When Rick and Kay Woollen of Tobaccoville, N.C., finally decided to lose weight last year, they didn't rely on New Year's resolutions to get them going.
Instead, the 50-something couple turned to a force stronger than sheer willpower to help them pare the pounds: the promise of cold, hard cash.
"It's a motivator," said Kay Woollen, who persuaded her husband to join HealthyWage, one of a growing number of weight-loss wager programs that allow participants to place bets on whether they'll get slim.
"You don't want to lose your own money, and you don't want to lose somebody else's."
Together, the Woollens are now more than 120 pounds lighter and more than $6,000 richer than they were a year ago -- and they want others to know that betting on weight loss can pay off.
"It's a win-win situation," said Kay Woollen, 50, a medical technologist at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, N.C. "You lose weight and if you happen to be the biggest winner, you win money."
HealthyWage is one of several plans that have sprung up in recent years based on the premise that people who put cash on the line -- or see financial rewards on the horizon -- are more likely than others to stick to the diet and exercise changes that make weight loss possible.
In a country where two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, websites such as Stickk.com, Fatbet.net and DietBet.com also offer financial incentives for slimming down.
"All the public attention around obesity has made people search for new solutions," said David Roddenberry, who co-founded HealthyWage in 2009 after reading a study about a weight-loss lottery.
Three years later, Roddenberry says the company has signed up more than 100,000 members who have shed more than 880,000 pounds, all while raking in about $450,000 in payoffs.
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