HOUSTON – Millions of Americans promise to lose weight every January, but by February, that couch and those cheeseburgers are starting to look good.
If you need a little extra motivation this time around, how about a cash incentive? There's an online game that pays players to shed pounds.
It's been a Godsend for Houstonian Nick Alvarado.
"You don't feel worthy, you don't feel attractive. You feel like you should be off on the side," Alvarado said. "In order to save my life and save my healthcare costs, I have to do something now."
Alvarado, 42, has struggled with weight for years. Both of his parents are diabetic and weigh over 300 pounds. He knew it was a matter of time before he developed diabetes too. With two young kids, Alvarado decided he needed to make a change.
"I was kind of looking for something that would motivate me some. Sort of a game to make it competitive," Alvarado said.
While searching the web, he found a site called Dietbet.com. Founded two years ago by Jamie Rosen, it turns losing weight into a money-making game.
"We're getting so many users coming to the site, it's literally crashing our servers," explained Rosen.
You play with friends, family and even strangers. To enter, you pay a fee which is usually around $30. Everyone in the game has the same weight loss goal. If it's reached, the winners split the pot.
"It's a way of holding yourself accountable and it's a way of bringing you together with a lot of other people who are all working on the same goals at the same time," Rosen said.
There are ways to make sure no one is cheating. Each player has to weigh in throughout the game, posting pictures of themselves along the way. Those pictures are judged by "refs" to make sure everyone is playing by the rules.
"I'm getting paid to lose weight and get younger and healthier in the process," said Alvarado. "I can't really not do that on a regular basis. That's a really good side effect!"
Alvarado has lost 50 pounds since June and he's gained $400 dollars. He has also gotten family and friends involved, like Kaes de Jong who's already lost 45 pounds.
"Nick is really good because he's kind of a motivational guy," said de Jong. "He posts all sorts of interesting topics about really motivating you."
De Jong explains that although winning money is a plus, the big payoff isn't really about the cash.
"I want to get healthy. My wife and I have a 15-month-old little girl and I want to be that dad that's going to be able to run and play with her. I'm never going to want to sit out."
Since its January 2012 launch, Dietbet.com has paid out more than $8 million to winners who lose an average of 9 pounds per month. Rosen says 96% of dietbet.com participants lose weight.