I don’t get to go on my office’s weight loss reward cruise

A reader writes:

I have a situation that I would like to pick your brain on if I may. I’m not sure if I’m overreacting or if this is actually a problem and is unfair.

The company I work for allows managers to implement wellness programs and initiatives for their branches or departments. The company is big (hundreds of employees) but my branch only has nine of us, plus a manager and an assistant manager. My manager implemented a voluntary wellness initiative, which included access to a nutritionist and coupons for sessions with a trainer or a gym membership. He, the assistant manager, and all of my coworkers signed up. He announced that anyone who lost 25 pounds in two months would be rewarded with a day cruise on a boat near our city, all expenses paid dinner, drinks, and fun and because it was on a Friday everyone would get a paid day off of work.

Losing 25 pounds would put me at 85 pounds, which is underweight for my height. I know weight alone is not the only indicator of health, but I’m former military and currently in the reserves. I go for a physical every year and both the military and my doctor are happy with my weight, my exercise routine, and how in shape I am. (I’m not saying this next thing to be mean, but all my coworkers and manager talked about their progress openly and by their own words they were 50 pounds or more overweight, according to the nutritionist or trainer). My manager refused to make an exception for me because he said the program had to apply to everyone and their HR department back him up, saying the program wouldn’t be fair if it didn’t apply to everyone equally. I ended up having to come into an empty office with no work to do on the day my managers and coworkers took the boat cruise. My manager even checked when I swiped in and out to make sure I came in on time and didn’t leave early. He says there will be more prizes like this in the future and everyone but me is excited about it.

Do you think I am wrong to be upset and to feel left out? I don’t begrudge my coworkers making changes but I also don’t think it’s fair I should miss out because I don’t need to lose weight. Should I just leave this alone and be more supportive?

(I do want to indicate that when I’m discussing health and fitness, I’m talking about myself only. I don’t think I’m better than anyone or anything like that and I hope I didn’t come across that way.)

Agggghh, your manager is being an ass.

I mean, really, what would he do if you decided to participate anyway because you really wanted that day cruise, and starved yourself down to 85 pounds? Would he feel good about that outcome? Assuming not, he’s basically saying “this program applies to everyone but you. You are not eligible for these prizes.” And that’s crappy.

Frankly, workplace weight loss initiatives are fraught with issues and should never be happening anyway. In addition to what you’re running into, they’re hell for people with eating disorders, totally overlook people who are trying to gain weight or maintain it rather than lose it, sometimes promote really unhealthy habits, and play into our culture’s weird obsession with food and weight … and then there’s the whole thing of it being kind of creepy to have your employer taking such an interest in your health and nutritional choices.

So it’s a bad idea anyway. But your manager is being particularly crappy in this case, with having you be the one person on your team who didn’t get to go on the cruise, and even going so far as to check up on what time you swiped in and out. The gracious move would have been for him to say, “Come celebrate with us.”

As for what you should do, though … It really depends on how much you want to take this on. If you want to make this your issue and point out to your boss how unhealthy these competitions can be and why they don’t make sense, go for it. You’d have logic and reason on your side. But if you don’t feel strongly enough about it to tackle that, there’s nothing wrong with just rolling your eyes and writing him off as strangely obtuse on this issue.

{ 540 comments… read them below }

    1. Interviewer*

      As someone who manages our company’s wellness program, I’m horrified by the lack of logic here.

      You should have a chat with HR, preferably with a copy of the language in HIPAA governing wellness programs and “reasonable alternative standards.”


      Basically, they need to offer you a chance to get the same incentive, without requiring you to weigh 85 pounds by a certain date.

      Hopefully your update will include pictures of you enjoying a cruise on a workday, without your team or your awful manager.

      1. Artemesia*

        so obvious. If she is not overweight then some fitness challenge could be substituted or something else that contributes to the wellness goals but isn’t weight loss.

        I am sort of horrified that a business would make such a focus on weight loss. I personally am overweight but I need to lost about 10 pounds not 25 — that would not be healthy for me and for most of my life, I was on the low side of the BMI for my height.

        Offering prizes that some people can’t compete for is not ‘being equal for everyone’ it is discriminating against people based on their body size.

        1. Michele*

          Also, for most people, losing 25 lbs in two months is going to require some very unhealthy behavior. We get inundated with commercials acting like that is realistic, but it isn’t.

          1. Adonday Veeah*

            I know, right? That’s a lot of weight to lose in such a short period of time. Unless, of course, health doesn’t matter…

          2. Shannon*

            Most doctors don’t reccomend losing more than 1-2 pounds a week or 1% of your body weight a week, and that’s assuming that one needs or wants to lose weight.

            The OP is being penalized for being healthy.

          3. PB*

            I was just coming here to say this. I’m not an expert by any stretch, but any time I’ve talked to medical professionals or nutritionists, they generally advise trying to lose one pound a week on average. Not only would employees have to do unhealthy things to lose that weight, losing weight that rapidly can lead to health problems.

            Also, what’s the point of losing all of that weight, only to be rewarded with food and drinks?

            I have a lot of issues with most workplace health initiatives, and this one seems particularly fraught.

            1. LK*

              >Also, what’s the point of losing all of that weight, only to be rewarded with food and drinks?

              SO TRUE would loooooove to know who regains what in a month…. 25 lbs in 2 months is 2+ lbs a week….. binge and purge and hellloooo yoyo dieting. As someone who is active and has done a TON of research resulting in tracking all my food and my macro split to ensure I’m at a healthy weight and maximizing my performance by eating for fuel…… there is nothing healthy here…. nothing sustainable.

              1. Drew*

                Don’t think of it as “gaining it all back,” think of it as “getting in shape for the next cruise challenge”! Ack. Stupid, stupid, STUPID boss.

            2. Allison*

              I have to wonder what kind of food would have been served on a cruise like that. A selection of vegan salads, tiny portions of meat, light beer, and Skinny Girl cocktails?

            3. JessaB*

              Not to mention that only a tiny percentage of people (less than 5%) will keep that weight off more than 5 years (which is why places like Weight Watchers only do 3 year studies and all the asterisks that say * results not typical.)

              If diets worked and always kept the weight off, all someone would have to do is try them til they found the one that worked best for their body and bang done. Diet companies/programmes/supplements would be out of business or making a very low amount of money for “maintenance programmes,” if the things really worked permanently.

              Plus if someone is disabled and cannot exercise, that’s another problem.

              And yo-yo dieting is actually worse than never losing the weight in the first place. It resets your set point HIGHER because your body is designed to go “hey the amount of food we’re used to just drastically went down, OMG famine, starving, must add weight to survive whatever this disaster is.”

              And definitely agreeing with people that 25 lbs in that amount of time is a really bad idea.

              1. LadyCop*

                Actually Weight Watchers says results not typical because they can’t guarantee anything not because it’s some company scam…It’s also why they’re changing their identity from “dieting” to lifestyle. Because people like you say dismissive ignorant things like “diets don’t work” as if that means no once can loose weight ever.

                Also that 5% statistic is for bariatric surgery…not weight loss goals.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That was my reaction—losing 25 lbs. in two months is not healthy for most people and certainly not encouraged by doctors.

            Bosses should not be responsible for setting wellness programs and administering them. Most of the time they’re not competent to do it, and they risk imposing dangerous policies that are good for absolutely no one. OP, I’m sorry you’re subjected to this asshat-ery.

            1. Teclatrans*

              Yes, seriously, how could HR be okay with this “wellness” goal? 25 pounds in 2 months is insane. Sure, that happens sometimes for some people when they do, for instance, a restrictive Paleo diet, but in general that is an unreasonable amount, and incentives terrible dietary choices. Yo-yo dieting is good to harm them long-term. Augh. (Not to mention, weight loss goals are problematic on their own, no matter the number involved.)

          5. Pup Seal*

            I’m not an expert, but I’ve been told that unless you’re morbidly obese healthy weight loss is losing about a pound a week.

            1. AEM*

              This is accurate.
              I’m overweight (around 210 lbs at this point) but I had my gallbladder bladder removed in April (emergency) and the change in diet/lack of appetite made me lose 10-12 lbs in under 2.5 weeks. I’m extremely self conscious and want desperately to lose weight, but that was a miserable experience the whole way through. The only plus is that now I’m used to eating much smaller meals, but other than that none of it was worth it. When I returned to work (retail) a regular customer who has shown concern for me before commented on my weight. I told her I had lost that much and she congratulated me. I was shocked. I would have thought everyone would know that what happened to me was not healthy in any way but apparently in this society it’s commendable to starve yourself – as long as you lose weight, of course.

          6. SarahKay*

            So much this! My first thought when reading the “25 pounds in two months” sentence was ‘That’s not healthy.’

        2. Lablizard*

          Like maybe a “eat the rainbow” challenge, where you try to eat as many veggies and fruits in all the colors?

          I am too thin as it is because when I am busy at work I live on coffee and adrenaline. If I lost 25 lbs I might be dead, and even 5 would get me a lecture by my doctor. Why would I even want to join a “Wellness Challenge” that would make me less well?

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Can you share with me the logic behind the existence of a company wellness to begin with? It seems like a massive intrusion into personal matters, and I for one find such intrusions deeply inappropriate for a fundamentally transactional relationship. My employer is not my mother or my life coach or my family or my personal trainer; it’s the entity to which I voluntarily sell my labor and expertise in exchange for a (hopefully) fair rate of compensation.

        1. Allypopx*

          Usually a health insurance liability thing. It benefits the employer to have healthier employees.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            There’s also the loss of productivity if your employees get sick a lot or have to miss work due to chronic medical conditions that is a bigger and more direct hit to the employer than health care costs, especially when your risk pool is large.
            But programs that prioritize weight loss over healthy lifestyle are not actually achieving that goal. I guarantee if the LW starved herself down to 85 lbs she would get sick more often, not less.

            1. jordanjay29*

              And then there are those of us who have chronic health issues totally unrelated to weight (and I’m not even overweight so I couldn’t just lose the pounds for other reasons). Maybe instead of goading people to lose weight, they think instead about how to promote healthier lifestyles. For example, consider the type of food they serve at this boat party, among other things, is it high in salt, sugar, fats? I’m not suggesting a company has to switch to mandated salad luncheons, but they could be stricter with their offerings when they do have company food (like skipping ham sandwiches for turkey or chicken which have less salt, replacing potato chips with something less loaded with fats and salt, offering sugar-free drinks, etc). Some people are going to make the bad choices, but the company doesn’t have to help them, it just takes a little thought and some casual research into nutrition to make some positive changes.

          2. Noobtastic*

            That may be true, but weight loss simply for the sake of weight loss is NOT healthy. Rapid weight loss (25 pounds in two months?!) is NOT healthy. People will do horribly unhealthy things to get there, thinking that the state of being thin, at the end, somehow makes them healthy, even if they starved their bodies into consuming their own muscle mass and destroying their organs. Like that doesn’t count, if they get thin.

            Also, 95% of human beings cannot sustain their weight loss, and gain most of it back, within 5 years. Of that 95%, approximately 2/3 actually gain MORE than they lost, in the first place, which is why studies not show that dieting is the leading indicator of future weight GAIN.

            So, by pushing weight loss, just for the sake of weight loss (as opposed to pushing healthier living, by eating more nutritious foods, and engaging in regular exercise, both of which MAY lead to weight loss, as a side effect), the “wellness program” is actually promoting UNwellness.

            This is a particular bugaboo for me, and I have to bite my tongue, now, but believe me, there is a whole lot more to say on the subject. All of it boils down to: Manager is a fat phobic bigoted jackass, and a really awful fool. Oh, look! No swear words! I did it!

            1. Zombii*

              I’ll see your “95% of human beings cannot sustain their weight loss, and gain most of it back, within 5 years,” and raise you “all of OP’s co-workers will gain the 25 lbs back by the end of the month, because they’ll go back to their old eating/fitness habits instead of making any pretense of maintenance since the challenge was only for 2 months and now the challenge is over.” I’m not trying to be cruel or flippant, I just recognize this by coming from a family of chronic dieters. It isn’t healthy, or helpful, for anyone.

              I seriously despise how our cultural focus of “wellness” is always on a “goal” and not on some semblance of healthy maintenance of fitness habits—but then one of these things is an endpoint with a convenient excuse for a celebration, and the other is one of those forever-type-things, so it totally makes sense.

              1. myswtghst*

                Totally agreed, especially with your second paragraph. The “goal” is always weight loss, never creating healthy habits, even though healthy habits have a much bigger impact on health outcomes than weight does anyhow.

        2. Anon 2*

          I’m not in HR, but I always assumed it was to help reduce health insurance costs to the employer.

          The employer, I worked for that had the biggest wellness program (on-site gym, smoking cessation classes, nutritionist on staff, weight loss groups, free physicals each year) was self-insured, and they did pushed all the wellness stuff to keep their healthcare costs down.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Making resources available for those who wish to take advantage makes sense, but actively penalizing (financially or otherwise) people who can’t, don’t, or are prevented from meeting an arbitrary and extreme weight loss goal is bonkers.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m with you, but I’ve seen this creep happen, as well (i.e., not just making wellness programs available but actively bullying people into them or penalizing them for not participating or not making goals).

              Honestly, it’s another reason to support single-payer healthcare.

              1. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

                “Honestly, it’s another reason to support single-payer healthcare.”

                So we could then have the government bullying us about our health? That’ll work out real well for teenage girls in high school……

                1. hugseverycat*

                  They already do, though. For example, Michelle Obama’s anti childhood obesity program.

                2. Hmm*

                  I sincerely doubt your aversion to “government bullying” stems from a concern for the well-being of teenage girls.

                3. Violet Fox*

                  I live in a country with single payer healthcare and it really does not work like that. Never once have I felt bullied by a doctor about my weigh, fitness level, or lack there of.

                  What we do have where I work is the opportunity to work out for a few hours a week on company time. We can use it or not, no judgement either way. It is just offered as there for anyone who wants to use it.

                4. Lablizard*

                  I grew up in a single payer (for the most part) system. Your perception is inaccurate

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  We can discuss this in an open thread, if you like, but I don’t think this specific thread is the place to do it, and I also don’t want to run afoul of the “no politics” conversation.

                  I just wanted to highlight that when you receive employer-sponsored health insurance, your employer might misapply wellness programs out of a desire to lower their costs, which can result in absurd situations like this one.

            2. hugseverycat*

              My company penalizes people who don’t do their wellness program to the tune of $50 a month. One way to keep costs down is to pay your employees less. So yeah, “wellness”.

              1. an anon*

                Employees who don’t participate can actually be charged up to 30% more for their insurance premiums, which can be significantly more than $50/month.

              2. Ted Mosby*

                another way to keep costs down is to encourage employees to eat well and exercise so health insurance costs are lower and productivity is higher.

          2. JessaB*

            Yeh but there’s a huge fallacy about weight loss = healthy. Lots of thin people are unhealthy and lots of fat people are just fine. Plus going by numbers alone does nothing. BMI is a tool designed to track large scale populations to predict and manage famines and food scarcity. NOT to apply to a single person. They say a BMI of such and such is bad. Well a lot of really healthy weight lifters have really high BMI because well huge amounts of lean muscle mass.

            And it’s still an issue in health care that two people can go into a doctor for a certain problem and the thin one will get recommendations based on what’s wrong and the fat one will be told lose weight.

            Sorry it’s a GINORMOUS bug for me. My mother lost 100 lbs, and they were so happy that Ms Weight Watchers for forty years and every fad diet ever invented lost weight, that nobody checked why. She died of cancer. By the time they realised this was NOT normal or reasonable it was way too late.

            I’m disabled and some meds I take make people gain weight. My main goal is not to gain. I don’t care if I lose anything, but we have to play with my meds to keep me from packing on (diabetes meds and steroids for breathing problems.) I track what I eat not to lose weight but to make sure I’m not grazing every 20 minutes on this snack or that because of my meds. Because you don’t really notice that you’re going into the kitchen for a handful of chips when you refill your water bottle or get another drink.

        3. Hotstreak*

          And if you feel the prizes for the challenge are worthwhile, you can voluntarily sell your labor in exchange for them as well.

          If a company self-insures, they have a vested interest in reducing their health expense costs. This can be done by incentivizing people to get annual checkups, or other activities which are known to generally improve health or reduce healthcare costs. If they don’t self-insure, they may be able to get a lower insurance rate by agreeing to participate in these sorts of programs.

          1. Sarah*

            Yeah, but OP is ALREADY at a healthy weight, and “incentivizing” her to participate in this program would put her at an unhealthy weight and likely raise health costs. So what’s the logic of that??

          2. Lablizard*

            But how does it work if you are already healthy weight? Or in my case, a weight that would be unhealthy is I lost even 5 lbs? I would think I shouldn’t be punished for that as the OP has

        4. Tuckerman*

          Companies get better rates on health insurance for employees if they can show their employees are healthy (and consequently, less likely to incur higher healthcare costs for preventable or manageable conditions). So if they can say, 75% of our employees participated in a wellness program and participants lost an average of 5 lbs this year and lowered their cholesterol 10 points, they can negotiate lower insurance costs for the company.

        5. designbot*

          In my experience I’ve seen a couple of justifications for this. First the place where these things really started is in self-insuring organizations. A very large company, or especially something like a university, often doesn’t purchase insurance through a program but rather actually pays out of pocket for healthcare expenses. In this situation corporate wellness programs provide a direct benefit to the employer’s bottom line. Now obviously this situation only applies to certain companies, but it’s where these programs have really taken off.
          More broadly though, companies justify this stuff as reducing sick days and showing an interest in their employees as people. The people who like this stuff thinks it means they care (can you tell I’m not one of them?). I’d love to see data on whether it actually does reduce sick days though.

        6. The Cosmic Avenger*

          That’s a pretty broad indictment of company wellness programs. How is it “a massive intrusion into personal matters” for a company to offer discounted fitness memberships, or a free gym in the building, or (fully optional) yoga classes, or (also fully optional) health screenings or consultations by licensed professionals, or flu shots? Those are all wellness initiatives I’ve seen offered, and that I’ve been very grateful to have, even if I haven’t taken advantage of them.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            It’s more the supervised weight-loss programs with incentives that rub me the wrong way. Offering perks is great; getting involved with arbitrating rewards for weight loss is a bridge way too far.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Absolutely, one-size-fits-all goal-based weight loss programs are a horrible idea wherever they are implemented, but wellness programs are just tools, like 360 degree performance evaluations; they can be tricky to implement properly, but they can be done thoughtfully and constructively, or they can be done horribly.

              1. kbeers0su*

                At Old Job we were required to get our numbers done annually- cholesterol, BP, heart rate, etc. Totally fine with me. Except the time when I was 8 months pregnant and they insisted that I had to get my BMI measured. There was no alternative. And then I got a call from one of the super helpful coaches to tell me that I was overweight. Obviously, because I’m literally two people right now. Still makes me cranky to think about.

                1. No Name Yet*

                  WOW. I was told to not bother getting my cholesterol/et al measured while breastfeeding, because it would skew the numbers – I could see coaches not knowing something like that. But BMI? Really? I didn’t get pregnancy mood swings, but that would have made me SO LIVID.

                2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  And you’re like “OH REALLY TELL ME ABOUT THAT.”

                3. SpaceySteph*

                  WOW. I have to pass a physical every other year for my job, but at the last one I was pregnant so the guy was basically like “I’m just not going to worry about some of these things since your OB will know better than me if there’s an issue.”

                4. textbookaquarian*

                  Those annual screenings are such nonsense. My employer no longer uses them in favor of seeing your doctor for a physical. Yet the last time I had to undergo one, the electronic blood pressure cuff squeezed my arm so hard that it caused shooting pains. The nurse kept getting distracted too and the screen would clear itself before she could see it. So she attempted to take my blood pressure THREE TIMES by which point it was elevated of course. Then she marks me down as having high blood pressure. A few weeks later my doctor checked it with a regular cuff and said it was fine. I was so irritated by the whole episode.

                5. J*

                  Ours includes BMI and waist circumference, but you can get a waiver from participating from your regular physician for a number of conditions (I know pregnancy is one because the numbers would be useless, but I’m not sure what others are considered an excuse).

                6. Anxa*

                  oh textbookaquarian,

                  I would be so angry. I cannot handle getting my BP taken. It’s a big ordeal and I was in a bit of a therapy program for it, but I really need to see a professional (and an expert).

                  I would be so embarrassed if I ended up passing out and sweating out my clothes, having to arrange a ride home from work, and missing pay from hours lost if I had to do something like that.

