If you want to lose weight, then a simple resolution isn't the answer: you need to put your money where your mouth is. In fact, if you want to improve your lifestyle in any way from slimming down, to going to the gym more regularly, or just eating less chocolate, then the experts agree that what you need is to wager some cash on your success.
Last month we reported that around 100 people a week choose to do this through a traditional bookie. Clydebank pie lover Gary Connell won £2,500 in January, after placing a £25 bet at William Hill that he could lose 100lbs in a year. Meanwhile, Patrick Barnes from Birmingham won £2,500 at odds of 25-to-one after betting that he could lose 70 lbs in a year.
However, this isn't a foolproof option, because in order to get really good odds, then you need to pledge to do something drastic. And while both these men lost an impressive amount of weight, not all of us could manage it.
Diet betting sites
If you want the same sort of effect without the enormity of the commitment, there are a number of services that let you bet on your success in a slightly different way. Diet betting websites include the likes of Dietbet, Fatbet and Healthywage.
Fatbet (whose slogan is 'you bet your ass') is less focused on the money. It says it's about the bragging rights, and if groups want to have rewards and penalties, it's up to them to set them. It adds that if money changes hands, it doesn't want to know about it.
Insurance with a difference
Prudential has offered a life insurance policy with incentives for the past seven years: nowadays it's called Vitality Life. If you buy this life insurance, you get the chance to win points for things like attending the gym, going to Weightwatchers meetings, and completing a health assessment at a pharmacy.
You can then swap those points for rewards like cinema tickets, and for reductions on your premiums - which could cut the cost of life insurance by hundreds of pounds a year.
But one of the cleverest sites has to be stickk.com, which has been designed by behavioural economists at Yale University. Instead of offering a chance to win money, it lets you put your own money (or reputation) at stake.
You decide your goal - whether it's to make it to the gym each week, eat salad twice a week or lose a couple of pounds a week. Then you put up at least $5 for each reporting period. When you hit your goals, you get to keep your cash, and when you miss them, the money (minus an administration fee) goes to someone you have nominated.
This can be a friend, or a foe - as the site points out "Wouldn't it just kill you to hand over your hard-earned money to someone you can't stand? That's a pretty strong incentive to achieve your goal now isn't it?"
The really clever thing about this site is that it's designed so you can work out just what it will take for you to stick with your goals, and then design the commitment around that. It uses the example of someone who eats too much chocolate, and can't imagine ever being able to eat fewer than four bars a week. It suggests they could pledge to eat three or fewer a week, and put up a stake of $100. It explains: "Essentially, that fourth candy bar will now cost you $100! Would you eat a $100 candy bar?"
Does it work?
There have been a number of studies that back up the idea that financial incentives help you lose weight. One of the most famous was a 2013 study at the Mayo Clinic, which discovered that dieters who received financial incentives lost four times as much weight.
But what do you think? Would it work for you? Let us know in the comments.
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