SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A growing number of dieters are betting money they will lose a certain amount in a specified period of time.
It's called Weight Wagering, and the idea is similar to what happens in a casino. Win, or in this case, meet a dieting goal, and dieters win money. Fail to meet the goal, and the dieter loses the money put up as a wager.
While more dieters lose money than make it, the founder of weight wagering website HealthyWage.com says business is booming.
"It's growing a ton," David Roddenberry told Consumerwatch.
"In the first quarter of this year, we've seen more than $2,000,000 laid down."
Bay Area dieter Deb Goren is one of the winners. Goren joined up with four friends to weight wager as a team. They met their goal and earned $1000 each – money they promptly donated to the Jewish Community Center where they work out.
"Having a financial incentive was a huge help," Goren said.
The stay-at-home Mom lost 30 pounds through a combination of the Paleo diet, long walks and occasional weight lifting.
Weight loss experts say while research on weight wagering is thin, it's clear money is powerful motivator.
"The money does seem to increase weight loss over the short haul," Psychologist Bill Hartman told Consumerwatch.
But he said after the contest is over, all bets are off.
"That's the concern. Do you have the behaviors in place to continue losing weight?" Hartman also pointed to a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that indicated dieters who received financial incentives for successful weight loss tended to gain more weight back than dieters who didn't get a financial reward for shedding pounds.
His advice? "I would say do with your eyes open."
HealthyWage's Roddenberry estimates about 25% of people trying to lose 50 pounds or more in one year, collect a prize.
HealthyWage's prize formula is a secret, but Roddenberry says payouts generally range from 1 ½ to 3 ½ times the bet placed. Prize money comes from a combination of fees paid by corporate clients, sponsorships and money that dieters placed on losing bets. Dieter's weigh-ins must be documented on video, that provide proof of the date the weigh-in took place.
Other weight wagering sites like DietBet.com and FatBet.net allow dieters to place smaller bets and compete for a pool of money they've paid into.
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