                7. jordanjay29*

                  @textbookaquarian Having so much experience with these, you can often explain that away by saying you have “White Coat Syndrome.” The ones who get it will laugh, the ones who don’t will probably write it down and give others a good giggle. But yeah, blood pressure in the doc’s office is fraught with stupid results. I’m someone who, for other reasons, has high blood pressure and once got mine reported as 120/80 (basically normal) by my University’s nurse. I never went back there.

            2. zora*

              the fact that it’s really because of the insurance companies makes it basically worse to me. My insurance company should not be trying to get me to do things without my doctor weighing in, they are not medical professionals and they don’t know me. It’s super inappropriate to me to have these wellness ‘programs’ with specific results and I don’t think there really is a good ‘reason’. I’m totally with you.

              1. Hotstreak*

                Doctors have minimal training in the areas of exercise & nutrition, which is what these wellness programs focus on. You don’t need to be a doctor to know that losing a few pounds, being active, or getting an annual checkup is generally good for health.

                1. Sarah*

                  Well, it depends on the person though. The OP obviously would NOT benefit from reducing her weight to 25 pounds! There are plenty of people who would actually be healthier if they put on some weight/muscle mass. Or there are people with eating disorders who may be actively harmed by a ton of unhealthy weight loss talk occurring in their workplace. It’s not as easy and one-size-fits-all as you might like to believe.

                2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  “You don’t need to be a doctor to know that losing a few pounds …. is generally good for your health” – well, no. It isn’t always good for your health. The OP, for example, is very healthy and active with no need to lose weight. i.e., there is not a health benefit to losing. Some people have other health issues, like a poster here whose daughter has disorder that means she has to constantly eat high calorie foods so she doesn’t starve. One of my kids has a growth hormone issue and we have to work with his pediatrician to keep calories high. There are plenty of people who struggle with eating disorders and who have to specifically not “diet” and for whom working to lose a few pounds can spiral into *very* unhealthy weight loss.

                  So it’s not actually a blanket rule by any stretch to that losing a few pounds is generally good for your health. Someone who is not trained as a doctor or a dietician and who does not know my medical history and status shouldn’t be involved in my healthcare.

                3. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  (Unless I seek them out, of course – but insurance wellness exec or my boss forcing me to participate? No.)

                4. SarahTheEntwife*

                  But for plenty of people “losing a few pounds” isn’t healthy, including for the OP. Depending on the exercise program, “being active” can also be harmful for people with many types of health conditions, something these wellness programs often refuse to take into account.

                5. Noobtastic*

                  Did you know that some people have health conditions that literally mean they are not able to exercise? As in, it would actually DAMAGE them to exercise?

                  Also, losing a few pounds is NOT generally good for your health. Performing healthy habits, such as eating a balanced diet, and being active, and controlling your stress levels, all of which may lead to weight loss, are good, but weight loss, just for the sake of weight loss, causes more harm than good.

                  I trust my doctor, who knows me, individually, much better than any wellness program coordinator I ever met, in my life.

                6. Lablizard*

                  Unless you are borderline underweight like I am. It isn’t on purpose, I am just a person who forgets to eat and exercises for relaxation. My habits might sound healthy to an insurance company, but they really aren’t

                7. Becky*

                  These wellness programs are most often a way to make people think they’re getting something back: “Save $X on your insurance!” is the most common I’ve seen–as every year the prices get jacked up…

                  Ours also somehow fails to note in their system every single time that I have an autoimmune disease that contributes to so-called overweightedness. They neglect that, yet still measure BMI. But hey, at least we get a “free” blood lab. I take the results to my real doctor when I go for my real checkup so I don’t have to hit up my deductible in case he wants lab work done.

                8. jordanjay29*

                  And that’s why many clinics employ nutritionists as well. Your advice works well for the average person, but there are so many individual variations out there that you can’t just make it a blanket statement and see positive results every time.

            3. Parenthetically*

              Yeah, the stuff that masquerades as a “wellness program” but is actually a shady weightloss competition is what really burns my biscuits.

              1. PlainJane*

                This. Weight loss does not always equal wellness. A good wellness program that incentivizes a wide range of healthy behaviors applicable to anyone–fine. A weight-loss competition–nope.

          2. hugseverycat*

            If only it were that. My employer penalizes employees financially for not “voluntarily” providing health and lifestyle information through a comprehensive survey. Many employers are worse, such as penalizing you financially for not quitting smoking or losing weight or participating in diet and exercise programs.

            1. jordanjay29*

              I’ve worked with too many people for whom “smoking” is a way to take a 10-20 minute break on top of their scheduled breaks, and sometimes multiples per day. I’m happy to see them financially penalized on the other end for a vice that lets them work less hours than I do.

              I have nothing against people who smoke. I don’t want to smell it, and I don’t want to be around you when you’re smoking or vaping. But I shouldn’t have to pick up your slack because of your bad habit.

          3. Noobtastic*

            Offering things that work, such as opportunities to exercise in a safe environment, health screenings, inoculations, and the like, is a very good thing to do.

            Offering things that do NOT work, such as diets (no weight loss program has EVER been proven to get the weight off and keep it off for five whole years, let alone long-term, and nor has any program designed specifically for weight loss had any actual beneficial effects on participants health that can be traced back solely to the weight loss rather than on healthy behaviors, in general), is just not a good thing.

            And telling people they have to do it, is even worse. Telling people they have to participate, even if they are already satisfied with their body/health is awful.

            1. EmilyAnn*

              Diet=Radical Unsustainable Change
              Lifestyle =Consistent Behavior Over Time
              Diets don’t work for weight loss, lifestyle changes do. Plenty of people change their lifestyles, lose weight and keep it off for many years. The National Weight Loss Control Registry studies those people to see what they do in order to sustain their weight loss. Saying that any program where people lose weight doesn’t work is incorrect.

              1. JessaB*

                The statement is not that programmes that CAUSE weight loss don’t work, it’s that except for a tiny percentage of people DIETS don’t work. Healthier habits are fine. But let’s not use “lifestyle changes” that vaguely please because in a lot of places it’s a dog whistle for “DIET.”

                And to paraphrase a wonderful blogger (google Ragen Chastain if you don’t already know her Dances with Fat site,) nobody should have to lose weight, weight is neither a barometer of health nor worthiness, and weight loss = healthier is not necessarily true even in people who are fat.

                Also the guy who invented BMI to measure large populations got really ticked off when they started using it to target individual people because that’s not what it’s for.

                1. Nope*

                  FYI, Ragen Chastain cheated on a 5k race, cons people out of money, gives medical advice even though she isn’t a doctor, and lies about the amount of hate mail she gets and the years of training for an Iron Man she has no hope of every completing.

                  Google ‘Dances with FACTS’ to see what I mean.

          4. Callie*

            I don’t like it when workplace screenings are covered by insurance but those same tests or whatever are not covered at my REGULAR doctor’s office. I want those things done by someone I already have a relationship with, not Random Family Practice I have no association with whatsoever.

        7. Michele*

          My employer does them, and I hate it. They act like it is voluntary, but it isn’t without significant financial penalties. I am very active, so I don’t have a problem hitting the targets, but they are intrusive and paternal, and I resent the program. They claim to be useful, but there is nothing useful about it. For example, I do endurance sports and am overweight. I would love to lose about 20 lbs, but it is difficult to get proper nutrition for recovery and fuel for long races while cutting calories (seems weird, but yeah). They don’t have sports dieticians available, or even real dieticians. They just have “coaches” that tell you to eat less salt, no matter what.

          1. KEM11088*

            THIS. A long distance runner here and although slim, I am technically “overweight” (thanks muscle!). And when I am training for those races I NEED those calories and sugae

            1. Another Lawyer*

              Same. I run long distances and practice yoga, but am usually a 6-8 dress size and bordering on obese.

            2. Michele*

              After posting this, I went to the comment section for the company that runs our wellness program and posted a couple of complaints. First, that the points we accrue can only be used for Fitbits and a few businesses that we don’t even have locally, but we can’t get anything useful like a sports watch. And second, that they don’t have a list of resources like sports nutritionists. Watching a video that tells me to eat more vegetables is not going to help me one bit.

        8. Jadelyn*

          It’s about reducing the health insurance claims load to get better rates (or, for self-insured employers, literally just paying out less in claims).

          As to whether or not wellness programs are actually effective at doing so…the jury is still out on that, I believe.

          Personally, I’m with you that it’s really intrusive and I honestly don’t care how good it is for the insurance rates, my company does not get a vote on my diet, physical activity levels, water consumption, choice of vices (smoking), etc. I’m currently really upset with my employer because they decided to do a “vegan challenge” – that’s a major lifestyle change people need to be prepared for and educated about before they decide to do it, there’s no research that I know of showing that veganism is inherently healthier than a health-focused omnivorous diet, and people need to be prepared for the possibility of micronutrient deficiencies and know how to combat those in order to stay healthy before they make the switch. None of this, of course, was discussed prior to the “vegan challenge”.

          I considered pointedly going out and getting a bacon cheeseburger to eat in the breakroom on the day of the “vegan potluck” that kicked off this ridiculous initiative, but decided to behave myself and eat it at my desk instead. ;)

          1. jordanjay29*

            I would have. My nutritional requirements means that vegetarian/vegan foods are basically off the table for me. I’d come in with a juicy piece of red meat or some pasta and ragu and explain this is what keeps ME healthy.

        9. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          My company gives us access to a wellness program. If you sign up, you can earn points and prizes. But there are a TON of ways to earn. Losing weight. Exercising. Donating blood. Getting an eye exam. Taking quizzes. So literally anyone can earn points. It isn’t just fitness, it is overall wellness.

          Not a lot of people use it. I do because I am trying to get healthier and getting points motivates me to push a little harder

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            We don’t get a discount on premiums and the prizes are small – so it really is voluntary without penalty here

            1. Noobtastic*

              It’s contributing to wellness for the whole community, though, so it makes sense to fall under that wellness umbrella.

              As someone who is not allowed to donate blood, I do try to encourage it in others, because I may need a transfusion, someday, and I can’t even “bank” some.

          2. JessaB*

            Although I would like to point out that smoking cessation programmes are a good health value. Unlike being fat which they really are not able to tease out whether it’s being fat, being treated badly in medical care, because fat; being bullied or stressed, because fat; whether the poor health CAUSED the fat, etc. there are really not very many good studies (in fact really hard to find any,) that shows weight loss increases health.

            There is absolute scientific proof that quitting tobacco products does lead to better health outcomes.

        10. Wintermute*

          [gets up on his soapbox]
          welcome to the world of private healthcare. Because your employer pays for your health insurance they have a “legitimate” reason to penalize you for smoking, to encourage you to lose weight, to ban junk food from the office, all sorts of insane intrusions.
          [steps down off soapbox]

      3. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

        I’m not an HR specialist by any means, but yes, talk to HR about this.

        The boss seems to be saying that you don’t have to treat everyone fairly if they are all treated equally. While that can be true in certain circumstances, this isn’t one of them.

        I doubt HR signed off on this, especially when it’s so easy to set up a system that rewards healthy actions, not a end result that is completely unfair to anyone who already has good healthy habits. Give people points for meeting with the nutritionist and racking up steps on their FitBits. Most everyone will end up *healthier* than they were before, and for those who need to lose weight, a sane and healthy amount of weight loss will follow.

        I’m also concerned that 25 pounds in 8 weeks is three pounds a week, which most doctors and nutritionists would actually say is very unhealthy.

        (Cynically, I think the boss doesn’t like the 110-pound employee because she’s 110 lbs.)

        1. Meep*

          Even the FitBit option isn’t ok though. Some people may not be able to meet that requirement if they have mobility issues, for example. The requirements have to be obtainable for all or there need to be various ways to qualify.

          My company offers a 20% discount on insurance if we can meet certain biometric parameters. But if we can’t, we can still get the 20% off by doing other things, like speaking with a counselor or nutritionist, enrolling in a weightless program, joining a gym or enrolling in various health classes (not all of which require actual movement), etc.

          1. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

            “Some people may not be able to meet that requirement if they have mobility issues, for example. The requirements have to be obtainable for all or there need to be various ways to qualify.”

            I think you misunderstood. I never said “Make it a requirement for people to get 10,000 steps a day;” I said, “Give people points for […] racking up steps on their FitBits.”

            Those are different concepts, a fact of which I am sure you are aware.

            1. Meep*

              I think you misunderstood. I never said you said “Make it a requirement for people to get 10,000 steps a day;” I said “Even the FitBit option isn’t ok”. Meaning, the option you described as “racking up steps” isn’t ok.

              Yes, racking up steps and reaching 10K steps are two different concepts. Good thing neither of us said 10K steps was a requirement.

              What both of us did say is that the requirement would be “steps”. Some people can’t take steps at all. A fact of which I am sure you are aware.

          2. Drew*

            I am getting a delightful image from the idea of a “weightless program.” Not only do I get to ride the zero-G plane, I’m getting an insurance discount for doing it! ;-)

            1. JessaB*

              OMG even if it would put me in hospital with back issues and dehydration from sicking up, I’d pay a fortune to ride the Comet. That’d be amazing.

    2. KarenT*

      Agreed. Logic has left the building.
      Some people are obnoxious about these kinds of things, I guess. My office was doing some sort of health contest (you got prizes for going to yoga in the caf, they started a walking club, etc). My office was smart enough to leave weight out of it but people went there anyway. I’m still seething about my co-worker who told me if I joined them I could lose 10 pounds. I am within the healthy weight range for my height, I mostly eat well, and I work out. The fact that she assumes I need or want to lose 10 pounds makes my blood boil and illustrates how these things get out of control.

      1. Noobtastic*

        I once joined a group that was supposed to focus on maintaining their weight over the winter holidays. As long as the whole group did not gain weight between the initial weigh-in and weigh-out, we got prizes. I thought it was quite sensible and easily manageable (because I don’t usually gain weight over the holidays, anyway, to tell you the truth).

        But then, the leader of my particular group decided that we all had to try to lose weight, instead, and made us weigh in every week, and if we hadn’t each lost at least 2 pounds, he got all upset. I stood my ground, though, and told him I was NOT dieting, but simply maintaining. I would eat treats, but simply eat smaller portions of them, and focus on getting enough nutrition, and some exercise. I maintained. He went into panic mode, because our group, as a whole, was not losing enough weight, mathematically. I was throwing off all his calculations!

        All this over a T-shirt.

    3. Fiennes*

      “I know – let’s make sure the wellness program penalizes the person in the office who’s the most physically fit!” Egads, the stupid, it burns.

      1. Anxa*

        Yeah. If weight is their metric for health, and lower weight is healthier than more weight, that just…

        I know this is out of line, but how can being be that obtuse? Ignorant? I think of all the incredibly bright people who are underemployed and struggling, yet someone who is this obviously illogical and incompetent was paid to come up with this incredibly stupid idea.

  1. Big10Professor*

    I hate this stuff in the workplace, but if you MUST do it, do something where your focus is on the good habits rather than the outcomes, i.e. form a lunch time walking club or have a healthy potluck or whatever.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Right! Or have people individually determine what their wellness goals are, and self-report whether or not they’ve reached them. I absolutely loathe this.

      1. Koko*

        Agreed! Health is not one-size-fits-all.

        My workplace offers an incentive for us to get a health screening each year. Just the standard stuff you would get at an adult annual well visit – blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, heart rate. They bring a nurse into the office who sets up in a conference room and you can go down any time it’s convenient, get your screening, and privately discuss your results with the nurse who might give you recommendations if needed. She signs off that you came by for your screening, and you get a $100 Visa gift card. The company doesn’t receive any of your medical information, and you get the $100 just for doing the screening. Whether or not you take action on the recommendations, or whether or not your assessment is positive, you get the $100.

        It’s a nice incentive that reminds people to monitor their health and prompts them to take action if they can, but it doesn’t force anyone to do anything. I think that (along with helpful things like discounted gym memberships or free flu shots) is the furthest an employer should be involved in employee health.

        1. hermit crab*

          We do something along the same lines — if you go for an annual physical (or do some other screening/preventative care stuff, I’m not sure about the details), you can enter a raffle to win a nice prize. We’re self-insured so it seems reasonable to me. We also do the free flu shots and the money-toward-your-gym-membership thing. You can also get money toward buying a bike or getting your bike tuned up!

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh Mr B’s company provides a certain amount toward our insurance deductibles as a hand out at the beginning of the year. By picking and choosing from a bunch of things he can add another 500 bucks to that account. Like getting a physical, things like that. But there are dozens of choices for all kinds of things. And if you don’t do it, nobody knows and that’s on you personally. Also they do give a 50 buck discount if you don’t smoke or do a smoking cessation thing that they offer for free. And considering smoking IS actually something that stopping improves health that’s okay.

        2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          My former company did this and they would allow you to substitute an annual with your doctor, as long as it was within a certain timeframe of the screenings.

          1. Callie*

            I wish mine would do this. My insurance won’t cover annual bloodwork and physicals at my doctor’s office (it’s a grandfathered plan) but it will cover bloodwork done by whoever they have come to our campus and do it, and I don’t like that. I don’t know these people and it’s a hassle to get that stuff sent to my actual doctor who knows me.

        3. Noobtastic*

          That’s a great idea! And the nurse can remind you to get your eye exam and visit the dentist.

          Encouraging healthy habits and preventative medicine is wonderful. Keeping it all confidential is priceless!

        4. Grayson*

          My company offers a $400 deposit to your HSA if you do a similar process. It’s not a big time waste, and it helps me with future expenses.

      2. Kittymommy*

        Yep, this is what we do. Day off for your physical (paid) and various educational classes you can take: nutrition, blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, etc. They also sponsor different types of exercise classes like walking, yoga, etc. No real prizes exactly, but we do get a discount on our health insurance if you participate.

        1. hugseverycat*

          A discount on your health insurance if you participate means that people who don’t take yoga classes or whatever are literally getting paid less regardless of their job performance or actual health status.

          1. Kittymommy*

            There are other ways to meet that requirement that area not in house, they just offer that if your want to do it that way. The idea is to promote wellness. Hell I can meet it and I don’t do any of it in house.

    2. Allison*

      Exactly! My old company had a corporate Fitbit program, and while that’s also a flawed idea (some people may have mobility issues, etc.), it’s weigh better than pressuring everyone to lose weight.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        My husband has a FitBit initiative too- that goes toward a reduction in our health insurance premiums. You can earn up to $200 off. But there are multiple ways to get the discounts (they stack, up to the max), and one of them is participate and get “good” scores in the annual health fair where they take your measurements, BP, short stress test (that you can only do if your BP is normal) etc- and even that, you don’t have to do there, they will accept a form from your primary care physician! They don’t penalize people who are already healthy and not costing them extra in health insurance costs. In fact, the program has been so successful that the insurance premium for everyone went DOWN this year.

        1. hugseverycat*

          They didn’t go down for your colleagues who are getting paid less than they would otherwise because they don’t participate in employee sponsored health fairs or don’t have “good” scores.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          The thing that especially gets my goat about this sort of thing is that employees who can’t participate in these programs or can’t get their numbers to look good enough on paper are probably exactly the employees who could use a discount on their health insurance because they have more medical expenses. Congratulations, you got a good number on your genetic lottery, here’s a bonus!

          1. Noobtastic*

            Yeah. Unless you offer enough alternatives, such as “take a class” or “watch a video” or “read a book,” that gives information about wellness, or other such things that ANYONE can do, and still qualify, then it really is penalizing the people who don’t have the good health, in the first place.

            Anyone can get a screening. Not everyone can pass it. Some people, no matter how hard they try, will never be able to pass it. But everyone can take some training in nutrition. Most people can learn CPR. Most people can learn how to handle a fire extinguisher. Most people can take a defensive driving class. In fact, the defensive driving class I took didn’t even involve being in a car, so I’d say everyone could do that, if offered. The CPR and fire extinguisher were hands-on, so that could be limiting to the mobility challenged, but there’s no denying that they contribute to society’s overall wellness, and I know I am glad I didn’t get burned when I accidentally set the stove on fire, and needed to remember how to use the fire extinguisher.

            Shucks, even participating in a fire drill, tornado drill, earthquake drill (pick your most likely natural disaster for your area) would work. I worked as an office safety officer, and let me tell you, the time I wasted herding idiots who thought that NOW was the perfect time to powder their nose was really infuriating to me, because it put ME in danger, having to wait for them to get to the appropriate shelter.

            There are so many ways we can improve our own wellness, or the wellness of the community, and so there are plenty of ways that anyone can earn points, even if they are not healthy, not able-bodied, etc. If you make it possible for absolutely anyone to qualify, then the ones who don’t qualify aren’t even trying.

