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We published “Employers Should Disband Corporate Weight Control Programs,” in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Managed Care, in February. We recently learned that it is trending close to #1 for the year among articles in this and related journals. Its findings have never been challenged, with no critical comments or letters to the editor by wellness vendors or consultants.
If you struggle with weight, you are probably wondering why your employer appears to be discriminating against you by weight-shaming you. The answer is that while a company would certainly want to facilitate employees’ desires to become healthier on their own, there is no economic basis for fining employees or withholding incentives based on weight.
It’s not just that the threat of financial forfeiture (penalties or lost incentives) doesn’t help people lose weight. Here are highlights from the rest of the article:
(1) As ShapeUp has shown when confronted with the invalidity of its data (and being fired by Highmark as a result of it), vendors’ weight-loss figures are basically fabricated. Here is an article showing how that fabrication takes place, the “Last Man Standing” fallacy.
(2) Weight generally does not affect job performance. At the CEO level, this is generally known. That’s why when new factories are built, they tend to go up in states with lower wages and motivated (and non-union) workforces. Those states also have the highest obesity rates, but that doesn’t matter when major corporate decisions are made. CEOs, voting with their own dollars, have determined that these higher obesity rates have no noticeable effect on productivity.
(3) Weight also has only a trivial effect on healthcare expenses. Extra spending that was once attributed to weight turns out to be due to age, as people get naturally heavier over time and naturally tend to spend more on healthcare. Those two variables correlate but the actual causality is attributable to other factors. Among older people, some extra weight may be protective, as well.
So three things need to be true for these discriminatory programs (age discrimination and class discrimination) to justify their existence. The programs need to get people to lose weight, and weight has to matter somehow, in productivity and/or health spending. Instead, none of those things are true. So why engage in an activity that isn’t going to work, that embarrasses your employees?
We’d encourage you to read the article or at least the abstract, and pass it along to decision-makers. And send us your stories–how has corporate weight-shaming affected your job performance, or the performance of people you know?
In wellness, “bullying” is apparently defined as “asking hard questions, particularly to people who make claims they refuse to defend.” This time it’s not us bullying anyone. It’s the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette bullying Shape-Up, in a reprise of the last time Shape-Up challenged our numbers.
Guess who won, again? (Hint: you won’t see this link on Shape-Up’s website.)
And kudos to the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health for its forward-thinking quotes on the value of wellness programs.
Mrs. Brooks, whose business group members represent some of the region’s largest employers, said workplace wellness “has become a commoditized multibillion-dollar industry versus a value-based solution that addresses the whole.
“We need to figure out how to motivate employees. Many programs today aren’t strategic or focused and, more importantly, culturally integrated into how companies do business.”