Study Shows Effectiveness of Ongoing Employer-Sponsored Weight Loss Programs

December 17, 2019

Study examines the clinical benefit of re-engaging in a corporate weight loss program.

Employees who are offered a weight loss behavioral intervention by their employer are most successful when given repeat or on-going access to the program, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that employers can help employees lose weight and keep it off long-term when they offer repeat or on-going access to employer-sponsored weight loss programs.

For the study, the weight loss and health improvements of 11,825 employees from two different companies were tracked as they participated in a behavioral weight loss intervention consecutive times. These employees chose to repeat the program approximately one year after they initially completed it. The average time between a participant starting the program for the first time and starting it a second time was 372 days, but ranged from 56 to 945 days. Males lost an average of 4.7% of their body weight and women lost an average of 4.4% of their body weight.

“The employees we followed initially lost weight when they completed the program, but on average, experienced some weight regain after they stopped participating. After taking the program a second time, participants again lost weight, leading to an average long-term weight loss of approximately 4.5% of their initial body weight,” says Rob Butler, chief executive officer of Naturally Slim, a digital behavioral health company based in Dallas that is focused on metabolic syndrome (MetS) reversal, diabetes prevention, and weight management within the employer-sponsored space. “As reported by the National Institutes of Health, by losing as little as 3% of their body weight, these participants likely decreased their chances of developing costly diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

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“Just as with any learned skill, it is important to provide repeated instruction to help participants brush up on the skills they learned. Just ask any golfer, you don’t take one lesson and expect to be a pro,” Butler says. “You are continually learning, seeking instruction, and practicing your learned skills to improve over the long-term.” 

It has been demonstrated in the clinical setting that long-term behavioral intervention is a successful approach to produce and maintain weight loss, according to Butler.

“The study sought to determine if a digital intervention offered by employers to their employees would achieve the same success,” he says. “Employers are interested in finding solutions to help their employees improve their health and reduce disease risk factors that lead to costly chronic diseases. Similarly, employees want solutions to improve their health to feel better and improve their quality of life. The goal of this study was to determine if a digital weight loss intervention, which is scalable and cost-effective for employers to offer their population repeatedly, could produce the same results as the more labor-intensive and expensive clinical programs. And, the answer is ‘yes.’”

Healthcare executives are acutely aware of the impact of obesity and MetS within the populations they serve, says Butler.

“MetS, a combination of risk factors, such a waist circumference, high blood glucose, and high blood pressure, increase the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and more,” he says. “The CDC estimates the medical costs of obesity in the United States is approximately $147 billion annually, and the associated medical costs per obese individual is $1,429 higher than normal weight individuals. Unfortunately, healthcare employees are often more focused on the health of their patients than they are on their own health. By offering a cost-effective, behavioral weight loss intervention to their employee population, healthcare executives can help their employees ‘practice what they preach’ to their patients.”

Naturally Slim funded the study.