            As for incentives, I’m not even sure that a discount on insurance is the way to go, either. What about the married couples who get their insurance from the other spouse? They don’t get any reward.

            But you know what? I’ve seen people really work hard, just for a simple “I did it!” sticker. Because it was a good thing to do, in the first place, and carried with it its own reward, and the sticker was just something extra, but they got really excited about the sticker, anyway, because humans are weird.

          2. Ted Mosby*

            The thing is, many of these numbers are effected by diet, which anyone can change. For the vast majority of people, good health is not a genetic lottery. I have diabetes. I have to deal with way more health s**t than most people I know. I also have great cholesterol and am in very good shape, because I put in effort. I still have to visit the doctor frequently, and if everyone’s health insurance costs dropped I’d be happy, not complaining that people got rewarded for saving the company money.

            1. JessaB*

              Cholesterol IS a genetic lottery, so is diabetes. You can somewhat lower cholesterol but the truth is if you’re predisposed to it, you’re going to have issues.

      2. many bells down*

        Yeah mine does step challenges too, but they’re opt-in, not everyone chooses to participate, and the prize doesn’t involve the entire company getting to do something fun while one person is left out.

        1. Michele*

          We have step challenges. People put their fitbits on toddlers and puppies so they can relax in the evening and still get “steps”.

          1. nnn*

            Now I’m super curious how many steps an active toddler gets in a day! Especially since they have to take so many little toddler steps to cover the same distance that an adult would cover in just a few steps.

            1. Michele*

              I don’t know, but the way some of those kids zoom around, I bet it is a lot. I have an image of a bunch of toddlers in daycare all wearing Fitbits because their parents don’t want to get penalized for being inactive.

              1. Zombii*

                I tried putting mine on the cat one day. I should’ve just worn the damn thing to work. :(

          2. many bells down*

            My husband has accused me of doing this when I get an exceptional number of steps. Honestly, I think it’s because it thinks folding laundry is exercise.

            1. JessaB*

              Folding laundry if you’re wearing an arm based device will trick the device into counting steps because really what it counts is your arms moving as you walk. I’m not saying you’re cheating, you’re NOT, but yes standing around moving your arms doing chores is going to count up a small amount of steps.

        2. Allison*

          I can’t even remember if Oldjob had a prize for fitbit challenges (they must have, but my department never came close), but everyone who participated got free company branded fitness swag.

      3. Liane*

        So are the FitBits company paid? Because not everyone has the discretionary income to buy one, and even if they did, they might have other ideas on how to spend it.

        1. Allison*

          Ah, I didn’t cover that! Yes, it was subsidized, so you could get either a really basic model for free or you could pay the difference and upgrade to a nicer, fancier model.

        2. Zombii*

          Same deal as Allison. (So to answer your question: yes, everyone at ExJob could have sandwiches a FitBit.)

        3. Michele*

          For the wellness program where I work, you have to get a certain number points or pay higher insurance. One of the ways to get points is through exercise. The company does not provide you with a Fit Bit or anything similar, and you can’t get as many points for simply writing down what you do vs having electronic documentation. You have to pay for a sports watch or FitBit or whatever out of your own pocket.
          It really makes one of my friends mad. He is extremely athletic–a former pro cyclist who now runs marathons (and he is damn fast). He loves to race and train, but he hates documentation or data because that takes the fun out of it for him. He ended up buying the cheapest running watch that he could just so he wouldn’t be penalized on his insurance, but he resents having to do that.

          1. JessaB*

            I think that’s an issue. If you want someone to use a device then provide it. Yes you can get free step counters for your smart phone, but that’s not the point, if the company wants fitbit data, give out fitbits. But at least if you have a smart phone it won’t cost you any extra to get steps counted.

            Plus my issue is I can’t wear a fitbit. Anything metal against my skin is a no no and those things have to be worn that way because of the sensors

    3. k*

      Yeah, my workplace does theirs based on activity level – as long as you do 30 min of any physical activity a certain number of days in a set period, you get like $100 or something. Still don’t love it, but at least they’re only prescriptivist about the amount of time and not the actual activity or anything like weight loss.

      1. Dan*

        I’m actually ok with that.

        For the first time ever, I actually bothered to start getting some regular exercise (I, uh, have some weight to lose) and I’d be fine with that. If it’s a loose as you describe (do “something” for 30 minutes at least once a week), that’s fairly easy… and unobtrusive.

        25 lbs in two months? Hell no.

        1. Nonprofit Nancy*

          That doesn’t even seem healthy! Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a healthy weight loss plan supposed to be a pound or so a week? In two months, one could lose maybe 8-10 pounds in a healthy way. 25 means binge dieting, which isn’t healthy or sustainable.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            1-2 lbs per week for people who weigh between 100-200 lbs.

            It actually is about 1% per week of your weight. So people who weigh 300+ would still be in the safe levels. And that doesn’t take into account that the first week of a diet, you lose water weight, which alone can be as much as 10 lbs.

            1. JessaB*

              only if you’re not already on a diuretic for other medical problems. Water weight isn’t an issue for some people.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              People who weigh 300+ pounds also generally need to be extremely careful when starting or changing their exercise patterns — it’s not the time to take it up to the max weight loss goal!

          2. LCL*

            25 lbs in two months is also a sexist standard. My experience has been that men (in general) can lose 3lbs a week easily, while women (in general) can’t lose more than 1-2 pounds without obsessive exercise and crazy dieting.

            1. Sans*

              Absolutely. If they insist on focusing on weight, at least do it as a % of your weight. So the 300 pound person losing 30 pounds is equal to the 150 pound person losing 15 pounds.

              1. Nancy Drew*

                I see what you’re saying, but your example is problematic. Implicit in your example is the assumption that both people equally need to lose 10% of their body weight, which just isn’t true. It’s a sliding scale. Not everyone even needs to lose any percentage of their body weight. You can be a healthy weight but out of shape, and improving your health would come in other metrics that weight loss. In addition, a 150 lb woman who’s 5’5″ and a 150 lb man who’s 5’10” are in completely different positions. So the scale slides in multiple dimensions.

                1. Nancy Drew*

                  (The middle part about “healthy weight but out of shape” isn’t directed at your comment, Sans. Your premise was that they are insisting on weight in the first place – which we all agree isn’t the best way.)

                2. North Dakota Jones*

                  And if you’re healthy but out of shape, increasing exercise might actually increase your weight as you develop muscle. But no one is going to argue that you’re suddenly less healthy because you’re exercising.

                3. Gadfly*

                  “No one” North Dakota Jones? I suspect you are male because thst is a problem lots of women run into.

                  As for it being sexist, it is. Men and women lose weight differently. Estrogen and testosterone being part of it.

                4. North Dakota Jones*

                  I am female, and I have never been told that I am less healthy for having exercised. I have been told I’ll look like a guy when I started some very light weight lifting (like body builder muscle growth happens accidentally or something), but no one said it was “unhealthy.”

                5. North Dakota Jones*

                  Now, that could be because I’m fat and people are looking at that more than they’re seeing a woman working out, but I don’t think it’s a universal constant.

                6. FormerLibrarian*

                  Years ago a friend in the Navy told me about someone in his command who was a weight lifter and had to lose muscle mass because the CO decided that not being able to see your belt buckle was a big problem, whether it was because you had a spare tire of fat around your middle or some really well developed pecs much higher up. The Navy (at least then) also based BMI on a waist to neck ratio. So if you were a guy in the weight loss program, after the first few weeks or so you were often told that you were in trouble, had to cut your calories even more and/or exercise even more because the ratio was going in the wrong direction, even if the over-all weight was down 10 or more pounds. Many of the guys I know lose the weight around the neck waaaay before they lose the excess at the belt line.

                7. Halpful*

                  Gadfly, that reminds me of the doctor who actually said to me “women should never lift more than 20lbs”. (or maybe it was 40? I remember it was less than a standard frigging barbell!)

                  what he may have actually *meant* was that weightlifting can aggravate migraines, but it was not what he said at *all*.

      2. Alton*

        Yeah, that’s pretty much how my workplace does it. You get points for participation. There are variable numbers of points, but the number you have to achieve to be eligible for prizes is low enough that it’s pretty accessible. I mostly tracked my steps, and my co-workers who were marathon runners didn’t have that big of an advantage over me.

    4. Hotstreak*

      My office used to do “weight loss” challenges, but stopped in favor of Steps per day, Minutes of activity, and Servings of vegetables. It’s been much better to have people who are already healthy weight be able to participate!

      OP your boss is super weird about this. He’s going to have more weight loss challenges – so the expectation is that if you want to continue winning you are required to gain the weight back between challenges, which is obviously unhealthy. Also, the prize seems extremely large. An entire day off, and a boat cruise? For a lot of folks that’s $200+ in labor and $200+ for the boat, per person!

      1. hugseverycat*

        It’s not so large. By law, an employer can penalize a non-participant in wellness programs up to 30% of the cost of a single person’s insurance cost. At my employer they penalize people $50 a month, or $600 a year, but that is much less than they could choose to penalize people. For the total cost of our insurance they could penalize people to the tune of about $2400 a year.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I will second exactly this…and I have an MS in health! The boss is an ass and is using measures that don’t correspond with healthier habits or lifestyle.

      I’d also like to add that even for those who are overweight 25 lbs in two months is way outside what any reputable medical professional would recommend for anyone but the most obese patients. Sustainable, healthy weight loss is usually 1-2 lbs PER WEEK unless you’re well over 150 lbs overweight, which it sounds like the participants were not. (This is a little out of my area of expertise, but I think the guideline of 1-2 lbs per week applies to those who are less than 100% over their body’s ideal weight.)

      1. Jesmlet*

        I was told once (not by an actual health professional but by a health nut friend of mine) that losing 1% of your current weight per week is considered a healthy rate. Big disclaimer that I never actually researched this to determine validity but it sounds a hell of a lot more realistic than 25 pounds in 2 months unless they’re massively overweight.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s accurate, and it also maps onto what Cosmic Avenger has said (in most circumstances 1-2% of your body weight, if you’re overweight, will come out to about 1-2 lbs. unless you are overweight by more than 150 lbs.).

      2. Anancy*

        This was my thought–this doesn’t seem like a reasonable amount to lose in two months, especially if it isn’t under a health professional’ scare.

      1. Boop*

        Hehe, when my office did a pedometer/step challenge I cheated and wore my pedometer during horseback riding lessons. On a short-strided horse those numbers really add up!

      2. SusanIvanova*

        If it applies to everyone in exactly the same way, it’s awful. Wonder Admin has a step tracker because if she walks too much in one day, her joints will make her pay for it the next day. I broke my ankle and got a step tracker for similar reasons. We commiserated over how the stupid thing would go “yay! You passed your goal!” when that was very much not a “yay!” situation.

        1. JessaB*

          OMG yes, it’s such a pain when you can’t input the type of goal. I know people trying to lose weight or people trying to gain and at least SOME programmes allow you to tick off if you’re trying to lose to weight x or gain to weight x. But I’ve NEVER seen a step programme that allowed you to tick off a box that says “SIDDOWN FOR THE REST OF THE DAY.”

    6. INFJ*

      +1 Because the goal was to lose weight, and not necessarily establish healthy habits, I wouldn’t be surprised if the participants gained the weight back after the program was over.

    7. emma2*

      Agreed. My favorite thing about fitness is how it makes me feel – more energized and less anxious. Having free yoga programs and a gym and stuff can be good perks, but leave the weight out of it! I can’t believe people think it is okay to talk about weight at work.

      1. emma2*

        And based on all these crazy articles I am now seeing about wellness programs, I think if a company does decide to have one, they need to include explicit instructions for participants to refrain from making inappropriate/impolite comments about weight, and they need to acknowledge that health is more diverse than just being in a certain weight range. Workplaces are obsessed with professionalism and etiquette, how did not commenting on weight get left out of it??

    8. sam*

      after some fits and starts, my company implemented a pretty good one – it’s managed by an outside vendor, we track everything online, and while some of the wellness initiatives that we can choose to do are fitness based, there are a variety of them that are more mind/body based – “how to de-stress”, or get better sleep, or manage your finances better – a pretty broad set of options so that people who are not able or willing to do the “physical activity” type stuff can still get the benefits (which mainly consist of extra money in our health savings accounts). In addition, if we participate in volunteer activities or other things along those lines, they count.

      The easiest for me is actually that they also give you credit if you wear a pedometer – you can simply link your account, so it just credits me every day I get enough steps. Since I live in NYC and we walk so much without even trying, it’s a no-brainer and I don’t have to do anything else to max out my benefit by about mid-May.

  2. Mike C.*

    In addition, isn’t 25 pounds in two months a bit much? I always heard the guideline was 2-3lbs per/week, before taking into account personal/medical considerations.

    I mean yeah, everything else Alison said of course, but the target seems on the high side to me.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I thought so too. I’d always heard 2 lbs/week, which would mean maybe 20 in two months, tops.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Yeah, look at the Biggest Loser study they did. All contestants but 1 have gained the weight back, I believe. And, their metabolisms are now much slower than what it was before they lost the weight. Making up numbers here, but if they weighted 350 lbs and burned 3000 cal/day, dropped to 150, and are now back up to 350 and burning only 1500 cal/day. This type of weight loss is not healthy, and it’s well-known!

      1. JMegan*

        Survivor contestants too – several of them have reported weird metabolism issues after finishing the show. Turns out that 40-day starvation diets are not actually healthy, who knew?

      2. Sprinkled with Snark*

        Yeah, those Biggest Losers numbers are awful! One of the news magazines did a story on the Biggest Loser contestants, and found out the routine they are put through on the show is in no way sustainable for any length of time. In fact, they found that in order to make the numbers before the big weigh-in, contestants would starve themselves, use products to make them vomit and evacuate their bowels, get on treadmills for hours a day at multiple times per day, and take appetite suppressants that would increase their heart rates and blood pressure to dangerous levels. Extremely large people have to begin and maintain exercise programs differently than really fit people who are already running marathons and living the gym rat lifestyle. Even large people who have a lot to lose must begin slowly and work up to increased exercise and then are able to lose more weight the longer they keep exercising. A blanket “everybody must lose 25 pounds approach” could be very dangerous for people who don’t live healthy lifetsyles to begin with. Weight loss and fitness are LONG term goals, not quick fixes.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Even large people who have a lot to lose must begin slowly and work up to increased exercise and then are able to lose more weight the longer they keep exercising.

          People who are extremely large also have to be especially wary of injury when starting or changing their exercise programs. When you’re slinging around a lot of extra weight, simple accidents or overstressing joints can have much more severe effects.

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        This is technically true but the numbers are MUCH less discrepant than 3000 vs 1500. Metabolism differences account for very little of someone’s weight, weight loss patterns, etc. There definitely is a “set point” effect but what and how much you eat matters way mor than metabolic differences.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      And even 2 pounds per week is not healthy for people who do not have a lot of weight to lose/are short/are sedentary. For some, 1 or even just half a pound per week makes sense. It depends on how many calories you can eat and still lose weight – so for example, I am quite short and have a sedentary job, and in order to lose 2 pounds a week, I’d have to eat just 1000 calories. That’s not healthy.

      1. Koko*

        Same here! I did one of those breath tests where they measure how many calories you burn just by being alive, and mine is around 1600 calories in a typical day without exercising. To lose two pounds a week without exercise I’d be eating 600 calories a day. With 45 minutes of exercise a day (around 400 calories burnt) I could eat as much as 1,000 calories. That’s a recipe for a nutritional deficiency, and an eating disorder to boot.

        I am also a weight lifter and I only have about 5-10 lbs of weight I can lose before what I’m losing is muscle mass that I worked VERY hard to build.

        1. Jean*

          I’ve heard about that breath test before – did your doctor do that, or did you get someone else? I’d be interested in finding out my actual calorie needs.

          1. Koko*

            I got it done through my personal training studio when I first signed up and did my initial comprehensive assessment. The product they use is called Breezing, which I found through Google for purchase online but they’re pretty pricey – $300+ depending on package.

          2. Emi.*

            My grandmother’s Joy of Cooking says 14 calories for each pound you weigh, as a general rule of thumb. (I don’t think newer editions have that much nutritional advice, unfortunately.)

      2. Anon for this*

        A two-pound weight loss would take about a 7,000 calorie deficit, so to take place in a week, you would have to have a 1,000 calorie deficit every day.

        I’m all for CICO and weight loss/gain if it’s healthy for you, but NO THANK YOU to a 1,000 calorie deficit.

        1. Gadfly*

          And that is before we start getting complicated with not all calories being equal in how they affect our bodies.

    4. hedgehog*

      Weight Watchers shoots for anywhere from half a pound to 2 pounds a week. The average is one.

      1. Gadfly*

        And even they (generally acknowledged to be one of the most effective weight loss plans) only have about a .2% rate for losing weight and keeping it off.

    5. Rachel Green*

      I was coming to the comments section to say the same thing. 1-2 lbs a week is what I’ve always heard. To lose more than that would put a person in a seriously unhealthy calorie deficit. Rapid weight loss (more than 2 lbs/week) is not sustainable and people tend to gain the weight back.

    6. Justme*

      That’s what I was about to post. That’s a little over 3 pounds per week.

      Also, weight loss competitions (in general, but particularly at work) are awful.

    7. Catherine from Canada*

      My target was/is half a pound per week. I lost 50 pounds.
      Sure, it took me two years, but I’ve kept it off for two years now. I’ve navigated two Christmases, two trips to Italy, major bouts of bronchitis and other disruptions without gaining the weight back.
      A slow weight loss means a slow but steady change in eating habits, lifestyle, expectations and other habits, which – for me anyway – makes them much more likely to stick.

        1. Kelly L.*


          I’m wrestling with the fact that to get where I really want to be will probably take about a year, and I’m not really a patient person, lol. But it took me twenty years to gain it, so…what did I expect?

          1. alter_ego*

            I’m currently losing weight, and my goal is the weight I was when I graduated high school. I keep having to repeat to myself that it took me 10 years to get to the weight I was, I can’t be frustrated that it’s going to take 2-3 to get back down to where I want to be. It’s just so hard!

      1. Honeybee*

        Not just you! There’s lots of science to support that. Weight loss rarely does last but when it does, it does because the person made slow lifestyle changes to their diet and exercise. Rapidly losing weight in general does not work.

      2. Artemesia*

        My husband took off 35 pounds about 30 years ago and has kept it off — he cut about 400 calories a day and he works out for an hour 6 days a week. Very slow steady weight loss and then continued exercise to keep it that way. Quick loss messes with the metabolism and makes it every harder to keep weight under control.

    8. Kindling*

      Yes, really. I’m personally on a weight loss journey, and while I’d rather not go into specific numbers, I’ve lost slightly more than this. It’s taken me a full year. Granted, I’m not working with a nutritionist or a trainer, but my goal has been to eat in a way that’s still enjoyable and sustainable for me. I’d be shocked if most of this group didn’t gain a lot of this weight back. Additionally, as someone who gets really seasick, I wouldn’t be able to use this reward either.

      1. Koko*

        Hey, if they gain the weight back, they can just lose it again for next year’s boat trip! What a great health initiative!!

        1. Jadelyn*

          Oh god…talk about “laugh because otherwise I will cry”!! Weight cycling like that is MUCH worse for you than any amount of overweight, it screws with your metabolism and hormones long-term and is just…so bad. SO BAD. And precisely the kind of thing I’d expect a harebrained “wellness” initiative like this one to produce, so…yeah.

    9. Rhys*

      Yeah, if you insist on doing this it shouldn’t be a set number of pounds anyway (I guess unless everybody has the same weight and body type going in which probably never happens). The goal should be better health, not weight loss, and if it is weight loss it should maybe be based on BMI.

      1. Honeybee*

        Even BMI is not a good indicator because there are all kinds of problems with it – certain body types have higher or lower BMIs even when they’re healthy. The measure was never meant to be an indicator of health. The guy who developed it was a statistician, not a health scientist, and was meant as a means to look at population averages and distributions, not individual health. It’s not necessarily a good indicator of health at all.

        Really workplaces shouldn’t be doing this at all, but if they do…you know what…no. I was going to add some kind of “if they do they should do X” but there’s absolutely nothing I can think of that makes it close to OK for your workplace to intervene in your health like this.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          BMI is such a pet peeve of mine. My son is a college baseball pitcher. He’s thin and muscular. I don’t know his BF%, but it’s not much! He is 5′-8″ and 160, which is normal, but if he crossed over to 165 lbs (which he is trying to do), he would be overweight.

