The Low Carb Luxury Online Magazine 



    November 7, 2003    PAGE TEN      
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 Fighting Fat at Work


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                    Fighting Fat at Work by Terri Lynch

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)

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 initiatives.

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 screenings.

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 too.

  • 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 weekly basis.

  • Take a coworker and join an aerobics class during lunch or directly after work.

  • 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 to work.

  • 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 mini hike.

  • 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.

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.

Copyright © November 2003  Terri Lynch and Low Carb Luxury

                                                          




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