Losing Weight for Financial Reward

by Christine on May 28th, 2010

filed under Diet, Food, Nutrition, Exercise, General Information

Getting Paid to Lose WeightRecently I have been reading a lot of blogs that spoken about The Biggest Loser, slamming the show for contestants that are motivated to lose weight because of the financial gain.  The general thought is that financial motivation isn’t a “good enough” reason to lose weight; “real,” sustained weight loss can only come when you want to make a positive change for loftier ideals, such as for your health, your family, etc.  Curiously, many of these same blogs offer their own financial incentives for their weight-loss blog readers, such as food giveaways, weight-loss gadget giveaways, gift certificates, etc.  (Okay seriously, how do all these bloggers find so many endorsements to give away?) I could directly cite which blogs these are, but I don’t want them to think that I’m bashing them; on the contrary! I find the topic pretty interesting and stimulating.

How bad can it be to have financial motivation to lose weight? According to the HuffingtonPost (I know, I know), “Financial incentives have been well studied in weight loss, and are proven to improve outcomes over standard interventions alone.  Faced with backbreaking healthcare costs, corporations are promising cold, hard cash as part of comprehensive wellness plans aimed at motivating employees to improve their health.”

The idea of your employer paying you extra to lose weight is gaining popularity as well. At my last job, the employees teamed together to create their own “Biggest Loser” challenge. Everyone put in $20, and at the end of three months the winner (greatest percentage of weight loss) got the money.  My current employer, which is a large research university, offers something like $25 if you complete a walking program sponsored by Human Resources.

Bigger companies around the country are offering even bigger incentives.  Highmark, a Pennsylvania Blue Cross/Blue Shield licensee, offers a fitness program that pays $225 per year to employees that agree to medical assessments and free health and nutrition coaching.  Freedom One Financial Group in Michigan offered a free four-day cruise to Jamaica for employees who met certain weight loss or body fat reduction goals. At the end of that company’s three-month challenge, over one-third of its employees won the free cruise.  OhioHealth, a hospital chain, offers employees up to $500 per year just to wear a pedometer.

Why are these companies offering such big prizes?  Primarily because of the toll that obesity-related health problems takes on productivity and health-care costs.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity cost American companies $56 million in the year 2000 alone. To put the emphasis on the health-care costs, Affinia Group offered a $1,000 reduction in health insurance premiums to employees who participate in the company’s health-management program. Over 99% of their employees participate in the program.

So do these financial motivators really work? Do people lose weight and keep the weight off when confronted with financial gain? There is some discrepancy about this. “It’s probably a waste of time,” said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The few studies that have been done on this subject have shown mixed results. A Cornell University study showed that the average weight loss in employer programs was little more than one pound.  For many of the companies listed above, while their incentive programs reaped early rewards, the weight started creeping on the employees about seven months later. “That is about the same success seen with almost any fad diet,” said Dr. David Kats with Yale University. “If we are going to achieve lasting change in health behavior, we need to help people to internalize the sense of responsibility to self and self-care and to value their own well-being,” said Martin Banks with Duke Diet and Fitness Center.  This is exactly the sentiment echoed by many readers of diet/fitness blogs that I have been reading recently.

On the other hand, a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that dieters who had a financial incentive to lose weight were nearly five times as likely to meet their goal as compared with dieters with no financial reward.

Some researchers say that companies need to make the reward and penalty program more dramatic: make the financial incentive to lose weight even larger, and impose financial penalties on employees that do not participate in wellness program, such as an increase in health insurance premiums. The research shows that individuals are more motivated by the idea of losing their own money than by gaining extra money.  To prove the point, a 2008 University of Pennsylvania study found that after 16 weeks, people who put their own money on the line lost about a pound more on average than people who earned extra cash.

A hilarious rendering of the G.W. Bush Presidential Library. Click for larger image!

A website called stickK.com, founded by Yale economics professor Dean Karlan, allows members to sign a commitment contract and publicly announce a weight-loss goal. Users are not required to wager any money on their weight-loss bet, but about 30% do want to do this, inputting their credit card information and specifying how much money should be automatically charge if they fail to reach their goal. These users can designate a recipient: a person or charity or “anti-charity.”  One of the most popular “anti-charities” to donate to is the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Since the website started, more than $3 million has been put on the line by users. Combined user statistics show a 70% success rate of meeting their weight loss goals.

With the growing price tag of losing weight, having a financial reward to offset the cost of weight loss may be helpful to some frugal dieters. The extra cost associated with organic fruits and vegetables, gym memberships, Weight Watchers meetings, weight loss surgery, books and DVDs, can all add up for individuals.

