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"Social Dieting" May Be the Secret Weapon in War on Fat

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Dec 21, 2012) - Can social media make you thin? A start-up company in New York is betting that it can. In January of 2012, DietBet, Inc. rolled out a game where participants lose weight together as part of an online competition. After hosting thousands of players, the results paint a picture that people who go about their weight loss collaboratively are far more successful in their quest to get in shape.

Here are some of the company's findings for players in DietBet games:

  • Ninety percent lose weight during the four-week social game, averaging 5.4 pounds

  • Those who play the game while sharing accomplishments on Facebook are 27% more successful than those who don't

  • Players who invite friends to join them are 53% more successful

  • Players who engage with other players (by posting comments and photos in the game) are 381% more successful

  • Those with fans who cheer them on are 33% more successful

  • Players who organize games with 10 or more participants are 52% more successful

There is mounting evidence to suggest that being overweight is a social phenomenon, like a contagious disease, rather than a strictly individual matter. According to Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a professor at Harvard Medical School, your weight is affected by the people around you. "Obesity is contagious," he wrote in his book, Connected. But while your friends make you fat, they can also make you skinny. The social networking forces that drive weight gain can be thrown into reverse.

Brian Stelter, a reporter for The New York Times, famously lost 75 pounds in six months with his so-called Twitter Diet, where he tweeted about everything he ate. The social support became highly motivational, not just for him, but also for his followers, many of whom lost weight with him.

Weight Watchers pioneered what could be called "social dieting" long before Twitter. Jean Nidetch, its founder, started organizing group meetings in 1963 to give people struggling with their weight a chance to offer support and also hold each other accountable. This model has thrived. Today, the company hosts 20,000 meetings weekly.

"At DietBet, we're taking that powerful combination of social accountability and support -- and repackaging it in an engaging game that you can play on your computer or smartphone," said Jamie Rosen, DietBet's CEO. "The best part: it's working. Ninety percent lose weight, on average about a pound and a half a week. Plus, it's actually fun."

Unlike other diet programs, which charge subscription fees for their services, DietBet players end up paying each other for the accountability. Players pool their money at the start of each game, which the company holds in escrow. At the end, the money is distributed evenly to whoever reaches the goal (of losing four percent in four weeks). The company supplies referees to validate weight loss.

"Taking your friends' money was certainly enticing," said Samwoo E, who has played in multiple DietBets in his office. "But what ended up being more motivational was the friendly competition among the people in my office. Nobody wanted to be the guy who didn't hit the target."

"Having ongoing support and accountability is hugely beneficial to losing weight," said Dr. Tricia M. Leahey, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She is investigating the efficacy of "peer coaching" in treating obesity in a new study.

Could social media end up powering weight loss in the future? Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, sees social media transforming every industry. "We believe social apps will be the best products in every business category. In some categories, it may be an abrupt, disruptive, or revolutionary change, and in others, the change may be more subtle or roll out more slowly over time. [We're] seeing this with media and games, and in the future we expect to see this in commerce and even finance." Perhaps to that he should add weight loss.

About DietBet
DietBet (http://www.dietbet.com) is a social dieting company that is pioneering a whole new way to lose weight. It brings people together to lose weight as a community instead of the traditional approach of dieting alone. It's working. 90 percent of DietBetters lose weight, with an average of nearly six pounds in four weeks. DietBet was founded by Jamie Rosen and was launched in January 2012. DietBet players come from across the globe -- with more than 45 countries represented thus far. Find DietBet on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Dietbet) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/dietbet). A mobile app is also available.