Ideas for Biggest Loser in the Workplace

According to a study originally published in a 2009 issue of "Health Affairs," every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs reduces health care costs by more than three dollars and absenteeism costs by nearly three dollars. Combine that fact with the popularity of the hit reality show, The Biggest Loser, and it's small wonder that similarly themed weight loss programs are cropping up at offices all around the nation.

Prize for a Price

Of course losing weight is a prize unto itself, but producers of "The Biggest Loser" dangle a $250,000 grand prize to motivate show contestants. Most workplace programs award a much smaller prize. Most workplace "Losers" pay an entry fee -- anywhere from $10 to more than $200 -- to join the competition. This money is pooled to create a prize for the person who loses the most weight. There may be smaller payouts along the way for those who win periodic weigh-ins. In some programs, those who gain weight have to pay a penalty.

Time Frame

A set time frame gives your program structure. Between 6 and 12 weeks is ideal, because this gives most contestants enough time to lose a significant amount of weight, but it is not so long that they become bored or disinterested. If your contestants have a significant amount of weight to lose, schedule a second competition soon after the first one ends. This gives new participants a chance to join and allows those who may have already met their goal an opportunity to bow out gracefully.

Track Progress

Weekly weigh-ins are a critical part of any weight loss program modeled after the show, but participants might not want their weight broadcast to the entire workplace. Decide ahead of time which metrics will be tracked, for example, total pounds lost or percentage of weight lost, and explain how they'll be shared with other participants. Ideally, one person should oversee the entire program and the same scale should be used for all weigh-ins.

Cooperation and Support

Although some friendly competition is inevitable -- and even encouraged -- peer support is the true root of Biggest Loser competitions in the workplace. Decide in advance how you want to support participants. Options include drawing teams at random or letting participants choose their own teams; offering group workouts, even just once a week; organizing trips to group fitness classes or other active pursuits; hiring a nutritionist for group consultations; and even designing unique challenges, such as seeing who can carry the amount of weight they've lost thus far up a hill the fastest.

Other Ideas

Consider offering non-monetary prizes for contestants who win challenges or periodic weigh-ins, for example, a spa day or a gift certificate to a local merchant. If you don't have fitness facilities at work, you might be able to negotiate a discounted group rate for participants at local gyms. Finally, if your HR managers are on board, you may be able to talk them into underwriting some or all of the cost of the contest, including entry fees. After all, the healthier the employees are, the lower the health care costs will be to the company.