Successful wellness programs are customized to fit an organization’s unique needs and challenges. But there are some essential ingredients that are...
Come as you are: How identity shapes wellness and weight loss
Successful wellness programs aren’t one size fits all. Discover why it’s more important than ever to recognize the role identity plays in achieving wellness goals – and how to support and inspire each individual along the way.
Identity plays a central role in every wellness story. Our identities shape who we are, what motivates us, and even the goals we set. As a result, each person’s wellness journey is unique and deeply personal. So, how do you create and deliver wellness programs that include, inspire, and support diverse populations? The best place to start is with people.
From the beginning, WeightWatchers has been about creating a safe space for all people. Community for all is in our DNA. Still, like so many companies, the social unrest in 2020 gave us an opportunity to step back and become more intentional about how we show up, especially for diverse communities. We’re leaning into who we are as an organization and identifying opportunities to enhance how we inspire and support our members – and our partners.
Leading a constantly evolving conversation
Stepping into my current role as Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity in 2020 felt like a way to meet the moment by bringing the connection and support of the WeightWatchers community to people in a different way. My WeightWatchers journey started as a member back in 2008, and it changed my life. My experience inspired me to become a WeightWatchers coach so I could help others create their own weight-loss and wellness success stories.
By bringing a fresh perspective grounded in shaping member experiences, I’ve been able to lean in and focus on creating a space for people to talk openly about diversity, equity, and inclusion to inspire healthy habits for ALL. This type of inclusion-oriented conversation, which extends to careers, culture, and community, has been insightful and empowering. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Always ask “what if…?”
The best questions we’ve asked ourselves start with “What if….” What if we broaden our professional development opportunities to elevate our people processes? What if we encourage tough conversations to help strengthen connection and our culture? What if we expand our data collection and research to better understand and serve communities?
When you ask, “what if,” you’re automatically focused on uncovering the why, including why it’s important to shift existing processes and why you may not have tackled them in the past. For us, challenging ourselves to ask “what if” opened the door to understanding the role identity plays for our communities and how our program can recognize – and empower – it.
Here are three key ways we’re translating our discussions into meaningful actions that impact inclusion and diversity at WeightWatchers.
- Create a shared language: Understanding is at the heart of it all. We offer training sessions to help our employees and coaches understand the importance identity plays in building connections and achieving weight loss. Developing a shared language allows people to establish the same comfort and confidence to discuss differences that they have when discussing commonalities.
- Enhance representation: We all know how powerful it is to engage with people and communities that “get you.” Our discussions prompted us to explore where else WeightWatchers can enhance representation. For example, we worked closely with our science team to ensure the representation in our clinical trials and innovation pilots lines up with the U.S. population. This way, we can be confident we’re hearing the voices of different communities.
- Translate the impact of identity: Recognizing the impact of a person’s identity on how they approach their weight loss and well-being is a first step. From there, we’ve focused on how cultural identity can affect a person’s relationship with food and body image, and how they define their wellness goals. This created an opportunity for how we approach everything from the content within our digital tools to the foods and recipes we add to our database.
The power of identity-based support
One of the initiatives I’m most proud of is our launch of identity-based virtual workshops. It began when we created a workshop that was open to all but dedicated to supporting Black women in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Our aim was to provide an intentional space for members to connect about what they were feeling and how it was impacting their wellness. The response was amazing. Members were able to let their guard down and be vulnerable because they were with a group of people who understood their challenges and what they were feeling without needing a lot of explanation.
That initial identity-based workshop quickly blossomed into additional workshops dedicated to meeting the needs of LGBTQ+, Latinas, men, Spanish-speaking, deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. These virtual workshops are welcomed by our members because they provide another layer of support on a journey that requires all the support you can get.
The biggest lesson over the last couple of years in our work around inclusion and diversity is that it’s a journey and we continue to learn and challenge each other along the way. Trainings and dialogue are a great first step, but they must be supported by meaningful change and initiatives that continue to drive individuals and organizations to be and do better, consistently.
About the Author
Monika Pierce is Director of Inclusion & Diversity at WeightWatchers, and spearheads all of the organizational initiatives to positively impact diverse communities, both internally for employees, as well as externally for members. Since her appointment in July 2020, Pierce has launched a global space for employees to engage in conversations, share educational resources, and celebrate moments around inclusion, diversity, and their impact. With over 12 years as a loyal WeightWatchers member and 11 years as a WW Coach, Pierce brings an in-depth understanding of the brand to her role. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Africana Studies, with a focus on History and Race Relations in the U.S. as well as a Master’s degree in Management.
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