Employee Wellness: Losing Weight and Keeping it Off

Employee Wellness: Losing Weight and Keeping it Off

Aug 19 2016

Want to lose 10 pounds in 10 days? How about shedding 3 inches from your waistline in a week? We’ve all seen those headlines before and they have a certain appeal.

By: Kristina Rich, CPT, CET

And for good reason — with research showing that 42 percent of adults are expected to be obese by 2030, it’s clear that obesity is an epidemic.

Wish as we might though, there is no quick fix when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. As an employer, you have the opportunity to create a culture of health and wellness and provide necessary motivation and support to those employees who want to make a lifestyle change.

In today’s fast-paced society, fad diets, diet pills or crash diets are a few ways that people have tried losing weight quickly. Unfortunately, these tactics might feel like they’re working at first but in many cases, the results don’t last. 65 percent of people who successfully complete a fad diet will end up gaining all of the weight back.

The key to sustained weight loss: a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain day-after-day. Since we spend so much time at work, providing an environment that supports employee’s efforts to lose weight and keep it off is an extremely important component to their success.

How You Can Help Your Employees

You can make a significant difference in the health and lives of your employees. You can create a support system and wellness programs that initiate healthy changes in your workforce.

A successful example of a company incorporating a weight loss component into their wellness program is Draper, Inc., in Spiceland, Ind, who manufactures projector screens, window shades and gym equipment. They were named the 2014 Healthiest Workplace in America by the independent corporate wellness research and data analysis firm Healthiest Employers. They ran a 10-week weight loss challenge called “Dump Your Plump” with 12 teams of six, each competing to win weekly grocery gift cards and the grand cash prize at the end. In addition, Draper’s full-time safety and wellness director Linda Brinson generates a monthly newsletter highlighting “wellness superheroes” who are named by their peers for modeling healthy behaviors at work.

University of Michigan conducted a study on the Dump Your Plump system finding that 81 percent of participants were eating less fat and 46 percent had increased their daily exercise activity as a result of the program.

Create a Healthy Workplace Culture

Here’s a few options you could implement to create a healthier workplace:  

  • Overhaul break room food and vending machines to include only healthy snack choices. Ditch the chips and cookies for fresh fruit, nuts, low fat yogurt and veggies. If eliminating junk food is not an option, at least make sure healthy options are available and placed front and center for employees to notice first.
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  • Provide water coolers and water bottles instead of sugary sodas and energy drinks.
  • Give employees paid time off (a certain number of hours per month or year) to pursue activities that are good for their health such as attending an exercise class, visiting a dietician, participating in a yoga class.
  • Encourage managers to make weekly one-on-one meetings with employees “walking meetings.” It’s an easy way to incorporate active time during the day. The No. 1 reason people give for not exercising is that they don’t have enough time. Every extra step adds up.
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  • Create marked routes, with distances, for walks during breaks and pass them out to all employees.
  • Start a bike-to-work program.
  • Bring health coaches onsite for employees to work with, set personal goals and be held accountable.

How to provide motivation and encouragement

To inspire employees to participate in wellness programs and incorporate healthier lifestyle habits, a lot of employers incentivize. Research shows that employees don’t always prefer cash when it comes to incentives. Companies are finding non-traditional ways to encourage participation in their programs. Some ideas include:

  • Hosting a healthy cooking class
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  • Setting up an onsite farmers market
  • Providing corporate-identified merchandise, such as tote bags and apparel
  • Increasing company contributions to HSAs
  • Providing paid gym memberships
  • Reducing co-pays and deductibles

With the support of employers, coworkers and peers, employees are likely to be more successful in losing weight and keeping it off. There are always temptations, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle by making healthy decisions is a way to learn to resist.

Employers have a real opportunity to create an environment where employees can set and reach their health goals and therefore, be more productive at work.  

After all, “The greatest wealth is health.” -Virgil

About the Author: Kristina Rich, CPT, CET, is a Wellness Coordinator at Priority Health. She helps implement wellness programs for employer groups as well as promotes wellness within Priority Health and in the community. Kristina is a certified personal trainer and cancer exercise trainer through American College of Sports Medicine.