Biggest loser, or a winning idea?

I had a shock today when I received this group e-mail from my co-worker who is leading our 12-week Biggest Loser competition:

Happy Hump Day! This Friday will be week 9 of our biggest loser. Suzy is in the lead with 4.26% weight loss. Go, Suzy! We still have three weeks to go. Sisters, a lot can be done in three weeks, so don’t give up! I look forward to seeing you Friday morning. Final weigh-in is Friday, May 6.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that I was in the lead, but it made me sad for all 10 of us. Why? (You probably think it’s because I’m insane.)

It’s because I know how much I have struggled on the roller coaster these past several weeks (years, really, but we’re talking about contest weeks here). And if I – who yo-yoed up and down, up and down for two months – am in the lead, it means everyone else has been struggling to stick with the program, too. On the other hand, there are people who are bigger than I, and because the contest is based on percentage (not pounds) lost, I may be leading only percentagewise and not poundwise. But still.

Our little group of losers has a weekly weigh-in but is not really a support group with meetings or any other type of interaction. I think that is why I have struggled; there is no accountability factor except the scale. I think it’s why others have struggled, too. Friday I ran into another participant when we happened to go downstairs at the same time to weigh in (there is no set time to weigh, as long as it’s on Friday). She admitted struggling, too, and I have to believe she and I are not the only ones.

I didn’t even know who the other participants were until recently. There’s nothing formal about the plan except for the weigh-ins, which are recorded by the leader and not really reported to the group (except for the first week, and today).

Nothing against our leader; she’s doing a great job under our time constraints. We’re all busy, we’re doing this on our employer’s time, and there’s not a lot you can coordinate under those circumstances. It takes up about 5 minutes of my time (going from the third floor to the first, weighing, then turning around and going back upstairs) and maybe a half hour a week for the leader (I’m just guessing). But I, for one, would be willing to stay 30 minutes late for a weekly meeting to interact with the other participants and get support and encouragement. I just know that the personal contact is what works for me.

Left to my own devices, I will go nuts, veer off course and be right back where I started, if not worse off. Now that I have gone public with my struggle, revealed my weight and committed to blogging daily about my journey to fitness (click here to read my “Going public” post), I have the blog (and you, my support panel of readers) to keep me on track, but the rest of the group will have the same routines to go back to after the contest unless something changes.

A few months ago I tentatively suggested we ask our CEO if we could have a Weight Watchers chapter at work after hours. I approached a marketing person because I know her better than I know the HR people and she has been at the bank since the beginning. She told me it was really a human-resources matter and that she would pass along my suggestion. I didn’t follow up because then the Biggest Loser contest was starting.

Emboldened by a recent round-table luncheon hosted by our CEO and COO (it was called a “thank-you lunch,” but our leaders invited feedback and questions), I’m thinking of skipping the Weight Watchers idea sent through channels and going directly to the CEO with an even bigger proposal. I’d like to see some type of initiative in our workplace that challenges employees to give up unhealthy habits. Lots of companies offer incentives to its employees for losing weight, quitting smoking and other positive lifestyle changes. Money motivates people, and even if it doesn’t motivate all of us to make permanent changes, it will do so for some. And if I could see one person quit smoking or lose unhealthy poundage – maybe even head off diabetes or heart disease – it would be worth it to me (and, I hope, to my employer, who is so generously involved in community service it astounds me sometimes).

Once I get up the nerve, I’m going to approach Mr. CEO with a deal: If he’ll put some cash behind the initiative, I’ll do the research and find out what has worked for other companies, coupled with statistics on how these programs improve lives and cut employer costs, then I’ll present the options.

Our company gives a lot of money and effort to this community and, I have to say, to its employees, so I think my idea will be received graciously even if the answer is no.

And if he doesn’t bite, I’ll know I tried and I won’t hold a grudge. And then I’ll bring it up again next year. 🙂

Please post a comment and give me your ideas for a program that could work for my company of 200 employees.

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