Because of its high prevalence and association with multiple illnesses, obesity has become a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Identifying effective strategies for treating obesity is a clinical challenge and a public health priority. Although a variety of approaches have been successful in achieving initial weight loss, maintenance of weight loss has proven much more difficult.
The study team’s aim was to identify effective strategies for treating obesity is a public health priority. They wanted to test an escalating lottery-based incentive tied to daily self-weighing for weight loss maintenance.
Intervention and Design
This 2-phase, 2-arm randomized clinical trial enrolled participants aged 30 to 80 years with an initial body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) of 30.0 to 45.0 who lost at least 5 kg during 4 to 6 months in a national online weight management program. Study investigators and outcomes assessors were blinded to participant groups. Data were collected and analyzed from May 23, 2016, through November 13, 2017, based on intention to treat.
Intervention - All participants were advised to weigh themselves daily, with a goal of 6 or more days per week, and received text messaging feedback on their performance. Incentive group participants were eligible for a lottery-based incentive worth an expected value of $3.98 in week 1 that escalated by $0.43 each week they achieved their self-weighing goal during months 1 to 6 (phase 1), followed by no incentives during months 7 to 12 (phase 2).
Main Outcomes and Measures - The primary outcome was weight change at the end of phase 1. Secondary outcomes included weight change at the end of phase 2 and changes in self-reported physical activity and eating behaviors.
Way to Health Use
- Study Enrollment: Enroll and randomize participants in the study
- Lottery: Run a lottery for participants that self-weighed
- Financial Incentives: Provide participants with incentives for meeting step goals
Findings and Conclusions
A total of 258 participants (128 in the incentive group and 130 in the control group) had a mean (SD) age of 48.0 (10.5) years and mean (SD) body mass index of 32.1 (3.9); 225 (87.2%) were women; 235 (91.1%) were white; and 102 (39.5%) had an annual income of at least $100 000. Weight measurement was transmitted by 250 participants (96.9%) at 6 months and 227 (88.0%) at 12 months. The percentage of weeks that incentive and control participants achieved a mean self-weighing of at least 6 times was 85.3% vs 75.8%, respectively (P = .002) in phase 1 and 37.7% vs 50.2%, respectively (P = .009) in phase 2. Mean weight changes at the end of phase 1 were −1.1 (95% CI, −2.1 to −0.1) kg in the incentive group and −1.9 (95% CI, −2.9 to −0.8) kg in the control group, with a mean difference of 0.7 (95% CI, −0.7 to 2.2) kg (P = .30 for comparison). At the end of phase 2, mean weight changes were 0.2 (95% CI, −1.2 to 1.7) kg in the incentive group and −0.6 (95% CI, −2.0 to 0.8) kg in the control group, with a mean difference of 0.8 (95% CI, −1.2 to 2.8) kg (P = .41 for comparison).
Compared with an active control condition of weekly messages, escalating lottery-based incentives transiently increased rates of self-weighing but did not significantly enhance weight loss maintenance.