Financial incentive could be a key to weight loss: CSIRO study

Is it possible that your best chance of losing weight is to be paid for it? As previously reported in YourLifeChoices, some people pay a hefty price to shed kilos, but new research suggests that the reverse approach might be more successful.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) revealed that offering a financial reward gave those looking to lose weight a greater chance of doing so.

The CSIRO undertook a similar study in 2018, but the new iteration analysed the results of more than 48,000 CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet members, a sample size more than triple that of the first study.

The results of the study showed a consistently higher rate of weight loss among those who took advantage of a refund plan offered by the Total Wellbeing Diet. Those who successfully claimed the financial incentive offered by the program achieved 28 per cent greater weight loss than those who didn’t claim the financial incentive.

Read: Subtle ways your body is telling you to change your diet

The report’s author, Dr Gilly Hendrie, said the research was evidence that taking personal accountability by engaging in self-monitoring behaviours promoted healthy weight loss.

“It is encouraging to see the results of our study support other psychology and behavioural change research that self-accountability and financial incentives can have a meaningful impact on people’s weight loss success,” Dr Hendrie said.

Developed in conjunction with the CSIRO, the Total Wellbeing Diet is a 12-week program that promotes weight loss through high-protein, low-GI recipes in conjunction with a “digital weight loss coach”.

Read: Weight-loss jab delivers stunning result in trials

The plan offers a refund of up to $199 for those who adhere to the 12-week program. To qualify for the full refund participants must tick off a number of criteria. These include:

  • recording weight in the provide online diary at least once a week for the full 12 weeks
  • uploading a photo to the online diary or app at least once a week
  • completing a ‘food tracker’ entry on at least three days in each of the 12 weeks
  • achieving a net weight loss over the 12 weeks
  • completing an end-of-program survey as well as providing consent to the CSIRO using the participant’s story and photos.

This method has proven successful for many participants, with analysis showing that two-thirds of members who claimed the refund reward lost a clinically relevant amount of weight – more than five per cent of their starting body weight, compared to half of the non-rewarded members.

Read: Worth the weight (loss)? Counting the cost of diet plans

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet was first launched in 2015, and in the six years since has delivered $2.2 million in refund “rewards” in addition to the health benefits that come with weight loss.

Pennie McCoy, a CSIRO dietitian said, “With the number of CSIRO Total Wellbeing members claiming the refund reward increasing to nearly one-third over the past two years, it is telling that Australians are not only prioritising their health but looking for weight loss programs that are also good for their wallets.”

Many over-50s may remember the slogan pioneered by Herbalife in the 1980s – “Lose weight now, ask me how”.

If the success of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is anything to go by, perhaps the 2022 equivalent should be, “Lose weight, how? Pay me now!”

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Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
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