Put weight loss reminders throughout the workplace

Aim for long term change

Many employees at your workplace probably need to lose some weight — possibly a significant amount of weight. On the positive side, though, the majority of these individuals probably really want to achieve this.

After a 2007 Health Culture audit was done for Alexandria, LA-based RoyOMartin Lumber Company, nurses and company leaders learned that 70% of employees eat a high-fat diet, and 67% would like to lose more than 10 pounds.

"Our company health care costs have remained relatively flat over the last five years, which is truly remarkable compared to national averages," says Collene Van Mol, BSN, RN, COHN-S/CM, the company's occupational health manager. "It is clear that we are headed in the right direction with wellness and by closely managing our insurance costs and claims, but we still have a long way to go in changing our overall health culture."

A repeat analysis conducted in 2009 showed a positive improvement in the 2007 numbers. Ninety-five percent of survey participants reported trying to make lifestyle changes within the last year. Unfortunately, only 8% reported long term success.

For this reason, RoyOMartin focused on Healthy Nutrition in 2009, providing lunch and learns with nutrition education throughout the company. "We thought, 'Feed them and they will come!'" says Van Mol.

A wide range of easy-to-prepare meals were offered, which correlated with weekly presentations on portion control, fast food facts, and healthier options. The program also covered how to shop for and prepare healthy foods at home, vs. eating out.

Participants rated their satisfaction with the program material, the speaker, and the food served each week and had to note what they learned each week. "Our goal was to find out if employees learned something new and useful," says Van Mol. "Employees were shocked to learn the fat, sugar, and sodium content in so many boxed, canned and fast food choices."

The surveys' showed this "show and tell" approach was effective. Employees were provided recipes for healthy food served and were provided fast food fact guides to use the information they had learned.

Here are changes RoyOMartin made to help employees with weight loss efforts:

Weight loss challenges are held.

As part of RoyOMartin's Winning With Wellness program, employees set personal health goals to decrease risk factors for heart disease. Most often employees choose a goal of losing weight. "As a group, our employees lost over 1,000 pounds in 2007, 850 pounds in 2008, and 1,246 pounds in 2009," says Van Mol. "The individuals who participate enjoy the support of a peer group in their efforts to lose weight through our 'Losing to Win' weight loss challenges."

Incentives are given for eating healthy.

In addition to a "no donuts" policy for company-sponsored meetings, RoyOMartin will be kicking off a new incentive program in 2010. "We made providing healthy vending choices a priority in 2009. Now, we want to encourage our employees to consistently eat healthy," says Van Mol.

High-fat pastries and energy drinks were removed from vending machines, and fresh salads, sandwiches, and frozen dinners with vegetables were added. After purchasing these healthy choices items, employees will remove and attach program stickers to a "Winning With Wellness" points card to be redeemed for quarterly incentives.