Start a Workplace Weight Loss Competition

Health Writer

Many of us spend most of our waking weekday hours at work.   In fact, for many of us, the workplace is actually our second home.   So why not start a workplace weight loss competition??

The Pros

Setting up a challenge at work makes sense since a significant number of hours are spent on the job.   So certainly your diet, and even your exercise, has to happen during those away-from-home hours.   You might ask your employer to offer incentives or prizes for different weight and health milestones.   Your employer might also be willing to provide lunchtime exercise classes, nutrition classes or a motivational speaker, since healthier employees has a payoff of better productivity and less sick leave.   If there's a kitchen at work and a refrigerator, brown bagging your lunch and healthy snacks like yogurt, fruit and nuts can help you to save money and allow you more time to actually enjoy lunch.   The camaraderie and support that a competition can provide, even the bragging rights, can add a positive spirit to the workplace environment.   Add in some financial incentives or benefits for the team and it   may further prod the weight loss, according to a recent study.

Keep in Mind

You may want to bring several days worth of non-perishable food items to store at work, labeled with your name, so you reduce impulse purchases of tempting foods.   Keep a spare pair of tennis shoes in your desk, so you can grab walks at lunchtime or break time.   Ask your employer to provide water or healthy fruit snacks to support your healthy eating commitment.   Keep a bag of toiletries to freshen up if you do get in some daily exercise during your workday.   Offer non-judgmental support to colleagues who join the competition.   No one wants a finger pointed at them when they have a "habit lapse," but acknowledging the difficulty of maintaining habit changes may help someone struggling with cravings or lagging motivation to exercise.

The Cons

The only downside to weight loss competitions at work is the reality that not everyone will want to participate in the program.   Individuals who have weight or health issues who are not ready to join, or someone who simply doesn't want to make the commitment, may feel left out or even isolated from the group experience.   It's important to avoid creating an uncomfortable work environment for those choosing to not participate.   You might also lower the bar by simply identifying some easy-to-follow habits like drinking more water, climbing stairs when possible, sharing healthier lunch recipes -so that even the most resistant staff members will be willing to join the competition in a limited way.   Milestone rewards can include these simple habit change opportunities.

The Science

Researchers from Tufts University and Massachusetts General Hospital recently released a report suggesting that weight loss programs that are ongoing and supported at work can help people to lose weight and keep the weight off.   In a six month Boston workplace-based program, the average weight loss experienced by participants was 17 lbs. (April issue, American Journal of Clinical Medicine).   It is important to realize that there can be a huge variability in weight loss achievements, based on a number of variables including the amount of support workers actually get directly from employers, and the level of motivation each individual employee has.

Bottom line:   Why not try it?   Be a leader and set up a workplace diet and exercise competition.   The only thing you have to lose is pounds, and your greatest gain will be better health!