When Trish Spink saw a TV advertisement for a science-based diet program that offered a full refund if you followed the rules for 12 weeks, she was intrigued.

Trish had been struggling with her weight for a while but things came to a head for the 56-year-old admin assistant when she went for a health check before an overseas holiday.

The doctor told her she needed to take action as her blood sugars were out of whack and she could be looking down the barrel of long-term problems.

Then, after the holiday while looking at photos of herself on the trip, she was embarrassed by what she saw. So she decided to put the unsuccessful fad diets behind her, and try something new.

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"I did Weight Watchers for a while, but I found it hard to maintain afterwards because you are forever counting points," she recalls.

"I tried a few of the fad diets and they would work for a while, but when you got back into normal life the weight would creep back on."

The money-back guarantee was what pushed her to try the CSIRO Total Wellbeing diet.

"I didn't want to have to pay for a diet so I thought 'I am going to give that a go,' she recalls.

It worked. She was 74.3kg when she started the program and lost 20kg. Most impressively, she has managed to keep the weight off for three years.

She also says she lost most of the weight without actually exercising. After losing about 16kg she decided to start going to the gym simply to tone up.

Trish went for a health check before an overseas holiday and was alarmed by the doctor's words. Photo / News.com.au
Trish went for a health check before an overseas holiday and was alarmed by the doctor's words. Photo / News.com.au
Trish after her weight loss. Photo / News.com.au
Trish after her weight loss. Photo / News.com.au

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE REFUND

After analysing 13,000 program members, CSIRO researchers found that people who successfully followed key recommended behaviours and claimed the refund lost significantly more weight than people who did not.

"There is growing research to support the fact that taking personal accountability through self-monitoring promotes healthy weight loss," says CSIRO Research Scientist and report co-author Dr Gilly Hendrie.

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"This is why we set up the Total Wellbeing Diet refund program to incorporate these behaviours.

"After analysis we found that people who tracked their progress and weighed in regularly, and claimed the program's refund incentive lost 54 per cent more weight than those who completed the program without claiming it.

"This confirms that self-monitoring and personal accountability, partnered with a financial incentive, can be a powerful motivator when setting out to lose weight," she says.

Dr Hendrie said the financial incentive was a key motivator for many people to sign up to the program and to persevere. Three out of four members who received the refund (74 per cent) felt this offer motivated them to sign up to the program, while two in three (65.4 per cent) felt strongly that the refund kept them motivated during the program.

The criteria to claim the refund were designed to promote behaviours associated with more successful weight loss, including the self-monitoring strategies of weekly weigh-ins and taking photographs to record progress.

"As anyone who's tried to start a healthy habit would know, we can be our own biggest enemies," Dr Hendrie said.

"Making the behavioural changes necessary to lose weight can take time, and it can be difficult to stay motivated, especially if you have a busy lifestyle — but by making proven behavioural changes you can build the habits necessary to change."

The report showed that, of the people who completed the 12-week program, those who got their money back when they finished lost an average of 6.2 per cent of their initial body weight compared to a 4 per cent loss for people who did not claim a refund.

"That difference might not sound like a lot, but that was an average of 5.6kg — and anyone who's tried to lower their weight before knows every kilogram lost is a success," Dr Hendrie said.

"We know that losing more than 5 per cent of your body weight is considered clinically relevant, significantly reducing an obese person's risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, so losing 6.2 per cent could really improve a person's health".

Trish is grateful that the program has taught her to completely reassess her relationship with food.

"It's actually a lifestyle change. You can't really look at it as a diet, it's actually learning a healthy way of eating," she explains.

"This is the first time I've found a diet that I can maintain. I did the initial 12-week program but then I continued on with those healthy eating habits — I'm now mindful of my food groups and balancing out my diet each day. Other diets I didn't actually get taught any of that."