From competitions to counseling, corporations encourage fat employees to lose weight

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) U.S. corporations are trying a range of programs to help overweight employees slim down. These programs claim an average weight loss of 6 to 12 pounds, plus benefits such as lower cholesterol levels.

Here's a sampling:

Pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche subsidizes Weight Watchers and offers coupons toward a free lunch when employees buy a low-fat ''Choosing Health'' meal in its cafeteria. It also awards gift certificates for healthy behavior such as regular exercise, provides counseling by fitness consultants and psychologists, and hosts aerobics, yoga and kickboxing classes. Employees also can get its diet pill, Xenical, for free.

Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. sponsors 10-week ''Dump Your Plump'' competitions; teams from its 23,000 employees in North America earn points by losing pounds and exercising. It offers a $75 annual fitness rebate toward aerobics classes or membership in a gym or Weight Watchers.

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson has fitness centers at most facilities. Its ''Live for Life'' program has twice-weekly running and walking clubs and individualized nutrition and fitness counseling, offering prizes for healthy choices.

At diversified manufacturer Parker Hannifin Corp., one-third of its 26,000 employees participate in Healthtrac. They get quarterly phone calls from a health educator about weight control or other health problems. The program claims to cut doctor visits and health costs more than 20 percent in a year.

Insurer CIGNA Corp. and computer maker/consultant IBM use a ''Think Light!'' program that pushes low-fat, high-fiber diets through counseling, telephone support, discussion groups and educational materials.

Third-party billing company Alliance Data Systems has a fitness center and uses a program called ''Learn'' (Lifestyles, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships and Nutrition); it includes a food diary and 16 weekly lessons on setting realistic weight-loss goals, staying motivated and preventing or coping with relapses.

Source: Washington Business Group on Health

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