I am sure that many of you will have seen the recent debate about a scheme that suggests that companies pay an extra bonus to encourage overweight staff to shed the pounds. Have you thought about weight loss?
Obesity and all the related issues connected with expanding waistlines is a serious problem in companies. Studies show that more time is taken off work by employees who are obese, is just the tip of the iceberg of other related health problems. The direct health cost in terms of diabetes, heart problems, cancer and other degenerative disease is a big issue facing companies today. Whilst we can shift the responsibility back to the individual, it can fast become the problem of the employer. More serious “death in service” is of course tragic, but more “minor”problems such as energy problems (staff tiredness), mood swings, digestive issues, low self esteem, knee and back problems, blood sugar issues (including Factor X, insulin resistance etc) can all effect the performance of the individual but start to have an impact on company morale and performance. Long hours, more demands, make it difficult for employees to prepare and cook healthier food and find a balance in their lives, despite the lip service to ” Life/work balance” as if this thing called “life” is different to this thing called “work”. Therefore if staff are overweight, it does become a mutual responsibility between individual and employer.
The problem with such a pay as you shed scheme is that individuals who are overweight are made to feel it is their fault by implication. In my clinical career, I have observed an obsession with weight loss but its almost like someone stuck in quick sand, the more someone struggles to lose weight the more they seem to be suck in the mire. This is because so few people understand the basic principals of eating let alone weight loss. Most weight loss schemes are based on calorie reduction point counting principles, but this ignores the fact that some pretty horrible, unhealthy (and metabolically “damaging”) foods can be very low calorie.
The individual gets stuck in a game they can’t win (because they don’t know the basic rules) self esteem, and even mental illness (depression) could be the result.
On a low calorie scheme you will lose the weight, (at first) but as soon as you start eating “normally” back go on the pounds, as anyone will know who has ever tried to lose weight this way.
The actual answer is partly the food, what to eat and how but also partly the structure of people’s lives and how they are living it. How to eat, and finding a structure, and how to implement that structure. Making the right choices, not because you have to but because you want to, knowing that great choices lead to great energy (so not a healthy eating message which people rebel against) and then being able to have the time, energy, and enthusiasm to plan, shop, cook, exercise, i.e. the structure that is going to make it happen! If companies could see that it isn’t about people being at the “coal face” being inefficient and tired, but with more productive hours where people are energised, and vibrant a lot can be achieved.
TIME is the gift that companies can give back not money. Do you agree?