Employers looking to improve the overall health of their workforce might want to consider inviting diet experts into the lunchroom, a new study suggests. The study of workplace weight-loss programs found that the office is a great environment for overweight workers looking to shed extra pounds.

The Tufts University study found that workers who completed a weight loss program and behavioral counseling program at their place of work lost an average of 18 pounds over a six-month period.

The participants in the study followed a reduced-calorie diet and met for weekly sessions with a health counselor during their lunch break. The sessions focused on strategies for menu planning, portion control and managing hunger, as well as dealing with stress-related and emotional eating.

Employees who completed the program not only lost weight but also made improvements in common markers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk, such as lower cholesterol and glucose levels and decreased blood pressure.

“Offices are really wonderful settings for weight-loss groups,” said Sai Krupa Das, a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University. “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.”

Susan B. Roberts, a co-author of the study and director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory, said the program also involved distribution of weight-loss information to employees not participating in the study. Researchers handed out newsletters and held monthly seminars on topics such as cardiovascular health, nutrition and exercise.

Roberts said the researchers observed a “ripple effect” involving employees who were not part of the study but still lost weight during 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,” Roberts said.

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Workplace weight loss programs work
A study found that workers who completed a weight loss program and behavioral counseling program at work lost an average of 18 pounds.