Standing in the mirror, we see the muffin top we baked on our middles, our perfectly plump love handles, our sand-baggy arms and our wobbly thighs. Our most critical selves find none of this attractive in any way, shape or form, which is why come summer when it is time to ditch the oversized sweaters and synching jeans, we work our butts off to tighten and sculpt our bodies. But for most of us, no matter our desire, we lack motivation to reach our body goals. Let’s face it — there’s a laundry list of things that sound more appealing than hitting the gym and practicing nutrition.
Be real. It’s unfortunate to admit that internally we want something of ourselves so bad, but our will to get there is nowhere near enough. Though it’d be nice to participate in a 30-day squat challenge or follow a 7-day bikini body ab workout and instantly have the bubbly butt or abs of steel, neither will cut it — and this is the problem. Because we don’t see results instantaneously, we are immediately turned-off and discouraged. It’s important to remember that achieving target fitness and nutrition goals is a marathon. A long, sweaty marathon.
Failed by these short-term calendar challenges, we’ve turned to the ever-rising number of Instagram influencers. With all the fitness and wellness Instagram influencers out there, it’s encouraging to feel as though we have them as our own personal trainers, mentors and virtual gym buddies. However, these moguls with already chiseled physiques do not make themselves relatable to the average person (not to discredit the influencers who once began where most of us are now). Seeing someone with the already-reached goals we are tirelessly working toward wears down on our motivation when we don’t see ourselves with the same results.
So, what’s left for us to do when we can’t find motivation in ourselves or from others? Recently growing and wildly popular weight loss apps now introduce financial incentives. Weight loss apps like HealthyWage offer people a chance to bet on themselves, and hold individuals accountable for reaching their weight loss goals. This just may be the kick in the butt some of us need, and I must say: Sign me up.
HealthyWage launched in 2009 and has since accumulated over 750,000 users. With HealthyWage, you place a dollar amount on X number of pounds you want to lose in Y number of months. If your targeted goal is reached, you earn back the money you wagered on yourself plus an additional dollar amount of equal or greater value. Simply put, you are doubling your earnings and then some.
Some of HealthyWage’s competitors offer similar incentives for similar body goals. DietBet, a community-based weight loss app, has its 650,000 users competing against friends or strangers. If you’re not looking to lose weight, but rather to stay active, use apps like StepBet that monitor daily step goals or RunBet that track miles. Be sure to research each app carefully before using it, for some require set minimum bets, or video or picture proof of scale/measurements to maintain the credibility of the platform.
Researchers and studies say yes, incentives help. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 2008 study found “that people who were given financial incentives to lose weight were five times more likely to meet their dieting goals than those without cash motivation.” By betting on our health and fitness goals, we are motivated to not only win money, but to not lose money. I, for one, prefer to win it. Throwing down money with the thought of losing it raises the stakes in meeting fitness goals. For personalities motivated by competition or who need a fire ignited, this is it. Set goals and place large enough wagers that will motivate you.
Be forewarned: Although financial incentives prove to help others in reaching their goals, researchers believe this progress is short-lived. Many times people achieve their first few goals, and then return to their pre-incentive ways. Like most who can admit, I used to be guilty of exactly that. Minutes after seeing improvements, I’d reward myself with a cheat day, which is only a slippery slope to one cheat day turning into your every day. Before you know it, every pound is replenished and every muscle diminished. The biggest issue people face is maintaining the marathon behavior it takes to not only reach their goals, but to uphold it.
Be cautious of using weight loss apps. For some, the stakes may prove to be too high and trigger anxiety. Or, if desperate to reach body goals, some may succumb to crash-dieting.
The fitness and health benefits achieved through these apps need to be internalized. When participating in these apps, the financial incentive is your primary motivator; but once you’ve reached your first few body goals, you’re left with maintaining fitness and most of that willpower needs to come from within yourself. Learn to love health and fitness because of the positive impact it has on you mentally, so that it no longer feels like a job, but a lifestyle.