Concerned about the city's growing obesity rates, in July 2013, the Dubai Municipality came up with an innovative plan to incentivize residents to lose weight. Called 'Your Weight In Gold', it promised to reward contestants with the precious metal if they shed weight, during a specified two-month period. The challenge was so successful that the officials not only decided to offer it again, but also make it a family affair.
Similar to last year, "Your Child in Gold" was launched in July 2014, just prior to the holy month of Ramadan, during which many residents refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. The timing helps even those that do not observe the ritual given that consuming food in public, is frowned upon during this time. While last year's contest offered tiered incentives to individuals to encourage the maximum weight loss, this year the rewards were aligned in favor of families that lost weight as a unit.
According to the rules, adults would get 1 gram of gold for every kilogram lost (2.2 lbs), provided they shed at least 2 kilograms (kg). However, if a child under 13 from the family managed to lose 2 kg (4.4lbs), all members would receive double the gold (2 grams), for every additional kg they lost.
Contestants had to register online and appear for an initial weigh-in at one of five designated centers, between July 15th to July 24th. They then had until September 10th to shed the pounds. In order to help the residents, the municipality set up consulting centers where the contestants could receive expert tips on losing weight by making healthy choices that they could adhere to, for the rest of their lives.
By the time the registration ended, over 25,000 people representing 110 nationalities, had signed up for the challenge, handily surpassing last year's 10,000 competitors. Among them were 341 children ranging from 13-year-old teenagers to 4-month-old toddlers. The officials say that the numbers would have been even higher had the experts not turned away kids that were not overweight.
What was even more encouraging was that at the final weigh-in on September 10th, 7,350 Dubai residents had met the requirements for the minimum weight loss and won themselves a total of 40 kg (88 lbs) or $1.5 million USD worth of shiny gold coins. The amount is so much larger than last year's total giveaway of 17 kg (37lbs), that the organizers have decided to postpone the award ceremony to December and are currently scrambling to collect the additional gold needed to fulfill their promise.
Though the names of the biggest losers have not been revealed yet, a Dubai Municipality spokesperson says that many have lost as much as 30 kg (66 lbs) each, far more than last year's winner Ahmad Ebrahim-al-Sheikh, who shed 27 kg (59 lbs). While most people maintain that they enter the challenge just to motivate themselves to get healthier, the lure of the shining pot of gold at the end, does not hurt either!
Resources:kitco.com, thenational.ae, gulfnews.com, businessinsider.com