Employees kick off program towards a healthy lifestyle

Rebekah Alvey

Employees of WKU gathered in Downing Student Union to kick off the summer session for Weight Watchers at Work this morning.

The Weight Watchers at Work program has been offered to WKU employees and their spouses during the fall, spring and summer semesters for two years now. Top Life Wellness, a comprehensive health promotion program for employees and their spouses, sponsors the program. Top Life has been offering programs for five years.

The program is 12 weeks long and is entirely subsidized by the university if participants attend at least nine of the weekly meetings. Melody Urban, a leader with Weight Watchers, said they encourage participants to attend every meeting and provide several different meeting times throughout the week.

Wade Pinkard, employee wellness manager, said the program has been successful at WKU in previous semesters. In the spring session, participants lost an average of 10 pounds per person.

“The weight loss is phenomenal,” Urban said. “I have never been with another at work meeting that has been this successful.”

Pinkard said there was interest from the university and its employees for health improvement programs. Top Life was created to serve this function in 2013 and was integrated into employee health plan in 2015. 

Pinkard said he was exposed to Weight Watchers at Work at a previous job and knew it would fit in with the structure of Top Life. Urban said WKU has been accommodating and helped with implementing the program. 

Participation in Weight Watchers at work is voluntary and one of many options offered by Top Life. Pinkard said employees could either accept or decline the Top Life pledge.   

Urban said some participants return for multiple sessions. At the first weigh-in of the summer semester, Urban said they celebrated five members who had lost five pounds since the last weigh-in. 

“They are healthier, happier and more energized,” Pinkard said 

In addition to the direct benefits of health promotion, the university has a financial interest in the program because employees with a healthy lifestyle rely on health care services less frequently. Pinkard said programs like Weight Watchers at Work could help avoid university healthcare costs. 

Pinkard said after they had evaluated the program, WKU saw an improvement in population health with a reduction of lifestyle risks and an increase in health markers.

While people come to Weight Watchers to lose weight, Urban said it has become more holistic and focuses on things other than a scale weight like activities and mindset. The program offers guidelines, but no absolute rules which Urban said make the program flexible for every lifestyle.

“You work this program the way you want to work it,” Urban said.

Urban said typically people think they cannot eat on campus if they are trying to lose weight but once they start and learn about the program it is possible to find healthy options. Urban said college campuses are more fast paced, and you need to be more mindful of what you are eating.

“You can be very unhealthy on a college campus, and you can be healthy,” Urban said. “We have several hundred people who have proved that it can be done here.”

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].