How to Create an Office Weight Loss Challenge

When you're trying to lose weight, dodging the breakroom doughnut tray, your office mate's candy bowl or the vending machine makes sticking to your diet that much harder. Encouraging your workplace to join you, though, just might make some of those temptations disappear. People may not bring in the treats -- or at least you'll have new resolve to avoid them. When others in your office are depending on you to lose weight, or you know they'll beat you if you don't, your incentive to stick to your diet intensifies. Set up an office weight-loss challenge to create healthy competition and camaraderie. One person might win, but everyone benefits from getting healthy.

Set up an office weight-loss challenge to create healthy competition and camaraderie. (Image: PIKSEL/iStock/Getty Images)

Why Hold a Workplace Weight-Loss Challenge

The idea of a challenge may be influenced by weight-loss reality shows, but a group environment makes weight loss more attainable and desirable to average participants. A study published in a 2012 issue of Obesity found that when people are supported and inspired, such as by co-workers, they have a better chance of losing weight. Of the more than 3,000 people examined in the study, those with group support had a 6 to 20 percent better chance of achieving a 5 percent weight loss.

Set the Parameters

Find a point person to be the one who collects data such as starting weights, weekly weigh-ins and final numbers. Ideally, you have an office wellness coordinator, but if not, choose someone who can be discreet and honest. People will be more willing to participate if they know that they won't be judged.

Establish a start date and end date. Six, eight, 10 and 12 weeks are all long enough for participants to make change without resorting to drastic measures. These periods are also short enough so people won't lose focus and interest. Set specific dates during the time frame for official weigh-ins, for example, weekly or every other week on a Monday or Friday. You may also offer a small prize every few weeks to someone who's shown exceptional commitment or progress. This keeps the interest in the program high.

Prepare and Invite Participants

Bring in a scale into the office for the official weigh-ins. Scales tend to vary in accuracy, so it's more fair if everyone weighs in on the same one. Also, decide on any incentives that will get your office mates excited to participate. Perhaps you have everyone contribute $25, and the winner takes the jackpot. Or, you could offer gift cards, fitness apparel, socks, jump ropes, stability balls or a grand prize of a fitness tracker.

Mail flyers, send emails and talk it up at the water cooler. Publicize the challenge in the company newsletter and in the wellness center, if you have one. Decide if you want the contest to be individual or team-based, with groups of two to four. Team-based programs can create greater incentive to stick to the plan and make the competition more social, as people don't want to let their teammates down. An individual contest, though, is easiest for smaller offices and ensures no one gets left out. Make it clear that participation in the challenge is completely voluntary.

Create Ground Rules at the Office

Determine the winner by percentage of total weight loss, not total pounds lost. Heavier people can lose weight more quickly and would automatically have an advantage. For example, you'd determine the number of pounds lost and divide it by the beginning weight to figure out the percent weight lost. People may appreciate that their actual weight won't be publicized, too, because you'll post standings according to percentage lost -- not actual weight.

Ban participants from using unhealthy methods to lose weight, such as starvation, diet pills, water pills and laxatives. Encourage people to lose weight by eating whole, unprocessed foods and moving more. Establish a daily lunchtime walk for and share recipes with the participants. Sabotaging fellow competitors by tempting them with treats should be discouraged.

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