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6 Steps to an Office Weight Loss Challenge

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6 Steps to an Office Weight Loss Challenge
6 Steps to an Office Weight Loss Challenge

Most employers know creating a little competition in the office is a good way of increasing productivity. Steel magnate, Charles M. Schwab, said “The way things get done is to stimulate competition.” Mr. Schwab did this by creating a rivalry between his day shift and his night shift workers in his steel factory. He would write their respective numbers down on the mill floor for all to see.

Creating a little competition at work could be a simple way of nudging you (and your co-workers) to better health. By using step trackers and a scale, and keeping a tally of people’s activity and weight loss and then awarding prizes, activity has been shown to improve by as much as 30%. It seems individuals want to keep up with the group.This behavioral science concept, known as ‘social proof,’ often sees individuals assume the actions of a group.

Sometimes this concept can have negative effects, but it can also have positive ones, too. If the group is making an effort to be active and eat healthy, an individual in the group will make an effort to conform. This may not even be a conscious choice, as our behavioral decisions are often made unconsciously. In this case, conforming can mean increasing steps, walking or exercising more, and eating better, even if you didn’t plan to do it.

How do you create an office competition? These 6 steps can help guide you:

  1. Choose a point person.  Ideally, this would be someone who gets along with most people in the office and can be discreet.  Coworkers will be likely to participate if they know they will not be judged.  
  2. Publicize your competition.  Email coworkers, put a sign up at the water cooler or in the break room.  You never know who may be interested in joining.  Plus, it can be a good way to get to know your co-workers better and to find an exercise buddy.  Just make it clear that participation is voluntary.
  3. Establish a start date and an end date.  6, 8, 10, or 12 week time frames could a good length of time to establish healthy behavior and not resort to drastic measures, but also short enough that people won’t lose interest.  Doing multiple rounds of short competitions may be a way to encourage more people to join each time.
  4. Establish ground rules.  Are you tracking daily steps?  Are you measuring by percentage of weight loss?  Make sure the group knows what is being measured.
  5. Set specific dates for weigh ins.  Weekly or every other week weigh ins are good ideas.  Choose a specific day of the week, for example Monday or Friday to make it fair and predictable.  Bring a scale to the office to eliminate differences in scales.  If you are tracking steps, some fitness trackers offer an online summary of your daily activity and weekly totals.  These can help track activity.
  6. Offer a prize.  A small weekly prize for each week’s winner could help stimulate competition, or a larger end of competition prize could help motivate participants.  Decide as a group before you start.

You may start to notice improvements in your co-workers eating habits and exercise habits. Maybe their bring in their lunch or buying healthier options. Some may start taking the stairs or walking during lunch. Some may opt for water instead of soda or iced tea. Look around at all the ideas and see what works best for you. Or don’t. You may start picking up these good habits without even trying.

This idea is offered by Dr. Shillingford, M.D., P.A., a board certified surgeon specializing in advanced laparoscopic techniques and obesity surgery. His Boca Raton based office serves patients from all over South Florida, including Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Wellington, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, as well as Jacksonville, and Orlando Dr. Shillingford’s gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band patients are always looking for ways to improve their health, both by eating better and exercising more. Establishing a friendly office fitness challenge can be a good way to encourage overall better health for you and your co-workers.