          I’m on the other end, and as a very small boned person at 5’4.5″, when I was young and thinner, 109 lbs would put me at underweight and 110 lbs would put me at normal. It would also depend if the person doing the wellness screen rounded me up to 5’5″ or down to 5’4″.

          1. Adam*

            Funny thing is, it seems everyone knows the BMI is not a very effective catch-all tool since muscular people can completely throw off the scale, but yet it still gets used. I guess since America currently is struggling with a large-scale weight problem they figure the BMI probably applies to more people than it doesn’t.

            1. Allison*

              I’m struggling with this too. I have put on weight, and I wish I were thinner, and my BMI reads as slightly overweight. But since I’m active, I can’t figure out if my BMI means I’m actually fat or just muscular. People have told me that unless I lift weights every day, there’s no way I have enough muscle to throw off the BMI scale.

              1. Adam*

                If you’re within what would be considered a healthy weight range for yourself, at that point I think it’s better to go by the mirror and how you physically feel rather than the number on the scale. If you look good to yourself (healthy mental attitude accounted for), physically feel good, and check out as a-ok by your doctor, then at that point your weight just is what it is.

              2. Noobtastic*

                Piffle. Walking builds muscle, too. And have you seen the legs on bicyclists?

                Also, active people tend to have more dense bones, as well.

                And, of course, there’s the fact that BMI is malarkey.

                Just see how you feel, and if you’re satisfied with that, then your weight is just fine.

              3. Ted Mosby*

                Yupp i was quite “overweight” playing college soccer. I hardly ever lifted. I was just a fast, twitchy kind of girl. My body fat was around 20%, nowhere NEAR overweight.

            2. Gadfly*

              It is cheap and it is easy is why it is used. Things that actually require looking at a person cost money and require expertise.

            3. Noobtastic*

              Even more than the fact that it completely ignores variety in bone density, muscle mass, and just individual bodies, there is also the fact that the BMI has been altered, due to politics.

              People from the diet industry convinced people in government to make a change to the nationally recognized BMI chart, and people went to bed “healthy,” and woke up “overweight.”

              The BMI is a load of malarky.

              1. Ted Mosby*

                I went to the doctor about my BMI (hoping to loose for rowing and get it to “average”) and they told me I (actually) have big bones and loosing would be difficult and not healthy. I was so bummed. My new doctor loves telling me I’m overweight due to my BMI. I’m a size 6.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            It also doesn’t take things like bone structure into account. My best friend and I are very close to the same height. But her bone structure is far heavier than mine is. She has broad shoulders, larger wrists, etc. She and I could both stand to lose weight, but for her to get down to what’s considered a “healthy” weight under BMI would actually be very unhealthy for her.

            1. Gadfly*

              Part of why some also call it racist. Some demographic groups are more likely to have denser bones and are penalized for it.

          3. pescadero*

            BMI is relatively poor at measuring most health related things – but it’s pretty good at measuring overload.

            Your body – whether the weight is “good” weight or “bad” weight – still suffers from carrying too much weight. Just like your car doesn’t care what you overload it with, neither do many parts of your body.

            1. Ted Mosby*

              Nooooot really. At 20% body fat I’m not overloading just because I have dense bones (partially from lifting) and high-ish muscle mass. Most sprinters are overweight on BMI. How much you can carry varies drastically depending on where you’re carrying it, bone mass, and muscle mass.

            2. Mookie*

              Nope, not at all. Strategies for building lean muscle mass also increase bone density and strength and can improve joint health. In addition to failing physio 101, BMI is also ethno-centric and fails to take into consideration the wide array of healthy, happy human shapes and sizes.

          4. Hrovitnir*

            I hate it so much. BMI was designed as a population analysis tool, and it works just dandy for that!

            If drs really need to bring fat into it, how about we talk about fat percentage (and abdominal fat)? Because if that’s what we’re so worried about, it’s a bit ridiculous to be in the room with a person and rely on a bloody ratio. Of course, I think focusing on fat over other measures is ridiculous, and offering either assistance or referral for diet or exercise plans for everyone is the way to go.

            My partner has low body fat and skews light anyway. He has had multiple doctors be like “you’re fiiiine” about having f*ing renal dysfunction when cutting potassium brought his GFR back into “borderline” (from 59 – ie: just stage 3 and definitely a legit issue, and he’s a white man so the ideal person for that model to apply) when he was in his mid 40s. Because he “looks healthy” – people usually die of heart attacks before their kidneys get them, but then he has high cholesterol too… :(

        2. Koko*

          Yes, at best BMI could be a quick flag for a physician to take a closer look at your body composition and habits with more accurate metrics, but in itself it is a garbage health indicator for individuals.

          I weigh 125-130, and according to BMI, my “normal” weight range is 105-140 lbs…so it might seem like sure, I could lose 25 lbs. But according to body composition, I have around 105 lbs of lean body mass, which means I have to be training like a competitive athlete to weigh less than 120 and would have to either be literally wasting my muscles away or have a preposterous 0% body fat to weigh 105.

          1. Adam*

            Agreed. My current BMI is on the high end of normal, but I’m taking steps to correct some things as I’ve been getting some warning signs of health that can be directly linked to bad behaviors of mine.

            I generally go more for the mirror/well-being test. Do I like what I see in the mirror (assuming I have a realistic healthy body image) and do I feel good physically day to day? That’ll tell me more than a BMI check can, and if you are overweight in the sense that the BMI would apply to you odds are you don’t need a BMI check to tell you that.

          2. D.A.R.N.*

            And NOBODY should have 0% body fat. The body needs those energy storage capsules to function properly. I think people are supposed to have about 15% body fat.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              “I think people are supposed to have about 15% body fat.”
              Men, maybe, but not women. Women need far more. 15% body fat on a woman is not, generally, a thing to strive for.

      2. Purest Green*

        And if all the employees are men or all are women, considering men can initially lose weight faster than women.

        1. RKB*

          And women have totally different body fat compositions. I would not lose 25 pounds, and have to replace all my bras, for one day on a boat.

          1. Mookie*

            Plus, for a cis woman to lose that much weight that quickly, she’d be burning up her own muscle and screwing with her metabolism.

      3. Amber T*

        No no no no staaaay away from BMI! BMI is pretty much just as useless and can end up setting unrealistic standards. BMI really is just a ratio of your height and weight. It does not take into account muscle mass. So someone like The Rock would be considered morbidly obese.

        Here’s the thing – weight is an arbitrary number. Yes, you can hear a certain weight number and assume “yeah that person is probably unhealthy.” But when you throw BMI into the mix, it automatically puts a label out there that may not be accurate.

        I’m trying to contain myself because health groups I’m a part of actively hate BMI and campaign against it. In short – just stay away from BMI.

        1. JustaTech*

          BMI is intended to be used as a tool to measure *populations*, not individuals. The point of BMI is to mathematically normalize weight to height in order to analyze populations of people. It’s a big blunt tool, and I don’t think it was ever intended to be used by and for individuals.

    10. nnn*

      Good point! I recently lost 25 pounds in two months unintentionally, due to a flare-up of a medical condition that made it difficult to eat. And even though I was at a weight where I could certainly stand to lose 25 pounds, being so undernourished really made me brain-foggy – my work produced during this period was of noticeably worse quality.

      Now imagine if that happened to the entire office at once!

      1. Adam*

        From where I sit it sounds like this is the one upside for the OP in all this. It sounds she’s been consistently taking good care of herself longterm so her overall health is probably pretty good. Her coworkers on the other hand are almost guaranteed to burn out at some point.

    11. Honeybee*

      YES. The guideline is actually 1-2 pounds a week. Losing weight too quickly is potentially damaging to the body and also increases the chances that you won’t keep the weight off anyway.

    12. Princess Carolyn*

      25 pounds in two months is probably fine for people who are significantly overweight and are just starting a new program – a great deal of the loss will be water weight anyway. (And a lot of it depends on your current intake… if you’re eating thousands more calories than you’re burning each day, there’s a lot more room to cut back compared to someone who’s just eating maybe 300 calories over what they’re burning.) But it’s still a pretty ambitious goal, and certainly isn’t a wise choice for a one-size-fits-all challenge.

      1. Koko*

        Yeah, you can artificially inflate results for the first week or two if the person cuts out processed foods full of sodium and switches pop out for water. You’ll get a big result on the scale as the water weight comes off, but you just get it the one time. You can’t keep up that pace when you’re trying to burn actual fat and not just reduce water storage.

        And if you’re already eating low-sodium and drinking plenty of water every day, you probably don’t have much water weight to lose!

        I used to go on these trips where I would eat terribly for a couple weeks on the road – lots of convenience/processed food full of sodium and sugar and nitrites and other things that lead to bloating and end up putting on 4-5 lbs. When I got back, I would eat nothing but green vegetables and one egg per day for the first two days I was back to just scrub my system out, and I’d always drop a quick 4-5 lbs in 3 days.

        I tried doing the same 2-day green vegetables routine a couple of times when I was hoping to lose 5 vanity pounds before an event and it didn’t work either time because I wasn’t bloated.

  3. Leatherwings*

    25 pounds in two months?!? Talk about incentivizing unhealthy behaviors. For some people, this could be done healthily and definitely not for others. And the checking what time you swiped in and out is bizarrely controlling and punishing. I wonder if he otherwise treats OP well or if this is just one sign of his disfunction.

    1. No, please*

      Unhealthy for lots of people! Diabetics spring to mind immediately but I know there are plenty of folks who could not do this and stay healthy otherwise. What if a staff member is pregnant? So many problems with this.

        1. Emi.*

          OTOH, how much weight do you lose just by giving birth? If the cruise is an annual event, then if you can time your pregnancies just right…

          1. Jaydee*

            Yeah, but do you really want to go on an all-day cruise with your coworkers just a few weeks after having a baby?

            Also, depending on how things go with the delivery, you might not lose any weight at all right away. I had an induction and was in labor for almost 2 days and on an IV for most of that time once I got the epidural. I gained so much water weight that, when I walked out of the hospital (carrying my almost 9 pound baby), I weighed the exact same amount I had when I went in. The water weight came off pretty quickly after that, but birth was not an instant weight-loss success like I had imagined.

      1. Antilles*

        In fact, if your goal is to “get healthy”, losing weight could actually be directly opposed to your goal. If you’re not overweight to start with and you start working out, you might stay at the same weight or even *gain* weight as you add muscle.
        You’ll be significantly healthier and look better and feel better…but the scale won’t show it.

        1. blackcat*


          I am the same weight as the OP, and currently in not great shape. When I am in better shape (running 3-5 miles/day, doing light lifting), I weigh 10-15 pounds more than I currently do.

          The least I have ever weighed at my adult height is 95lbs, after a bout of pneumonia when I was a teen. I felt TERRIBLE, even after the pneumonia was completely cleared up.

          Weight loss =/= “getting healthy”

          1. many bells down*

            I was super skinny up until I lost my thyroid to cancer. But I also have a congenital heart defect so I was never in “good shape”. People would assume I was this super-healthy workout nut and then be surprised when I couldn’t even jog a block.

            1. Michele*

              I am completely the opposite. I have always been overweight. Always. People probably look at me and think I get winded reaching for the remote control. But I can easily run 15 miles or bike 100.

              1. many bells down*

                Yeah I have a couple of friends that have always been much bigger than me, but both of them will survive the zombie apocalypse and I will be slow-moving bait. One spent 10 years in the military and one is a trapeze artist who has hiked across Spain. Twice.

        2. Misc*

          In fact, BMI 25-30 (‘overweight’) is a *lower* mortality risk than BMI 20-25 (‘normal’), and ‘obese’ is about the same risk as ‘normal’ (for females. males are at higher risk when obese).

          Whether this is because healthy fit people have higher BMIs from muscle and skew the curve or whether (shocker) having a little extra fat on your isn’t actually desperately unhealthy isn’t known. Because BMI is a terrible metric.

            1. JustaTech*

              I know this is true in the elderly because low body weight is an indication of illnesses and very thin elderly people don’t have the caloric reserves to survive bouts with infectious diseases. I don’t know the current hypotheses in younger populations.

          1. caryatis*

            A _little_ extra fat is the same mortality risk. Obesity, especially morbid obesity, comes with a lot of health risks–higher chance of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, more things than I can remember.

            1. Noobtastic*

              We fatties may have higher risk of cancer, but we also have higher survival rates.

              Also, in a society that focus on fat as the beauty standard, and stigmatizes thin people, the thin people have higher rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more.

              Correlation is not causation, but my guess is that it boils down to stress and cortisol, not fat.

          2. Noobtastic*

            I think it’s because they actually shifted the numbers, so more people would think they were overweight, and pay money to the diet industry.

        3. No, please*

          This. I’ve had times where my doctor told me to gain weight. Pregnancy being an obvious example, but after I got divorced my dad died unexpectedly from an aneurysm. My doc and friends were always on me about my low weight. There are too many factors in people’s lives to say, “Weight loss equals health!”

        4. many bells down*

          My daughter’s got a digestive disorder where she can literally starve to death while still eating regularly. She needs to eat high-calorie high-fat foods. She’s been hospitalized with a feeding tube when a bout of flu brought her weight below the danger zone. Her all-time TOP weight is 102 lbs.

          So if she was working somewhere that did this, I’d be beyond livid. Losing ANY weight is not healthy for her. And yes, it’s a rare disorder and a special case, but still.

          1. RKB*

            Yes! I have Crohn’s. At age 15 I was 75 pounds. People would LOVE how skinny I was. I could literally see my heart move my chest up and down. I was cold all the time! I still have enlarged veins where a PICC line was threaded so I could be fed internally. I now weigh 130 pounds and I may have a bit more of a booty but it’s infinitely better than being as skinny as I was. Skinny does not equal health.

      2. zora*

        Yeah, I have low blood pressure issues, so while overall my weighing 25 lbs less would be reasonable, if I tried to do it in 2 months I would be unconscious and on fluids in the ER pretty quickly. Does the OP’s boss want to pay my ER bills????

      3. CoveredInBees*

        I was just thinking that.

        I’m 18 weeks and both my doctor and I are thrilled that I’ve gained less than 5 pounds. If I had to choose between announcing my pregnancy early or be penalized? Uh uh. If I had already announced and was getting penalized, there would be chat with HR and then with an attorney. I work in NYC which has pretty strong pregnancy discrimination laws.

    2. StrikingFalcon*

      I could afford to lose 25 pounds but there’s no way I could healthily do it that rapidly. I have to be careful to eat enough spaced out so I don’t reach a certain threshold of hungry or I’m guaranteed a migraine, so I can’t drastically cut calories (and would never want to even if I could). And I couldn’t just jump into a high intensity exercise program – between chronic pain and recovering from a serious car accident, it’s taken me months to reach small goals like “walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath”. I do want to get into better shape but I have to pace myself or I’ll do real damage! And a lot of high intensity workouts are permanently off limits. There are so many reasons why fitness is not a one size fits all.

  4. Mariah*

    Thank you – at my last job, I ended up being the lone voice on the wellness committee pointing out the issues associated with specifically promoting weight loss and calling it “health,” when it’s obviously not universal. Instead, I was able to convince folks to adopt a totally voluntary team wellness initiative that assigned points for wellness activities that included exercise, taking walks, meditating, disconnecting from screens (points for a weekend of “pulling the plug”), keeping a food diary … essentially, we did the best we could to assemble a menu of options that weren’t ableist or otherwise discriminatory. It is possible!!!!

    1. KR*

      I like that you focused on activities that weren’t abelist too. Even programs focusing on exercise and being active can exclude those with chronic fatigue, nerve pain, or injuries. Something like meditation, tracking what you eat and being aware (with no obligation to change it), and protecting your eyes and hearing are great alternatives. Well done.

      1. Anxa*


        I know that exercise overall is good for my overall health and helps my sleep and feels more energized.

        But sometimes my mood is far better enhanced by just taking “exercise” off my radar for a week or so.

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      My workplace has a similar program, and I actually really enjoy it. The points tracking items switch up every month or so, you can customize the challenges/goals on your account so you don’t have to track items you don’t want to (ie, I don’t own a fitness tracker so I don’t do any “xxxxx steps per day” challenges), it includes financial and emotional health goals (like, “check your bank account”, “read this article about life insurance”, “take time to relax”), and it also includes things like going to the doctor/dentist. There are no goals related to weight loss, just general healthy eating tips (“less sugar”, “think before you snack”, “drink water instead of soda”, “do some type of exercise at least 150 min/week”)

      Participating is voluntary and the prizes are good (nice swag, cash, Amazon giftcards). The program is really popular, and it has actually helped me get into better habits, like eating a healthy breakfast,sleeping more, and not eating junk snacks, so personally I like it.

    3. BananaPants*

      My employer’s wellness program has gone to this model this year and I personally really like it. My coworkers who have a normal BMI are annoyed because they actually have to *do* something other than not become overweight. Under our previous program, if you had a normal BMI or were underweight, all you had to do was weigh yourself mid-year and as long as you weren’t overweight all of a sudden, you got a $400 reward. Those of us who were overweight were expected to successfully lose 5% of body weight in the first 6 months of the year and participate in intrusive and unhelpful telephone “health coaching” as frequently as once a week in order to earn the same reward. It was basically targeted straight at the overweight (myself included) and the overarching emphasis on YOU MUST LOSE WEIGHT to the exclusion of any other factor was super frustrating.

      Our wellness activities still include a health questionnaire and a mini-physical (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, etc.) but a whole myriad of activities that can earn you money. Activities range from targeted ones like weight loss, diabetes management, healthy pregnancy, etc. to those that anyone can do like increasing flexibility, improving finances, meditation, learning new cooking skills, etc. You can link an activity tracker or activity tracking app to their site and earn a reward simply for enabling tracking (i.e. you don’t have to meet a certain goal) as well as for participating in something like a 30 day step challenge. You can still do health coaching calls if you want but it isn’t required anymore.

      You get rewards for this stuff, up to $500/year. You have to do the questionnaire and mini-physical to earn any rewards (and you get $100 just for doing those two things), but it’s worth it to me.

    4. StrikingFalcon*

      Thank you for being the voice of reason! That sounds like an excellent program.

  5. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I could maybe get on board with a reward being tied to a percentage of body fat lost, but even that would take a giant leap of logic. This is bad, bad, bad.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      My thoughts exactly, like on Biggest Loser.

      Also, in the military being underweight can be disqualifying.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        The Army also limits goals to 8 lbs per month for those who do need to lose weight. There’s no penalty for losing more than that, but it’s not supposed to be the goal.

        1. Shannon*

          That also assumes that most people who need to lose weight in the Army are tall men. Meeting that “goal” isn’t doable or sustainable for women of a certain height/ weight without severely disordered behaviors.

          1. BananaPants*

            My brother’s on active duty and his branch’s rule for weight loss is 1% of excess body fat per month or one pound per week, whichever is greater, not to exceed 8 months. If their physician determines that they can safely lose the weight/fat in the prescribed amount of time, they’re put on a weight probation program. If they’ve gained enough that it would take longer than 8 months to lose it according to those rules, they’re separated immediately.

            There are exemptions for those who have certain medical conditions and those who are within 6-12 months postpartum (depending on whether they’re breastfeeding or not). They even give a one time exemption for those who gain weight after a tobacco cessation program.

            To be blunt, in the military there’s an expectation that you won’t let yourself gain a huge amount of weight in the 6 month intervals between mandatory weigh-ins, given that you’ll lose your job if you do. You’re not allowed to enlist in the first place if you have more than a certain amount to lose and you get kicked out if you gain a massive amount while serving. Plus, one has to pass physical fitness tests on top of body weight/body composition measurement. Basically, no one in the military is being expected to lose 100 pounds in 6 months or something crazy like that.

            1. jamlady*

              My husband is short and broad and was in impeccable shape in the military – and always failed weigh-ins. His superiors always fudged his paperwork (and a few other people who were similar). Sorry military, not everyone can meet the standard for one body type lol

    2. LJL*

      Or for achieving a healthy desired weight. In that case OP would be rewarded for her health.

    3. shirley*

      And if you’re already at your ideal body fat percentage? You’re penalized for already being in good shape. This entire concept is humiliating for all involved.

  6. Here we go again*

    OP, your company and manager sucks. I’m sorry. You are being penalized for already being a healthy person (weight-wise) and everyone else is being rewarded for making poor decisions at some point in their lives.

    I don’t have an issue with workplace wellness initiatives as long as they are voluntary and recognize that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to this.

    1. Fiona the Lurker*

      Respectfully, gaining weight isn’t always a matter of ‘making poor decisions’. There are a number of medical conditions and/or treatments which can cause weight gain, for example, and people of a lower economic standard don’t always have the luxury of being able to eat healthily. Couching it as a simple matter of poor eating habits/choices isn’t really helpful and risks coming across as unsympathetic … even victim blaming … which I’m sure isn’t what you were aiming for.