Here’s something nearly everyone can agree on: Losing weight and keeping it off is priceless.

What is your price tag? How much would your company have to offer you to motivate you to keep moving? Would you participate in a weight-loss challenge that had a reward of some kind? Would that motivate you?

Want to lose weight and make money?

HealthyWage.com:  The Matchup $10,000 team weight-loss challenge. The team (of 5) that loses the greatest percentage of weight over three months wins!  Registration ends June 6, 2010.  (Pete Thomas and Neil Tejwani from TBL are participants.)  There is a $20 entrance fee.

Fitcapital will donate $50 towards the winner’s award for each weight-loss competition that you create on their website.  Sign up for an open weight-loss competition!   The competition must last at least one month and have a minimum of 10 participants.  Join open competitions here too!



Magic numbers!

by Christine on May 27th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Diet, Food, Nutrition, General Information

Pencil Skirt from Ann TaylorYesterday after work I went to Ann Taylor loft (a clothing store) to do some quick shopping. I haven’t been to Ann Taylor in years….many years! I was too fat to fit into the clothes. Most clothing stores only carry clothes from size 0-14, and at my highest I was in a size 22/24!  Ann Taylor clothes are good quality and are work-appropriate (and high-priced). I thought, “What the hell, I haven’t been there in a while! Let me give it a shot.”

I found an adorable pencil skirt on the sale rack, so I brought it and a pretty blouse into the dressing room. Now, a pencil skirt is not a style I would normally wear. After all, skinny girls wear pencil skirts. Big girls with thunder thighs like me wear A-shaped skirts. This choice was definitely out of my element. I was tempting the Fates and playing with Fire. I held my breath trepidatiously and grabbed a Size 8 skirt and a Petite Medium shirt.

First I tried on the shirt. I giggled like a drunken schoolgirl! It was SO BIG — it was like a tent on me!  A medium!  The poor girl in the fitting room next to mine must have thought I was a nutcase.  Then I tried on the size 8 skirt.  It fit, but it was a little too big!  I couldn’t believe it! I rushed out of the dressing room, tags flying out, my skirt half-unzipped, all bug-eyed and drooling on myself. A size 8 too big? Surely that cannot be true! I ran to the rack and…YES! There was a size 6!! I rushed back to the fitting room to try it on.

IT FIT!! THE SIZE SIX FIT ME!!!  I shrieked out loud and even started to cry! The girl in the stall next door said, “Yikes, are you okay?” and I stammered out something unintelligible in reply and spun around-and-around in front of the mirror, looking at my body. I felt like I was looking at a stranger.

I’ve never been a size six in my whole life. Not since…5th grade? I’m not even sure when. I should have taken a photo of the label or something, just for the fun of it.

I ended up putting both skirts back. The six didn’t fit perfectly well, and the eight would have been okay if my body was to stay this size, except I would have quickly grown out of it in a few weeks.  At $70 (on sale) it would have been a waste of money. I did end up buying the blouse, but in a Petite Small! ($35 on sale! Yikes!)

This experience brings up two issues to me: First, I absolutely hate that my brain allows the number on a piece of clothing define who I am, what I look like, and how I feel about myself. I realize this is incredibly superficial, and my elation goes against everything I believe inside. I feel like a freaking hypocrite, allowing a piece of clothing to determine if I have a good day or bad day.  I suppose it’s okay this time, because I was having a good day, but what would happen if I tried on a size 10 and it fit snugly? Would I let that ruin my day? (probably!) It’s absolutely ridiculous. However, at the same time, the numbers on a piece of clothing are one of numerous methods to evaluate your progress losing weight.  Sure, there’s the number on the scale (and we all know how ridiculous it is to allow a silly number on a scale to have such control over our mental health), body measurements, body fat % numbers, BMI numbers, metabolic numbers, and a thousand other ways.   But let’s face it, we girls are taught at a young age that clothing sizes are the ultimate determiner of whether we are fat, skinny, have a good day, have a bad day, or need to be shot and buried altogether.

Yesterday was a victory for me, in a sense, but it was also a bittersweet reminder that I still need to do some mental work as I continue to lose weight. When I set out to lose weight, my goal was NOT, “I want to be a size six or a size four” or anything like that. My goal was, “I want to be happy. I want to be confident. I want to feel beautiful. I want to prove to myself that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.”  If I’m happy, confident, and successful at a size 10 or a size 12, then shouldn’t that be good enough?  Clothing numbers have nothing to do with it.

