some to go to extremes.

Personally, I'm going to have to be careful about this. I'll have to work extra hard to prevent burnout and/or risky weight loss results, especially early on. From what I've been able to tell, the website and competition provide plenty of resources for help with this.

I also wonder if there will be some amazing results that will turn out to be temporary lifestyle changes. Even if the rate of weight loss is healthy, what will happen to people when the monetary compensation and the competitive atmosphere are gone? I wonder what the success rate will be of those who are able to make lasting, long-term changes.

Even with these two reservations, I'm still excited take part in the competition. I'm going to do my best to play into the strengths, while being aware of the potential pitfalls. For me, if even a small portion of people are positively affected (long-term, positive health changes) then it's worth it.

I have no affiliation with HealthyWage.com in any way; I'm just a new and eager competition participant. However, I'm interested if any of you have had experience with a similar competition or what your thoughts of the model are!

Who knows? Maybe I'll be giving an update in three months on how my team (Jesse from Personal Finance Firewall, Brad from Enemy of Debt, and Paul from Fiscal Geek) will be spending our portions of the $10,000 (or more importantly how much better we feel being much more fit)!

J.D.'s note: I, too, have struggled with weight. And, like Adam, it's actually been tougher for me to tackle than personal finance. I started Get Fit Slowly with my friend Mac, but haven't written there much in the past year. However, I seem to finally be slowly turning the corner. I'm down 13 pounds this year, thanks to sensible food choices and discovering Crossfit.

More about...Health & Fitness, Psychology

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elisabeth
elisabeth
10 years ago

one analogy that you didn’t explicitly make: losing weight can be like getting out of debt. Feels good for a while, but if you go on a drastic diet or a bare-bones budget, after the debt is paid/weight is lost it is really easy for all the old bad habits recur the weight/debt comes back. Losing weight/getting out of debt just can’t be the goal, it has to be changing one’s relationship with food/money — that’s why the short term 3-month model doesn’t bode too well for long-term changes. One could win the contest by losing a lot of weight… Read more »

Katy
Katy
10 years ago

I suppose the mantras for wealth and weight-loss are quite similar… “spend less than you earn” and “eat less than you burn”.

I agree, weight-loss can be a lot harder. Good luck, though!

Shara
Shara
10 years ago

It’s not difficult to understand why I’m better with finance than fitness: I like money, I’m not crazy about exercise.

ArandomPerson
ArandomPerson
10 years ago

I agree with the first post. There will be lots of social support (your team, friends etc.) and motivation (the competiton prize) while you are in the contest. When you leave that support group if one has relied too much on those sources of support and motivation, it seems likely that one will fall back into the bad habits. Most people who lose 100+lbs (and work at non-physical job) gain it back in 3 years. Most as in 9 out of 10 people. It has to be a lifestyle change and that is something that might (might) get lost in… Read more »

Steve
Steve
10 years ago

I’ve heard of companies and/or groups of friends having weight loss competitions, but hadn’t seen larger groups do it before. If that’s what gets you moving, good for you.

It’s not really “healthywage” but rather “betonweightloss” but if that’s the way they want to spin it…

On the other hand, it’s hard to see how the top prize could be won by anyone other than the team that loses too much weight too quickly. Kind of like a “bidder’s remorse” – the winner is the one that overshoots the most.

Kate C
Kate C
10 years ago

In my family, everybody is overweight. My mother and father, and my two brothers, have tried for years to loose weight. They often do manage to loose 20, 30, a few years ago my Dad lost 60 pounds, only to gain it all back again. It is horribly demoralizing and very difficult, and I do understand that. There is definitely a similarity in emotions between admitting debt problems and dealing with your weight… shame and fear and guilt. Just last month, my dad became diabetic. It happened quickly, and nobody knew that he was so sick, until he was in… Read more »

RJ Weiss
RJ Weiss
10 years ago

Interesting little concept. Money has a great way of motivating anyone. Good luck to the bloggers involved.

Erica
Erica
10 years ago

I work at NYU Medical Center and they have an incentive program to lose weight (among other goals you can choose like smoking cessation and stress management). You sign up for a year and if you reach your weight loss goal (that you devize with a nutritionist at NYULMC) then you get $100 off of your medical insurance for the following year. I did this last year and it was really great. It makes logical sense because if you are healthier then technically your medical insurance should cost less because you’re costing them less. I loved the idea I only… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
10 years ago

EDITING. I couldn’t get through this whole article… could just a little copy editing have been done?

Anna
Anna
10 years ago

This is a terrible idea. Diets don’t work long-term (long-term being more than 5 years, and even if you call it a lifestyle change), and continuous weight loss and gain (yo-yo dieting) is extremely bad for your health.

