ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Deli Divas. Fruit Loops. Jello Butts.
These are some of the clever team names Ingles Markets’ staffers created to participate in a 16-week weight-loss challenge.
More than 450 Ingles employees have joined “Lighten Up 4 Life,” a free web-based, weight-loss program that offers recipes, eating advice, exercise videos and tips, a listing of local events, and more. The program launched on April 29, and runs through Aug. 16.
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Participants can sign up in teams of four and track their weight loss at Lightenup4life.com/Ingles. Once they join, employees set weight loss goals, decide on an eating plan, and determine which activities they will engage in. Weekly team meetings, recipe exchanges and exercise are strongly encouraged.
“We are proud to offer this program to our associates and their families to help them achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Ron Freeman, Ingles’ chief financial officer, said in a statement. “As the area’s largest employers, it is important for Ingles Markets and Mission Health to set a good example for our community as we strive to improve the health of our region – one employee at a time.”
The team that loses the greatest percentage of weight will receive prizes ranging from tablets to a Disneyworld vacation. The highest individual weight-loss will also be rewarded.
Mission Health, an Asheville-based hospital network, created the program for its own employees four years ago. While Mission has offered Lighten Up internally since then, this is the first time it partnered with a community employer.
Ingles is a perfect fit because of its focus on health and wellness, said Stephanie Kiser, executive director of community health and corporate wellness at Mission Hospital, the main hub of the Mission network.
“Ingles wants to do something to improve the health of its employee population,” Kiser told SN. “Healthy employees are productive employees, and productive employees are good business.”
Mission Health encourages Ingles employees to join by hosting mini health fairs in stores, where it sets up registration tables on the sales floor. At each health event, Mission provides education on blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stress.
While shoppers can also join during the health fairs, most of the marketing is directed at employees.
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Leah McGrath, Ingles’ corporate dietitian, plays an active role in Lighten Up by providing a weekly educational theme on the portal, such as the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. She also publicizes a Lighten Up “Team of the Week” in in-store radio messages.
Ingles is smart to address the health and wellness of its employees. Considering the rising cost of health insurance, businesses need to motivate employees to take care of themselves.
“We can no longer afford to pay for chronic conditions resulting from poor lifestyle habits,” Kiser said.
Ingles’ operating area is especially worrisome, as statistics show more than 60% of western North Carolina adults are overweight.
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