Inducement Lights

Do People Need More Incentives for Weight Management?

The idea that people need monetary incentives for weight management just won’t die. Proposals that reflect this flawed thinking come in two forms: penalties for people with obesity or payments for people who lose weight. But they are two sides of the same coin. And they reflect an assumption that people with obesity need prodding to do something about it.

The real problem is not the wish to do something about excess weight. The real problem is the means to do it. Though treatment options for obesity can help, they are far from being uniformly and completely effective. It’s no wonder that people get discouraged and lose hope for better outcomes.

That’s why a new study published in Obesity this week offers an important insight. Fabio Almeida and colleagues conducted a randomized, controlled study of monetary incentives for weight reduction in people with excess weight and obesity at 28 worksites. They compared an individualized intervention with monetary incentives to a less intensive program without incentives.

After six months, both groups had lost modest amounts of weight, with no significant differences between the two groups.

The money and energy that so many people want to put into incentives and penalties might well be wasted. British Prime Minister David Cameron made one such headline-grabbing proposal this week, saying he would like to strip people with obesity of their government benefits if they fail to lose weight. Employers are increasingly finding ways to penalize people with obesity in the name of “wellness” incentives.

Such proposals have more to do with contempt for people who have obesity than promoting health and wellness.

Click here to read the study of workplace wellness incentives. Click here to read more about Cameron’s proposal and here to read more about the boom in workplace wellness incentives and penalties.

Inducement Lights, photograph © R26B / flickr

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