By MARIE GILBERT
October 31, 2011
There are plenty of reasons why Nancy Rotz has been on a weight-loss mission.
A breast cancer survivor, she has become dedicated to leading a healthier lifestyle.
She wants to have more energy.
And she wants to wear her skinny clothes and stilettos.
But the biggest motivational tool is cold, hard cash.
Financial incentives are the latest wellness craze, inspiring some two-thirds of Americans who are overweight to shed those extra pounds.
In an effort to reduce health care costs, many companies have started tempting employees with vacations, gift cards and monetary rewards for getting in shape.
At Meritus Health, Rotz is among 120 employees participating in a contest offered by HealthyWage — a web-based company that arranges competitions to help individuals lose weight, begin exercise programs and make healthier choices.
The reward? Money.
Meritus is one of 13 organizations in the Washington, D.C., area currently part of a regional matchup — a company vs. company weight loss competition — that began Sept. 15 and continues through Dec. 8.
The team with the highest aggregate weight loss wins cash prizes: first place, $10,000; second place, $5,000; and third place, $3,000.
In addition, said Cynthia Earle, Meritus' community health education coordinator, the participating Meritus team that loses the most weight will win an additional cash prize.
Since the start of the competition, she said, employees have lost a combined total of 1,069.70 pounds.
Meritus has 24 teams each consisting of five employees, Earle said.
Among all the corporations in the matchup, "we have the largest number of participants," she noted.
The rules of the contest are pretty simple, Earle said. Participants have their weight verified at the start and at the end of the competition. During their weight-loss journey, each individual has access to online tools that support them in losing weight, including a social web portal for each team, education, personal progress log and discounted membership rates from local gyms.
"A free healthy weight lifestyle/weight management workshop sponsored by Tri-State Health Partners, as well as health coaching and the ability to join the 10,000 Steps-A-Day Walking Program are also available," she said.
In addition to cash prizes, Earle said there is another incentive for participating in the HealthyWage contest.
"A healthy lifestyle is the best gift one can ever give themselves," she said.
The Chambersburg, Pa., resident said the ultimate winner is each individual.
"You're going to feel so much better, emotionally and physically," she said.
Rotz said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, had a mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
"Because of the steroids, I gained a lot of weight," she said. "I looked in the mirror and didn't know who that person was."
Rotz said her doctor recommended she lose 40 pounds, which she did through a program called "Take Shape for Life."
But she wanted to lose more.
"I had co-workers who also wanted to lose weight," she said. "So when the HealthyWage contest was announced, we put together a team."
A receptionist in environmental services at Meritus, Rotz said four of the team members are from that department and one works in nutritional services.
"We are all people who are dedicated to losing weight," she said. "And being part of a team makes your goals easier. You have a responsibility to other members, not just yourself."
Since September, Rotz said the team has collectively lost about 100 pounds and is in second place in the regional competition.
In addition to shedding pounds, Rotz said the HealthyWage contest also stresses healthy body mass index (BMI), which typically translates to weight loss.
Rotz said the team name, Skinny Clothes, came about "because when asked why I wanted to lose weight, I said I wanted to get into my skinny clothes and stilettos again," she said. "Everyone has a box of clothes that they want to fit into again. Hope is always there. And, for me, I'm back in those clothes. In fact, I've given away my bigger clothing."
Rotz said the group supports and encourages each other, especially with the unpleasant aspects of losing weight.
"The gym has never been my favorite place," she said "But I'm there exercising, taking one for the team."
And while every participant wants to become healthier and look better, Rotz said the biggest incentive is the $10,000 first place prize.
"Who couldn't use that kind of money, especially right before Christmas?" she said.
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