For many people, money incentives for weight loss are among the most effective drivers out there.  After all, it’s easy to think that looking and feeling better will motivate us to keep up with our eating and exercising goals.  However, when it comes down to putting things into practice, it turns out that a pinch in the wallet is much more likely to cause us to change our ways than a pinch in something less tangible like a desire.

The Money Incentives for Weight Loss Study

According to the results of a study that has just been released by the Mayo Clinic, one effective way to help to make sure that you stick to a weight loss program is by adding financial incentives.

The research found that money is an important motivator, and that when dieters were offered a financial reward for sticking to a weight loss program, they tended to lose a larger amount of weight than those who did not.

How the Mayo Clinic Conducted its Research

The research involved the participation of 100 people whose ages ranged from 18 to 63, over a period of a year. Each of the participants had a BMI of at least 30. They were each assigned a goal of losing a minimum of four pounds each month. They were divided into four different groups, two of which had financial incentives and two of which did not.

The participants in one the financial incentive group and who met their monthly target were paid $20. However, those in another financial incentive group were required to pay $20 into a pool if they didn’t meet their target. Furthermore, those who participated in the incentive group were entered into a lottery to give them the chance to win the money from the pool.

It’s Not the Amount of Money that Matters

Despite the fact that a monthly $20 isn’t all that much money, the groups that were given the chance to earn it had considerably different results from those without the cash incentive. In the cash incentive group, 62 percent of the participants completed the study. However, only 26 percent in the other groups could say the same.

The average weight loss in the financially driven groups was 9.08 pounds. The other groups saw an average weight loss of 2.34 pounds.

Money In and Money Out Motivate the Same Way

However, it wasn’t just the participants who were being paid who had an increased likelihood of sticking to their weight loss routines. Those were had to pay out a financial penalty were also more likely to complete their programs than those who did not have a financial incentive.

Why is Money So Effective?

The study did not specifically explain why money was such an effective driver.  What it was designed to determine was whether or not it truly provided a beneficial incentive to dieters seeking their goals.  It did, of course, find that whether people were paid for performance or had to pay for lack of performance, they were more likely to succeed than with less tangible motivators.

This could be that pretty much everyone can think of something to do with money.  It is programmed into us to be a powerful reward.  We are compensated at our jobs using money. Many of us received allowances in our childhood as compensation or reward for keeping up certain chores. Even a discount coupon will often drive someone to purchase something they likely wouldn’t have otherwise bought, even if the price had been lower but without the “reward-like” coupon format. This helps to show why money incentives for weight loss work.

How to Use Money as an Incentive for Your Weight Loss

How can this impact the way that you lose weight? Think about tightening your belt as something you can do both to your budget as well as to your waistline. Start to create financial incentives for yourself. Come up with possible ways that you can reward or even penalize yourself for your weight loss achievements or lack thereof.  Make sure it’s something that you’ll find fun and rewarding and that you know you’ll stick to.

You can, for example, put five dollars into a jar every week that you are on a diet. Make sure that you have a real target to be met at the end of every month. If you meet it, the money stays in the jar. If you don’t meet it, you must donate that money to your favorite charity. This means that at the end of your diet, it’s up to you to make sure that you have the largest amount of money possible in the jar, which you can then spend on yourself.

The key here is to may sure that you pay up if penalized or that you don’t reward yourself unless you do indeed achieve your goal.  If you’re very self disciplined, you may be able to do this on your own.  You might also find it helpful to tell someone else so they can watch over your wily ways. Alternately, you may assign a willing friend or family member the task of collecting money from you or dispensing the reward he or she was keeping on your behalf, to keep yourself honest and driven.