DietBet and HealthyWage: Can I Get Paid to Lose Weight?

A few well-publicized academic studies have shown that financial incentives can be very effective in helping people lose weight. In order to combine the carrot and the stick, there are two websites now where you can bet on your weight loss. If you lose enough, you get paid. If you don’t meet your weight loss goal, you’ll lose the money you committed.

HealthyWage

• You can place a bet as an individual, or join a team challenge.
• With the individual bet (Healthy Wager), you tell them your body details, how much you want to bet, how much you want to lose, and they’ll calculate what prize to offer you. For me, if I bet \$100 a month and lose 10% of my body weight within 9 months, I would get \$1,000 (\$100 prize plus my \$900 back). 11% potential return combined with the risk of losing it all, I’m not sure what I think about that.
• The \$10,000 Team Challenge is a competition between teams of 5 people during preset 12-week intervals, with the top prize being \$10,000. The entry fee is \$25/month per person for three months (\$75 total).
• The new Jackpot Team Challenge is a competition between teams of 5-9 people to lose 6% of their body weight. Each participant contributes \$33 per month for 3 months (\$99 total) into the “pot”. Teams that collectively average a 6% weight loss in a given contest will split the total Jackpot with any other winning teams. Healthywage does take a 25% cut of the pot first.
• No smartphone apps available.

DietBet

• Everyone has to join a group. Start your own or join a friend’s or stranger’s group.
• Everyone puts money into the pot for that group. Your goal is either to lose 4% of your body weight in 4 weeks, or 10% in 6 months. All the winners in that group split the jackpot (basically your money back plus splitting the losers’ bets).
• The average “win” is 50% to 100% of your contribution (i.e. put in \$30, win \$45 to \$60 back). Dietbet does take a cut of the pot before distribution, between 10% to 25%. If everyone “wins”, their cut will be reduced so that nobody will lose money on the bet.
• Available as both an Android and iOS app.

With both sites, you can verify your weight at home using a scale and a smartphone camera. With HealthyWage, you can also go to visit a fitness or medical professional (health club worker, doctor’s office).

I have signed up for the DietBet group “The Transformer” which runs from February 5th to August 4th, during which I’ll have to lose 10% of my current weight. It is only a \$25 bet per month for 6 months (one month free if you pay all the month ahead of time at \$125). I’m also thinking about a HealthyWage bet. We’ll see how it goes!

1. Keith Lewandowski says:

Hey Jonathon,

The Dietbet Transformer that you mentioned in your blog is actually \$25 per month times 6 months which works out to \$150 total, you can pay it all at once for \$125, essentially one month free. I have used Dietbet in the past and if you lose your weight, you will make money. Good luck!

• You’re right, I don’t know why I wrote that initially as I actually chose to give up that \$25 to get the monthly bill every month. Who am I?! 🙂

2. AG says:

A friend of mine did a few Diet Bets. She won the first one, then lost a couple in a row after that.

A can’t-fail tip for your Diet Bet: Just cut way down on your carb intake, eat as much protein, fat and vegetables as you want and watch the pounds melt away. I’ll let you know where to mail my cut of your winnings 🙂

3. I like the idea of incentivizing people to lose weight. Whether or not these are sustainable models or not? I don’t know, but I’m glad their are people working on it.

Money sure motivates me!

4. Kevin says:

Is it possible these website encourage unhealthy habits? Binge eating in order to gain weight so that you can lose it to earn money.

• Katie C says:

I can’t speak specifically on these sites, but my employer has hosted two “biggest loser” challenges. Each time, employees did ridiculously unhealthy things – cutting calories until they were starving their bodies, exercising obsessively – trying to win the money. And after the challenges ended, even though our employer added a “maintenance bonus” to the second challenge, everyone gained their weight back and then some. I don’t believe challenges like this create lasting changes in most people’s lives/diets.

I know some employees ate a pretty big meal the day before the contest began in order to inflate their initial weight, but it wasn’t common.

5. I had a successful bet with Healthy Wage last year. The max they will pay no matter how much you bet is \$600 so you can get a better rate of return on smaller bets. I bet \$3000 since I was confident I could lose the weight and I knew I needed to bet a fairly large amount to be motivated. One drawback is they sent me a 1099 for the whole amount they paid me although \$3000 of it was just a return of my own money.

• Really? They send you a 1099 for the whole amount? That would annoy me and potentially wipe out any winnings.

• Hans says:

If your bet + winnings is > \$600, they issue a 1099-MISC for the total amount. Less than \$600 total, no 1099

6. Hans says:

I had a similar experience to Andy last year with Healthy Wage. I bet \$100/month for 6 months w/ a 15% weight loss goal. I used a calorie tracking app (Lose It!) for my daily monitoring, but found the long term bet helped keep me going on business trips and vacations where I’ve typically lost motivation and went off my diets in the past. I made my goal and then decided to keep going, blowing past my initial 30 lbs. goal and ending up losing nearly 50 lbs. I’m a huge fan of the concept. I chose my amount figuring I wouldn’t be in financial hurt if I lost the \$600, but I’d be pissed off losing that much money over something under my control.

Another thing to know about healthy wage, they use the height off your driver’s license in the final BMI calculation, so be sure to use that when creating your account. My payout was slightly less than anticipated because my license stated I was an inch taller than what I had originally claimed when I signed up.

7. Great post. This is something I’ve contemplated doing for a while (actually participate in one of those online fitness groups) but have always been a little skeptical. I think is cool you joined DietBet! Please let us know how that goes. Would love to read an actual review. I know you provide pretty good ones on everything you share on the blog.

A few years ago i heard about “GymPact” and joined but never submitted my credit card information. The idea behind that app is simply make sure you “check in” (I believe the app checks you in automatically) when you are at the gym and the app pays people for keeping up with their goals of how many times per week they work out. I would feel more comfortable joining something like that. I believe is easier to get ourselves to the gym and get that done instead of focusing and obsessing on weight loss specifically, which can make people anxious. Your post just motivated me to maybe go ahead and give GymPact a real try. We’ll see 🙂

8. Yinna says:

Am I really the only one whose first thought is ‘how can I cheat this system?’ I won’t actually do it of course, but simply drinking a lot of water (and maybe strap something heavy to your back) at your first weigh in could easily circumvent the photo or video ‘proof’. I know this is a way to self-motivate, but what if you don’t need to lose weight and you could use some cash…

• No, you’re not the first. HealthyWage used to pay out more, but now it seems they’ll pay out much less. I’m also sure their numbers take into account water weight variations, and during the weight verification video you have to turn 360 degrees to show that nothing is on your body or in your pockets.

Otherwise, with the pool system, the websites don’t care as much if you cheat the system as they just get a cut of the pool no matter what. Gaming the system just takes money from other participants.

9. Kim V says:

I just finished my 4th diet bet. I have won \$205 and lost 12 pounds in 2 months! I’m starting a new diet bet on 5/1/15. If you want to join me, the link is below.
http://diet.bt/dRX0gq

10. Chrissy says:

I was thinking of signing up for the 6 month Dietbet and I came across your article. Do you have a ‘nearly half way there’ update?

• Dietbet is going well, the site is interactive and they try to make things fun. Be careful buying those weigh-in tokens because they are optional and I thought it was required. I’m actually pretty much at my 10% goal after 3 months, so right now I’m thinking 6 months might be too long. Good luck!