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Seen At 11: Diet-For-Dollars

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The latest trend in the world of weight loss is diet-for-dollars, where if you drop the pounds, you pick up some dough. These days, more and more people are using cold, hard cash as a motivator to lose weight, CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reports.

Chris Casey has tried just about everything to lose weight, but like many people, he’s failed over and over again – until now.

“They said they were going to do a contest, winner takes all, to lose weight,” Casey, an IT manager at Lopez Negrete Communications, said.

The company Casey works for introduced a weight loss competition, offering a $1,000 prize to the biggest loser.

“Being an IT manager, I’m your typical overweight guy,” Casey said. “So I said, ‘why not?’”

Casey’s far from alone. All across the country, dieters are competing to lose for cash – waging a weight war against colleagues, family members, neighbors, and even total strangers.

The competition Casey’s participating in is called the “Fatso to Fantastico” program.

“Our health insurance company did some health screenings this year, and we saw that we were generally healthy but overweight, so we were motivated to do something,” said Anthony Marvan, human resources manager at Lopez Negrete.

It’s just one of countless weight loss programs currently being offered by one-third of U.S. companies. They’re all designed to help keep workers healthy – and help keep health costs in line.

“It’s not just healthcare costs,” Dr. Robert Jeffery, director of the Obesity Prevention Center at the University of Minnesota, said. “It’s also productivity, if people miss work, that sort of thing.”

The diet-for-dollars trend isn’t just happening in the office, either.

Mary Lou Wehrli and her brother, Grant, have been competing against each other to see who could lose the most weight, with the help of a web site where they wager money on their weight loss.

“That motivation has had me get off the couch when I really didn’t want to work out,” Grant said.

Several of the dieting sites have people betting on how much they can lose. While people are dropping the pounds in an effort to win, questions are being raised about long-term success.

“The concerns I have are that if you’re not winning the bet, this can lead to unhealthy behaviors, whether it’s over-exercising or dramatically cutting your calories,” Elisa Zied, of the American Dietetic Association, said.

As for Casey, he’s lost a whopping 35 pounds so far, and he’s still neck-and-neck with a few coworkers with two weeks left.

“I want to win this contest, and that’s been driving me the whole time, so hopefully I do,” Casey said.

Recent studies of financial weight loss programs have shown conflicting results. One found only minimal benefits to dieters’ success, while another found regular financial incentives are a successful approach to keeping the pounds off.

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