There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition now and then. In fact, in a recent study from researchers at the Mayo Clinic, people who received a cash reward for meeting their weight loss goals were more likely to stick with it and ended up peeling off more pounds than those who were offered no prizes. The competition offers both accountability and support. And of course, the allure of an award doesn’t hurt.
Recruit a group. Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers or even virtual buddies on Facebook or Twitter to join in. There’s no limit to the amount of participants. If you end up with a large group, you can always separate it into sub-groups (by gender, age, weight loss goals, and so on).
Set the rules. Using straight pounds lost as a measure of success isn’t necessarily fair, depending on the breakdown of the group. Men and heavier people typically lose weight faster than women and thinner people. Better bets: Use percentage of pounds lost or percent change in waistline measurement. Either of those will level the playing field a bit. (Going on an unhealthy crash diet is grounds for disqualification.)
You could also make it more exercise or diet focused – the person who goes the longest without missing a workout or the one who manages to try a new vegetable each day ends up taking the prize. Then, agree on a period of time—if you’re using weight loss, you should try for at least a few months. Remember, healthy weight loss is only about one to two pounds per week.
Pick a prize. Cash is obviously a pretty strong incentive—but believe it or not, it doesn’t even have to be all that much. In the study mentioned above, people who met their weight loss goals each month were given $20, while those who failed to hit the mark had to ante up $20. (This money was put in a bonus pool, which was awarded randomly to a participant who completed the study.)
Other options include a night out—this could be a gift card to the movies or even a healthy dinner; workout gear or accessories, such as new sneakers or clothes; or something totally indulgent, like a spa day.
Have fun. Don’t forget to enjoy the camaraderie and competition.
One other thing to keep in mind: While a competition like this can help you get going, a more meaningful goal—like getting in shape to keep up with your kids or staying healthy so you can enjoy your retirement—will keep you on track over the long haul. Start thinking about what will keep you motivated after the prizes are handed out.
Would putting a price tag on pounds lost motivate you to stick with it?