After the holidays, our budgets are tight and so are our belts. Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill aim to fix both. On Wednesday, lead researcher Eric Finkelstein explained to USA TODAY: “Paying people to lose weight is a low-cost motivational strategy because you don’t spend any money unless people do what you want them to do.”
The results of Finkelstein’s study shouldn’t be too shocking. Decades of research have shown that incentives are far more effective than penalties when it comes to changing behavior. Because this model is economical and effective, many U.S. businesses have been implementing similar initiatives to encourage their employees to drop pounds. Not surprisingly, bureaucrats haven’t quite caught on. Pushing snack taxes, food bans, and ingredient restrictions, health officials and lawmakers are still taking their cue from the finger-wagging food cops. 
Forget restrictive diets. Forget calorie counts. Forget the “expert” advice. When it comes to our diets, we just need to keep it simple. As CNN reported, our favorite foods are actually our allies in the battle of the bulge: “If you’ve been avoiding burgers, ice cream, and pizza thinking you’re doing your waistline a favor, don’t. They can actually help you lose weight — and keep it off, too.”