      1. many bells down*

        Yeah I’m not sure what “poor decision” led to my thyroid cancer, which led to 40lbs of weight gain. Or maybe my poor decision was being born with a heart defect that precludes many forms of exercise. That’s a really terrible way to word it.

        1. Here we go again*

          I do recognize that there are medical conditions that make weight loss challenging. However, in this case, since almost everyone was successful at losing the weight, that doesn’t seem to be the case. My apologies for not acknowledging that.

          1. Shannon*

            I’m not sure your statement includes mental health as a “medical condition that make[s] weight loss challenging,” but it should. Mental health is also a large factor in maintaining one’s weight and health.

          2. Kelly L.*

            And if it turned out that, for example, someone went off their needed psych meds to win the challenge, would that be healthy?

            1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

              As someone in recovery for an ED, one of the biggest things I struggle with is balancing a healthy lifestyle with orthorexia.

              I could dominate a challenge to lose 25 lbs in two months, but my mental and physical health would deteriorate and I’d likely end up back in the hospital.

              1. Ugh*

                Yep- person with previous ED here. I could win in a heartbeat…but it wouldn’t be good for me and I’d go down hill quickly. I’m at a healthy weight now and have been for years. I’m proud of my recovery and my balanced approach to food…I’d like to think this sort of thing wouldn’t trigger me, but I would not be willing to stay in a workplace that was pulling this stuff just to test it. I’d quit over this.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Hey, I’ve got a diet plan that will totally let me win at all weight loss competitions. All you have to do is replace all your meals with cigarettes and meth :) Cocaine is an acceptable substitution if you’re allergic.

          3. hugseverycat*

            It’s relatively easy to lose weight in the short term. The hard part is keeping it off long-term. If losing weight were as easy as going on a diet for a couple months then we wouldn’t have any fat people.

            1. Noobtastic*

              True. It’s the 95% failure rate over five years that really does it.

              Only 5% of humans can lose weight and keep it off for five whole years. But it’s all our fault if we fail, right? We rotten 95 percenters.

              I’ve lost I have no idea how many pounds in my decades of dieting, but they always came back, and brought their little friends with them.

              I was always successful at the diets. It’s the maintaining them that I couldn’t do. When I reached the point where my body was actually gaining weight during a week when I couldn’t even eat anything, at all, because it was consuming muscle mass, and turning it into fat, in order to survive the famine, the cause was truly lost.

              Metabolisms get massively screwed up by diets, and for a lot of us, it’s permanent.

              The one Biggest Loser contestant who managed to maintain his weight loss did it by quitting his job, and making maintaining his weight a literal full-time job. Although, I’m not sure who pays him for it.

          4. SarahTheEntwife*

            Losing weight doesn’t say anything about why the employees were at a certain weight to begin with, or what they did to lose the weight. The OP could quite possibly have lost 25 pounds if she really wanted to, but that doesn’t mean that doing so would be healthy. A thin, sedentary person starting up an exercise routine could very likely gain weight due to increased muscle mass.

      2. Alton*

        Well, and even when you do gain weight due to your diet or lack of activity, some of that still comes down to genetics. Some people stay stick thin no matter what they eat, or can eat enough calories that small numbers of extra calories don’t add up that much. If I want to lose weight, I have to keep my average calories in the 1,200-1,500 range. That doesn’t give me much flexibility. I also gain weight more easily than many people do.

        This is why I get frustrated when people undervalue exercise in weight loss. While it’s true that calories burned in exercise are lower than the calories you can cut by, say, giving up soda, for someone like me it can be easier and more effective to add a mile walk to my day than obsess over what I can do to shave another 100 calories off my diet.

        1. Amy The Rev*

          Samesies- I need to keep it to 1,200-1,500 to lose weight, and gain weight super easily: I gained 12lbs in my first month after leaving college (where I was an athlete and had a really tight budget so I didn’t spend extra on junkfood) and haven’t been able to shake it in the 5 years since. I call it the “post-grad 15” hahaha

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Here too. I can cut and cut, but unless I get off my butt and walk, it’s not going anywhere.
          However, walking is very effective for me. I lost a ton on holiday because I was walking everywhere and not driving, and I probably ate everything that wasn’t nailed down. That’s one reason I want to move someplace where walking a lot is more convenient due to transport or weather.

          At Exjob, I had the stair climbing, and they encouraged people to get out on their breaks and walk/run, but I don’t have those stairs anymore.

    2. Kristin*

      I agree with Fiona. Respectfully, you have no idea what’s gone on in any overweight person’s life, and assuming it’s all down to poor choices is really offensive.

    3. Maxwell Edison*

      I put on 10 pounds after removal of a precancerous ovary and the subsequent changes to my body chemistry. Guess I should have left it alone.

    4. Junior Dev*

      OP made it pretty clear she was not judging her colleagues for their life choices or health status. I think we should do the same.

    5. Noobtastic*

      I had a friend, once, who had an organ transplant, and the medicine she took to help her body accept the organ also made her gain about a pound per day. Yes, you read that right: One pound PER DAY, until she finally stabilized.

      She ballooned up to what some people call “Deathfat,” and she felt better than she had in decades.

      She didn’t have a lousy organ because of poor decisions she made at some point in her life, and nor was it a poor decision to take the medicine to enable her to survive.

      Please don’t cast blame on fat people for simply being fat. We don’t like it, and most of us have a story.

  7. Judy*

    In my past experience, if it is a reward that could go for everyone, rather than a contest with one (or three) winners, the target was “be within the accepted BMI (or body fat percent) for your height or loose 25 lbs”. Which might mean that you would have to meet with the trainer once (or once at the beginning and once at the end) to get the successful completion.

    1. Mike C.*

      This is still a pretty terrible way to do it. There’s no way someone who is off their target BMI is going to reach it quickly.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Right, but this is basically the existing “lose 25 pounds” with an “or be in your healthy range” so someone who only needed to lose 5-10 (or 0!) could stop there.

        IMO it would be better to change “25” to “10” because many people shouldn’t be losing much more than a pound a week, either.

        But the “reward healthy habits and not the end goal” is still better. Sounds like this office doesn’t have any right now, but there are people who (although not at their ideal weight) are never going to pull off that weight loss because of disability or medication issues that are more important (per their doctor!) than the weight.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Right, like I could start at 225 and lose down to 200 and get the cruise, because it’s a step in the right direction, or OP could start at 110 and stay there, and get the cruise because she’s already where she needs to be.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Or if Jane was at 160, and 150 would be a healthy BMI at her height (I know BMI’s awful, but just for the sake of the example), then she’d get the cruise if she lost just 10#, because she’d be where she needed to be.

          2. Honeybee*

            That’s grossly unfair and demoralizing in the opposite direction. Thinner Katie gets to do nothing and still get the cruise, whereas fat Susan needs to lose weight in order to earn it? That’s why this is just a bad, bad idea in general.

            1. Relly*

              THIS. Thank you.

              Speaking of demoralizing, what about having to explain “sorry, guys, won’t be joining you on the cruise, too fat. Have a good time though!!”

            2. Koko*

              Agreed. There’s really no way for an employer to judge employees’ weight without being offensive and grossly overstepping in some way.

            3. Kelly L.*

              True, I can see that.

              Honestly, I think the whole thing kind of sucks. And I’m fat as hell, lol.

            4. BananaPants*

              Our workplace wellness program was exactly this – people in the underweight or normal BMI ranges had to do nothing to collect $400, overweight or obese people had to do telephone coaching and lose 5% of their body weight or get to a normal BMI in 6 months to collect the same $400.

              They changed it and while the normal weight folks are pissed that they now have to actually DO something to earn rewards, the rest of us are glad that the sole criterion is no longer “lose weight, you Fatty McFatterson!”

        2. Anon 2*

          The problem of course is that some people are a slightly higher than their ideal BMI range and are perfectly healthy. For example, I know several people who lift weights as a hobby and have BMI’s of 26 or 27. They sure as hell don’t need to lose weight.

          I just tend to think that these types of competitions are horribly ideas. Weight is a personal matter. And a competition of this nature only encourages crash dieting and short term weight loss that will be rapidly regained (rather than encouraging healthy eating habits and exercise). To me it would be far more beneficial to provide employee’s with a gym membership and trade out the candy dish for a fruit bowl to help develop good habits.

    2. Noobtastic*

      If it’s “Be within the accepted BMI or lose 25 lbs,” then the OP would simply have to show up, since OP was already there.

      That’s hardly a challenge, and rewarding someone for simply showing up, while others are unhealthily (and painfully, miserably, torturously) starving themselves for the same reward, will only breed massive resentment.

  8. Delta Delta*

    This would be like a company giving everyone a Fitbit and setting the goal at 10,000 steps per day in order to go on the cruise… but then excluding an employee in a wheelchair because he or she actually can’t take steps.

    1. Camellia*

      This is a horrifyingly apt comparison! I wonder if the OP can use this to try to make their point.

    2. bridget*

      Totally! Maybe an even closer comparison would be an employee with a severely sprained ankle. Maybe the employee literally physically COULD take the steps, but it would be a really bad idea for their long-term health and wellness. The boss here seems hung up on the technicality that the OP could technically participate so it’s “fair,” notwithstanding the fact that 85 pounds is objectively unhealthy for nearly all adults.

    3. Gen*

      Hahah yeah, no that’s a thing. My husbands employer did it. And made it a teams contest where each week the highest scorer in terms of steps in each team got a prize, the highest scoring team each week got some kind of time off bonus and the highest scoring teams overall got a big reward. One team had a marathon runner who was in training at the time so they always won. Until the week after the big marathon he announced he was cutting back his training for a while and several other middleaged managers decided to out do him. Unsurprisingly one of them had a minor heart attack. :/

      1. Allypopx*

        Yikes! I don’t suppose there’s any way that can come back on the company if they’re using workplace incentives, especially monetary, to promote unhealthy practices like that, is there?

    4. The OG Anonsie*

      Honest to god when I read “the program wouldn’t be fair if it didn’t apply to everyone equally” my first thought was how when I was in high school, our PE final grade was based on how fast we could run a mile, and they made the kid in a motorized wheelchair go around the track with everyone as we ran.

      Maybe he preferred that to being left out and all, but I kinda doubt it because I had pretty nasty asthma as a kid and when I protested that we never did any training to run a mile and just doing it off the cuff was going to set me off completely, they told me it was only fair if everyone had to do the same thing. So I ran a little, got wheezy, walked the rest, got a horrible time overall, got a C for class. Woo fairness!

      1. Junior Dev*

        I hated running the mile! And yeah, we never did any sort of training up to it.

        I got really into running the year after college and it took me months of training to be able to run a full mile.

      2. RatherBeReading*

        I was on crutches during the “run the mile” test in high school PE. The teacher gave me an F because I didn’t run. Then I cried and she upped it to a C+. So, yeah. Fairness.

      3. Noobtastic*

        They did that to you, too?

        I always hated my P.E. classes, because they never gave us any training, just expected us to match the Presidential Fitness Goals, right from the get-go, and knocked down our grades if we couldn’t.

        “Oh, you have dizzy spells? Too bad.”
        “You have asthma? Sucks to be you?”
        “You have weak ankles/bad knees? Pbtbtbt.”
        “You actually managed to get lost on the mile run? How did you even make it to school? Oh, well. FAIL!”

        Special needs did not exist in the minds of ANY of my P.E. teachers, and there was never any accommodation. We’d have to play sports, without any explanation of the rules, as well. Because all elementary kids know all the rules of all team sports ever played in America.

  9. KEM11088*

    25 lbs in TWO MONTHS?!!! Isn’t the recommended guideline a pound a week or something like that to lose it slowly and develop the healthy habits to keep it off? That seems to be to be just as unhealthy as including OP in this whole lose 25 lbs thing (since it would be putting her at underweight).

    Why can’t they just focus on healthy incentives such as eating cleaner, counting steps, workouts, etc. It isn’t just about the numbers on the scale (I say this as a competitive athlete who is technically, by BMI standards, overweight, due to muscle and also as someone in ED recovery who would FREAK OUT at this sort of thing). There is a lot they aren’t taking into consideration.

    This whole thing is gross.

      1. Grouchy*

        Yeah, I once lost double that in two months. Thyrotoxicosis. But I LOOKED SO GOOD YOU GUYS. (sarcasm)

        1. fposte*

          I have Graves’ disease, but weirdly never lost any weight on it. Which is good because I needed the extra for later :-/.

          1. Quidnunc*

            I had Graves’ – I wound up actually gaining weight instead of losing it. I was exhausted all the time and I found that eating gave me energy so I was eating an amazing amount of food just to make it through the day.

    1. BritCred*

      I lost around 50lb in 3 months through stress and life issues affecting my appetite. It only stopped when I (diagnosed after some 2 years of waiting and blood tests etc with no idea what was going on and causing it) triggered CFS /ME.

      I now can’t work and I’m barely able to do anything without crashing. I spend what energy I have trying to ensure I can survive with no end in sight because the illness has been neglected and abused by bad science for decades and only now are we finding biological evidence as to what is happening to us.

      YMMV and i can’t guarantee that the weight loss triggered it but to get that weight loss that quickly you are likely causing huge issues with your body and majorly under cutting your needed intakes.

      (Ps- it didn’t even stay off to add insult to injury!)

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      Yeah, the biggest problem with 25 pounds in two months is that it encourages habits that likely aren’t sustainable – even if they’re healthy, which they might be for some people. From a health perspective, it’s not helpful to drop 25 pounds in two months and then gain them back within three; the goal should be to maintain a healthy weight, and that usually means taking things slower and finding a plan you can live with.

      And yeah, the whole thing is gross.

    3. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      I’m right there with you.

      I cringe thinking about all the time I have spent with therapists and doctors making sure I don’t die (yes, I’m far enough into recovery that I recognize how much danger I put myself in), but the little voice in my head was like, “challenge accepted.” This is such a dangerous set-up.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, as another former ED sufferer, this was also my thought. I’m also super competitive, so it would be all over if someone challenged me to lose weight where my progress would be monitored by a group. I would OWN that challenge.

        But it wouldn’t be healthy, or productive.

        This is just such a bad idea for everyone.

    4. BananaPants*

      I know of people who have done this, but they were typically morbidly obese to start and on a very restrictive eating plan (Atkins, keto, VLC, whatever). The majority actually had weight loss surgery or were on medically supervised weight loss plans.

      For someone who’s mildly overweight per the BMI tables, losing 25 lbs in 2 months is not an easy feat.

  10. Lora*

    Holy crap. Your manager is a douche.

    I don’t even know what else to say. There’s so much wrong with this. I’m really sorry you’re dealing with it.

  11. AnitaJ*

    This is ridiculous. If it was a smoking cessation challenge, for example, would they expect you to take up smoking and then quit?

    (And DON’T GET ME STARTED on the disgusting weight-loss-in-the-workplace issue.)

  12. JMegan*

    I also feel bad for the hypothetical person who really did want to lose weight, and who worked really hard at it, and lost …24 pounds in that time. Guess she (or he) would have been stuck back in the office with OP that day. Sorry, Fergusina, you definitely worked hard, but not hard ENOUGH! Too bad, so sad, we’ll wave when we cruise by the office though.

    1. HR Jeanne*

      I was just thinking this exact same thing. This is a terrible program and your manager is ridiculous.

      1. Noobtastic*

        I’m just flabbergasted that the rest of the group actually managed it.

        That must have been hell for the whole department, with all the hangry people all over.

  13. Nea*

    There is an entire parade of red flags waving here.
    1) A perfectly healthy person is being penalized for being healthy to start with
    2) 25 pound loss in 2 months is really unhealthy in and of its own. Doctors recommend a gradual drop of 1 pound a week; this is calling for over 3x that much. Massive starvation or extreme exercise put a strain on the heart, tend to screw up the gallbladder, and certainly knock metabolism off track.

    In fact, it’s such a drastic weight loss that I have to wonder
    3) How come only one person in the whole branch was not deemed to have accomplished it? Seriously? There’s no way an entire branch of people hit that goal.

    And worse, with “there will be more prizes like this in the future and everyone but me is excited”
    4) Excited about WHAT? Constant incentive to continually lose weight until everyone is undernourished? Excited about trading a single day cruise with gall bladder and excess skin removal? Excited about replacing any other outside work activities with exercise and diet? Excited about constantly buying a new wardrobe with no company-offered clothing allowance?

    Ye gods. I’d get out so fast I’d leave skidmarks, and I’d tell the next company that I left my job because the previous one made irrational demands on my health and personal time.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, if I were the OP, I’d be having a word with the boss about the issues here, and if that didn’t end with a change in future plans, I’d be job-hunting and out the door as fast as I could get there.

      I know myself. Sitting around watching people be rewarded for this, without being able to be rewarded myself for already being healthy*, would eat at me. I’d rather find another job than sit around knowing that as soon as the next wellness initiative started, I’d get to be excluded again.

      * If I were; also, while I actually could stand to lose 20-25 pounds right now, unlike the OP, I wouldn’t try to drop it in two months. (I’d like to keep it off once it’s gone, please and thank you, and be healthy when I get there.) So I’d still be out the door even though I’m not already healthy.

      1. Nea*

        I have been trying to lose weight for ages. It’s frankly not that easy (which is why I’m dubious 8 other people managed with no problem) and I’ve seen the ugly results when people decide they’re going to “get fit” in an extraordinarily short amount of time.

        Thanks, I’d rather stay fat. Especially as at my weight I can still compete in 5K races.

        1. Michele*

          I also find it very hard to believe that everyone lost 25 lbs in two months. I have a hard time losing 5 lbs in two months. Even if every did lose that much, can you imagine how hangry they must have all been? There is no way anyone could get any work done.

          1. Natalie*

            Maybe that’s why the boss is being such an ass about this – he’s cranky from lack of food.

          2. Noobtastic*

            Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some pills being passed around.

        2. Someone*

          Losing lots of weight fast sounds entirely silly, how are you supposed to stay that way when you didn’t get rid of the habits that made you that way? Its the yoyo effect in the making.
          I’m also dubious about any eating tips that basically translate to: This is awful and this is awful, you should never eat this, and don’t even THINK about eating chocolate/anything you really really like.
          If going down to and keeping a healthy weight means to have to think about food and restrain yourself all the time, most people will have a very hard time following through. My personal tip to anyone trying to lose weight would be to find low-calorie foods that are yummy, not restrain themselves from anything they really really like – just cut down on it-, and to find calories they notice. The latter might sound strange, but there’s foods where you hardly notice how much calories you eat (junk food high in fat, in my experience), and food that has a good amount of calories but makes you feel full and happy (e.g. stir-fried potatoes and eggs with little fat).
          I guess everyone has to find out themselves what works for them, but that idea is hard to sell.
          What I know for sure that a one-size-fits-all diet (with that crazy amount of weight loss!) is not gonna work out.

    2. not really a lurker anymore*

      There’s also the fun of the prize being food and drink – for a bunch of a people who just lost a bunch of weight.

      1. No, please*

        This is something that caught my eye too. OP is healthy, but has to work to earn the same amount of money these folks get for eating and drinking their way through the day?! So many double standards.

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah, I laughed at that too. Is giving people a massive, all-expenses paid dinner with an endless line of empty-calorie soda/alcohol really an appropriate reward for a *health program*?

    3. Here we go again*

      I could see #3 being feasible, depending on everyone else’s starting weight. Rewards, incentives and deadlines really force people to up their game on this.

      There was a Nightline episode several years ago where they tested the threat of public humiliation and how it could motivate people to lose weight. They had a handful of obese participants agree to take photos in swimsuits and said they would show the photos on national TV if they didn’t lose a certain amount of weight in a certain period time. I think all but one person made the challenge and that person was only a pound or two away. They still gave everyone back their photos, but it was a fascinating episode.

      1. Antilles*

        I’d be interested to know how that actually worked out for them long term. As several people have mentioned, the Biggest Loser (which operates on an essentially similar “we’re telling the world you’re hideous” strategy) fails miserably at keeping the weight off long term.

        1. Here we go again*

          It wasn’t in anyway cruel. It was done in a very respectful manner. The participants all agreed to the terms and they used it as motivation to lose the weight that they knew they should be losing anyway. The weight loss was also something deemed manageable. They didn’t actually show anyone’s photos either, it was strictly about the psychology behind weight loss.

          That being said, I agree with Antilles, that it probably won’t work for the long term. I’ll see if I can find a link to the episode. It was probably about 10 years ago, but it is one that stuck with me.

