Why Weight Loss Challenges are Killing Your Wellness Results

A lot of ideas are great in theory. In theory, getting your kids a puppy to learn some responsibility sounds great. That’s until you’re the one outside picking up the mess on the lawn and doing all the work.
Corporate weight loss challenges are much the same. The first few months are great. We see results, people are excited, and it seems like we made a real change in our employee’s lives!


Fast forward a few months post challenge… We’ve lost those results, people are over it, and you’re doing all the work to get them excited again.


So what happened? Why don’t people want to hang onto their results they work so hard for during our “60 Day Body Transformation” or the “90 Day Summer Slim Down?” Well the answer is simple and makes a lot of sense:




You see we have 2 different types of motivation:


  • Intrinsic Motivation




  • Extrinsic Motivation


Weight loss challenges obviously provide extrinsic motivation


Win the competition and receive prize xyz. But this presents an immediate problem once the prize goes away: What’s the motivation at that point? Ummm… There is none.


We assume getting employees results will immediately provide intrinsic motivation once they “feel” the change in their life. But having an extrinsic marker to shoot for typically changes our mindset: That prize becomes our finish line.


Once we hit the finish line, we’re done and can go back to the way things were. We don’t have to be active because what’s the point? There is no prize… That donut looks good, go ahead and eat it, prize money is off the table.


Think of short term, fad diets. Do they work? Not for long-term results. And we all know that now, but follow the same thinking in pursuit of immediate results with our Wellness Programs.


Just like weight loss challenges provide employees with immediate gratification of physical results, they’re attractive to Wellness Managers because they make us look great too. Look what I got the group to do! But just like the employees’ physical results, our long-term Wellness Program results are frustratingly filled with ups and downs.


What to do about it:


Well, obviously if extrinsic motivation provides short-term gratification, intrinsic motivation will provide the opposite. We must find the intrinsic motivator for each of our employees.


In the fitness world, we call it the “hot button.” What is the button we can push to motivate the individual in front of us? Find that and you change a life.


But how do we find it? Well, this is where we could use an extrinsic motivator to get our opportunity to uncover the intrinsic motivator. Every incentive offered to employees should have the aim of establishing an intrinsic motivator.


Want to offer employees a reimbursement for using the corporate gym? How about they meet with the Wellness Coach for 15 minutes before starting the gym to establish their goals. And not the “I want to tone up and feel better” goals, the real intrinsic motivator: “I need to get in better shape for my family and to be around for my childrentype goals.


Here are some other examples of things we have tried:


  • Hire coaches. Honestly, having professionals that know how to shape behavioral change is your best chance at success and will provide the greatest return.
  • Give an incentive to build a “What is my why?” board that they keep in plain sight. The more employees see their reason for getting out of bed in the morning, the more their subconscious is ignited to put forth some effort.
  • Give an incentive to journal with a coach. Sleep journals, food journals, motivation journals.. They’ve all shown to increase success in reach of our goals. Why not use them?
  • Provide a library of behavioral change books. Turns out reading is good for everyone. But I actually hate reading, so I invest in audible.com and it has enhanced my life and abilities an incredible amount.
  • Bring in educational speakers that will resonate with employees’ struggles. You never know when someone’s life will change but providing more education increases the opportunities a great deal.


Looking for more resources? Two books on this topic I highly recommend:


  • Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
  • Switch” by Dan Heath and Chip Heath





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