Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Losing weight, a sure bet

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Losing weight, a sure bet

John Hamaski tried a lot of things to lose weight but nothing really worked. The 38-year-old lawyer from San Francisco began several diets and enlisted in a gym. "It didn't work, I just stayed fat." Hamaski, who is about 1.56m tall and weighed 84kg, suffered from obesity.

What saved Hamaski just in time was In February he and five friends bet on losing 9.9kg in eight weeks. "I became very competitive, it was a matter of honor," the Californian says. Every day Hamaski and his friends had to register their weight on the website. They also invited their families and other friends to follow the collective slimming online.

"There was a lot of pressure, I didn't want to be a loser." Thanks to the bet, Hamaski forced himself to eat a balanced diet and to exercise six times a week. In the end, he actually won the bet. "In April I was down to 74kg."

Hamaski's story is not an isolated case in the United States. Thousands of Americans use websites like as another option to traditional diet programs, such as Weight Watchers, Atkins and Slim Fast.

"These bets are working wonders. People don't want to lose and they really succeed in reducing their weight," believes Fatbet founder Adam Orkand, 40. Since launching the website in January 2008, about 6,000 users have signed up on Most of them are successful: 80 percent win their bets by losing a few pounds.

But if someone tries to lose 50 pounds (23kg) at once it certainly won't work. On average every Fatbet user loses 14 pounds (6kg) - without paying any fees because the website is financed through ads.

"The most important thing is the wager," explains Orkand. "It has to be something that you definitely don't want to lose." There are no limits, wagers can be anything: Losers have to let their beards grow, sing embarrassing songs in karaoke bars or run naked through a city center. But often it is all about honor - or cash.

It is scientifically well-founded that the expectation of winning money helps someone to lose pounds. Kevin Volpp, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, found that slimming is easier for people if they earn $600.

Volpp's survey inspired This website has existed since the beginning of 2008 and promotes the slogan "You can never be too rich or too thin". When starting a bet the users have to pay an optional amount of money into a pool. At the end losers go away empty-handed, but the winner takes it all: the money and his weight loss. is similar in concept to One third of the wagers on this website are also monetary. But users can decide if they want to donate the money to a charity - or an "anti-charity", an organization they really hate. It is because of the latter option that the George W. Bush library and the National Rifle Organization (NRA) receive unexpected donations.

But is not just about slimming, it is also about getting rid of other vices. Twenty percent of the 33,000 users bet to exercise regularly, 5 percent want to quit smoking. Unlike on or, the StickK-users have to agree to a contract which can be terminated only in exceptional cases.

"People need an incentive to stick with it and to achieve their goal," says StickK founder Jordan Goldberg, 25, in explaining the strict rules.

However, Elisa Zied from the American Dietetic Association (ADA) regards these "bet your fat away" websites very skeptically. "They are a helper for those who like to compete with themselves," the expert says, "but for those who think of it as a quick fix I would say, forget about it."

taken from : China Daily

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