          1. Relly*

            It wouldn’t help anyone with an eating disorder. The shame spiral tends to trigger bad habits like binging, purging, and starving.

    4. I'm Not Phyllis*

      My hunch is that 8 people didn’t lose the 25, but that they ended up giving the reward to everyone who participated.

      1. Kelly White*

        I agree- I have a hard time believing that the 8 other people in the office actually all lost 25 pounds. That is a pretty significant weight loss-

        Did the OP mention how this was verified?

  14. LawCat*

    What the freak. This is awful. I’d be tempted to ask, “So, if I gain 25 lbs. and then lose it to get to exactly where I am right now, I could go on the cruise in the future?”

    1. JMegan*

      Oh, please do! And do not in any way point out that yo-yo dieting is considered much less safe than just remaining at the weight you’re at, even if it’s higher than “normal.” Because they have their minds made up, so why confuse them with the facts, amirite?

  15. TootsNYC*

    I confess to having a reaction that says, “Not every benefit, not every program, is going to be applicable to every employee.”

    If the company offers scholarships to the children of employees, then the childless don’t get to benefit.
    If the company offers 401K matching, the people with lots of kids (and expenses) won’t have as much money to contribute to their retirement savings account.
    If the company buys drinks every Friday night, the people with family obligations don’t get them.

    This isn’t even part of your agreed-upon benefits package.

    So yeah, you’re left out, but…

    Maybe that’s not an accepted attitude, but I confess that it’s one of the first things I think about.
    Life isn’t fair, and even if it were, fair isn’t about equal. You don’t need the incentive of the prize–THAT is your prize.

    1. TootsNYC*

      That said, the way this played out, with the day off, etc., was really crappy.

      And I do NOT buy the idea that he couldn’t have given you the day off.

    2. Elizabeth*

      I was thinking the same until I got to the part where they made her come in and work in an empty office with nothing to do. At least give her the day off. These people are just dumb.

      1. Dot Warner*

        Agreed. It would’ve been one thing if everyone who’d met their goal had gone to do something fun *after* work, but leaving OP in the office all day with nothing to do? Come on, that’s a waste of time and the company’s money, not to mention extremely rude.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Having everyone meet their -own- goal for fitness, health improvement, etc., would be an appropriate way to handle this.

          So maybe the OP’s own goal is not to lose X amount of weight, but to improve some cardio fitness marker. Or to increase the amount of vegetables, or …

      2. Aurion*

        And the manager checked to make sure the OP was in! When OP had nothing to do! That’s a special kind of petty, right there.

      3. I'm Not Phyllis*

        Exactly – at least give OP the day off! It’s almost like she was being punished because she didn’t need to lose weight (?!). Talk about a blow to morale!

    3. anon for this*

      I kind of agree with this.

      OP, can you take solace in the fact that this program sounds like kind of a trainwreck anyway? 25 lbs. in two months is scary unrealistic. Is a dinner cruise really worth that (even if you had weight to lose)?

    4. Kyrielle*

      But when *every other person* in the office gets to go? And it sounds like OP is just sitting around with no work to do when they’re not there?

      The childless person isn’t paying to send their child to school; therefore they don’t need a scholarship to offset an expense that doesn’t exist. I don’t have diabetes; therefore I don’t need the diabetes-management program that my employer provides, for free, to those who do. These things provide services / offset costs for something I don’t have.

      The 401k option is only useful to people with spare money; that also excludes a lot of entry-level workers paying down student loans on comparatively-low (relative to what the older workers make) salaries.

      As far as the drinks and family obligations – yes, *but* if someone wants to go, they can investigate ways to make that happen. They aren’t forbidden from taking part; they are allowed and can work out the balance of their life. (Perhaps they can hire someone to pick their kids up and watch them. Perhaps they have a spouse who can take the kids solo that evening. Perhaps drinks with the team isn’t worth it to them and they go home.)

      But a cruise? A major fun event, in which *every* member of the office takes part, except the OP? And the reason isn’t that the OP “decided” not to take part, but that the OP *could not* take part without being hugely unhealthy?

      That seems a bit much. The whole team has the bonding experience of the weight loss process (that OP shouldn’t take part in) and then the bonding experience of a cruise together (that OP didn’t get to go on). It’s supposed to be a “health incentive” but it’s also basically acting as a morale-booster and team-builder…that explicitly excludes one member of the team in a way that they really have no choice about.

      1. Purest Green*

        Right, for each commonly offered benefit there’s an offset that doesn’t exist with weight-related incentives. Other than, I guess, preexisting salubriousness.

      2. Emac*

        Yeah, while I agree that life isn’t fair, this seems different than not everyone being eligible to use some benefits because of their life circumstances. For things like scholarships or 401K plans, they’re there for employees to use in the future if their circumstances change and they end up wanting/needing them. But what is the OP supposed to do – gain a bunch of weight just so she can lose it and be able to get a prize? And it isn’t like she couldn’t actually use the prize – she was capable of going on the cruise, just not allowed to win the chance.

        And as others have pointed out, 25 pounds in 2 months is insane, and I’m surprised that everyone in the office was able to achieve that. I wonder how strictly they stuck to that, or did they end up just letting those who lost some weight go on the cruise, which makes it even crappier for the OP.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If they didn’t stick to that strictly, that’s a big problem.

          And I think it’s not cool that the didn’t allow a more behavior-motivated scale–like, “worked out X times,” or “followed the diet consistently,” etc.

      3. The OG Anonsie*

        Agreed on all counts. Offering benefits not everyone needs or wants is not the same as creating what is essentially a team building and engagement event for everyone to work on together and then get rewarded for and making it so exactly ooonnne person isn’t allowed in.

        I mean IF they gave the LW the day off, that would be nice. A way more sane thing to do would be to include everyone if the team met a general goal.

    5. Honeybee*

      Of course that’s true, but a fundamental difference between this example and something like 401(K) matching and scholarships is that this involves people’s health and body image and is potentially discriminatory in a lot of icky ways, potentially against protected classes. First, there’s the icky intervention of the workplace into people’s body image and the constant monitoring and potential associated stress that this could induce. How is the workplace going to know that you’ve lost? Do you have to do an official weigh in at the beginning and end? Ew. People with certain disabilities could not participate fully in this challenge, and there’s also medical evidence that women and African Americans lose weight more slowly than men and white people. And people with eating disorders could be horribly triggered by this kind of thing every day at work.

      There are so, so, so many problems inherent in this; it’s kind of flippant to be like “well since it’s not for you just don’t worry about it!”

      Also, the last example – “If the company buys drinks every Friday night, the people with family obligations don’t get them” – is super problematic too!

    6. hbc*

      I agree in concept, but I think this one has too many problems. I think the main thing is the disconnect between the goal and the implementation, and then there’s the scope.

      Supposedly this program is to encourage wellness, but there’s actually no encouragement for OP being healthy/doing healthy things. It’d be similar to having a program to reward physical activity–based on tryouts for one specific type of team and participation on that team. Just call it a freaking softball team and softball team party, don’t act like the woman who didn’t have time because of her cycling training schedule isn’t getting enough physical activity. So they should call this a weight-loss club, or make sure they’re actually rewarding wellness by having metrics like meeting personal goals set with the help of the nutritionist. (Even though that can still be fraught, if I remember a certain well-muscled letter writer’s tale correctly.)

      As for scope, the reward should be relatively small if you’re setting up something that people absolutely not participate in. If I’m passing on $6 of beers and $4 worth of apps because I don’t feel like getting a babysitter after work or otherwise arranging my schedule, no big. Give race shirts and a big carb lunch to people doing the company marathon. Don’t give a day off for a giant [child-free/runners/weight-droppers] party unless you obviously have something equivalent that the [parents/can’t-runners/can’t-safely-drop-weighters] can enjoy.

    7. Imaginary Number*

      Except all those other situations, there’s some choice involved, and those choices are not physically impossible and/or extremely unhealthy:

      An employee could decide to have children and take advantage of awesome childcare benefits
      An employee could decide to spend less in another area in order to take advantage of matching contributions
      An employee could decide to get a babysitter on Friday night

      OP cannot choose to lose 25 lbs. It’s not even an option.

    8. Maxwell Edison*

      I actually would prefer to come to an empty office and actually get stuff done without being interrupted or just put up my feet and read if there was no work to be done. Then again, the prospect of being trapped on a boat with management gives me the willies.

    9. JM60*

      The main problem with those analogies is that those are examples of the tears not bring spasms, whereas in this case is the condition that’s not applicable to the employee. If a company offers a 401k program to everyone, but some people aren’t in a position to utilize that offer, those employees are still offered that benefit. On the other hand, this employee is presumably able to benefit from the cruise.

      I think your analogies would work if an employee was offered a cruise, but was unable to go because of children. In that case, the reward is being offered, but the employee isn’t able to benefit from it.

    10. caryatis*

      Yes! Being at a healthy weight is your prize, OP. And MUCH more valuable than a one-day cruise. Enjoy your health and your days free of discomfort and embarrassment. Obese coworkers don’t get those advantages.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        That’s making an awful lot of assumptions about the OP’s coworkers. Fat people aren’t all uncomfortable and embarrassed, and the latter is the fault of society, not an individual’s weight/appearance. There are plenty of fat athletes and thin unhealthy people.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Speaking of thin, unhealthy people, one of the trainers on The Biggest Loser just had a heart attack.

          Of course, for HIM it was blamed on genetics. For all the people he bullied, it was because they were miserable slugs, who didn’t deserve to be healthy until they starved themselves thin. Genetics couldn’t possibly play a part in it for THEM.

          I mean, good for him for being active and eating well, and basically healthy, and it’s too bad about the heart condition. I just really don’t like the hypocrisy, and the denial that thin people can be unhealthy and fat people can be healthy.

          Maybe this will be a wake-up call to him, and some others.

    11. StrikingFalcon*

      There’s fair, there’s equal, and there’s appropriate for the workplace. This is neither fair nor appropriate.

      Being healthy is certainly it’s own reward, but this is not exactly encouraging healthy behavior. Weight loss =/= health.

  16. Rincat*

    Aside from all the weight loss stuff (which is horrid), it’s just so PETTY that the boss checked when OP swiped their card. I wonder what other petty stuff this boss does???

    1. Adam*

      It almost makes me wonder if the boss just doesn’t like the OP. I try not to jump to those conclusions but this is just so weird. OP was essentially punished for being preemptively healthy and she apparently stood out as it seems every other person in the office had enough weight to lose to qualify for the prize.

      1. Aurion*

        And it’s not like OP didn’t work for their health. If you look at weight alone, yeah, there are people who are naturally thin and don’t have to work to maintain their weight. But OP is in the military reserve. I’m assuming that comes with requirements of how physically fit OP must be, and no one can maintain their muscle mass by sitting around watching Netflix all day. OP has to work for their health, same as everyone else.

        1. Anon for this*


          OP’s basically being punished for having worked on their health for longer than their coworkers have.

        2. Adam*

          Agreed. I’m finding more and more that good health in many ways is something you earn and maintain (barring conditions outside of your control). You may be naturally skinny due to lucky genes, but if you still just laze about and eat terribly you probably won’t be very healthy longterm.

        3. Noobtastic*

          True about the muscles, and the fitness. Cardio fitness, in particular, takes training.

          As for muscle mass, well Captain Hammer claims to be that way naturally, but I wouldn’t really trust him as far as I can throw him. He’s a corporate tool.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        There’s no way to tell the story without sounding like a deluded b-hole, but I was once the only person in an office not working on losing weight and it was definitely a Thing. I got a lot of really inappropriate comments from some people and a lot of hostility in general. Folks would narrate constantly about what I was eating, wearing, bringing up my weight and diet in totally unrelated conversations.

        I overheard a conversation once from a couple of the worst offenders that made out like they felt that anyone who was goal weight thin was judging them and feeling smug about it, so I guess they just sort of assumed I had some hidden bad attitude about their weights and therefore it was a justified defense against my judgements on them. The gag is that I actually struggled for years to get to that size and will be the last person on earth to judge or care about what anyone else does or does not do because I know how much it blows.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Wow! Are you one of the 5%? I believe you. You DO know how much it blows.

          That was a rotten way to treat you.

        2. Anon for this*

          I’ve been there, too.

          I’m a recovered anorexic. I also gained and lost weight years ago. My goal is maintenance. And I have a personal rule of only talking about weight with medical professionals. People can be really, really nasty.

  17. Xarcady*

    I’d push back a bit if the next contest still revolves around losing weight. Go to your manager and point out, again, that for you, losing that much weight would be unhealthy. And then provide the manager with a couple of alternatives that you could do instead. These could be your own personal goals, or a general goal that anyone in the office could do–increasing daily average steps by a given percentage, for example.

    If what’s keeping you from getting the reward is that the goal must apply to everyone equally, then the goal should be something everyone in the office has a chance of doing.

    Or there could be two or more goals, and everyone gets to pick which one they are working on this time.

  18. Rebecca*

    What a horrible way to run a program, and an equally terrible way to treat an employee. It completely ignores anything about health, and focuses just on a number on the scale. It’s possible to become more fit and healthy without major changes on the scale number, especially if someone gains muscle mass.

    I am just shaking my head over the whole thing. Your manager is an ass. For what it’s worth, I’d be sorely tempted to read a book, binge watch Netflix, play solitaire, or anything but work on the days everyone else was on the cruise, and let the emails and phone calls pile up and go unanswered.

  19. Patty the boxy potato*

    When I went to Curves, they used to have contests like this. I had already lost whatever weight I was going to lose, so I asked that they changed their criteria for a free t-shirt, and they did. I had to come a certain number of times or something like that. I felt vindicated when I got my t-shirt! :)

  20. Marcy*

    I don’t have a problem with wellness incentive programs that don’t allow everyone to qualify. We have a stop-smoking program where I work that I don’t qualify for because I don’t smoke, and when I was pregnant, I got a very nice bonus from completing a well-pregnancy program that all the non-pregnant people in the office obviously didn’t qualify for. Companies do this to lower their health insurance risk pool and reduce their own costs. Allowing people who aren’t the target risk pool to benefit from the program would defeat the purpose of the program (I see the purpose of the program as reducing the costs to the company, not actually promoting employee wellness per se).

    All that said, your boss and this program sounds bonkers. The weight loss goal is absurdly high and the reward overly extravagant. Also potentially counter-productive? Are they serving kale and bottled water on this cruise or is this reward cruise going to have food people would want to pig out on?

    1. Emac*

      You got a nice bonus as in cash? I understand why companies would have these kinds of programs available for employees, but I still think it’s really crappy to have significant prizes (like a cruise or a cash bonus, as opposed to like a “You did it!” Pin or something like that) attached when there are probably many people who would never have the chance to try for them. I can imagine that if I worked at a company where pregnant people could complete a program and get a bonus, if I were not able to have children, that would make me feel horrible.

      1. Marcy*

        It was a cash bonus that essentially defrayed all the copay costs of Dr. visits and the hospital visit for the pregnancy. You get the bonus by verifying that you’ve gone to all the well visits, and by participating in some coaching sessions about how to maintain a healthy pregnancy. It was definitely nice to not have to worry about the medical costs of the pregnancy, but it wouldn’t really make sense to want to get pregnant just to get the bonus. I’m pretty sure the company did this because high risk pregnancies are expensive for the company as well as the employee, so it’s in their best interest to incentivize healthy pregnancy behaviors.

    2. JM60*

      If you company card that much about smoking, they could offer the incentive for not smoking, as opposed to stop smoking. By offering a reward for stopping smoking, they’re rewarding people for having smoked in the past.

    3. StrikingFalcon*

      Covering the cost of doctor’s visits and the hospital charges for a pregnancy in exchange for taking medically appropriate measures to aid a healthy pregnancy is a league of difference from a day off and a team-building social activity for meeting an unhealthy goal set by a manager instead of a doctor with no regard for individual circumstance. Would they deny the benefits to people who developed complications or miscarried (failed to meet the goal of a healthy pregnancy)? Because that would make it equally awful and inappropriate.

      Personally I am okay with the smoking benefit too. Smoking isn’t fraught the way weight is, and I fully understand why a company would want to encourage people to quit.

  21. Imaginary Number*

    OP, as a reservist, you would have put yourself below the minimum weight to participate in this (usually around 100 lbs for a female depending on height.)

    This situation is ridiculous, regardless. But this may be one of those situations where pulling the “military card” might make people think twice because, technically, you wouldn’t even be allowed to participate in something like this.

    1. Imaginary Number*

      AAM, could this be considered military discrimination because, as a reservist, OP would be forced to go against Army regulation?

    2. Morning Glory*

      I have a feeling it would not, because it’s not a requirement for her job, just the optional reward.

  22. FOH Manager*

    Quite aside from the aspects of a weight loss initiative in the office (yack!), I am currently trying to lose weight (Weight Watchers anyone???), but if this was happening in my office, I’d participate, but be up in arms for the OP! How totally unfair!

    It’s like saying “Oh, well, you don’t need to lose weight and you don’t have to suffer the way we do, so no reward for you!”.


    1. AliCat*

      Hi ::waves:: I’m also on Weight Watchers (and totally loving it but that is off-topic).

      My company does actually have wellness initiatives but I actively don’t partake because I don’t really think its any of their business what I’m doing (or not doing) with my spare time. That being said there were also some questions about whether the data from the checkups they sponsor on-site would be shared with my employer and how it would be used. They’ve only recently, as in this week, released a statement about that. So maybe I will join in in the future, now that I know that my health data can’t be used against me.

  23. AT*

    A weight loss challenge came up at a workplace I was at years ago. As soon as I started asking questions about how it would work around ensuring it being healthy for everyone, the owners squashed it.

    Workplaces should be encouraging people to live healthy (e.g. healthy snacks, paying for gym memberships, etc) to make them healthier and happier employees, not promoting stupid gimmicks.

  24. AndersonDarling*

    Ugh. We have health initiatives, but they focus on participation, not on outcomes. Get a flu shot, join a gym, walk 3 times a week, go to a yoga class…and then your name goes into a lottery for gift cards at the end of the month. People can do whichever programs they want, or they may do something this month and not next, and no one talks about fitness stuff at work so if you don’t do anything, no one cares.
    The OP isn’t even rewarded for staying healthy. Stinks.

  25. Sibley*

    An example of a program that works:
    1. Money if you’re within healthy ranges, as determined by medical professionals. (seriously, you have to see a doctor)
    2. Money if you’re not within healthy ranges, but made improvements.

    You get a blood test, get weighed. Compare results to healthy/norm for you individually. Pregnant women do NOT do this, there’s an alternate because their norm is not going to be the same. the people who have issues are the ones who do a lot of weight lifting, so they have a ton of muscle. They go to their doctor and get a physical, doctor certifies that they’re good.

  26. animaniactoo*

    The problem is the target. If the goal is wellness, then *wellness activities* should be evaluated for each person and be the target. Because if everybody was 50 lbs overweight, they’re going to run out of weight to lose themselves in the near future.

    So ideally, you would get goals that included a certain amount of exercise, nutrition, *maintaining* your current weight range.

    One of the issues might be a need to have a “provable” but an activity monitor and potentially at least having a seen-to-be-healthy lunch for say 20 days out of the month might suffice.

    See if they’d be open to that, in terms of “fairness” and a way to carry the program forward after everyone’s done losing the weight they have available to lose.

    Fwiw, in general I’d think it was totally fair for you to miss out as not all things are applicable to all people, and they are being rewarded for putting in an effort they were not focused on putting in at the time – except that in this case, it left you as the *sole* person being excluded and general etiquette says when you get down to that stage, you include everyone regardless.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Well, I guess if they go out for a giant food and booze extravaganza at the end of each challenge, they can regain and relose the same 25 pounds indefinitely, lol.

  27. blanche devereaux*

    At my very OLDJOB we had a biggest loser contest and my bulimic coworker ended up winning. these things are a very bad idea. at current job one of my coworkers kept sending me links to a weight loss challenge others on my team were doing for money and I just ignored them. Of course I need to lose 25+ pounds, but I’m not doing it in a contest with coworkers. bad idea. bad bad bad.

    1. Anonymous for this post only*

      As a recovered/recovering bulimic I could see this sort of thing being very dangerous. I’m able to participate in weight-loss programs now, safely, but they are programs where it’s only me against my own personal goals. Not some arbitrary (and extreme) 12 lb/ month goal and not a competition against anyone else.

      1. blanche devereaux*

        congratulations on your recovery! my coworker ended up in an outpatient program after the contest. I have since lost touch with her but hope she is doing well.

