Website: lose weight or lose your money

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trying to drop those holiday pounds or working on a new year's resolution to trim down? A fledgling Web site allows you to put your money where your mouth is.

The concept behind Lose it or Lose It recognizes the motivation power of money: Fork over a wad of cash, and get it all back after 10 weeks of meeting your weight loss goals. Fail to meet those goals, and you'll be penalized accordingly.

Randy Schmidt, who was 282 pounds when Lose It or Lose It debuted in November, said he developed the idea based on his own struggles to lose weight. About 20 friends and acquaintances signed up for the testing phase of the site, but it's now open to everyone.

"I needed something where I would be punished if I didn't lose weight and where it was public so everyone could see," he said.

Eight weeks later, the 28-year-old Web developer is now 263 pounds and intends to re-up for at least one more 10-week weight loss run.

After creating an account, participants choose how many pounds they want to lose - the maximum is 3 pounds per week to discourage unhealthy crash dieting. Then, use a credit card to hand over their motivation money: from $5 to $100 per pound.

"It has to be enough money to hurt a little," Schmidt said.

Participants do weekly weigh-ins by posting photos of their feet on the scale with the number clearly visible. If they don't get lighter, their wallet does.

John Young put down $1,500 in motivation money when he started Nov. 9 at 251 pounds. He has lost 18 pounds so far and only $100, for not losing any weight at one weigh-in.

"We know if you want to lose weight you eat less and exercise more. But there's not much incentive there," said Young, a self-described "chubby programmer" who shares an office space with Schmidt in suburban West Chester.

"When you've got $100 a week at stake, it makes you think, 'Is a cheeseburger really worth it?' "

Young's friend, Jim Haigney, only risked $5 a week and has missed most of his goals over eight weeks. He wanted to lose about 10 pounds in 10 weeks, but has gained two-tenths of a pound since starting eight weeks ago.

"You know why it's not working? I didn't put enough money down," said Haigney, 45, a civil engineer. One of his posted weigh-ins jokes, "I consumed an entire box of stale Girl Scout cookies on Wednesday night. I smell a new diet plan!"

He laughs about his failure the first time around but plans to go through Lose It or Lose It again. Next time, he's putting up more cash.

Though he technically can't lose any of his own money because it's his site, Schmidt said its success as a business hinges on it. "I need to succeed for other people to see that it works," he said.


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