Make sure to bring your sneakers and gym shorts to work with you – because a weight loss contest could be coming to your workplace! More employees are being challenged to exercise and eat healthy for a few months, either solo or teamed up with fellow coworkers. And the biggest weight loser wins cold, hard cash – sometimes thousands of dollars! And the number of companies running these contests has jumped 69%!

So, why are companies encouraging weight loss competitions? Because it saves them money! Studies show that healthy and fit workers have much lower rates of absenteeism, and lower health care costs than their unfit coworkers. And a study of weight loss contests at 500 companies found that 90% of people lost weight.

But critics blast the contests. They say it’s a major violation of privacy having weekly weigh-ins among coworkers. And they feel your health is nobody’s business but yours. We also read about some people who felt uncomfortable after their company forced the lowest performing contestants to wear clown suits to work as punishment. It’s kind of a Scarlet Letter concept, so everyone was reminded that they didn’t lose enough weight. And other participants have said their coworkers got angry with them if they shed enough weight.

It’s also easy for weight loss contests to turn extreme. We read about one accountant who felt so pressured to lose weight from her coworkers that she went on a crash diet and nearly passed out. Also, like with most diets, people who do company weight loss contests generally DO end up gaining weight back.

So, do you think companies should hold weight loss contests? Is your health your company’s business?

Lesson Expert

Meredith McKenna