Drop Weight at Work

By Lisa Zamosky

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, losing weight almost always tops the list. According to a new online survey of roughly 3,000 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Nutrisystem, more than half – 54% – of Americans have resolved to lose weight in 2013.

Shedding extra pounds isn’t easy, as anyone who has gone on a diet and/or exercise program can confirm. If you’re one of the millions of Americans determined to slim down in 2013, and want a little help to reach your goals, take a closer look at the benefits available to you at work.

Wellness Programs on the Rise

Work-based wellness programs have been around for years, and have become more common as part of work-based benefit packages. Employers are increasingly focused on addressing lifestyle issues that contribute to the poor health of their employees and therefore, high health care costs. And, the Affordable Care Act will allow employers to increase worker incentives to participate in wellness programs, all but ensuring these programs will be a growing part of benefit packages in the years to come.

Wellness programs often include features such as smoking cessation classes and health risk assessments for conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Though not all companies offering wellness benefits provide weight loss-specific programs, those that do tend to focus on education about nutrition and exercise, and provide workers with opportunities to engage in lifestyle programs that focus on weight loss and exercise, among other lifestyle behaviors, says Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., chief behavioral scientist for Chip Rewards Inc., a Birmingham, Alabama-based health engagement technology company.

“Often, wellness programs will provide either weight loss programs and/or weight loss challenges,” Klapow says. “The most effective wellness programs targeting weight loss…help an individual achieve initial weight loss [goals] and then have components in place to help them maintain the loss,” he says.

Take Advantage of Available Programs

So what’s the best way to get the most out of your employer’s wellness program to reach your weight loss goals for 2013?

For starters, you need to know if help is available to you. Although growing numbers of businesses offer wellness programs, companies don’t always do a good job of communicating that to employees.  For that reason, Klapow recommends that you ask your human resources department specifically about programs for weight loss.

Also ask if you’ll be eligible for any discounts or other monetary incentives for signing up. An annual survey of large employers conducted by The National Business Group on Health found that nearly half said that in 2013 they will use incentives (with a median value of $450) for employees to encourage participation. Often, these monetary rewards are tied to you actually reaching your goal.  Why pass up free money, especially if taking advantage of the offer helps you reach a goal you were striving for anyhow?

Have you participated in your company’s wellness program to help you lose weight? How successful were you? What were the good and bad aspects of the program? Share your experience in the comments section.