Hurry up and evolve, Miss Brain.  You’ve got some catching up to do.

The second thing this experience brought up to me was the idea of spending money on myself, on clothing.  I have spent hundreds, no thousands of dollars on clothing in the past. It happens when you go up 14 clothing sizes and need to buy a whole new wardrobe in each size (a work-appropriate wardrobe, a “casual” wardrobe, a “working out” wardrobe, a “nice-occasion” wardrobe.) Consequently, I shop the sale racks ONLY, and I can’t remember the time that I spent more than $20 or $30 on a single item of clothing for myself.  Part of that is frugality: Constantly buying new clothes is expensive.  But part of that is a self-worth issue too: I am fat and ugly, so I don’t deserve nice clothes.  I would rather have a small number of nice, quality, expensive clothes in my closet than 100 items of $4 crappy clothes.  To me, when I put on something that’s quality-made, it makes me feel important, like “I deserve to wear this nice item of clothing.”  I have few items that I could qualify like that, and perhaps I need to change that. (Eventually…when I reach a “final clothing size.”)

So what’s your opinion of clothing sizes and using them as a way to evaluate yourself, your progress, your happy-level? What is your opinion of spending money on expensive clothes?



Gastric Banding: Port Problems

by Christine on May 26th, 2010

filed under Gastric Banding Surgery, General Information

Okay I’m going to get personal here.  I’m going to share with you some photos that, well, I haven’t shared with anyone.

So I got the gastric banding surgery a year and a half ago. With the banding surgery, the surgeon places an inflatable band around your stomach, which can inflate/deflate as needed. This helps curb your appetite and helps to limit your portion sizes. In order to inflate the band, the surgeon accesses the port site. You can read more about the surgery/band/port site by clicking here.

My port site is located just above my belly button, to the right hand side. When I got the surgery, I had to press pretty hard to feel the hard knobby bump that is the port.  My surgeon, the amazing Doctor P, said to me at the beginning, “sometimes my patients ask me, ‘will I be able to see the port through the skin?’ and I always reply, ‘if you can see the port, then you should celebrate because it means you can stop losing weight now!”

Well, that time has arrived. I can officially see my port site protruding through my skin. So for all you people that are considering gastric banding surgery (and I would recommend it; I have had terrific results), I am posting these (gross, graphic) photos to show you what may happen eventually.

Exhibit 1: A view of my stomach straight on. It’s somewhat flat. It doesn’t look that bad, right? I mean, sure, I’ve got a little weight left to lose, but I don’t have rolls of fat.  You can also tell by this photo that the incision areas (five of them) are not even noticeable.

My stomach, "straight-on" view

Well, that’s the straight-on view.

Exhibit 2 and Exhibit 3 (two views to show that I’m not making this up) is what *I* see when I look down towards my toes. No I am not sucking in, sticking my abs out, or doing anything exceptional except for just standing.

The Bulge.

The Bulge again. I'm not making this up.

There you have it. THE BULGE.  I look like I belong to the cast of Aliens, don’t I?!  I don’t believe that I’ll ever be able to do a bikini. (Ha! Imagine…I’m even TALKING about a bikini??) Not with this deformity jutting out of my skin.

I half wonder if the port site isn’t attached properly. It is clearly attached at an angle; I can actually GRIP IT and wiggle it around. I think it’s supposed to be attached flat, against your abs. But I’m not entirely sure about anatomy and the proper way of attaching port sites, so I’m not entirely sure what the deal is. Anyone know?

But here’s the whole point of why I am bringing this up…..

Yesterday I brought two air conditioners into the house (read “Attack of the Mouse” by clicking here). They were quite heavy, so I adjusted the weight of the air conditioners against my stomach/hip for better leverage, especially when I hoisted the heavy objects into the window. In the process, the air conditioner PULLED at my port site.


I wonder…since I can actually PULL at it with my hands, and because it juts out so much, I wonder if I could actually pull it off its attachment to my abs? Could I tear it right off, like a stripper with Velcro pants?

Today it doesn’t hurt as much, but it was quite tender during Yoga last night. For any gastric banding patients out there reading this, please be aware of potential port problems in the future.  You may want to discuss this with your doctor.




by Christine on May 25th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, General Information

Today it was really hot. It was 93 degrees and I have a very low tolerance for heat.

It was super hot outside

So I went outside to my shed and got two of the lightest window air conditioning units that I could carry. I hauled them inside and put them in the window. I didn’t even drop them out the back! Hooray!

Window AC

I turned that bad boy, and all of a sudden THIS flies out into my face! Not one, not two, but FOUR!


