Help to fight the workplace bulge

By Gill South

Weight Watchers survey has found that office culture affects our health.

Fonterra now offers its staff healthy options at catering events and in the snack machine. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Fonterra now offers its staff healthy options at catering events and in the snack machine. Photo / Ted Baghurst

A nationwide Weight Watchers At Work survey which set out to explore how workplace culture affects healthy lifestyles has found that 75 per cent of Kiwis are too exhausted to exercise when they get home from work and 60 per cent of respondents think eating healthily and keeping fit costs too much.

More than half of all respondents skip breakfast on weekdays and around 60 per cent of overweight or obese respondents have fast food options close to their workplaces.

"A sedentary work life is a big contributor to weight gain," says Carole Pinker, the NZ national manager of Weight Watchers Australasia.

"That's why having programmes in place such as Weight Watchers At Work can be vital to health and well-being. It's imperative for businesses to think about their employees' wellbeing and health, especially with the current obesity epidemic," adds Pinker.

The At Work programme brings the Weight Watchers experience into the workplace and eliminates the "time poor" excuse, she says.

Groups can hold meetings on site and benefit from the support of their workmates in making healthier choices and keeping on track.

In New Zealand, Weight Watchers At Work has grown from 20 to 30 meetings back in 2008 to over 70 At Work meetings now in 2012.

A number of companies including Waikato DHB, AUT University and Fonterra are offering Weight Watchers At Work to their staff. It can help boost morale at work, they have found.

"As the group that meets in the workplace is typically small - 20 members and under - there is a lot of support, comradeship, sharing of ideas, and motivation within this type of group environment which helps to encourage At Work members to stick to the Weight Watchers programme and therefore achieve their end goals," says Pinker.

"We have many At Work members who even come to the weekly weigh-ins on their days off."

Employers can help by encouraging staff to get up and move around a lot at work and to get out at lunchtimes.

"Activity and moving more is all part of the ProPoints programme. Members can earn extra ProPoints by engaging in activity," says Pinker.

Workplace providers involved in Weight Watchers will often offer healthy snack options such as fruit bowls, healthy food in vending machines and corporate lunches which include Weight Watchers ProPointed foods.

Many of the current At Work clients also have onsite cafeterias which provide healthy and/or Weight Watchers ProPointed food.

Employers will sometimes give staff some incentives to lose weight. For instance if the member of staff loses 5kg or 5 per cent bodyweight, the workplace might pay half the Weight Watchers programme.

They can often provide exercise options too, by subsidising gym membership or pilates, for instance.

Robyn Moore, group customer service engagement manager at Fonterra and a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, explains her reasoning for introducing it at her workplace.

"A key part of our wellness focus is to have programmes that come to the office as we believe it helps to facilitate better buy-in. Given that we spend so much time at work and it is often the time when we are tempted to eat badly, our fellow co-workers know and can encourage as often they are the ones on the programme also."

Moore noticed a distinct change in her staff who joined the Weight Watchers programme.

"I noticed a difference in the attitudes of the attendees and they genuinely felt that they actually could be that slim person they wanted to be."

It can lead to better friendships in the workplace too, says the Fonterra manager.

"The team have developed special bonds and openly encourage and motivate each other."

The biggest change, says Moore, has been a broader knowledge of healthy eating, ensuring there are always healthy options for all catered events and in the snack machine.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 26 Oct 2014 07:14:30 Processing Time: 276ms