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Mayor in Italy offers to reach ideal weight for money

What better motive than 50 EUR (US$67) to reach your ideal weight? What do you think about 750 EUR (US$670) if you can stay slim for a year?

Gianluca Buonanno, the mayor of Varallo, a town of 7,500 in northern Italy, thinks it might work.

"We wanted to encourage people to lose weight, and we thought that both the money and the idea of joining a group could be stimulating," Buonanno said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Participants in the week-old initiative will be given 50 EUR (US$67) when they reach their ideal weight. If they haven't gained any weight back after five months, they will receive another 200 EUR (US$268).

If they maintain their ideal weight for a year, they will get an additional 500 EUR (US$670).

"The advantage is that one loses weight and makes money," Buonanno said.

So far, 30 of the townsfolk have signed up, he said.

To enroll, participants must present a medical certificate saying they are overweight. They can choose to be helped by a dietitian, who helps determine the person's ideal weight, and a personal trainer.

Buonanno's inspiration? His own need for a diet.

"If you have a health problem, you can get sick, stop going to work and are less exuberant," he said. "We just want a better society."

The mayor said Town Hall has appropriated 10,000 EUR (US$13,405) for the slimming project. It is looking for other sponsors to expand the program.

The prevalence of obesity in Europe has tripled in the past two decades. Half of all adults and 20 percent of all children are estimated to be overweight, the World Health Organization says.

In the United States, about 31 percent of adults - 61 million people - are considered obese.

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