Using formative work to enhance a workplace weight loss maintenance intervention: Balancing what employees want and what they need


  • C. Zinn, MHSc, NZRD, Senior Lecturer

  • G. Schofield, PhD, Professor

C. Zinn, Centre for Physical Activity & Nutrition, AUT University, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1020, New Zealand. Email:


Aim:  This study investigates employees' prior experiences of losing and maintaining weight and their proposed ideas for a workplace-based weight loss maintenance intervention. Findings were used to inform such an intervention.

Methods:  Twenty-five adults (11 male; 14 female) from two workplaces in Auckland, New Zealand, with attempted weight loss history, participated in focus groups. Data were transcribed and analysed using thematic induction analysis and examined for emergent themes. An existing draft intervention was refined and the concept returned to the same focus group participants from one workplace for informal feedback.

Results:  A key common-gender theme identified was weight regain, with fad/restrictive type diets being cited as usual weight loss methods. Successful female experiences encompassed good social support, while dietary restriction, boredom and personal crises hindered sustainability. Males identified tiredness and a lack of motivation as exercise barriers, plus weekends as challenging times. For an ideal initiative, females favoured flexibility and variety, while males favoured a more prescriptive approach, but were open to any type of regime as long as it resulted in weight loss. Common desires included combining nutrition and exercise, sustainability, and including a support group and weight tracking component.

Conclusions:  Males and females had some opposing expectations of the type of regime they needed to achieve sustained weight loss. However they were able to use both positive and negative elements from their prior weight loss experiences to put forward ideas for an intervention which aligned with evidence-based guidelines for sustained weight loss.