Dieting has a lot of negative connotations in today’s society where information and advertising is spread like wildfire. Anything from keto to paleo, intermittent fasting to carb counting, dieting comes in many different forms and has been around for AGES. But there is one weight loss movement on the rise that can be damaging to even our financial wellbeing… Weight wagering.
Yep, you read that correctly. People are now betting their hard-earned money on their own weight loss.
What is it?
Weight wagering is a modern way of shaving off some pounds by betting your own money on a competition with yourself to see if you can lose the weight you said you would lose at the time of signing up. If you lose all the weight you promised or more, you win your money back with the possibility of winning even more.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Right.
The base of this type of weight loss competition sounds shady, as a sign up looks at only one’s total body weight at both the sign up phase and the final weigh-in phase… This does not take into account muscle mass that was built up over time.
For example, one could say they want to lose 40 pounds in 12 months. In the end they could have lost exactly 40 pounds in body fat, but would not make the weigh-in as a winner because they gained 10 pounds in muscle. The company would keep all of the competitor’s bet and the competitor could either give up on future weight loss and healthy habits because they “didn’t win” this seemingly easy competition with themself or simply bet more money and try again and again.
There are a number of weight wagering companies doing this type of work (DietBet, HealthyWage, StepBet, RunBet etc.) and a few of them allow a person to enter up to 10 competitions at a time. Although this may seem like a good thing for competitors who want to increase their chances of gaining their money back, it is typical behaviour of gambling companies who prey on those who are easily influenced to make multiple bets. The more bets that are placed, the more risks that are being taken.
How is it gambling?
This type of gambling is like betting on any other game or sport. The outcome is impossible to predict. Every person has a unique body type, composition, genetic makeup and more, meaning that not every person can set out to achieve their goal weight and be successful enough to get their money back. Just like betting on a horse race, the outcome depends on a living being which is naturally unpredictable in the first place.
All of these weight wagering apps and websites rely on one thing to be successful and one thing only… The reality that dieting and weight loss typically don’t work. Diets have a failure rate of 95 per cent or more. Like any other form of gambling, the house always wins.
Apps like DietBet have a host to support those who sign up for the particular game or challenge. But what is often not disclosed is that on top of DietBet’s share of the pooled money (how else would the company make money), the host also takes 10 to 20 per cent. This decreases the amount of winnings by 20 to 40 per cent already, meaning those who win their DietBet only gain a couple more dollars than they originally bet.
The dangers of weight wagering
Obviously the chances of losing all of the money you’ve put in are much higher than the chances of gaining it back or even winning more than the initial bet, but the biggest risk is to an individual’s health.
For example, if someone were to bet upwards of $5,000 on a weight wagering app to lose 65 pounds in 12 months, and by the ninth month they’ve only lost 40 pounds, what’s going to stop that person from doing everything in their power to ensure they lose the last 25 pounds in three months? Probably nothing. That’s where one’s mental health suffers the most.
The difference between regular gambling and weight wagering is that the latter could lead to extremely serious eating disorders and other forms of mental illness that have a high chance of becoming deadly. Although the money initially motivated the individual to make a change, when the pounds stop dropping off, the individual is left alone and feeling hopeless because they have been conned by an increasingly toxic culture of body shaming.
People enter these competitions thinking they’ve only risked their money, but really they’ve signed up to potentially risk their life.
As we move into the holiday season where everyone has a trickling fear of indulgence and weight gain and the New Year’s resolutions that come from that very feeling, we must be mindful of how damaging diet culture can be for our mental health.
- I’ve seen the words “money motivates” over and over in my research on this topic, but what I can’t understand is how this form of betting makes more sense than paying for a gym membership or booking private sessions with a personal trainer… The money paid up front is still gone no matter what you do with it, but the difference is that a gym membership and personal trainer actually help you reach your goals in a healthy way. Weight wagering companies do not.
- These weight loss programs appear to reward those who lose an unhealthy amount of weight in the time period. For example, if someone loses more weight than they said they would, they could win more money than their original bet. But there does not seem to be a cap on how much weight someone can say they want to lose, and since nobody is monitoring their progress, people may sign up and put themselves at risk from the start in order to make some cash.
If you or a loved one are struggling with gambling related harm, contact the Saskatchewan Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-306-6789.
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