DietBet is a New York City-based website that launched in 2013.
It allows users to put money on the line that they can win back if they lose a certain percentage of their body weight in a set amount of time.
Ottawa mother Laureen Krumshyn said she bet $200 she’d lose 10 per cent of her body weight in six months and it’s working so far.
“It’s a competitive thing for me,” she said.
“I don't like to lose. It's fun knowing that you've made this commitment and you're motivated to do it.”
Billed as a game, DietBet requires users to weigh themselves at the beginning and end of their time frame with photos to verify they’re not exaggerating.
Users are encouraged to post photos more regularly but that’s optional, as is making their weights public.
DietBet keeps between 10 to 25 per cent of the bet, unless everyone in a group reaches their target in which case they keep none of it.
“The pots can sometimes be really huge in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said DietBet founder and CEO Jamie Rosen.
“When everyone reaches their goal the pot gets divided equally."
Concern about competitiveness
One Ottawa doctor who specializes in weight loss said he had some concerns about the service.
"By definition if it's a competition, the efforts are going to be extreme," said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff.
“Extreme efforts, while they might lead to fast losses, probably won't lead to long-term losses because extreme efforts aren’t sustainable and really it's the long term that matters."
Rosen said they have built in ways to keep people from doing that.
"We've designed it so there's absolutely no incentive to go crazy or overboard on this. In fact, we disqualify you if you lose three times the goal weight," he said.
DietBet’s website says it doesn’t reward people for losing the most weight or losing weight the quickest and doesn’t allow people with a body-mass index under 18.5 to play.
It also says it’s launching a new game to help people maintain their weight in “early 2015.”