How to Promote a Work Culture Supporting Healthy Weight- An Obesity Physician Weighs In

Recently a wonderful conversation occurred concerning the challenges faced by an Obesity Physician. This will lead to many future entrees in our blog but for now we want to include some of her thoughts on what a company can do to promote health for their employees and especially a 'healthy weight.' As we know, people spend the majority of their waking time at work and this is a great place to make change that can benefit the employee and employer. Dr. Molly Olsen offers some practical suggestions that show the importance of a holistic approach to weight control. Many of the 12 Habits are found in the following tips for employers:

  1. When possible, allow flexible work schedules to allow employees to take a longer break in the middle of the day or during the lunch hour for regular exercise. Create an open dialogue so employees do not feel penalized for trying to build healthy habits into their day. Studies show regular exercise creates more efficient workers. Have your employees get up and move frequently during the day and to have 'time alone ' periods. 
  2. Support a culture of healthy foods at work. Do not bring in sugary treats and do not encourage bowls of candy at desks. Do not reward performance with unhealthy treats. Encourage bringing vegetables with hummus, fruit and nuts. Have drinking water easily accessible. Provide space in refrigerators for workers to bring a healthy lunch and do not allow vending machines in the workspace. 
  3. Incentivize exercise! Sponsor workout groups, walking competitions, and friendly group competition. Offer as rewards, discounted gym membership and best of all - reduced health insurance for regular participants. 
  4. Incentivize healthy eating! Hold regular group challenges to help people motivate each other to eat well. Collect points for eating healthy foods, keep weekly updates to help people stay engaged. Winners may receive coupons for a massage or yoga class or movie tickets. 
  5. Consider bringing in an expert on healthy weight behaviors for periodic team education. Choosing the right speaker is key to have a fun educational event with learning and laughter. This and other tips show that you care about your employee's health. 
  6. When possible, have walking meetings. Encourage regular breaks to stretch and move around for a few minutes many times during the day. Lead by example. 
  7. Support a culture of staying physically active. Encourage talk about activities that include sports, walking, and movement. Post pictures at work that are visible concerning active hobbies and events. Encourage work life balance. 

These are just a few of her practical suggestions. Incorporating even a few can start the path to a healthier more productive and engaged workforce.

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