In October 2011, the City of Gaithersburg announced a ‘Biggest Loser Challenge’ during its annual Employee Wellness Day celebration. Employees wishing to participate paid a $10 fee, which went into the ‘Challenge Fund.’ The fund paid out 50 cents for each pound lost, but employees who gained had to pay in 50 cents per pound. Employees weighed in every Wednesday. Employees who missed a weigh-in paid a $2 fee to the fund.
The 43 participants competed as teams of 4 or 5, as well as on an individual level. Success was measured not by pounds lost, but by percentage of total body weight lost. Each week, the winning team was announced via a spreadsheet sent to all participants. Earning the bragging rights of a weekly team win was a great incentive. The biggest Loser Challenge boosted employee morale, brought about friendly competition, a little bit of ‘trash talk,’ and even a few donut delivery sabotages!
Monthly meetings for all participants provided individual support, as well as input on what was or wasn’t working for others. Different weight loss tools and apps were introduced and discussed and informative handouts were distributed. Challenge fund rewards incentives were also distributed at the meetings.
The 12 week challenge included some great hurdles in the form of three of the biggest chow-down days of the year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Super Bowl Sunday. But despite those hurdles, Challenge participants lost a total of 328 pounds.
The individual winner, Sherry Lewis (pictured) from the Finance department, lost 13.5 percent of her starting weight, tying with another participant for most pounds lost at 27. The winning team, “A sucRose By Any Other Name” lost a total of 8 percent of their body weight, or 68.2 pounds. Ms. Lewis won the remaining money in the Challenge Fund (almost $450!), and she received three paid days off.
Following the success of the first Challenge, the city has held two subsequent Challenges with great success. The second Challenge, in the spring of 2012, saw 62 participants lose a total of 607 pounds. The 35 participants in the third Challenge, earlier this year, lost a total of 448.6 pounds.
The Biggest Loser Challenges have yielded real success. Participants reported lower blood pressure, increased energy and the desire to keep their healthy new lifestyle. Employee morale and interdepartmental relations improved as well.
Weight loss and the accompanying lifestyle changes are a daunting project for anyone. The Challenges provided a way to keep the process fresh and exciting, as well as retain interest and encourage participation.
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