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Top-10 bets to keep your resolution to lose weight

30 Dec 2013

By Aaron Todd
As the New Year approaches, people around the world are making New Year's resolutions, planning to improve themselves in one way or another. Maybe you plan to quit smoking, read more or spend less money. Or maybe you're like me, and millions of other Americans, and plan on losing that weight you've gained over the last 10 years.

If you do happen to be like me, it's not a lack of ability to lose weight, it's a lack of motivation and a bevy of excuses. Yes, I have three kids, a job and a never-ending list of activities that keep me busy. But these convenient excuses aren't actually keeping me from getting into shape. I've lost weight before (I've trained for two marathons and a handful of half-marathons) and gotten complacent and gained it back.

This time, I'm going to hold myself accountable. And I'm going to show that I believe in myself by betting that I will not only lose weight, but I'll keep it off this year.

Research has shown that the idea of losing money, also known as loss aversion, can be more powerful psychologically than winning money.

I'm planning to use the power of loss aversion to focus my weight-loss efforts, and you can do it too. Here are the top-10 ways you can tip the scales in your favor in your efforts to keep that New Year's Resolution to lose weight this year.

10. Heads up by the pound
Find a friend who wants to lose a similar amount of weight. Set a time frame (four weeks to six months) and a dollar value for each pound. At the end of the competition, compare how much weight you lost to how much weight the other person lost. Multiply the difference by your dollar value per pound, and collect your winnings (or pay up, if you lost less).

This system can result in rapid weight loss, but it may not be the best system as it may be tough to keep the weight off after the competition is complete. There's also a risk of a big loss depending on how much each pound is worth. If it's only a four-week competition and each pound is $1, you're not going to win or lose much money. But increase the bet to $100 per pound, and increase the time frame to three months, and you could be up or down several thousand dollars.

9. First to lose X percent wins
Find another person, or group of people, who want to lose a set percentage of weight, say 5 percent. Start with an official weigh-in, then each person can weigh in on their own and the first person to reach the target wins.

This system is also prone to rapid weight loss, but can leave people prone to gaining it all back again.

8. Biggest weight loss pool
The idea here is simple: Find a group of people who want to lose weight, pick a set amount of time, and whoever sheds the most weight wins.

There are some problems with this model, however, as people with higher body weights may be capable of putting up bigger numbers, and those without as much to lose might not be physically capable of winning because they aren't as far away from their target weight. This model also encourages rapid weight loss and may not encourage true lifestyle change.

7. Highest percentage of weight loss pool
This is The Biggest Loser model, where the person who loses the highest percentage of body weight wins. I like this model better, because it's a more fair comparison for people of all body types. But once again, this model can encourage rapid weight loss that ultimately does not present a permanent fitness solution.

6. Single- or split-sex pools
If you do decide to run a weight loss pool, you may want to either allow only men or only women to compete, or split the competition up so men are in one category and women are in another. Men and women lose weight differently, and often at different rates, so it may be best to have an apples-to-apples comparison for your weight loss pool.

5. Bonus point pools
If you want to encourage healthy lifestyles instead of just rewarding weight loss, add in bonus points for people who make healthy choices in addition to losing weight. Give bonus points to people who wear a pedometer and hit at least 10,000 steps in a day. Give even more bonus points to those who log at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Give bonus points to people who track their calories and hit their intake target for the day. This is a great way to go beyond just weight loss and make a real lifestyle change in the New Year.

4. Running and weight loss combined pool
As a former collegiate runner, the process of getting back in shape is tough for me, because my mind remembers that my training pace used to be 7:30 miles, but my body says I should be taking my easy runs at about a 9:30 pace. That's a tough pill to swallow. But if you can see the improvement you're making in your speed and on the scale, it can have a big impact on your desire to continue.

Start the competition with a 5K (or any other distance) race and an initial weigh-in. At the end of the competition, have everyone run a 5K on the same course again and see how much everyone has improved. Multiply your weight loss by .01 (or any other factor you wish) for each second you improve, and add that to your total weight loss. Whoever ends up with the biggest number at the end wins.

3. Biggest Loser challenge with eliminations
The Biggest Loser has been on NBC for almost a decade, and the concept is simple. Morbidly obese contestants work their butts off and are eliminated one-by-one, until only three or four finalists remain. The finalist who posts the biggest percentage of weight loss wins the competition.

You can run your pool in any number of ways, but if you're doing eliminations, probably the best way to do them is to have the person with the lowest percentage of weight loss for a week get eliminated. You could add in an "amnesty" week for every person, so the second time you fall "below the red line" you're eliminated.

Voting is also a possibility, but that leaves open the possibility of hurt feelings, and if you're doing this with friends, that's probably not the best way to go.

I like this option because it's the most like a game, but I dislike it because once people are eliminated, there's no incentive to keep going.

2. Donate to a cause you hate
If you want to increase the power of loss aversion, commit to donating money to a cause you can't stand unless you reach your goal. Say you want to lose 1 percent of your weight every week until your reach your target weight, and you would like to see a federal ban on assault weapons. Commit yourself to donating $100 to the National Rifle Association every time you miss your goal. Or, if you have the same weight loss goal, but think Obamacare is ruining our country, donate $100 to the Democratic Party every time your weight loss is off target. The key is to make the goal attainable, the dollar amount hurt, and the cause one you really can't stomach.

1. Get your money back for meeting your goal
This is my personal favorite, and the one I'll be running this year. Set a time period and a percentage of weight loss goal. Ours will be a 2.5 percent loss each month for three months, and everyone will be kicking in $20 per month for a total of $60. Every month you hit your goal, you get your $20 back, plus you get to split up the money that people forfeit when they don't reach their goal. I think this is my favorite model because it combines the idea of loss aversion, group dedication and the possibility of getting a little extra back. No one is going to get rich on this model, but it's a good way to "be in it together" with some friends and win some money along the way.
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