    2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      This is what completely scares me about these things.

      I’m in recovery for anorexia and this would be such a trigger for me. It’s literally rewarding the behaviour and mentality I’ve spent 20+ years fighting.

  28. SimonTheGreyWarden*

    This has issues all over. What if a woman is pregnant and not ready to disclose? I know that personally, my doctor has told me to limit my overall weight gain during pregnancy because I was overweight to start, but I am not supposed to lose weight and if I did, it would be a big concern.

    Also, I wonder if it could get into age or gender related discriminatory issues since both can correlate with challenges for weight loss.

      1. EmilyAnn*

        This is the second time race has been mentioned. What does race have to do with weight loss? Does anybody have a peer-reviewed study from a well regarded scientific journal that any race is incapable of losing weight?

        1. Agnes*

          Every race is incapable of losing significant weight in the long-term. Many peer-reviewed studies back it up that it’s realistic for <5% of people who try.

          1. Anon for this*

            Do you have links to those studies? The 5% number is only reminding me of a very old one, which I’m sure you’re not talking about, in which people temporarily followed an extremely calorie-restricted diet and were weighed again some time after that restriction ended.

        2. Noobtastic*

          I believe that short-term weight loss is easier for men than for women and easier for white people than for blacks. I don’t have data on any other groups.

  29. Beth*

    Others have mentioned this, but I am dubious that the manager and all the other staff members (8, plus 2 management employees) each lost 25 pounds in two months, 3 pounds per week for 8 weeks. Certainly there are varied theories on weight loss, but if you want to go the basic calories-in-out route, that’s a 1500 calorie deficit every single day for 8 weeks. I just don’t believe that ten people were EACH able to do this. I think there’s something else at play here.

    And the idea of rewarding weight loss with a bunch of food and alcohol is completely ridiculous!

    1. Marisol*

      This is a really good point. All ten people in strict compliance with a diet, and all of them losing a pretty significant amount of weight in a short time…hmmm. It it is rather hard to believe.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      The heavier you are, the more calories you can take in and still lose 3+ lbs a week, without taking it to unhealthy levels. If they were all 300lbs+, this would be a normal weight loss. (which is roughly judged as 1% of your body weight per week)

      How likely it is that they were all that heavy…. well, I’m doubtful.

      1. Marisol*

        It’s not a shocking amount of weight to lose, and as you say, it could be a normal amount depending on the starting weight; however given what I’ve seen of folks in my office who say they are on a weight loss program and then don’t follow through, and what I know of human nature generally, it’s the 100 percent success rate that I find hard to believe. People are flaky about stuff like that.

    3. Manders*

      They could also have done something like overused a diuretic or purposefully have made themselves dehydrated right before weighing in. I bet a group of people that’s already this misinformed about health and weight bought into weird diet stuff that can “cut weight” in the extremely short term.

      1. Beth*

        The main reason I’d be surprised if that happened: the program “included access to a nutritionist and coupons for sessions with a trainer or a gym membership.” Surely if staff members were seeing a nutritionist and a trainer, at least ONE of those people would have pointed out the problems with a blanket requirement for anyone regardless of size to lose 25 pounds in two months. I wonder if the goal was changed but no one told the OP.

        1. Manders*

          Ah, that’s a good point. I can totally see the boss proposing this outrageous number, realizing after trying to lose the weight that it’s unrealistic, and moving the goalposts to something more reasonable (but still not fair to the OP).

  30. FN2187*

    When I first started reading this letter, I swore it was a plot summary of an episode of the Office. This is a terrible way to run a wellness program.

    1. Michele*

      There was one where Angela was being pressured to participate in a very poorly planned weightloss challenge, even though her doctor said she needed to gain weight.
      The thing about The Office is that is was based in reality. I still remember doing a spit take when I heard, “optimization of resources, utilization of talents” because it was right at the time my boss was saying that whenever people would request different responsibilities.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We have three letters this week (one is still to come) that all made me think of the Office: the lottery one yesterday, this one today, and a prank-related one tomorrow.

      1. BananaPants*

        I will be so happy if someone put a coworker’s stapler in Jello. Just saying…

  31. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    If a company is concerned with employee health, why not get a free onsite gym, pay a monthly stipend for gym memberships or exercise materials, or work with the insurance to pay for gym memberships if the person goes however many times a month?

    The one work health program that I have seen work is my mom’s. She was an in-demand teacher with a masters’ degree and had great, union-backed, health insurance.

    That insurance kicked something like $20 off premiums for each plan member that went to the gym 12 times or more a month. You’d swipe a card at the gym to track it. Once my brother and I were old enough (12-14 or so), that we were allowed to go, it basically paid for the gym membership what with the whole family going.

    1. Lora*

      Yeah, this. My employer offers discounted gym memberships, once a week free classes in yoga or whatever, and provides us with healthy snacks (fruit, granola bars etc) and a healthy-ish lunch every day except Friday (pizza). Lots of salads for lunch. And people eat the healthy lunch and snacks instead of chips/candy basically because it’s there and it’s easy and free, and if you want a bag of chips you’re going to be walking out of the building and at least two blocks to get it. It works pretty well.

  32. PK*

    Personally, I don’t have an issue with benefit/wellness programs that I don’t benefit from (even if they are badly implemented like this). However, being the sole person left to work does make you feel left out.

    I think you could press the issue if you really wanted perhaps by arguing that it’s an unhealthy goal for anyone to lose that much weight. If they stopped it completely as a result of your complaints, you may end up with some resentful coworkers. It’s not the hill I’d want to die on personally.

  33. De Minimis*

    We had one where it was more about increasing activity level. They did have one category for weight loss, but you could also compete in a category for the most “miles” walked [which could be any number of physical activities—the mile equivalent was based on pre-determined rates]

    I thought it was an effective program. I don’t think these programs are all bad, but some places just don’t do it right.

  34. Chelsea*

    Why couldn’t it have been a cruise as a reward for getting to or maintaining a normal BMI? If you’re going to do it at all, that is. That way OP wouldn’t be excluded.

    Disclaimer: I do understand that the whole idea is bogus, but if you’re going to do something dumb, at least let everyone feel included in it.

    1. Morning Glory*

      Or making progress to one! If it was getting to or maintaining, sounds like the OP may have been on the cruise by herself :)

      But I agree, this would make way more sense: you’re supposed to be rewarding health, not penalizing it.

  35. GertietheDino*

    Yes, your boss is a jerk, but this comes off a bit whiney, “Boo-hoo, I wasn’t allowed to go on a day cruise with my co-workers.”

    1. Tinker*

      Can you explain how the OP should have described their situation so as to avoid your condemnation?

    2. Kyrielle*

      I think this is unnecessarily harsh. I also think OP is surprisingly not-whiny for a setup that managed to exclude only the OP out of the entire office – several of us in comments are much more firmly against it than the OP was.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s a far kinder way to state this sentiment, and it would have the advantage of keeping you in compliance with the site commenting rules.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        Oh snap. I am sharing this with my teacher friends, substituting “student behavior agreement.”

    4. Adam*

      As others have mentioned, it’s true that not all company benefits are going to apply equally to all employees (some people won’t make use of tuition reimbursement benefits while others won’t benefit from flex time due to family concerns), but in this situation the OP is being (unintentionally or not) excluded from a workplace activity through no fault of her own AND is being watched to make sure she didn’t take a day off instead. That last part seems like a bigger deal than the cruise to me almost.

  36. Liz T*

    I am shocked that a whole eight people lost 25 lbs in two months. That sounds like a drastically unhealthy office.

  37. Remarkable*

    This is one of those post that i wish i knew the company’s name so i could call them and ask. WTF is wrong with yall? Also if i was OP i start looking for another job. If a mgr is this moronic i wouldn’t want to there.

  38. DCompliance*

    Suppose one of your co-workers was pregnant? Could you imagine what kind of HR nightmare that would be?

    1. Michelle*

      Better yet if they were about to give birth. Get that first weigh-in done, head to the hospital and then deliver their baby. Better yet, twins! “Woo! I just dropped 25 pounds* in one day! Let’s cruise! Do you mind if I bring the weight I lost on the boat with me???”

      *Yeah, I know. I’m taking a few liberties here.

  39. INFJ*

    “their HR department back him up, saying the program wouldn’t be fair if it didn’t apply to everyone equally”

    But… it ISN’T fair because it DOESN’T apply to everyone equally. i.e. you can’t reasonably be expected to participate, therefore the program DOESN’T apply to everyone. I really hate it when companies go overboard trying to be “fair” and “equal,” even more so when the way they choose to go about that is, in fact, not equal at all!

    Do you feel as though going back to HR will do any good? Frame it the way Alison did, and ask them if they *really* thought it was a good idea for you to try to lose 25 pounds. They kind of have to admit that you were deliberately excluded from this. Even if you just take the stance of, “If these kinds of program comes up in the future, is there a way to establish guidelines so that (truly) everybody can participate?”

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I would be interested if the OP talked to HR, or if this “HR backs this plan” is the boss’s interpretation…

    2. Sadsack*

      OP should be able to be included because she is maintaining her wellness and healthy weight. I can’t understand how her boss and HR are missing this. I wonder if she met with the nutritionist they provided if he would agree that OP is maintaining wellness and should be included in the rewards. Not that the nutritionist has a say about the rewards, but maybe he could help the manager come to a better understanding of OP’s position.

  40. Amber Rose*

    OK, so to be able to track it, they have to know your initial weight somehow right? During that weigh in, just strap a few weights to your chest/fill your pockets. Voila, it comes off like magic!

    No but seriously, this sucks and please don’t make yourself sick over it. But, you know, probably don’t make this the big stand either. Treat yourself to a day out sometime as a reward for putting up with your butt of a boss and chalk it up to “people be weird about health stuff.”

    1. H.C.*

      Ha, that reminded me of high school P.E., where I aced the weightlifting portion by keeping my limit low initially – thus showing the most “improvement” over the course of the semester.

  41. H.C.*

    For all the issues and concerns AAM & the commenters cited, I would also recommend bringing this up with HR & possibly even leadership) – especially if this program, as your letter said, was OK’d by them per your manager’s remark.

  42. Applesauced*

    I find it ironic that the rewards for these misguided office wellness programs are often parties with tons of food and drink – not that parties are inherently unhealthy, but if the point is to reward people for losing weight, celebrating with a booze cruise seems counter intuitive.

  43. Emmie*

    OP: It sounds like the company allows local managers to build these kinds of incentive programs. I imagine that the company has no insight into all programs that managers implement, and these kinds of impacts. Is there a corporate wellness department, or trusted corporate human resources person you could raise the issue to? You’ve already raised it to your manager who doesn’t see the issues; however, I would hope that others could see the problems with your exclusion. This program is wildly unfair, encourages ill advised weight loss metrics, and punished the only employee with no weight to loose. If you are uncomfortable voicing this concern, perhaps there is an anon speak up line you can raise the issue to. You may wish to voice it in the third person like “my coworker, a military member, was excluded from the reward and she was already a healthy weight meeting military fitness guidelines. In fact, loss of any additional weight probably would have pulled her out of the military’s recommended guidelines for physical fitness enlistment….”

    1. TootsNYC*

      “punished the only employee with no weight to loose”

      Well….it’s not exactly punishment to have to come to work on a normal workday. Other employees got a perk or benefit, but nothing was actually taken away from our OP.

      “Not getting the same perk as someone else” =/= “punishment”

      1. Klaxons*

        This is a year later, so I know I’m being ridiculous, but I just have to say – when I was in third grade, everybody in my class got an A on a math test, so on Halloween my teacher let the whole class watch Ferngully instead of doing the math lesson. Only I was sick on the day of the test so she made me turn my back and wouldn’t let me watch the movie. If I turned and looked over my shoulder she came over and made me look back at my desk.

        I was being pointlessly and, frankly, cruelly excluded. Not getting the same perk as everybody is in fact a punishment.

  44. 42*

    It’s a health initiative that is basically rewarding those who are not at a healthy weight, and penalizing those who already ARE at a healthy weight. Beautiful.

  45. Allison*

    Oh I have sooo many thoughts on these employer-sponsored wellness programs that focus way too much on weight and diet. Yes, obesity is a big problem, lots of people would be healthier if they lost a little weight. A lot of people, but not everyone. Underweight people still exist, as well as normal-weight people who would be underweight if they lost 15 pounds, let alone 25. To equate weight loss with health is very narrow-minded. A wellness program should encourage everyone to establish healthy habits, and that usually means facilitating those habits.

    For this, I can absolutely understand being ticked off about missing the party because you don’t have enough weight to lose. I could also see someone feeling crushed if they really tried to lose the weight but couldn’t quite hit the 25 pound mark. It’s great to reward people for getting active and eating healthy food, but this isn’t the way to do it.

  46. the_scientist*


    This is so dumb. Like so dumb. Everything about it. I don’t need to re-hash all the points everyone else has made, so I’m just going to pick my jaw up of the floor and shake my head in disbelief. WTF.

  47. Elaine of Astolat*

    This has probably already been mentioned but what would the boss do if there was a pregnant woman in the office?

    I’m 15 weeks pregnant and being told by my doctor that I need to gain weight. I lost 19 lbs during the first trimester due to nausea and am on medication and eating a special diet overseen by a nutritionist to gain some of the weight back. This is so weird.

    1. Liane*

      I thought of this too.
      If OP’s HR is backing her boss, they deserve to deal with the resulting legal nightmare.

  48. JM60*

    25 pounds in two months! Doctors typically recommend against losing more than 2 pounds per week, which is about 17 or 18 pounds over 2 months.

  49. Callalily*

    I think it would’ve been a good idea to incorporate a clause of ‘Lose X pounds or Be Active X Hours or Participate in X Info/Workout Sessions’ that promotes a healthy lifestyle but doesn’t require people to physically lose body weight.

    It makes me wonder what future initiatives will look like as this isn’t sustainable – unless they have a gaining contest and then another losing contest!

    I would talk to the manager/HR about brainstorming what future initiatives should look like to foster a more inclusive environment PLUS what happens to those who cannot participate or cannot meet the requirement… such as a PAID day off where they are encouraged to do something healthy.

  50. Patty the boxy potato*

    I am willing to bet that most, if not all, of those who lost that much weight so quickly, will gain it all back very soon. I mean, I hope they don’t; but that’s usually what you see with rapid weight loss.

    1. BananaPants*

      Yeah, using diuretics and not eating for a couple of days could get someone halfway there (especially a male).

  51. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Your manager is being inconsiderate. As others have said the idea of a weight loss challenge in itself isn’t fantastic, and comes with its share of issues. But, if your boss is going to insist on it, it definitely shouldn’t be a challenge where everybody but you can be included. That’s awful!

  52. Relly*

    I’m hesitant to say this because I’m worried this will come off as flippant, in a post full of serious discussions about eating and health, buuuut …

    I read posts like this, and like the”my company is making us do a wilderness retreat” stuff, and I shudder, and then I have a happy moment where I decide to be really grateful that there’s no way in hell that would happen at my job.

    Just me?

    1. Amber Rose*

      Definitely not! My boss organizes events, but they’re not mandatory, always on a weekend, and they’re usually not so awful. This year is apparently a dinner theater/murder mystery thing, which I’m sorta looking forward to.

      Anyways, every time I read about people doing weight loss events or wilderness retreats or extreme sports team building, I feel extremely relieved it’s not me and never will be at this job.

  53. Mela*

    I’d just game the system and wear 25 lbs of ankle weights the first weigh-in. Take 5 lbs off a week. :)

  54. Just sayin'*

    If I weighed 110 pounds I wouldn’t complain about missing a cruise. You’re very lucky OP.

    1. JMegan*

      Her weight isn’t relevant to her question, and she’s not complaining about missing a cruise. She is being excluded from a fun team activity, and is being monitored like a child while *every other person on her team* is off having fun without her. I’d complain too, regardless of what the activity was about.

    2. Morning Glory*

      I would give up going on a cruise if it meant I could be 110 pounds again! But that’s beside the point.

      The OP is being excluded from a health-initiative reward because she is already healthy. That is insane and unfair and she has every right to be upset.

    3. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I definitely don’t weigh 110 lbs but I can completely understand why she’s upset. It sounds like she works hard to be as healthy as she is, so it may not be luck, which is another reason why it is unfair for her to be the sole employee left out.

      1. Lison*

        Being healthy does not equal weight. The program as stated incentives yo-yo dieting. If someone originally weighed 125, after 5 of these programs they would have to weigh nothing? Personally if I lost 25lb I’d be in hospital. And that’s not a brag, I’ve lost weight from being unwell. I was healthier when I weighed more.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        For plenty of people, it is genetic luck. I have absolutely brilliant blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. My diet is…decent, but could really be better. I walk a lot but otherwise I’m not particularly athletic. I just have good numbers, always have. (And this also doesn’t mean I’m “healthy” in other ways – I was outweighed by my own medical record as a baby.) Other people can carefully plan their diets, go to the gym every day, and still have high blood pressure and diabetes.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Really inappropriate conclusion to draw from this question.

      I’m pretty overweight myself, but I’m not going to throw shade at someone in this situation. We all have our own crosses to bear.

    5. Aurion*

      I guarantee maintaining the minimum fitness requirement for the military takes work, not luck.

    6. Awkward Interviewee*

      Wow, Just sayin’ that was incredibly rude. So people who are at healthy weights don’t get to have fun? They should just be happy that they are at their ideal weight? No. That’s not how it works.

    7. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      You know what the worst part of having an eating disorder is? It’s having all the people compliment you when you are thin and frail. It feeds every demon, it tells you the disease is right.

      Do you know what sent me spiraling and ruined ten years of recovery? I had a slice of cake at a coworkers farewell party and someone from another department said, “if I was as skinny as you, I’d eat cake too. You’re so lucky.” Only the voice in my head reminded me that it wasn’t luck, it was focused concentration on ignoring my body and making myself as small as possible. This coworker was reminding me that I should in fact not have cake, because being thin is the most important thing.

      I beg you to please reconsider your words and sentiment before commenting on another human’s weight.

      1. mf*

        THIS x 1000. Please be very, very careful when making assumptions about other people’s eating habits and weight, either on the internet or in the workplace. You don’t know how they got to be skinny (or fat), you are not an expert on their eating habits, and frankly, other people’s bodies are none of your business.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      And if I weighed 110 pounds I would be an unhealthy collection of bones with multiple organ failure. That’s a crappy comment to make. Her weight and body type have absolutely nothing to do with this– the issue would be the same if she were 150 and 6 feet tall.

    9. Emily*

      I’m roughly the same weight as OP, and I would be pretty annoyed about this, too! I can see a manager implementing something like this without thinking it through, but once someone pointed out the issues with this challenge (not everyone has 25 pounds to lose, not everyone can healthily lose weight that quickly, some people have eating disorders or other medical conditions that would make this challenge very dangerous, weight is not the only measure of health, etc.), I can’t understand why they wouldn’t modify it to be something that everyone is able to participate in.

      Plus, they made OP come to work (and monitored her hours to make sure she was there for the whole day!) while everyone else got paid to go to a party. That seems unnecessarily cruel.

      (And a side note – while OP is healthy at 110 pounds, it’s pretty silly to paint any given weight as a “lucky” or desirable weight. One of my old roommates went through a period of disordered eating and probably ended up around or slightly below OP’s weight, and she was: A) Unhealthily thin, and B) Absolutely awful to be around, because not getting enough food meant that she was mean and irritable most of the time.)

  55. AnonAnonAnon*

    At a minimun the boss should of given you the paid day off, even if you could not partake in the cruise. Then the insult to injury of checking your comings and goings on that day. What a gem.

    1. Drew*

      I would have called in SO sick that day. “Sorry, can’t come to work, the 25 pounds I didn’t lose is making me nauseated, see you Monday if the boat don’t sink.”

  56. Brett*

    This makes me think of when Rulon Gardner was on Biggest Loser. It was pretty obvious that he was using weight cutting techniques he learned in wrestling to manipulate his weight up and down to max out his weighins. Totally unhealthy, but I wonder how OP’s office would feel if she did the same thing… ballooned her weight up right before initial weighins using water and heavy foods and then “rocketed” back down to near normal weight to hit all the goals benchmarks to win the prizes.

    1. De Minimis*

      I’ve always wondered why he withdrew. I wonder if he was pressured to do so for the reason you mention.

  57. Ashley*

    They could have used some other marker such as percentage of weight loss or the amount of time spent exercising.

