I find this all so fitting, especially with a recent article that came out last week in the Journal of American Medical Association about the financial incentive for weight loss. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied 57 obese, but otherwise healthy individuals and randomly assigned them to three weight loss plans: a lottery incentive program, a deposit contract program, or monthly weigh-ins (control group).
In the lottery incentive program, individuals received money if they reached their weight loss target. The deposit contract group consisted of participants investing a small amount of their own money per day. If they reached their weight loss target, they would also receive a bonus, otherwise, they lost their money at the end of the month.
At the end of four months, the incentive groups lost more weight compared to the control group with about half reaching their target weight loss. However, seven months later, when there were no longer financial incentives, weight loss was not sustained among the incentive groups.
The idea behind the research was based on the loss aversion theory. Researchers say they wanted "to create a mechanism where loss aversion would help drive people's motivation...we wanted to create a reward system which gave them rewards in the present."
I'm not sure how to feel about the financial incentives for weight loss (for those who may need to clinically speaking). It adds such another factor into the mix of real motivations for weight loss or anything for for that matter. Rachel at The F-Word wrote a post awhile back titled The Biggest Loser or the Cash Cow? which made you think twice about the show.
What I find even more interesting is turning the tables--instead of weight loss, weight gain. How come we don't give cash incentives for that? Even so, it wouldn't matter, because weight gain is looked down upon in society, except for those with eating disorders or other medical illnesses where weight restoration is important. Even if those with EDs were given a cash incentive to gain weight, it is highly doubtful that they would embark on it. The motivations are different and money, objects, etc. aren't powerful enough.
In the end, however, for most with eating disorders, their motivations to gain weight (and I say this lightly as weight gain is difficult) and hopefully recover actually turn into more intrinsic values. The value of health and vitality, the motivation to (excerpt activity here), the ability to self nurture, and the list goes on and on all become more important than living a life with an eating disorder.