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Now, 'bet' diets: Are such health challenges safe?

Last updated on: December 08, 2009 14:59 IST
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Motivation is the driving force that gives us the will to reach the goal that we have set for ourselves (any goal for that matter -- even weight loss). Sometimes we start a weight loss programme, but we never finish it. Midway, we just loose the drive that we had when we started it. We ditch all the exercise and the routine and go back to our old habits. For anyone to succeed at a weight loss programme, motivation is the most important part of the equation. It provide us with the determination to stick to the programme and finally achieve those goals. And that's precisely what bet dieting does.

What is bet dieting?

To be honest, it's neither a new diet plan nor a new exercise routine. It's more like a motivational tool for weight loss. Bet dieting gives you a very important incentive to shed the pounds -- money, gifts or favours! It works on the principle of gambling. You bet that you will lose 'x' amount of pounds within a specified time period. Failing to achieve the target, you lose the bet. It makes things fun and also, it has a point.

How does bet dieting work?

Generally a bet diet starts for fun! It's quite simple -- f you've got friends or family on your tail to drop the excess baggage, you can strike up a deal with them. One fine day, in a fun mood, you get a challenge from your friends that they can bet 'x' amount of money that you lose so much by so-and-so date. You accept the bet and you are still not sure if they are serious or not. A couple of days later, when the discussion takes place again, you understand that it was a serious bet. Here it goes! The next day you wake up early, do some exercise or jogging to start your regime and you eat with caution. This goes on for a couple of days but then you start thinking, 'Why did I get into this!'

Says 26-year-old Zubin Kharas*, an event manager from Mumbai, "I've always been on the heavier side and earlier this year, after I had a bike accident and got laid up for a couple of months, I just ballooned out of control! I'm 5'11" and I used to weigh about 90-95 kgs. Then in August, my weight touched 115 kgs -- I had gained 20 kgs in about three months!"

"My friends actually had a bet on how much I weighed at a party," he continues. "Even I got a shock to see the scale tilt so far and what was more horrifying was that none of them had guessed at less than 110 kilos -- one enterprising pal had listed 125! That's when I promised myself that I would lose the excess weight by the end of this year, no matter what."

"But my friends know how much I love food, and they were all ribbing me that I'd never manage. So I told them to put their money where their mouths are and two of them were game to do so. If I manage to reach 85 kgs by January 1, 2010, they will pay me Rs 5,000 each. If I don't, I will pay them the same amount. So it's to their advantage -- they stand to gain or lose 5K, but I stand to lose 10K!"

When asked how his bet is going, Kharas is optimistic. "Better than I thought! I've been motivated to hit the gym by 6 am every morning before going off to work -- something that would never have happened if I was doing this just for my own satisfaction. Now, I need to drop only 6 more kgs by December 31 before I go knocking on their doors to collect my cash! In the meantime, they keep trying to tempt me with food!" he laughs.

Another youngster, 27-year-old Sunaina Chandan* from Pune says, "I was rather plump as a teenager and all my girlfriends used to tease me about my love of food, particularly sweet stuff. One year, with my birthday a month and a half away, I fell in love with a dress at a great sale. Unfortunately, they didn't have it in my size -- I was a 14 and the last one they had left was a size 12 -- one too small."

"I was so keen on it, I wanted to buy it anyway," explains Sunaina. "So I told my friends who were out shopping with me that I would do whatever it took to get into it by the time my birthday rolled around. Since it was rather expensive, even on sale, they tried to dissuade me, saying that I would never get into it by then. The ensuing conversation resulted in a bet -- if I fit into it on my birthday, they would pay me what it cost, else I had to treat all three of them to a fancy dinner."

Sunaina didn't quite make it by the time her birthday rolled around. "I did lose weight, but it was not nearly enough to get into the outfit," she sighs. "But I put in such an effort, that my friends were more than impressed and encouraged me to continue with my diet and exercising. I treated them to dinner anyway, it being my birthday and all, and a month later, I actually could wear my dress!"

In fact, people are also known to join websites and bet on their weight loss goals. They appoint an independent referee to verify their result. If they lose the bet, money is withdrawn from their accounts. This money can go to an individual who has won the bet or even a charity organisation, for that matter.

This particularly works when you nominate a charity whose views you disagree with, because you will put in that much more effort to not let that money go. Otherwise, you will just say, "Oh never mind, my money went to a great cause, I still feel good about myself."

While motivation and fun are all good, however, there are a few things you need to keep in mind if you're bet dieting, because at the end of the day, it's your body and your health that you are dealing with.

The advantages of bet dieting are that it:

  • Provides the added inventive for weight loss.
  • Makes weight loss a competitive sport.
  • Increases your motivation.
  • The bet factor increases your chances of weight loss.
  • Promotes friendly competition.
  • Is a good way of socialising.

The disadvantages of bet dieting are:

  • Weight loss in the long term is doubtful. As soon as the bet is over, you might get back to your old habits.
  • It's not really a diet or an exercise routine.
  • Losing the bet might de-motivate you completely.
  • Honestly, you don't require a bet if you are committed to weight loss.

Weight loss is good. Betting is okay, as it motivates you. But never take on any shortcuts which might lead to health problems. Don't forget that while doing so, you shouldn't deprive your body of nutrients like proteins, vitamins and minerals. Losing weight comprises of a lot of plateaus and small setbacks. If you're going to place a bet, be sure to be reasonable. Think of your diet as a lifelong commitment and not some kind of way to lose 10 kilos quick. Try half a kg (around a pound) a week. By the end of the year, you will be 25 kgs (around 50 pounds) lighter.

Happy betting!

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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