Terri Lynch knows the workplace from all perspectives: employer, employee, vendor
and customer. Issues of obesity and "fat acceptance" play out in the workplace with
a cost in cold hard cash. Terri is ideally qualified to probe all angles of size
issues in the workplace.
"Creativity can solve almost any problem.
The creative act, the defeat of
habit by originality, overcomes everything."
— George Lois
While anti-discrimination legislation covers sexuality, gender identity
and even family responsibilities, discrimination against a person on the
grounds of their weight is, for the most part, not unlawful (although
that may be slowly changing). As we saw in the last issue, there may be
valid business reasons for a company not wanting fat employees. Even so,
some employers are proactively trying to help their bulging workforce.
In the recent past, Fortune 500 companies from Ford Motor Co. to General
Mills Inc. said they will work together to fight an epidemic of obesity
in America that is hitting companies' bottom lines. (MSNBC.com)
Copyright © November 2003 Terri Lynch and Low Carb Luxury
Obesity costs companies $12 Billion each year in the form of health care
costs, and it's rising. Employers are faced with the costs of lost
productivity, higher prescription drug costs to treat chronic ailments
such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, high blood pressure,
and depression, as well as more hospital stays. Employers are seeing health
care costs consume a greater and greater share of employee benefit costs.
Many companies of all sizes have provided, or are in the process of providing,
resources to help their fat workers: Large companies may offer in-house gyms
and fitness centers, scheduled aerobics classes, company sponsored athletic
teams (swimming, softball, track, and running are common because the costs
are relatively low compared with say, skiing), dietary and nutrition help,
and healthier choices in the company cafeteria. They're also bringing in
motivational speakers and offering encouragement with onsite self-help
Ellen Lipschitz, a scientist at Hoffman-La Roche pharmaceutical company, works
out at the corporation's fitness center in Nutley, N.J. Lipschitz has lost
93 pounds through the company's weight-loss programs. A year ago, Lipschitz
was so overweight she couldn't climb three steps without stopping to rest.
Now she's not only lighter but her blood pressure has dropped. (MSNBC.com)
The most common corporate programs include education, on-site fitness centers,
nutrition counseling, motivational programs, and blood pressure and cholesterol
Hoffmann-La Roche subsidizes many such programs for employees trying to slim down,
and about 60 percent of its 5,000 U.S. workers participate.
It's part of a growing trend to address a fatter workforce. One employee-benefits
survey reports that nearly one-third of the U.S. businesses it polled help pay for
gym memberships — up 35 percent in just four years. "There is a real movement
because obesity has increased so much in this country in the last 10 years," said
health management consultant Stephanie Pronk of Watson Wyatt Worldwide. (MSNBC.com)
While large corporations and businesses have more resources — and perhaps more
motivation — to help their obese employees, the problems have not gone unnoticed
in smaller organizations.
Smaller companies encourage lunchtime activities such as walking or cycling,
aerobics, dancing, yoga and mall walking. Some are forcing vendors to remove
junk foods from snack machines and replace them with healthier fare such as protein
bars and sugar free, or veggie, drinks. Fresh fruit and vegetables are showing
up in the coffee room instead of donuts and bagels. The overflowing candy bowl
in the lobby has all but disappeared.
While companies are working on intervention there is much the employee can do
In short, although more and more companies are initiating activities to help obese
people lose weight, the employee still has to do them. And while you can encourage
your company to provide such activities, you don't have to wait for them. Besides,
it's your body, and you pay a far higher price for your fat than your company does.
While plenty of businesses are doing what they can to fight fat, the bottom line is
that it's up to the employee to take action.
- Stop every hour or two and stretch.
- Devote a portion of your lunch break to physical activity (walking, jogging,
skipping rope, chair exercise...) One inventive engineer took a plastic bag and a pair
of disposable plastic gloves with him on his lunch break and walked around picking up
soda cans and bottles from the nearby parking areas. He not only got some exercise,
he helped clean up the environment and put a bit of extra cash in his pocket to boot.
- Walk to a co-worker's desk rather than using email or the intercom. Carry
items such as reports, books and manuals to help build strength. Put on ankle and
wrist weights to burn on a few more calories.
- Make plans with a coworker to go to a gym or participate in a sport on a
- Take a coworker and join an aerobics class during lunch or directly after
- Grab a partner and sign up for dance lessons during your lunch break or
directly after work.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk instead of driving to the local deli or supermarket for your salad
and/or soup lunch.
- Walk to a nearby park or zoo with your lunch — you'll also get to enjoy the
surroundings while you eat.
- Go swimming. One man lost 25 lbs over the summer just by walking to a nearby
beach and swimming for half an hour. He ate his lunch on his walk back
- Get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way, or park
the car at the far end of the lot.
- Take an historical walking tour, walk around a public garden, or take a
- Go ice skating or roller skating. One small company located directly across
the street from a roller skating rink encouraged employees to join the president in
lunchtime skating three days a week.
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