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Biggest loser: Competition talks, cold cash walks in bulge battles
In-house competition may be most effective
Onsite gyms, lunch and learns, and health coaches all presumably have an impact on wellness of workers. However, if these options aren't available to employees, some simple competition can get the same results.
Sheila Kealy, RN, MS, CCM, an occupational health nurse with Reckitt Benckiser in Parsippany, NJ, says that the company's "Biggest Loser" challenges between departments have been quite successful.
"Money is the greatest incentive, especially for weight loss competitions," according to Kealy. "We track the percentage of body weight, and the total weight lost by the team. I have found a lot of employees like to win. They help push their team members along."
The employees contributed $1 a week during the weigh-in. If they gained weight, they paid an extra $1. "At the end of the competition, the winner received all the collected money," says Kealy. "We had a celebratory healthy lunch for the participants."
Incentives are key
Jennifer White, an administrative assistant at Data Dimensions in Janesville, WI, was looking for a way to top a successful weight loss program she spearheaded the previous year, which involved competitions between teams. The 2009 program pitted two teams against each other, headed by the company's President and CEO, and the Chairman. The teams lost a total of 130 and 64 pounds, respectively. Both groups logged in over 39,000 minutes of exercise apiece.
White says that it helped that "lots of incentives" were given. The person with the highest body weight percentage lost was given a choice of $500 or two paid days off. Members of the winning team all got one paid day off, plus another half day off to spend as a team in a fun group activity. These steps were taken:
Participants were given two options for a confidential weigh-in, done either at work or at the local YMCA.
Percentages gained or lost were posted in the lunchroom every week.
Individual daily exercise minutes were tracked.
The employee with the top ten total minutes at the end of the challenge was entered into a drawing to win a paid time off day.
"We saw several people continue on with their new habits," reports White. "A noon walking club continued past the end of the competition, where four or five from the challenge participated several times a week. That lasted until the cold weather set in."
Invite others to compete
Encouraged by the program's good results, White wanted to keep the momentum going. She contacted her counterparts at a few local companies and asked them to join in a three-month weight loss challenge.
"I got this idea that it might be fun to get our neighboring accounting firm to challenge us. All of a sudden, it turned into ten companies,' says White. These guidelines were used:
Each company team consisted of as many members as were interested. Each participant was weighed at the beginning, every three weeks, and at the end.
E-mails were sent out every three weeks to reflect standings.
The winning team was the one with the largest total weight reduction.
White created a flyer to encourage participation, and used a sample spreadsheet to track weight loss of participants.
For every pound lost, participating companies donated ten pounds of food to a local food bank. "Otherwise, there was no cost," says White. As a team, the company logged in 87,560 minutes of exercise.
Overall, however, the company's own internal challenge was more successful. Still, other participants in the challenge, such as the accounting firm who won, were very motivated to compete against an outside group.
If results were a little disappointing for some companies, White says that this may have been because of lack of incentives. The original plan was to make the entry fee $200 each, then give the winning company the proceeds. The food donations were used instead, when one of the companies questioned the legalities of using money.
"At the beginning, I received a lot of enthusiastic comments from people when money was involved. When push came to shove, I think that a monetary prize would have helped," says White.
For more information about competitions for weight loss, contact:
Sheila Kealy, RN, MS, CCM, Reckitt Benckiser, Parsippany, NJ. Phone: (973) 404-2616. E-mail: Sheila.Kealy@reckittbenckiser.com.
Jennifer White, Data Dimensions, Janesville, WI. Phone: (608) 373-6228. Fax: (608) 373-3228. E-mail: email@example.com.