In oil-rich Dubai, where police officers drive Lamborghinis and vending machines stock gold, cash is king. Now the government is hoping a penchant for gold will motivate its citizens to lose weight. In late July, Dubai launched the Your Weight in Gold challenge offering participants at least two grams of gold for each kilogram they lose; those who lose more than 10 kilograms will take home three grams of gold per kilogram lost. Open to everyone, contestants must lose a minimum of two kilograms to qualify for any prizes. For the three biggest losers, more than $5,500 in gold coins is up for grabs in a draw.
The month-long initiative, which wraps up with a final weigh-in on Aug. 16, coincides with the holy month of Ramadan. It is the latest attempt to combat an obesity epidemic in the United Arab Emirates, where explosive wealth has given way to fast-food diets and car-dependent lifestyles. According to World Health Organization data, 30.2 per cent of males and 43 per cent of women are obese in the U.A.E., the fifth-fattest nation in the world.
“I hope the participants continue to adopt a healthy lifestyle once it’s over,” Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority, which is sponsoring the contest, told the Gulf News.
Skeptics fear competitors will cash in and revert to poor eating habits once the contest concludes. But with thousands of people already signed up, it’s clear that while money might be a part of the problem, it’s likely the only thing that can fix it.