Employees shed pounds in worksite-based weight loss intervention with behavioral counseling

Workplace-based programs that include dietary advice coupled with behavioral counseling appear to be a promising approach for men and women with significant weight loss goals, based on the results of a pilot study conducted by researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University. Employees enrolled in the intervention arm of a randomized controlled trial lost on average, 18 pounds over a six-month period compared to a two pound weight gain in a control group. The study results are published online ahead of print by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Although previous research has focused on interventions based in office settings, those studies that we are aware of report modest weight loss over periods ranging from three months to two years. To the best of our knowledge, our approach is unique because of the inclusion of a strong behavioral component," says Senior Author Sai Krupa Das, Ph.D., a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA at Tufts University. "Over the course of the , a counselor with training in both nutrition and behavior modification met at first weekly and later bi-weekly with the participants as a group during their lunch hour. In these sessions, discussions focused on strategies for menu planning, portion control and managing hunger, as well as dealing with stress-related and emotional eating. The participants also received individual support in a weekly e-mail exchange with the counselor."

The weight loss component of the study enrolled men and women from four Boston area companies, all of whom had a (BMI) classifying them as overweight or obese. Eighty-four (84) men and women from two of the companies, one for-profit and one non-profit, completed the intervention. Thirty-four (34) employees from the other two companies served as the control group.

For six months, the employees enrolled in the intervention followed a reduced calorie diet, emphasizing low-glycemic and high fiber foods that are less likely to raise blood sugar. The participants were responsible for purchasing and preparing their own food.

At the completion of the intervention, Das and colleagues observed substantial improvements in common markers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk. These included lower total cholesterol and glucose levels and lower blood pressure compared to the control group. Additionally, the intervention participants were given the option to enroll in a six-month, structured maintenance program. No significant weight re-gain was observed in the 40 participants who enrolled and stayed in the program.

"Based on our results, it seemed the weight loss intervention became embedded in the office culture and also helped the weight of people who were not enrolled in the program," said Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and director of the Laboratory. "We made an effort to reach employees who were not involved by producing a series of newsletters and holding monthly seminars on general health-related topics such as cardiovascular health, childhood nutrition and exercise."

"To gauge the impact of this parallel programming, we asked employees in all four worksites who did not participate in the weight loss intervention to provide us with a self report of their body weight and we saw an encouraging ripple effect," added Roberts, who is also the author of The "I" Diet book and program upon which the intervention is based, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM). "Overweight and obese employees at the intervention sites lost up to three pounds while employees at the control sites gained up to two pounds."

The authors recommend future studies that include more worksites and longer post-intervention follow-up. "For example, the current study does not explain why the employees at the non-profit intervention site lost significantly less weight than the at the for-profit site," said Das, who is also an assistant professor at the Friedman School. "It would be valuable to know what exactly about the culture fostered the success, because offices are really wonderful settings for weight loss groups. Co-workers have established relationships, creating an automatic support system and level of comfort. There is also the benefit of not having to set aside as much additional time for weight management. It can be built right into the work day. "

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Love your body' to lose weight

Jul 18, 2011

Almost a quarter of men and women in England and over a third of adults in America are obese. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease and can significantly shorten a person's life expectancy. New research ...

Behavioral weight loss has long-term benefit for teens

Jul 02, 2012

(HealthDay) -- For overweight or obese adolescents, two group-based behavioral weight control interventions, combined with either aerobic activity or activity-based peer therapy, produce sustained improvements ...

Recommended for you

Reading 'Fifty Shades' linked to unhealthy behaviors

28 minutes ago

Young adult women who read "Fifty Shades of Grey" are more likely than nonreaders to exhibit signs of eating disorders and have a verbally abusive partner, finds a new study led by a Michigan State University ...

Emergency department nurses aren't like the rest of us

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Emergency department nurses aren't like the rest of us - they are more extroverted, agreeable and open - attributes that make them successful in the demanding, fast-paced and often stressful environment ...

Many patients don't understand electronic lab results

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—While it's becoming commonplace for patients to see the results of lab work electronically, a new University of Michigan study suggests that many people may not be able to understand what ...

Healthier foods available in neighborhoods

4 hours ago

Changes to the federal food assistance program for low-income women and their children improved the availability of healthy foods at small and medium-size stores in New Orleans, according to research from ...

User comments