Weight Management

Help Your Employees Help Themselves

February 21, 2018

Set Your Sights Beyond the Scale and "Biggest Loser" - Type Campaigns

Learn why weight matters but should not be the end all be all this year when setting physical wellness goals.

Slow and steady does it: optimize employee health and with a holistic approach to sustainable weight loss. 
While the statistics on the increase in overweight and obesity are staggering and wellknown, the solution can oftentimes seem overwhelming and unclear. We now know that there’s more to the equation than simply calories in and calories out and that quick and dirty starvation diets are NOT effective in the long-term. Actually, they can be quite detrimental causing metabolism to crash and future weight loss efforts to be stifled. With this complexity comes the need for a more holistic approach to weight loss that relies on the cumulative effect of lifestyle habits throughout the day and is best anchored in a culture of wellness at home and at work.

Healthy eating: As with any imbalance in the body, it’s about determining what you’re needing more of in the diet (fats, proteins, healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals) and what you’re getting too much of that may be contributing to excess calories or standing in the way of giving your metabolism that boost it needs (perhaps it’s that soda addiction or propensity to reach for savory snacks while docked at the computer?).

Moving your body: Not only does physical activity help to burn excess calories, it boosts cardiovascular fitness and improves heart health among many other health benefits.

Sleep: Believe it or not, poor sleep quality and quantity have actually been shown to contribute to hormonal and behavioral changes that lead to weight gain. Getting those extra ZZZ’s may just be your employees’ favorite component of a weight loss plan!

Stress management: Research has emerged that implicates high stress as contributing to metabolic changes that increase insulin resistance and the body’s tendency to store fats in the abdominal region – the most dangerous place for excess fat storage.

Weight Loss May Not Be the Best Route for All Employees
Ensure programming is inclusive and meets employees where they’re at.

When to lose:

  • Employees who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the obese range OR
  • BMI in overweight range + 2 or more *risk factors

When to maintain:

  • BMI in normal or overweight range, but do not have a high waist circumference measurement AND have fewer than 2 risk factors

*What risk factors are we talking about? Check them out here:

  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood glucose (sugar)
  • Family history of premature heart disease
  • Physical inactivity
  • Cigarette smoking

The trifecta of weight loss success: Cut hunger cravings, Reduce fat storage and Increase metabolism

  • While there’s no magic bullet diet; the Mediterranean eating pattern has been shown to be effective for reducing weight, waist circumference and improving many other health outcomes
  • Eat several small meals and snacks throughout the day
  • Combine foods rich in protein, carbohydrates and fats at every meal
  • Include 5 or more servings of fiber-packed fruits and vegetables and choose whole grains over highly processed, refined choices
  • Limit alcohol consumption and avoid or limit high sugar foods – never drinking or eating either of these on an empty stomach
  • Eat when hungry. Stop when full.
  • Practice eating mindfully (without the TV on!) and slow down to fully taste each bite

A Starting Point:
Help your employees know their numbers; know their risks.
A few measures to consider offering to employees when offering weight-related support in the workplace:

Body Mass Index: A measure of estimated body fat based on height and weight that gauges risk for diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, certain cancers, etc.

Pro: No cost to measure, not invasive, easy

Con: May overestimate body fat in fitter employees with more muscle mass

Waist circumference: Higher measures are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes when a greater amount of fat is distributed around the waist, even if in a normal BMI category.

Pro: Cheap and easy to measure

Con: May be uncomfortable for overweight or obese employees so should be done in private

Body composition measures: Percent body fat and percent lean muscle mass:

Pro: Allows for baseline and follow-up measures of actual changes in fat and muscle tissue which can encourage continued progress, especially in the cases where a rise in body weight doesn’t tell the whole story when there’s a gain in muscle (muscle weighs more than fat and boosts metabolism) and loss of fat associated with healthy lifestyle changes

Con: More invasive, may be expensive and requires trained professional

How worksites are helping employees kick that sweet tooth, swap out chips and lose the weight – It’s all about options! Here’s just a taste. The options are endless.

Healthy Eating:
Put fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins and fats and thirst-quenching beverages at employees’ fingertips!

  • Give those dusty vending machines the boot by creating healthy snack stations with fresh options;
  • Develop a healthy catering policy with a list of local restaurants that fit your standards;
  • Create a healthy food policy for meetings and events;
  • Put a twist on the standard potluck fair by organizing monthly employee contributed salad bar and soup lunches;
  • Swap out the “biggest loser” challenge for a whole food consumption challenge accompanied by cooking or other healthy eating seminars; and don’t forget about mama – set up a lactation room to support breastfeeding to help new moms lose the baby weight!

Physical Activity:
Get the blood flowing during the day to increase energy output and keep productivity humming along throughout the day!

  • Need an employee bonding event this year? Consider creating a team to participate in a local 5K walk/run and giving employees a simple "couch to 5K" training plan;
  • Create a walking route around your building by mapping out the time and distance;
  • Encourage stretch breaks and reduce sedentary time with standing desks;
  • Build in step and stair challenges throughout the year;
  • Clear out that lonely spare room and transform it into a mini fitness center that includes opportunities for cardio and strength-building;
  • Raise awareness of an existing fitness reimbursement program

Stress Management:
Calm nerves, reduce those dangerous cortisol levels and increase employee contentment

  • Designate a relaxation room to give employees an opportunity to briefly decompress;
  • Build in regular pop-in meditation sessions;
  • Start daily walks at the same time every afternoon to give employees a breather that just might boost creativity and productivity too;
  • Promote EAP mental health and counseling resources;
  • Consider how employee policies, scheduling and workload may be affecting stress levels;
  • Offer employees a sleep seminar with tips on how to optimize quantity and quality of sleep

Don’t know where to start? Need support? Contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency Health Management consultant to learn more about weight management best practices seminar offerings and programming tailored to your unique workplace.

For more information on the obesity epidemic, including medical complications and what may be contributing to the increase in weight of Americans over time, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/adultobesity/index.html