  58. Pwyll*

    This is why I’m impressed with the wellness initiative at my firm. They pay for you to have a biometric screening and private consultation with an RN (with fine print that states the company does not receive any data other than whether you attended). In consultation with that RN you come up with 2 out of 100 tasks that are medically appropriate for you (they range from walk for 20 minutes a day to lose 50 lbs., to gain(!) 5 lbs., to gain x% muscle mass, and everything in between). You login to the outsourced system to certify you’ve done those two tasks before August, and you get an extra vacation day in Q4.

    This company is being silly. So sorry OP. :(

  59. MoinMoin*

    I echo the disbelief of the majority here, OP, but if you want to try to change your boss’ mind it might be worth it to point out that losing 25 pounds isn’t really equal either, even for those with that much or more to lose. Especially having gone one round of aggressive weight loss (in which it sounds like all participants succeeded?), a lot of people are probably going to plateau or find their weight loss really slows down. And it doesn’t really make sense to hold, say, a short 300 pound man and a tall 200 pound woman to the same standard, even if their ultimate goal is comparable.
    People tend to notice inequality much more once it starts to affect them- it might be worth it to point out these pitfalls they’ll be facing too. If they’re going to do this, they should make a list of “comparable” goals and let people choose what makes the most sense for them- losing x amount of body weight, losing x % of body fat, drink x amount of water a day, walk x steps more a day- there a plenty of worthy goals that make health a focus without being exclusionary.

    Or another option is pointing out that you can’t lose that weight because of your military duties and that this is discriminatory. (Obviously a big IANAL.)

  60. Noah*

    I’m not a fan of these policies in general, but not for the reason OP has a problem with this. It seems totally reasonable that a company might make the decision to create incentives for people who need to improve their health to do so, and not have similar incentives for people who do not need to improve their health. There are good business reasons to do that. That’s not what THIS company is doing, but I don’t see such a policy as problematic because of its exclusiveness.

    1. Doesn't Smoke*

      I have been scrolling through the plethora of comments and yours is the only one that actually makes sense.

      These wellness initiatives do not reward people who are already healthy, they reward people willing to change. While I disagree with her being monitored, I highly doubt her entire team will ALWAYS be meeting their wellness challenge in unison.

      I have experienced a wellness initiative that rewarded people for quitting smoking. I don’t smoke. Does that mean the initiative should have been cancelled? Or I should have gotten a reward for not smoking? Should I have scoffed to HR about MY award for already being “healthy?” No, shut up and I was happy for those who created real change in their routine, then I went back to work. Suggest OP does the same.

  61. Pebbles*

    My husband’s office has a wellness/fitness program that is completely voluntary, has a reward at the end, and anyone can participate: weigh in at the beginning of November, weigh in again at the end of January. If you have been able to maintain your weight (or lose) during the holiday season, you get a $XX gift card. Doesn’t matter what your BMI or activity level is at any point, there are no weight loss programs of X lbs in Y months, no public kudos or public shaming. Just maintain your current body weight throughout a time of typically heavy eating and drinking. However you do that is up to you.

  62. an anon*

    I don’t see this mentioned yet. What your employer has done is explicitly illegal. It is against EEOC guidance regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and employer wellness programs. If you are medically unable to achieve the wellness program’s standard (i.e. medically unable to lose 25 lbs), you must be provided with a reasonable alternative standard to allow you a fair chance to earn the reward.

    More info:

    1. CAinUK*

      +100. Flagging this. Perhaps AAM can amend the original post to highlight this point so OP can march into HR and say “nope, you’re wrong, and this was illegal”? Because this isn’t JUST about fairness, but now about legality. Which means “retaliation” also comes into play after the complaint.

    2. Noobtastic*

      This made me cackle with glee! Just picturing the look on Michael Scott’s face when Pam told him he was being all illegal… So sweet!

  63. Hrovitnir*

    The more comments I read about less-bad alternatives (and no shade to those commenters – there are many shades of awful to OK that would be better than this) the more uncomfortable it makes me.

    I don’t know if this is a thing that happens outside of the US (maybe? If the main driver is insurance though that would be at least some of the reason why it would be less common), but if I would be out of any workplace that wanted to scrutinise my weight so damn fast. No. No no no. Frankly, if my workplace wanted to scrutinise my health I’d be looking, because that’s just gross. Offering free sessions with personal trainers/physios/dieticians or gym memberships or whatever? Awesome! Giving me a goddamn physical if it’s not the military or otherwise relevant? NOPE.

    1. LilyPearl*

      I totally agree. And the evidence for a lot of these screening tests just isn’t there. It all seems incredibly intrusive.

  64. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    This is so wrong and unhealthy in so many ways. 25lbs in 2 months is a rigid baseline for everyone involved in this farce. What happens when or if they gain back the weight? The winners certainly can’t undo the day off and the cruise. I’m 5’2 and 108lbs. There is no way I could ever sign up and win a contest like this. I’ve always been small and it’s simply the luck of the genetic draw. This whole initiative needs to be re-configured.

  65. Sarah*

    The thing I hate about almost all of these “wellness” programs is this obnoxious connection between health and morality, as if somehow those who are blessed with good health are morally superior to everyone else. I see a lot of that in the comments above. Obviously there are individual choices we can all make that will make us more or less healthy, but honestly many of the most expensive diseases to insure have only a partial or even zero connection to individual choices. My husband has Type I diabetes, he’s had it since he was a child, and yeah, that makes him very expensive to insure. He still had to go through an intrusive health “screening” to be insured through my employer at the “discount” rate (if you don’t do the screening, it’s $750 more per year, so a substantial amount). Guess what! His blood sugar isn’t in the “normal” range because he had the bad luck to get diabetes when he was TEN YEARS OLD. And he has a diabetes-specific nutritionist who advises him on diet, he does not need or want some rando person through work trying to tell him what to do instead of someone who is actually certified to help with his specific condition. I wish employers would stop trying to sell these one-size-fit all programs and realize that employees are valuable for more than their health status.

    1. Sarah*

      Oh, and, fun fact: they made everyone take PTO to get their required health screenings! You can’t make this stuff up.

  66. mf*

    OP, if you address this again with your boss, you might try bringing up various scenarios in which employees would eligible for this kind of weight-loss challenge:

    “Boss, in the future, could we try to structure health challenges in such a way that everyone can participate, even if they can’t lose weight? I’m not just thinking of myself. What about pregnant woman? Or employees that have to take medication that causes weight gain? Or someone who *needs* to gain weight for the sake of their health?”

    Since you have a small department, your boss might point out that you don’t have any coworkers who fit these categories. Don’t let him get away with that: “Well, we don’t right now, but we might in future. Besides, I think being inclusive about these challenges can be a good morale booster for the department.”

  67. Czhorat*

    I’ve had good and bad wellness programs. My current employer has a self-reporting monthly challenge, with things like “walk x-steps per day”, “Meditate for x-minutes per day” “drink y cglasses of water”. Prizes are nominal enough that it doesn’t matter if you don’t or can’t participate, but there’s a minor incentive and a bit of community spirit.

    I’ve also been in a place that did the whole “measure your BMI” routine for an actual reduction in insurance premiums. This added stress and gave the company more personal medical data than I wanted them to have.

  68. Noobtastic*

    This is what comes of the oh-so-common statement, “We could all stand to lose some weight.”

    No, we are all individuals, and some of us are already dangerously thin. Also, some of us are large, and like it that way. And also, the dieting culture has pounded into people’s heads that thin=healthy, regardless of how you get that way, and that is absolutely NOT true. So many of the weight-loss programs are downright dangerous!

    People literally kill themselves, in an attempt to be “thin enough,” and “acceptable,” because of jack-ass moves like this.

    And the thing that really blew my mind about this is that he celebrates it all with a booze and food cruise? WTF?

    1. EmilyAnn*

      Considering 2/3 of the country (United States) is overweight or obese and at least 90% of those are not extremely athletic outliers, I agree that 1/3 of the country does not need to lose weight, but the majority of us do. Many weight loss programs are not healthy or recommended, which is why the best way to lose weight is to adopt a lifestyle in which you eat less calories than you do now and exercise more than you do now. Not easy, but very simple.
      I think attributing eating disorders, which are a serious psychological issue to being told to lose weight for a stupid work competition is wrong. The OP may be rightfully upset at how it was handled but is mentally healthy enough to know that being told to lose 25 pounds is absolutely ridiculous for her. There is no epidemic of people making themselves unhealthy for work weight loss challenges, there is an obesity epidemic.
      100% agree that a booze and food cruise is a terrible incentive and the OP was treated horribly and the entire premise of this competition is unhealthy.

      1. Noobtastic*

        I disagree. I do not believe there is an obesity epidemic. I believe there is a fat-hatred epidemic.

        But that’s not really the topic at hand, is it?

        1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

          I don’t think the epidemics of obesity and fat-shaming are mutually exclusive, but I agree that this isn’t really relevant to the OP’s question.

  69. Milton Waddams*

    If you held an award ceremony for a group of employees, would you feel you were leaving folks out if you didn’t bother to give the award again to the employees who had won it in the past? If anything, handing out the award again to the employee who had won it years ago might cause mild resentment among the current winners. Irrational? Yes, but not uncommon.

    In the same vein, your overweight peers likely feel the same way about their weightloss; it was a challenge, and they feel accomplished about it. Having someone who has not been overweight in a long time (or perhaps has never been overweight) celebrated in the same event might make their accomplishments feel less special. It’s completely irrational, of course, since the benefits of good health are something that ought to be shared, but sometimes its hard for people to step back and reflect on it that way.

    Of course this is also true in reverse, which is why you feel resentment for having your own accomplishments not recognized in comparison — one reason why rewards and awards are always complicated. So much of it is psychological, and your average manager is not a psychologist.

    1. MoinMoin*

      I get where you’re coming from, I would just quibble that fitness shouldn’t come down to just weight loss. Your point can still stand- those that aren’t fit feel their accomplishment is diminished by the inclusion of people that didn’t have to try to get fit (or at least the trying wasn’t during the competition)- but I think equating just weight loss as a fitness indicator is where the company gets lost. If the focus is on health, surely they could make a challenge for the OP too.

    2. Czhorat*

      Yes, but I’d not have an award ceremony for physical “accomplishments” having naught to do with the job, now would I have an award which was literally impossible for one employee to win because of a personal factor beyond their control.

      This is bad management any way one looks at it.

  70. anon123456789*

    In addition to what everyone else is saying: losing 25lbs in 2 months is not actually healthy weight loss for the majority of people. It’s a bit over 3lbs/week, and the recommended rate is about 1lb/week.

  71. Karenina*

    One of my former workplaces did a ‘wellness initiative’ that I think was done about as well as you could do one, though in general I’m not a fan of them.

    First of all: it was just a challenge to get more active. No weight or weight loss requirements, no focus on food. They offered 3 options for step trackers, and everyone who wanted to participate got one, paid for by the company. Then we created a group on the website used for those step trackers, so you could follow who was ‘ahead’.

    Second: they did this for a whole summer, and every week there were small prizes, instead of one big prize at the end. And they changed up what they awarded on various weeks, especially as we got near the end: it wasn’t just ‘who got the most steps’. Sometimes it was ‘most improved’ or ‘most active weekend’ so that the people who were the most active in general didn’t always win. We had two disabled employees who were still able to participate and compete without risking their health.

    Third: it actually changed behavior around the office. People were chatting about it, engaging in friendly competition, taking the stairs, parking farther from the building, and so on.

    My current employer’s wellness initiative is far less complicated and much more private: get a biometric screening (if you wish), have your doctor fill out a form, and the company will give you money. Cha-ching. I don’t know how it’s supposed to make anyone get healthier, but they give you money for basically getting a physical.

    So advice-wise, your manager sucks, a wellness initiative like theirs could be genuinely dangerous for someone’s physical and mental health, and excluding you because you’re already a lower weight doesn’t actually seem to be in accordance with the supposed goal of the program. Other people have mentioned that 25 lbs in 2 months is way too fast, and for a lot of people, it is: and you can’t know who is going to get sick doing that, because bodies are unique.

    But maybe if they want to do something like this again, you could suggest a different method of encouraging ‘wellness’ like the one above. Or they could bring in a massage therapist to give 15 minute chair massages on Fridays. Or they could sponsor a healthy-cooking class for employees. There are so many ways to encourage people to take better care of themselves that aren’t invasive, exclusionary, or outright dangerous.

    1. Diet*

      I see a lot of pros to this! But also one con, which is that exercise, especially just walking, is unfortunately not a huge factor in weight/collesterol, etc. It’s really 90% about diet. My parents are both very overweight and have relatively active jobs (at a hospital), go for adorable walks together every night with the dog for 1-2 hours. They also eat crap. Is the walking great? Sure! Better than nothing, but they still have major health concerns every year at their physical from their eating habits. I don’t think I agree with having health initiatives at work at all, for the record. But if a workplace does have one, it should be more focused on healthy eating, which is insanely hard to monitor, which is again why I think workplace initiatives like this suck

  72. Elizabeth H.*

    I have a dissenting opinion.

    1. The whole premise of this wellness challenge is ridiculous and terrible. I am rabid about medical information privacy and really loathe any employer involvement in health. I want to keep all that stuff separate. (I realize a lot of people love stuff like workplace provided fitness classes, screenings with incentives, fitbit programs etc. There are lots of cool examples above that people shared. I don’t have a problem with that if people like it but it’s not my thing, personally.)
    2. I especially hate the idea of a weight loss challenge – it’s so over-personal, and ill advised.
    3. I would MUCH rather be 110 lbs and in amazing shape, than be overweight, lose 25 lbs and go on a cruise. I would also much rather be 110 lbs than go on a cruise if the two were mutually exclusive. I like being thin. Lots of people feel this way – it’s not unusual. I care a lot about what I look like and it’s important to me to be fit and look good. Appearances aren’t the most important thing in life, but all other things equal, I also want to look good.
    4. This is especially true if the cruise is a day cruise with my coworkers and my (obnoxious sounding) manager. If it’s a day cruise they are not going anywhere mind blowing. It just doesn’t sound that great. Is it reasonable to want to go? Yes, but I don’t think this situation is all that terrible.
    5. Despite the fact that many people have health conditions of various types – metabolic disorders, illnesses, eating disorders, are on medication, are underweight, are pregnant, etc., or similarly, the fact that many people are technically overweight but happy with it or are already super fit or whatever else – I think a lot of people with some weight to lose actually do want to lose the weight. I think here in the comments, we may be extra attuned to inclusivity of everyone with unusual circumstances, but I think most people just garden variety wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds if they could get motivated. My point is that in many contexts, the idea of helping people lose weight is not really so shocking or discriminatory. I really abhor the idea of a weight loss challenge in any context, I can’t overstate this, but I think that privacy is reason enough.

    Ultimately this all doesn’t seem like a big enough deal to me to spend too much energy on. Again, the situation is absurd and obnoxious but if I were the OP, I would be happier that I was in great shape and happy with myself, than annoyed about missing out on the cruise. I hope my tone doesn’t sound disrespectful or unkind at all – it’s just that if it were me, I’d chalk it up to employer foolishness and try and forget it.

    1. Dot Warner*

      I don’t see anything wrong with the employer helping people lose weight, either. However, the OP seems less annoyed that she missed out on the cruise and more annoyed that instead of going on the cruise, she was required to go to work and sit in an empty office doing *nothing* all day. That’s a huge waste of her time! If the boss didn’t think it was appropriate for her to go on the cruise, that’s fine, but he could have at least told her that she didn’t need to come in that day. Even if OP stayed home and caught up on laundry, that would’ve been more productive than what she actually had to do.

      From what she’s told us, this is likely to happen again with the next challenge, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to just let this go. She should say something, otherwise she’s going to have one day every two months where she’s stuck at work with nothing to do, and the company is paying her to do nothing – a real lose-lose.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Sure but I think the fact that she had nothing to do all day is a distraction and beside the point. It’s been pointed out in many other letters (e.g. the third suggested link below the post) that it’s reasonable to have to come in to work if you choose not to or are otherwise not participating in a team building activity.

        1. Dot Warner*

          Not really. The company paid her to sit around and do nothing all day – that’s a waste of their money. Again, it’s fine that they didn’t want her to go, but there’s got to be a better solution than having her sit around with nothing to do. Either give her the day off or find her some extra projects, but don’t waste everyone’s time and money like this.

  73. Ferd*

    I don’t think these wellness things are always a bad idea. It can be done right. We have a weight loss thing at our company every year. The winners get mentioned in the company newsletter and they get a gift certificate or something. Zero pressure. And we have a “wellness day” where they get a dietician and an optometrist, and you can get your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels tested. If you want to. Again, zero pressure.

    But I can definitely see how it can be done very very wrongly. Like in this case.

  74. Eek!*

    I’m not seriously recommending this because it could have gotten super awkward, but what if you had “fake” participated in this challenge by acting like you were invested, just to get him to see how ridiculous it was! Such as talking on and on about your new crazy diet because you want to win the challenge. Or shown up to work acting like you were worn out/exhausted commenting how hard it has been for you to get down to 85 pounds. Maybe then he would have thought “wow, this challenge is crazy” Of course if you had actually done this, it might have created a huge mess with HR/lawyers due to cover about your health, which you probably wouldn’t have wanted, even if it did prove your point

  75. The Bimmer Guy*

    Is it even healthy to lose that much weight in two pounds?

    As for me, I like wellness programs that include insurance discounts…e.g. discounts for physicals, discounts for not smoking, discounts for going to the gym, etc…

  76. Blue Dog*

    My wife was 22 years old and straight out of college. She landed a job as a Marketing Assistant in San Diego. There were about 20 people in the office. The company decided to have “Padre Day” where everyone who show up in Padres gear, they would knock off at lunch time, and all go over and see a Padre Game together. On the day of the event, she showed up in her gear like everyone else. When they were all getting in the bus to head over, the supervisor pulled her off in front over everyone and told her she had to stay in the office and answer the phones. She was extremely embarrassed and upset because this was sprung on her at the last minute in front over everyone.

    One of the other workers volunteered to stay because she had work to do and didn’t really want to go in the first place. The boss said, “No, you are going. She is staying. That’s the end of it.”

    She walked into work the next day and was still clearly upset. The boss told her to grow up and quit making such a big deal out of it. She told him she had never been treated so badly and quit on the spot.

    It’s was more than 25 years ago and I still get pissed thinking about it.

  77. Nikki*

    This is such a horrible idea! Imagine how embarrassed someone would feel if they were trying to lose weight but they were the only one who didn’t get to go on the cruise because they didn’t lose the 25 lbs when everyone else did. That would feel so embarrassing to have everyone else go off on the cruise.

  78. js*

    late to this, but just chiming in to join the commenters asking, ‘what about pregnancy?’ and go one further. My office started a wellness weight-loss ‘challenge’ right after i returned from maternity leave and was still nursing. I’d been told by my doctor to make sure to eat properly/nutritiously but definitely not try to diet because a 3rd of my calories were going right into producing milk. our challenge was one that involved ‘betting’ your own money, not a company-sponsored prize, thankfully, but i still find it annoying with all the talk around the office about the teams and goals.

  79. Sylphynford Tachibana*

    This would be particularly sucky for people like me who are already quite underweight, and for people like the letter writer who are (rightly worried about being underweight.
    I think your manager was wildly out of line by suggesting this – it might cause people who are overweight, or even more towards overweight than underweight, to feel ashamed, like your manager was targeting them specifically. Not a good idea at all.

  80. NorthernSoutherner*

    Boy I’m *really* late on this one, but just in case anyone’s still reading, I have something healthy to say. : )
    A veteran dieter from the trenches, I decided one year, ‘You know? Enough.’ I started to walk/run, and instead of giving myself some ridiculously unreachable goal, I told myself, ‘Let’s see how this is going in six months.’
    Six months later, I was still at it. I’m sure it was because I hadn’t put any undue pressure on myself.
    So I gave myself another six months. And was able to progress from walk/run to mostly running. It’s been seven years now. By focusing strictly on the running, I’ve lost weight — nothing monumental — but more importantly for me, I’ve kept at something, which has been great for my mental health.

  81. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m just now seeing this one, but there’s another aspect to the weight loss thing I bet no one picked up on. The OP said he/she was in the reserves. I can’t speak for any other service, because I’m not in any other service than the Army Reserve…….. but how does the management view his/her service? The weight loss thing could be a symptom of something bigger in the office…where he/she’s being set apart and deliberately treated unfairly. Sometimes battle assembly is three or four days instead of the two-day weekend. That’s time away from work. Annual Training or Active Duty for Training is time away from work. The management may not appreciate that and may be using this weight loss challenge thing to punish him/her because the law prevents them from doing it any other way.

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