A new year brings renewed focus, and for many people that focus centers around bettering their physical health. Among the top five resolutions, according to a Forbes Health survey, are improving fitness, losing weight and eating better.
Employers hold tremendous influence when it comes to sparking healthy change and supporting employee weight loss goals. And there’s a business case in doing so, too. A healthier workforce increases employee productivity and retention, leading to improved business outcomes.
Employers can gain inspiration from the following tips and help lead the way in supporting their team’s goals for losing weight year-round.
Help Employees Kickstart Healthy Habits to Lose Weight
Wellness challenges provide an optimal way to engage employees in your company’s health programs. Incentivize engagement, whether through insurance premium discounts, gift cards or prizes (like water bottles or exercise tracking devices), that help participants keep up the momentum.
“People are competitive and they also like to work together as a team to reach their goals,” says Jim Shapter, a registered dietitian and health coach at Marathon Health.
Rather than just hosting a biggest loser type of challenge that only focuses on the number on the scale, consider steps members can take that contribute to weight loss and overall wellness, such as stress reduction and improved sleep hygiene.
Example Employee Wellness Challenges
- Monthly sleep challenge, completing 203 hours by the end of the challenge (averaging about 7 hours per day)
- Physical activity challenge, completing 600 minutes of physical activity per month
- Step challenge, completing 203,000 steps by the end of the month (averaging about 7,000 steps per day)
- Hydration challenge, consuming 1,856 ounces by the end of the month (averaging 64 ounces per day)
- Yearly weight reduction, achieving 5-7% weight loss
Focus on Overall Wellness: A Key to Employee Weight Loss
“Rather than offer just a weight loss or BMI challenge, incorporate educational programs, such as webinars on intuitive eating, exercise techniques and improving sleep habits. That’s when we see lipids going down, cholesterol going down,” Shapter says. “All of these things are improving because we’re focusing on every aspect of wellness — not just weight.”
Shapter recommends a flexible approach, where an employer offers multiple areas of improvement throughout the year. This lets employees choose which programs or challenges they want to tackle first and can lead to lasting success.
Grant Toops, a health coach with Marathon Health, echoes this method. “We always want to keep things centered around the employee, so we let them choose where to start,” Toops says. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It comes down to the person.”
Promote flexibility and realistic goal-setting, too. “A lot of times when we go on a diet, we swear off all these foods and start putting them into categories of good food and bad food, which elicits shame,” Shapter says. “It’s putting judgment on a physiological requirement. If we’re going to do this for the duration, the rigidity has to be at a minimum, because no one can maintain that forever.”
Example Health and Wellness Webinars
Feeling the Burn – GERD Awareness
All about Cholesterol
Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention
The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar
Raising Healthy Families
Fitness at Any Age
Sports Injuries and Prevention
Meal Planning Made Easy
Food Labels and Calories
Meditation and Mindfulness
Healthy Holiday Eating
Allow employees to sign up for a webinar that they can watch during work hours. If they miss a webinar, also encourage them to go back and watch it when they have time.
Offer Ongoing Support to Employees Trying to Lose Weight
Weight loss requires consistency, and employers should work to provide ongoing support and accountability to their employees throughout the year. “Challenges and webinars may get someone thinking about change, but they don’t always create a sustainable approach,” Toops says.
Employers can support their workforce by offering group weight loss management programs, accessible health coaching, behavioral health and employer-sponsored primary care that focuses on preventive care.
A group weight loss program, for example, provides built-in peer support and helps employees set goals. The program focuses on education around nutrition and metabolism, physical activity and outcomes, mindful eating, stress and sleep, controlling your environment, motivation and maintaining habits for success.
One-on-one health coaching can also help uncover someone’s motivating factors. “In my first couple of coaching sessions, I like to ask the member why they’re trying to lose weight,” Toops says. “If you ask enough times, it uncovers people’s values and priorities.”
An example he provides is when someone starts out saying they want to lose weight. Why? They want better health. Why? They want to have better energy for their family. Why? They value family and want lots of quality time with them. “A lot of people create vision boards or intentions for the new year,” Shapter says. “Whatever’s going to allow you to hold onto those intentions for longer than four to six weeks is the answer to success.”
During a session, a health coach might uncover contributing factors to weight gain, such as depression. While this contributing factor may not be directly linked, it could lead to behaviors such as overeating or inactivity. “When I can directly introduce an employee to a behavioral health specialist or the doctor, they are more likely to take care of their overall health and we can help them on a path to not only losing weight, but healthier living,” Toops says.
Communicate your wellness offerings to your employees, and give them opportunities to participate any time of year. “If you are the type of person who can flip a switch on at New Year’s time to work on something, what does that tell you about yourself?” Toops asks. “You’re in control of the switch, so you can turn that switch on whenever you want. That could be January 1, or it might be March 3. There’s no right or wrong time for change.”