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Victims of Wellness Programs Tell Their Stories of Shame and Harm

This begins a series of first-person narratives of harms caused by wellness vendors. These narratives have been painstakingly compiled, unretouched except for formatting, and with no detail omitted other than the victim’s name and employer. I won’t tell you who the perps are yet, other than to say that the vendors I have consistently noted to be the best — American Institute of Preventive Medicine, Health Advocate, HealthCheck360, It Starts with Me, Limeade, Redbrick, SelfHelpWorks, Sterling, Sonic Boom, Sustainable Health Index, US Preventive Medicine — are not among them. 


I am a corporate executive in a Fortune 500 company.  My employer operates a wellness program.  Every year, as part of that program, we are required either to have blood drawn and have our weight, height, blood pressure and other things measured or contribute more toward our health insurance.  This testing is done on site at the workplace.

I have anorexia.  I have been in treatment for four years.  Over the years I have built a relationship with my dietician, my therapist, my psychiatrist, and my medical doctor.  Their familiarity with my needs, including what helps and what triggers the symptoms of my disability, is critical to ensuring that I receive effective treatment.

In contrast, the wellness program at my workplace is operated by people who have no familiarity with my particular needs and no knowledge of how to address them.  Among other things, the program requires employees to undergo weight-related screenings administered in a manner that undermined the treatment regimen carefully designed by my treating professionals and resulted in my relapse and admission to an intensive outpatient treatment program.

I would never have participated in this wellness program of my own accord, but due to the large financial incentives to participate, I felt like I had no choice but to do so.  When I found out that the wellness program required me to be weighed, I told my dietician, who was extremely concerned.  She wrote a letter indicating that I was receiving intensive nutrition therapy with her and that I should not be weighed or have my body mass index measured by the program, as that would be detrimental to the progress that I had made under her care.

The wellness program nurse read the letter but proceeded to weigh me and, despite my stepping on the scale backward so I would not see my weight, she announced how much I weighed and what my body mass index was.  She remarked that “it wouldn’t hurt you to enroll in our healthy eating program.”  This is precisely the type of trigger that my treatment – and the treatment of people with similar eating disorders – is designed to avoid.  She was telling me I was fat—exactly what I needed to hear to stop eating again.

After this incident, I stopped eating for two weeks and ultimately ended up in an intensive outpatient treatment program.  My dietitian was furious about the damage caused by the wellness program.

I am dreading participating in the wellness program again this year.  I am uncomfortable about having to tell my employer about my eating disorder – a very personal matter—and I do not want to repeat the experience of questions and screening that are counterproductive to my treatment.  If I don’t participate, however, I will have to pay an additional $750.00 for my health insurance, so I cannot afford to avoid it.

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