Might I suggest researching fat acceptance/size acceptance/Healthy At Every Size instead? You may not win any money, but you might be happier (and healthier).

Brian S.
Brian S.
10 years ago

If you win, I suspect most of the prize will have to go to new clothes. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Joseph | Kickdeboff
Joseph | Kickdeboff
10 years ago

Very well said! personal finance has alot of similarities with weight loss.
I would be curious to know what is the average weight of people who are our of debt! vs those in debt ):

Sheri
Sheri
10 years ago

#10 Anna – I have to disagree with you. You’re correct that diets don’t work, but lifestyle change can and does. I lost 100 pounds in 2003 and have kept it off. Yes, acceptance of different body types is very important, but championing a morbidly obese lifestyle is something I will always speak against. You might as well put a gun to your head and pull the trigger. Eating healthy and exercising has made a huge difference in my battle against debt. When I began to really pay attention to what I ate, and cut back on eating out (talk… Read more »

Andy Hough
Andy Hough
10 years ago

This is an interesting concept and I blogged about it a while back. The doctor visits would cost me more than the potential $100 winnings so I haven’t tried it.

chacha1
chacha1
10 years ago

Baker, don’t listen to Anna. “Acceptance” of being fat means acceptance of vastly higher risk of future disability, chronic disease, and early death. Kate C. is right on: find something physical you enjoy, and make weight-control merely a tool to achieving better results in that – just as financial control is a tool to create freedom in your life (freedom from a day job, freedom to travel, whatever it may be). Personally, vanity is a strong motivator in controlling my weight, and fear is another one. My grandma effectively lost the last ten years of her life to physical weakness… Read more »

JenK | Sex and Money
JenK | Sex and Money
10 years ago

It’s not really “healthywage” but rather “betonweightloss” but if that’s the way they want to spin it… Steve – I like the way you think 🙂 BTW, studies show most people who go on diets do have short-term weight loss followed by gaining some or all of it back (PDF). Sort of like how some people do win $25000 at a casino or a few million on Lotto — and a lot don’t. However, a lot of people can improve their health by getting more exercise and eating well, even if it doesn’t affect the scale. This is the part… Read more »

Chris P.
Chris P.
10 years ago

JD,

As a CrossFit coach and avid follower of your site, I was excited to see that you got into it. I actually started a draft of a blog post on how CrossFitting is like investing money, with some similar points made here. For those who don’t know what it’s about, definitely look into it for not only weight loss, but longevity and health!
-Chris P., CrossFit King of Prussia (PA)

Stefanie
Stefanie
10 years ago

Anna (#10), you are completely and totally correct! Thank you for posting here about fat acceptance.

For those naysayers, fat acceptance has nothing to do with health or not, it has to do with fighting institutional oppression against fat people and people perceived to be fat. Its about treating every person on humanely and not assuming that because someone is fat they live an “unhealthy lifestyle.”

It sounds like Adam’s find is both one more way to make people feel bad about themselves and one more way to earn money by the $40 billion diet industrial complex.

Stephen
Stephen
10 years ago

Keeping the weight off after the challenge is over is definitely the hard part. I didn’t realize how much the external stimulus affected my will-power until it was gone.

JenK | Sex and Money
JenK | Sex and Money
10 years ago

It’s not really “healthywage” but rather “betonweightloss” but if that’s the way they want to spin it…

To touch on this again: If you find it fun, and you have the money in your “extras” file, then it’s your decision. But it’s a money sink. File it under the “Entertainment” part of the budget if you really think it’s worthwhile.

Adam
Adam
10 years ago

2010 is 1/3 over, and 13lbs is 1/3 of 40lbs, which I believe is your goal weight loss for 2010 from your resolutions?

You’re right on track!!

TR
TR
10 years ago

My issue with this whole thing is it promotes fast WEIGHT loss. The healthy thing to do is lose FAT, while maintaining as much lean mass as possible. This can only be accomplished losing 1-2 lbs a week.

It’d be like a contest to pay off your credit cards as fast as possible. The fastest way to do it would be to cut corners and neglect paying all the rest of your bills. Obviously this is not healthy.

Jan
Jan
10 years ago

@Anna- I have been 120 and 220. Both were me. Why should the 220 be the me that I ‘Have ” to accept?

You go Adam. I believe that a healthy lifestyle change is waiting for you. Take your time and get it off forever. I am thinking 160 might be the right me (bigger than most my size- but comfortable for me). Find that good place and stay there!
Good luck!

