Four Things Reluctant Employees Need to Take Charge of Their Health

Mar 4, 2022 8:00:00 AM

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If you look around your workplace, you’ll see some of your colleagues who thrive on staying fit. They’re the Peloton users, the marathoners and gym-goers, the ones who forgo all the snacks passed around the office.

But what about the larger number of employees who’ve tried and failed – perhaps multiple times – at establishing a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight? Employers know that helping employees get healthier can boost longevity and productivity, and save on health costs. Yet any employee wellness program will need to address the skepticism and lack of self-confidence that segment of employees feels. 

Some programs connect better than others with that population, setting aside strict diet and exercise protocols for a more supportive, flexible approach that emphasizes manageable and sustainable lifestyle and habit change. To help you assess which programs will work, here are four things reluctant employees need to take charge of their health:

  1. On-demand coaching

Some employees who’ve struggled with yo-yo dieting or tried multiple food or exercise protocols in the past may have lost confidence in knowing what is healthy. They appreciate having a health professional guiding them along the way, providing feedback, information and advice whenever they need it.

A health coach can redirect the focus from prescriptive solutions to larger healthy habits and lifestyle changes that have wide and long-lasting benefits. For instance, a nutrition coach can work with members on finding healthy food hacks and reapportioning their plates (based on Harvard’s Healthy Plate guidelines), so half of the plate is fruits and vegetables, one quarter is whole grains and one quarter is lean protein. A fitness coach can encourage members to incorporate strength exercises and send them videos of specific moves to try.

Coaches can also provide encouragement through celebrating members’ wins and helping them bounce back from setbacks. Everyone trying to make healthy changes has good days and bad days. On the bad days, it helps members to have someone to both express empathy and provide accountability so they don’t give up.

  1. Balanced eating over banned foods

Many programs focus on restricting certain foods or entire food groups, like carbohydrates or fats, but that approach can backfire. Studies show that abstaining from a desired food can cause people to later binge on that food, consuming far more calories than if they never had the restriction. Diets focused on limitations also lack staying power and ultimately result in reversion to former eating patterns.

A better strategy is to focus on making reasonable adjustments to the quality and quantity of food consumed. The emphasis is on converting high-calorie, low-nutrition foods in the diet to calorie-dense, high-nutrition foods that leave members feeling more full and more energized. And, because your employees don’t feel deprived, they do not have the urge to “cheat” or overeat. Weight loss may come slower, but that slower, steady pace yields more durable results.

Programs with this approach work with participants to identify the foods they already prefer, and then work to make those meals healthier. Take, for example, an omelet. A member can learn to skip fatty and salty fillings like bacon, sausage or ham, and instead add vegetables they enjoy, like spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers. By working around the item the member enjoys eating, the program improves the odds of long-term adherence. By making the menu item healthier and lower in calories, the program boosts the probability of success.


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  1. Personalization

Scientists don’t know exactly why certain diets work for some people and not for others. A group of researchers from Stanford University attempted to find some answers when they studied and compared two groups of people, one following a no-carb diet and the other following a low-fat diet. After 12 months, there was no significant difference between the two groups in terms of weight loss. But what was especially interesting is that some members of each group lost weight on their plan, and some members lost no weight or even gained weight on each plan. When a reporter followed up with four of the study participants to determine why their results varied so much from each other, his conclusion was that the results had less to do with the diet and much more to do with other factors in each participant’s lifestyle. In other words, each person had particular habits and lifestyle that either supported their weight loss goals or worked against them.

The best wellness programs take into account these factors and work with members individually to address them. For instance, those with jobs that involve driving to multiple locations may need advice on how to trade daily fast food stops for healthier options. Or someone who works in a desk job may need ideas on how to incorporate movement into the day. 

Every person’s response to an eating or exercise protocol depends on many factors, including their genetics, preferences, personality and lifestyle. Having a program that takes those factors into account and personalizes the experience increases the likelihood that members will persevere. In the end, the ideal diet is the one members will follow long-term.    

  1. Holistic health integration

Good health isn’t just about weight loss and disease prevention. Or, more specifically, those outcomes impact, and are impacted by, many other areas of wellness, from mobility to mental health. With that in mind, recognize that your employees want wellness programs that incorporate the broader scope of health. That can include areas like mental and emotional health, sleep and stress relief. 

Medical professionals have discovered that stress, for example, causes some people to eat more and raises the level of cortisol, which leads to higher insulin and lower blood sugar levels. A wellness program can help by providing stress-reduction tools, such as yoga and meditation videos, or encouraging members to call a friend or take a walk when they are stressed, rather than reach for a bag of chips.

Sleep loss also triggers cortisol, which results in cravings and a loss of self-control. Again, a good health program should offer information, tips and resources to help members experience better rest.

Turning Reluctance Into Results

Employees who have had disappointing experiences with weight loss and disease prevention programs in the past may need to be convinced to give another one a try. Employers need to choose carefully. They might also consider an all-mobile program, which makes communicating with coaches, logging progress and asking questions fast and easy.

Yes Health’s digital health platform is designed to engage people who don’t connect with more rigid or formulaic programs. You can read about Yes Health’s three programs for diabetes prevention, healthy weight and concierge health coaching in our comparison guide. Across all programs, we offer:

  • On-demand, technology-enhanced, human coaching.
  • An emphasis on balanced nutrition.
  • Personalization based on lifestyle and preferences.
  • A holistic approach to lifestyle and behavior change. 

Plus, it’s fast and convenient. Members simply use their smartphones to post a photo or message of their meal or activity and receive quick feedback from one of our professional health coaches. They can also dialogue with nutritionists, exercise physiologists and psychologists about any health issues or questions, and access articles and videos 24/7 through the app’s library.

Most Yes Health members are eating consistently nutritious meals within 13 weeks of starting the program, and lose at least 5% of body weight within 12 months.

See it for yourself! Reach out to schedule a time to talk and view the demo.