The Biggest Loser effect: How cash incentives and peer pressure can help dieters lose THREE TIMES more weight

By Catherine Townsend


In news that will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever joined an office betting pool during March Madness, experts say that cash incentives plus peer pressure can be a powerful combination.

According to Self magazine, a study from the University of Michigan, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that when awards are based on an entire group's performance led to three times more weight loss than when based on individual weight loss alone.

Adapting a Biggest Loser-style group teamwork strategy brought about increased cooperation and better results than when it was every man for himself.

Healthy competition

Healthy competition: Those who lose weight as part of a group enjoy more success than dieters who go it alone, reveals new research from the University of Michigan

Who we eat with can have strong effect on what we eat: A recent study of 2,000 dieters at Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University found that they were most likely to ditch their diet when socializing, especially when going out to dinner.

Because no one wants to be the one in the corner sipping diet Coke when everyone else is pigging out on pizza, the habits of our peer group can lead to success or failure.

Friends who make comments about someone who is making healthier choices wasting away, for example, may be threatened by weight loss, or trying to justify their own unhealthy habits. 


Conversely, having a 'diet buddy' can help the weight come off faster. Doctors at Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University concluded that people who had the support of a buddy were more successful at losing weight themselves.

The use of group-incentive weight loss strategy is growing in the corporate world, and is even more likely to increase due to a passage in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that allows employers to use a greater percentage of premiums for these types of incentives.

Three months later, those who lost weight as a group motivated by cash maintained more loss than those with no incentive. Sometimes, it seems, willpower comes second to cold, hard cash.