Bet your way out of obesity, suggests Stickk.com, a website becoming popular in the US and the UK. It is the brainchild of a Yale economics professor and a few other Yale academics. They believed that people would be better motivated to meet their goals if they had something to lose.
Not only are people who sign up hit in the wallet if they fail, their friends can get to hear about it via a group e-mail.
AdvertisementIn the US the scheme is said to be achieving success rates of up to 85%.
All weight loss must be verified by a referee.
stickK promotes a healthier and happier living. We help people achieve their goals and objectives by enabling them to form Commitment Contracts, the website proclaims.
"Our story began at Yale University a few years ago when Dean Karlan (Economics Professor at Yale and Co-Founder of stickK) came up with the idea of opening an online 'Commitment Store'.
He envisioned that people would come to the Commitment Store to sign contracts obliging them to achieve their personal goals such as losing weight or quitting smoking. Dean experimented this concept by making contracts himself. Meanwhile, he also conducted and published research* on Commitment Contracts as a tool for helping people save money.
The Commitment Contract concept is based on two well known principles of behavioral economics:
1.People don't always do what they claim they want to do, and
2.Incentives get people to do things
Dean believed that today's health-conscious and socially conscious market was ready for a service that would allow people a way to achieve their goals."
You can make your agreement based on incremental goals such as one pound a week lost, or you can do an overall goal for 100 pounds in a year.
If you are not the betting type, you can keep your commitment based on a reputation agreement. If you want to up the ante, you can bet money against yourself. If you meet your goal, you get the money back. If you do not make your goal, you use money.
Communities are formed around such issues as smoking, weight loss, dieting, exercise and fitness.
Jordan Goldberg, co-founder of the StickK bet dieting website, said: "The anti-charity aspect is where we take your money and we send it to an organisation that you oppose should you fail.
"We chose some highly contentious issues, for instance global warming, abortion and gay marriage.
"The idea is you choose an organisation whose views are contrary to your own as an added incentive to stay motivated to succeed."
Doctors remain to be convinced by the long-term effect of the schemes.
Professor Richard Ashcroft, of the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health, told BBC: "When somebody is in the middle of an incentive scheme they can be quite effective.
"People can be quite good at their weight loss programmes, eating less or taking more exercise.
"The problem is once the incentive scheme has finished we don't know if they carry on being successful after that - we don't know if people manage to stay with the weight loss or exercise regime once the incentive is taken away."