Lose weight and win money? There's a website for that

All year, KATU and Family Matters are committing to a healthier lifestyle through exercise and good nutrition. We call the initiative "Commit 2 Be Fit."

Would a little cash help you keep that commitment? How about $500? How about $10,000? Well, there's a new program called that's paying people to lose pounds.

"I weighed more than my wife and three little boys together," said Scott Johnson, an accountant at NW Natural in Portland.

Last April, Johnson weighed 230 pounds. Three months later, he'd dropped 46 pounds - that's 20 percent of his body weight.

Johnson used a calorie counter app to track his daily food intake. He also started biking to work, eventually riding 50 miles round-trip from Washougal.

But the real difference? Johnson enrolled in a Challenge at work.

Here's how it works:

  • You and four other people sign up as a team.
  • Each team member pays $20-25 per month for three months.
  • You then compete with other teams from across the country. Whichever team loses the biggest percentage of weight wins $10,000.

"If they were kind of 'on the fence' about joining something, putting that out there is just, wow, I'm going to do this now," explained Niki Jordan, who coordinated the program for NW Natural. "It's the one thing that makes them go."

Like other companies, NW Natural's health costs are escalating. Biometric screening reveals that employees are struggling with obesity, diabetes, and muscular skeletal issues.

The company signed up 20 teams. The teams' average weight loss over the three months was 4.85 percent of body weight.

Johnson's team came really close but didn't win the $10,000. He did, however, win $500 from NW Natural for being the company's biggest loser.

NW Natural also offered a $500 incentive to employees who lose weight and keep it off for six months.

Beth Takahashi just joined the latest challenge with her family on the East Coast.

"I'd really like to wear sleeveless shirts in the summer," admitted Takahashi.

Like Takahashi, you can join a Challenge on your own; you don't have to do it through your employer. The motivation is the same.

"The motivation for winning $10,000 is huge, because if you're on a team with four other people who are counting on you, you don't want to be the one that costs them $10,000," said Takahashi. "It's a lot of money."

So far, Takahashi has lost 9 pounds and her team is 51 pounds lighter.