DUBAI // The emirate's more rounded residents have been invited to trade in their love handles for gold in a 30-day weight loss challenge.
Dubai Municipality's "Your Weight in Gold" contest promises to reward all registered residents who lose more than two kilograms with a gram of gold for each kilogram lost.
At current market prices, this means gold worth Dh152 for every kilogram sweated off.
Asked how much the municipality was willing to pay in gold, Hussain Lootah, its director general, said: "It depends how much the people are expecting to lose. We have not set a limit."
To register, residents must be weighed at Gate 3 of Zabeel Park, the main gate of Khawaneej jogging track, the start of Mamzar Beach jogging track, Gate 4 of Safa Park, or the main gate of Al Barsha Pond Park between 8pm and midnight from Friday.
They must bring an Emirates ID card.
Medical and nutritional experts will be on hand at the registration sites to advise people on how to go about losing weight.
Participant must have excess weight and must commit to staying away from unhealthy weight-loss methods.
The final weigh-in will take place on August 16.
"The more you lose the more you will gain," Mr Lootah said.
Dubai Municipality teamed up with the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group (DGJG) and the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) for the contest.
"This is how Dubai distinguishes from other cities in the world," said Anil Dhanak, general manager of DGJG, who said he was impressed by the creativity of the initiative.
Ahmad bin Sulayem, executive chairman of the DMCC, spoke of his own struggle to get back in shape after a back injury.
"Health awareness is a very important subject to me personally," Mr bin Sulayem said. "We highly encourage everyone from all walks of life to take part in this great initiative."
The DMCC donated Dh100,000 of gold coins, which will be awarded to the three contestants who lose the most weight.
Two Dubai residents keen to register are Omar Abdulaziz and Ishaq Yousif.
"If someone is willing to pay you to lose weight, why wouldn't you give it a try?" said Mr Abdulaziz, 36, an Emirati father of two.
Mr Yousif, 32, said he was planning to start going to the gym soon anyway.
"This is a good incentive. It will make me want to exercise more," said the Emirati banker.
"I was going to sign up for a gym membership today any way but I'll register on Friday and donate whatever I win to the Red Crescent."
Endocrinologist Dr Muhammed Farooqi said weight-loss campaigns such as these were imperative for a healthier future.
"If we reduce the rates of obesity we can not only curb the tide of diabetes but also reverse the effects of the disease," said Dr Farooqi, director of the Dubai Diabetics Centre at the Dubai Health Authority.
Other experts praised the campaign but had words of caution for participants.
"People should take precautionary measures to ensure they don't do any harm to themselves by attempting unbalanced or crash diets," said Dr Maryam Al Saeed, an endocrinologist.
Anna Yates, a hypnotherapist who specialises in weight-loss therapy at Elite Mind Solutions, said: "Chip away at it so your body gets used to it and accepts it otherwise your body goes into starvation mode.
"The problem with crash dieting is that it isn't sustainable and, after a very short time, you feel miserable and go back to your unhealthy eating habits and put back on the weight - and more."