Losing a Ton of Weight

Friday, December 3, 2010 - 11:29am

Virginia office teams up with Weight Watchers to help staff shed 2,000 lbs.

The 500 employees at Alexandria, Virginia's Systems Planning and Analysis, or S.P.A., are having a hard time recognizing each other.

It's because they've lost a ton of weight, literally.

Employees have collectively lost 2,000 pounds over eight months.

Allison Papendick lost 50 pounds.

"I knew I needed to lose weight. I knew I didn't feel very confident about myself," she says.

Between work and being a mother, Papendick says she didn't have time to start a diet program, but when the program came to her she ran out of excuses.

"Initially I thought it was going to be absolutely horrible, but it completely surpassed my expectations," she says.

That support came from Weight Watchers.

S.P.A. CEO Philip Lantz brought them in after seeing that one of his employees lost 84 pounds with the program.

That employee is 30-year-old John Quigley.

"After high school, I stopped being active. I wasn't in sports anymore, just didn't get out like I used to and it slowly creeped up on me through the years," he explains.

Quigley weighed almost 300 pounds when he decided to change his diet and lifestyle.

He's now lost 84 pounds.

Hearing Quigley's story inspired Lantz to make an offer to the rest of the company.

"I volunteered to pay for Weight Watchers for any employee and or spouse who would be interested for a period of three months," he says.

Some had their doubts, including Weight Watchers leader Heather Burneson.

"My first reaction was based on experience. That won't work. When you give something for free then they don't always value it as much," she says.

Turns out Burneson couldn't have been more wrong.

Much of that success is due to the new culture at S.P.A., where employees keep an eye on each other during lunch, making sure they're eating healthy.

They exchange recipes and even offer moral support during weekly weigh-ins at their Weight Watchers meetings.

"People in the program are all thumbs up, thumbs down, how did it go, they're all excited for you, cheer you on," says Allison Papendick.

The company paid for Weight Watchers for the whole company for the first 17 week session.

Employees now pay a portion of the membership fees.

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