Workplace Weight Gain: Job Making You Fat? (cont.)

And then there's the all-day temptation that happens when your job is all about food. A 28-year-old cook at a pizzeria in Omaha says that when he and his co-workers tire of eating pizza (and the boss is gone), they tap their network of neighborhood eateries and trade pizza for ice cream, burgers, etc.

"I can eat all I want because I spend a couple of hours a day at the gym," says the cook, who spoke to WebMD on condition that his name not be used. "But most people [at the workplace] just keep getting fatter."

Even if you can't spend hours at the gym, earning a living -- even in a temptation-filled workplace -- doesn't have to earn you extra pounds as well. Experts who spoke to WebMD recommend a two-pronged approach: Enlist support, and have a plan of action for yourself.

A Healthier Workplace

First, take a lesson from employers who are actively promoting good health habits in the workplace.

Logan Aluminum in Russellville, Ky., has an 11-year-old wellness program most workers can only dream about. The company has about 1,000 employees, mostly male. Each year the company sets company-wide goals and encourages work teams and individuals to set goals.

Last year's employee goals included reducing body mass index (BMI), exercising at least three times a week, reducing tobacco use, increasing use of seat belts, and lowering health-care costs.

"Kentucky ranks fourth among states in the incidence of obesity," says Logan's wellness director, Teresa Lovely. "Around here, people raise tobacco and eat fried food."

Last year, Logan saw a 4% increase in the number of workers whose BMI is in the acceptable range and an 8% increase in exercise. Of the 900 employees who set wellness goals, 800 met them and received $50 gift cards.

"That's very high participation," says Lovely. "The first year we had individual goals was 1997, and we awarded incentives to just 10 people."

The wellness program includes classes, a fitness center, and a policy of offering healthy alternatives whenever the company provides food. For example, in addition to hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and soda at the company picnic, there are grilled chicken breasts, baked chips, bottled water, and fresh fruit. "We've made these changes, and people accept them," says Lovely.

What can you do in a workplace that isn't quite so diet-friendly? Virtually every company has people who want to control their weight. Lovely suggests that health-conscious workers get together and hold contests on their own to lose weight, increase exercise, or reduce BMI.

Most weight loss contests reward people for losing the most weight, but Lovely advises caution. "Sometimes that encourages unhealthy behavior," she says. An alternative is to reward everyone who finishes the contest.

She adds that holding a contest doesn't require money: "People love to earn points."

Some people avoid contests because they don't want to publicize how much they weigh or how much they're losing. In this case, Lovely suggests holding a "celebrity" weight loss challenge in which people report their progress using an alias such as "Jennifer Lopez" or "Will Smith."

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