[a few examples of current DietBet challenges–the stakes are getting high]
What are the odds that your diet will work?
DietBet challenges you to lose 4% of your body weight in four weeks and has you put your money where your mouth is. The service sets up a weight-loss competition, everyone throws money into the pot, and at the end of the 28 days it’s split among the players who reached the goal.
The obvious question: How do you verify?
48 hours prior to the scheduled start of the game, all participants have to upload two photos to DietBet: one full-body shot of the user standing on a scale and one showing the scale’s weight readout. The photos are reviewed by a team of DietBet referees. If they suspect foul play, they’ll request a video weigh-in, a Skype video chat, or a verifiable live weigh-in at a location like CVS or Walgreens. Authentication is repeated at the closing weigh-in, and if a participant doesn’t agree to the audit, the bet is forfeited to the rest of the dieters.
Next question: Isn’t this gambling?
Gambling involves betting on a game of chance or a future contingency—a horse race, a football game, the spin of a roulette wheel—events that are fundamentally beyond our control. DietBet is not viewed as illegal gambling because your weight is considered to be entirely under your control. Some might say that’s debatable, but the outcome of a diet is definitely not left up to chance.
Money and peer pressure are powerful motivators.
They’re what’s behind employer-sponsored wellness programs, when coworkers work out together and track progress by corporate departments. DietBet brings the combination to online social networks. Users can post weight data and photos, updates and comments about their progress, and link it to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. And it works. DietBet claims that 90% of participants slim down, even if they don’t always reach the 4% target, losing an average of 5.4 pounds.
The money talks but the public shaming is viral.
Recent studies at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan Health System both confirm the motivating effect of financial incentives on dieters, and the five- and six-figure pots that DietBet attracts can go a long way toward strengthening resolve. The group dynamic can be equally powerful, and it provides both carrot and stick. The platform offers positive motivation and a supportive community with dieters sharing workout tips and recipes, and forums where participants can get advice from nutritionists, fitness coaches, and physicians. But the very public nature of a dieter’s progress can also lead to a failure that’s broadcast throughout their social networks. DietBet reports that the most socially engaged players are also the most successful, perhaps fearing public humiliation, losing an average of 20% more weight than those who don’t post to social networks.
DietBetters ante up with a bet from $1 to $99, and the service keeps 20% of the total as an administrative fee. More than 250,000 pounds have been lost through the application and total winnings are in the millions, with many dieters signing up for multiple rounds. To keep things friendly and safe, the pot is always split equally among all players that hit the 4% mark, and anyone who loses more than 12% of their body mass is disqualified.