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Silly Wellness Scaries

BY: Maggie Gough // Director of Member Experience • WELCOA

Happy Halloween! Enjoy these stories from the WELCOA Team. From their various experiences, our leaders have encountered just about everything you can imagine in the world of workplace wellness. Take, for instance, Maggie’s story of facilitating a weight-loss challenge for a law firm.

I was on the 35th floor in a fancy law firm in the center of a major city. The conference room had floor-to-ceiling windows that framed the room. The HR Director was super serious, and, quite frankly, I was a little scared of her. She asked the firm I was working for to provide a weight-loss challenge. Yes, regrettably, I have developed and delivered these types of challenges.

All of the usual jokes were common banter during the weekly weigh-ins. The first week everyone wore their heaviest jewelry and thickest clothing. Each subsequent week, everyone shared their stories of skipping breakfast and avoiding water—you know, all the things we hope people do to be healthy (sarcasm). On the day of the final weigh-in, the tone shifted. These employees were serious. There were three contenders for first place, and with extra PTO as the award, it was clear the competition was heated. One by one, they filed in. I was recording the weight of the last person that had entered the room. I heard the final participant enter the room and close the door behind me. As I turned to walk over to the scale, I saw that she had completely undressed except her underwear. Flabbergasted, I ran to all of the shades of the floor-to-ceiling windows to drop them as quickly as I could while she informed me she was comfortable with me seeing her, which was obvious at this point. My more significant concern was the employees in the other buildings who had a clear line of sight into that conference room and were taking note.

That employee won the weight-loss challenge and, as it turns out, had won every previous challenge. She put her clothes back on and casually walked out of the room a winner.

Lori’s story is one you’re not going to believe…

I felt like I had seen it all—people enraged over free t-shirts not fitting them (even though they received the size they ordered), complaints about showers being too hot or too cold, even people “borrowing” weights from the fitness center. Yet, those were nothing compared to what people did to win a weight-loss challenge.

The weight loss challenge was the most talked-about and highest participated-in program every year. Teams would form months in advance, trash talk would start early, and everybody was all a buzz when the time came for the initial weigh-in. Every year people would show up with layers of their heaviest clothing items for that initial weigh-in. Each year those layers became heavier and seemed to multiply. Lots of jewelry, large boots, belts, I even caught somebody emptying rocks from their pockets after weighing in. Each year the rules would adjust to try to accommodate for such things—i.e., no shoes for both the initial and final weigh-ins.

As the challenge would go on (usually for a total of 12 weeks), fewer people would show up to weigh in each week. Some team captains would schedule time for their team members to weigh in. Others would simply have people weigh in on their own and report it to them. But in reality, the only two official weigh-ins were the initial and the final ones. Everybody weighed in with the wellness team for those.

Similar to Maggie’s experience, I have witnessed people strip down to nearly nothing for that final weigh-in. The ultimate tipping point for me was when I discovered that a handful of individuals were using diuretics, hormones, and other substances to chemically force themselves to lose as much weight as possible prior to the final weigh-in. I was horrified that people were putting their health in danger for a mere gift card. We quickly stopped holding the weight-loss challenges thereafter.

Thankfully, we have evolved as professionals and as an industry. Now we lead healthier change.

Happy Halloween everyone! We hope you enjoyed our scary stories.

Maggie Gough
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR Maggie Gough // Director of Member Experience • WELCOA
Serving a variety of populations in a multitude of industries, Maggie understands the complexity and depth of the corporate wellness industry and the needs of the professionals and employees they support. Her role at WELCOA is to ensure members receive stellar service and build sustaining connections as a community.