Losing Weight on the Internet

eHow Tech Blog

With summer around the corner, many of us are thinking about losing some weight. Personally, I’ve been meaning to drop the 10 or 15 pounds I’ve gained since joining the eHow team last year – which has regrettably given me immediate access to the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade, a wonderful pedestrian-only shopping zone that’s more or less made out of delicious restaurants.

Perhaps that’s why I decided to run a set of features on using technology to lose weight and get in shape—you’ll find them all over the eHow Tech pages this week. Look for the excellent “weight loss diary” from eHow contributor Jason Cipriani, for example, who gives a first-hand account of how he managed to shake off an impressive 40 pounds in 12 months thanks in large part to some gadgets and apps. It’s a great read.

I’ve also got some informative slideshows for you, in which Jason and Rick Broida round up various apps and gadgets to help you hit your target weight. (As an aside, you might know Rick as one half of Geek Vs Geek.)

The $10,000 Weight Loss Bet

During Rick’s research on apps for healthy eating, he ran across one that caught both of our imaginations: DietBet.com. DietBet is more or less what it sounds like; it’s a site (and iPhone app) in which you wager with people online to lose some weight.

Here’s how it works: Any number of people can participate in a DietBet. The goal is to lose 4% of your current bodyweight in 28 days, and everyone wagers a small amount of money. The winners – everyone who lose 4% — split the pot.

DietBet provided the incentive I needed to lose my first 7 pounds, so Rick and I threw in $25 each. He also opened it up to his readers over at CNET, so our little wager quickly spun into a contest with 397 players competing for a massive $9925. That’s right, I’ve got a weigh-in towards the end of April that’s worth almost $10,000. Of course, many of the almost 400 players will hit their weight goal, so we’ll end up splitting the pot many ways.  Yet it’s still sobering to log into DietBet and that much money at stake.

You might wonder if there isn’t a lot of room for shenanigans in an online weight loss contest, and you’d be wise to be wary. For its part, DietBet has got a pretty good system in place to keep people honest, including rigid rules around how and when you weigh in, providing specific kinds of photographic evidence, and including a password in the visuals that is only revealed to you on weigh-in day.

Even so, a large number of players unofficially claimed to have lost 100% of their goal weight on the very first day of the contest. Since DietBet doesn’t validate anything except the first and last weigh-in, it’s probably a lot of meaningless trash talk and hot air. But we’ll see.

As I write this, there are 18 days to go in my DietBet, and I’m already about halfway to my target, so I have a good feeling about it. This much is true: Social tools like DietBet really can provide incentives and motivation to lose weight and get in shape when more… traditional… methods might fail. Wish me luck.

Would you consider DietBetting? What’s your weight loss secrets? Sound off in the comments or tweet me @davejoh.

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