ACK!!! I screamed!

Oh no!

Ack! Cried Arya!

After I took a moment to collect myself, I realized that it was a NEST OF MICE that flew out into my face!

Arya has just hunted down a mom or dad that also flew out into my face and promptly carried the mouse to the garage where she stared at me with a look of, “now what do I do with it?”

I scooped out a few babies and took them outside.

I need to decontaminate myself!



147.2 (77.8 pounds lost)

by Christine on May 24th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, General Information

Christine, Saturday Night

Picture of me, Saturday Night

Good morning everyone! I hope everyone had a nice weekend! Mine was more low-key than usual, but that’s sometimes a really nice thing.  Friday I met a friend for drinks (and had one too many).  Saturday I slept in, went for a 8 mile bike ride, did some gardening, then went out for drinks with girlfriends (and had one too many once again). Sunday I slept in, went to the gym, did yard work, and went out with friends for dinner (no drinking at all).

If you notice, there seems to be a general trend going on regarding drinking: I don’t know what my tolerance level is anymore, and I don’t cut off soon enough.  My previous job involved wining and dining clients, and I had a very high tolerance. Not so much anymore! Even more surprising: alcohol doesn’t even taste as good to me anymore. The high sugar content does something to me, and it turns my stomach.  No, I think I’ll pass on alcohol for a while. It doesn’t hold the same appeal as it once did.

This weekend I was playing with some “small bites” or tapas recipes I found online. I made these two meals:

Photo Top: whole wheat pita, with a little melted mozarella cheese on it. Topped with a homemade salsa (tomato, onion, mushroom, fresh cilantro, lime, salt). It came out to about 50 calories per little wedge (I had three wedges). Delicious!

Photo Bottom: whole wheat pita, thin slices of melted swiss cheese, a few thin slices of ham, with some dijon mustard and hummus as a spread. It was delicious! It was less than 140 calories per wedge (I had two), and the leftovers save well. To reheat, just stick in the toaster oven again!

The whole cooking this is inspiring me. I’ve always enjoyed cooking; I’m the type that will grab a recipe, get the general gist of it, then do my own variation. It works out well for me about 80% of the time. However, in the last two years or so I haven’t been doing as much cooking. You see, my husband is the worst eater on the planet. I can count all the foods he eats on 2 hands (pizza, hamburger, chicken, steak, potato products, spaghetti but heavy on meat and no veggies allowed in, milk, cookies, ice cream).  He doesn’t eat any vegetables or fruit or sauces or spices ever, for any reason.  Bless his heart, he’s never demanding that I cook for him; he realizes that I work full time just like him and have a busy life. However, it makes me feel guilty to spend an hour cooking a delicious, healthy meal for myself, and I watch him throw an Elios Pizza into the toaster oven for himself. Ugh, what a terrible wife I am, I think to myself. So…little by little I just stopped making any effort to cook for myself, and instead I make bland meat-filled meals. This whole idea of cooking small meals (with flavor! And spices!) is exciting to me.

Today I tried packing my fake Bento box #2. Photos to come, but it’s not very impressive. I hope my real Bento supplies come in the mail this week!

I’ll take photos of my vegetable garden this week as well. I love my veggie garden! Everyone should have one! It’s so cheap and easy to do, so long as you remember to water the veggies every day. I grow way more than I could ever eat on my own, so I give my extra veggies away to neighbors and friends. This year I’m growing asparagus, scallions (both already ready-to-eat), four types of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrot, celery, bell peppers, brussel sprouts, corn, and sunflowers. I may have thrown a zucchini plant in there too; I don’t remember.  That’s a lot of veggies in a little box!  I squeeze them all in pretty close together but they handle the abuse well. I also have an herb box where I grow dill, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, and mint.

Exercise plan for this week:

Monday: Gym
Tuesday: Gym + Yoga
Wednesday:  None (dinner plans with an out-of-town friend)
Thursday: Yardwork
Friday: Not sure yet
Saturday: Picnic with friends; probably will involve a competitive volleyball game!
Sunday: No plans yet. Perhaps a hike up a mountain!
Monday: Swimming all day at a local water park! (Assuming the weather cooperates)

That’s a fun, action-packed week! That’s my type of exercise, too — lots of variety, lots of different types of activity to keep my body guessing, etc.  Oh, and one of my neighbors, Sue…she’s a physical education teacher and she’s SO fit!…she belongs to my gym, and she said that when school lets out she will go with me to the gym and will help me get comfortable in the freeweights section!  I’ve got a “lifting buddy!”  I’m so excited!

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