Donald
Donald
10 years ago

Very nice idea to make a competition in weight loss! What more do you need as motivation to lose weight. Is there any competition about who will save more money? This would be also nice for losing weight because you will also have to save on food 🙂

Good luck!

Chris
Chris
10 years ago

I suggest you check out Marks Daily Apple(.com) for some lifestyle tips. I can personally attest to being in the best shape of my life after adopting some of his suggestions.

It’s pretty flexible so I found sticking to good health clear and easy.

Good luck over the next three months!

Alexandra
Alexandra
10 years ago

Anna, I see what you are saying – there is indeed still a prejudice against fat people that is almost accepted by society, and no, that isn’t right. Coming from Canada, I think we have a different reason for this than maybe just not liking the way fat looks or something. We have a universal health plan that is paid for by everyone’s taxes. Just like smoking, obesity is a self-inflicted state of being that causes known health issues. These obese people in their later years will clog up our health system with issues related to diabetes, cardiac problems and… Read more »

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
10 years ago

Do you have any information about previous contests that they’ve run? I looked around very briefly, but I don’t see anyone posting about winning anything, other than a few gift cards. I’m a little skeptical about the overall turnaround of money for this site. There are a lot of free weight loss communities on the internet, so the draw for this site specifically is all the money you can get for losing weight. As many people have commented, having a specific motivation (winning cash in this example) makes attaining a short term goal a lot easier for most people, but… Read more »

Todd Eddy
Todd Eddy
10 years ago

FWIW I started jogging late last year. Started out as something to do. I remember when I started doing a light jog and within 30 seconds being exhausted. I’ve been following the “8 week” method although it’s been several months now. It’s where week 1 you jog for 1 minute and walk for 7, week 2 is jog for 2 minutes and walk for 6, etc. It took me a month to get past the 1 minute mark. I was at 4 and 4 when I stopped in the winter (never got around to getting a gym membership or treadmill).… Read more »

Anna
Anna
10 years ago

13 Sheri – That is wonderful for you and I’m happy for you, but you are in the minority. The vast majority – I’ve seen figures anywhere from two-thirds to 95% – of people who attempt any kind of weight loss (EVEN IF you call it a lifestyle change, there is absolutely NO difference) gain all the weight back and more. 15 chacha1 Accepting being fat doesn’t mean giving up on life or not being healthy. You can eat healthy foods and be physically active while still being fat. 18 Stefanie Thank you. It was distressing to see this post… Read more »

Adam
Adam
10 years ago

@ Anna I also think being fat due to an unhealthy lifestyle is analagous to smoking. Both chioces *can* be a serious detriment to your long term health. This is not judgemental or prejudicial. This is fact. Yes you have smokers who never get cancer and yes you have morbidly obese people who never get diabetes, but your chances of getting either of these things or dying of a heart attack are vastly increased by those lifestyle choices (never mind people who do both). And yes, I live in Canada too and think cigarettes and junk food should have special… Read more »

Becky
Becky
10 years ago

At first I thought this was going to discuss the issue of rewarding obese people for losing weight, possibly related to corporations who cover health care premiums. I do find it somewhat unsettling that we have resorted to this. We reward fat people for becoming thin financially. What about the people who are not fat because they already practice a healthy lifestyle? Can I win any prize money? I worked for a company who paid people cash to fill out a health survey if they were covered by the company. I wan’t covered (I was covered by my husband’s policy)… Read more »

Shari
Shari
10 years ago

I have lost 17 pounds in the past 4-1/2 months, and I have to say it has been wonderful. I feel better, I look better, and YES, I am healthier. I was not an unhealthy weight, according to height-weight charts, but since I have very little muscle, what I did have was fat. I am healthier not because I weigh less, but because I am no longer eating junk food. (I was also having blood sugar issues, which I now no longer have) I am learning to enjoy eating healthy food. And while it is true that crash diets and… Read more »

Thisiswhyubroke!
Thisiswhyubroke!
10 years ago

Hey Erica (#8), I like that idea! I think you should market that to the major insurers. I know everyone is already aware that the healthier you are, with the least amount of medical issues, the lower your insurance is going to cost, but, I don’t think people are aware of the EXACT amounts. Placing these numbers in their faces may be a great way to get people off their a$$es. No pun intended!

Empty
Empty
10 years ago

Although I sympathize with many fat acceptance ideas, my problem with this as a strategy is that it generally ignores the issue that obesity is in fact a health risk that should be addressed. Having lived in other countries, I agree with many observers that the US is an obesogenic environment. Trying to shame people into losing weight is ludicrous–I agree with the HAES folks that far. But the idea that it means fat isn’t a health problem is crazy. We don’t shame people for being hemophiliacs, but no one pretends it’s not a health problem either. Overweight is a… Read more »

JenK | Sex and Money
JenK | Sex and Money
10 years ago

Jan – If you were 220 due to something temporary (pregnancy; drug side affect; work/school/injury making you exercise less; illness or stress) then often going back to your “normal” life will also mean a return to your “normal” weight. There’s an idea of “setpoint”, which is that the weight you maintain when you eat a varied diet and exercise regularly is your natural weight. Anna – Currently there isn’t a demonstrated, proven way to make all, or even most, fat people permanently thin. (A study of weight loss studies conducted by weight loss companies found none were effective enough of… Read more »

TosaJen
TosaJen
10 years ago

I am skeptical about Adam’s prize-driven weight loss group for long-term weight maintenance, but I wish him luck. There can be a lot of value in participating in a group — we can get a lot of good ideas, encouragement, and empathy there. I’ve worked hard to stay roughly the same size for the past 16+ years (top edge of “healthy”), and monitored a weight-loss forum for a few years, so I have a few suggestions: 1. Relying on external factors for “motivation” is like relying on a housing bubble to raise one’s net worth — too much is outside… Read more »

SJ
SJ
10 years ago

My husband and I are at the end of the first month of a 3-4 mo challenge where if we lose 15 lbs we each get $1000 from savings to spend however we want. (If it takes 4 months that amount decreases to $500.) So far it has not been highly effective for us. He has lost 3 lbs and I have gained 1.5 lbs. I want to send my money to a specific charity so I hope that pressure will get me on the right track!

Mike Ramsey
Mike Ramsey
10 years ago

I’d be interested to see where the winner of this contest is in a year after it ends. I know from personal experience that it can be highly motivating to have a goal like this for losing weight, but once the challenge is over it can be tough to keep it up.

I wish them all the best, though.

Jessica @ Life as I See It
Jessica @ Life as I See It
10 years ago

Awesome!! I love this idea and am going to check it out pronto! 🙂 My husband is a huge work out buff and has encouraged me to be comfortable and confident in the gym – I have followed the Body for Life workout program and really like it. I am getting ready to start P90X and then plan to do crossfit after that. Have you read Warrior Diet? I have a post ready to run tomorrow on it, but it is a GREAT lifestyle/eating plan that we have adopted into our lives – adapting it slightly by consuming 3 green… Read more »

Paul @ FiscalGeek
Paul @ FiscalGeek
10 years ago

I guess the cats out of the bag :-). I agree with many of the comments I’ve previously weighed 60 pounds less than I do and ran the Vancouver Marathon in 2005. I’m a ways from there today but for my health I’ve got to try. It’s not about body image, it’s about living past 57 dealing with high blood pressure, triglycerides off the chart etc. This time I’m mixing in lots of long term habits, no extreme dieting and I’ve joined an Ice Hockey League. Fantastic exercise and great competition. My wife and I are also kicking off P90X… Read more »

barnetto
barnetto
10 years ago

Getting people moving is the important thing…and then not getting them injured while maintaining their motivation and interest. I know some people who are doing crossfit. It sounds like it builds a tight knit community (he ignores us when we tease him about his “cult” fit). The secret greeting the other guy shared with us is hilarious and its never tiring to tempt him with food when he’s enrolled in their paleo diet course. My own preference is to not pay the recurring monthly fee (cross fit programs in my area look like they’re over $100/month) and just buy the… Read more »

Heather
Heather
10 years ago

Adam- you may want to look into Sparkpeople.com for your long-term weight loss goals. It is a great site that is completely free- I lost 25 lbs last year while using their site. Good luck!

Ivy
Ivy
10 years ago

This competition will really be a motivational factor for those who want to lose weight.The fora and conference calls too are also great ways to be in a community with people who share in your goals.The only problem I have is that it could lead to fast weight loss as people would try unapproved weight loss techniques.Anyway all the best!

Micah
Micah
10 years ago

Good luck guys.
Heather- I like sparkpeople.com too.
Another free online tool is thintopia.com you can host free weight loss competitions. I made the site almost 4 years ago for my family to use and it has slowly grown to over 4000 users

Micheline Mital
Micheline Mital
7 years ago

I heard a couple of people talking about https://www.getrichslowly.org/getting-paid-to-lose-weight-with-healthywage/ on the subway today. I love it!

Lacresha Hemeyer
Lacresha Hemeyer
7 years ago

So very very cool! I am thrilled I found this site! Most points I completely agree with and knew about, but few ideas I had not thought about! Thanks!

Jessica J
Jessica J
7 years ago

One will definitely take the stand to loose weight if he/she is getting paid for it.

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