Cut the Company Fat:
7 Strategies to Keep Your Costs Down by Keeping Your Staff Healthy
By Dr. Leslie Van Romer
Fat is creeping in
and eating up your profits, probably without you even knowing it. At
least 66 percent and up to 85 percent of all Americans are
overweight; 33 percent are obese (thirty or more pounds overweight).
You only have to open your eyes to see that at least one out of
three people (and probably more) at work are carrying around too
much weight. Their inflated bottoms may actually be deflating your
company’s bottom line.
obese workers impact American companies by lowering productivity,
raising worker claims, mushrooming medical costs, and increasing
lost workdays. Look at the stats:
obese Americans cost the nation between $69 billion and $117
billion per year.
associated with 39 million lost workdays, 239 million restricted
workdays, 90 million bed days, and 63 million physicians’
conditions related to obesity are type 2 diabetes, arthritis,
and heart disease, costing employers more than $220 billion
annually in medical care and lost productivity.
absence away from the workplace for a worker who files an
obesity-related short-term disability claim is 45 days.
The good news: you
don’t have to fall into the same trap as the average American
business. By trimming the excess weight in your employees, you will
sharpen your edge and outshine your competition. It takes a
two-pronged strategy to effectively tackle your the workplace
obesity epidemic. The employer and the employee must work together
to transform flab into fab – fab bodies, fab health and fab money in
everyone’s pockets. Let’s explore these seven strategies for your
1. Provide Healthy,
Weight-Friendly Food Options:
If you own a small
company with forty employees or less, consider removing the soda and
candy vending machines and replacing them with large fruit bowls,
boxed 100 percent fruit juices, and bottled water – all free of
charge. With a larger company, you could offer affordable, more
nutritious options in vending machines and cafeterias, such as fresh
fruits, fruit salads, large vegetable salads with tasty low-cal
dressings, veggie sandwiches on whole grain bread, bean and rice
wraps, and low-fat, low-salt bean and vegetable-based soups. Give
employees coupons for making healthier food choices. For example,
with five coupons the employee wins a healthy lunch on the company.
2. Create a
Healthy, Weight-Friendly Work Environment:
No matter how small
or large your company, if your employees (not to mention you), are
bombarded at work by doughnuts, cookies, muffins, candy, and soda,
then their efforts to get slim and fit will be sabotaged, no matter
how motivated your employees are to lose weight.
Dare to be bold.
Dare to be different. Dare to be defiant. Ban high-calorie,
no-nutrient, refined and processed junk foods and beverages from
your workplace. Then, replace them with weight-warriors and
health-heroes – fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and
legumes, raw unsalted nuts and seeds, dried fruits, and water. Your
actions speak volumes about your clear intentions to help your
teammates and employees help themselves and help the health of your
3. Plan Healthy,
Weight-Friendly Meetings and Lunches:
Restaurant foods are typically incompatible with weight loss. Schedule
meetings after or before lunchtime. Meetings conducted without food
can be run with greater efficiency, saving time and money. If you
wish to offer snacks, make sure they are good-for-you snacks, such
as grapes, oranges, apples, bananas, sliced watermelon or
cantaloupe, dried fruit, or cut-up veggies with hummus or avocado
If a business lunch
is unavoidable, choose a restaurant that offers healthier,
weight-friendly choices, such as large, vegetable salads, low-cal
soups, and veggie sandwiches (nix the mayo). Take a look at the side
dishes. A baked potato covered with sautéed-in-water vegetables,
instead of butter and sour cream, following a green leaf salad, fits
the health bill.
to prepare healthy, weight-wise snacks and lunches from home.
Provide a pleasant eating area and a convenient kitchen with a
refrigerator and microwave so everyone can easily store and heat up
their brown bag meals. The healthy snacks they pack could be just
the trick to stave off unhealthy cravings for fast food, chips and
4. Encourage a
Healthy, Weight-Friendly Exercise Program at Work:
Start with inexpensive, low-tech changes, such as
encouraging the use of stairs instead of elevators. Make sure the
stairwells are clean, freshly painted and well-lit with alarmed
stairwell locks on the ground floor in larger buildings. Send out
frequent bulletins and reinforce the message in meetings to bring
brown-bag lunches and take brisk walks every day. Map out safe
walking routes. If possible, create a walking/jogging path. Good
sneakers should be worn to work or kept at the office at all times.
Fifteen-minute breaks can be used for walking while munching on
healthy fruit and veggie snacks, instead of sitting and eating
chocolate bars. Give out pedometers and organize a fun walking
contest. The person who walks the greatest total distance in one
month will be rewarded with a gift certificate or cash. That will
spark some exercise interest!
For a bigger
investment, think about paying half or more of the dues for your
team members to work out at a local gym. As an added incentive, they
must prove three-time-a-week attendance, or they will lose that
privilege. Or, set up an adequate gym at the office so working out
is free (employees love free!), convenient, and accessible to
everyone, whether before work, at lunchtime or after work. As your
team shapes up, so will your company, giving you a substantial
dollar return on your investment.
5. Design a
Healthy, Weight-Friendly In-House Program:
comprehensive healthy living program for all of your employees that
gives simple direction, hope, support, and accountability.
motivational health presentations, hands-on workshops and individual
eating and exercise plans, designed to help your team members define
their weight and health starting point, set their yearlong and
monthly goals, and then track their progress.
Included in that
program could be guest speakers, on-site nutrition and fitness
experts, fact-finding questionnaires, well-body score cards to chart
progress, consultations, weekly support phone calls and e-mails, a
weight-loss support group, hands-on cooking and food-prep classes,
appropriate CDs, and weekly articles.
6. Offer Healthy,
Weight-Friendly Cash Incentives:
incentives to make losing weight and getting fit more fun and
alluring to your employees. Offer annual bonuses to all employees
whose weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, and
triglycerides stay within normal ranges. Give cash rewards to the
employee who loses the most weight in one month, three months, or a
year, as well as to the person who maintains ideal weight for a
pre-planned period of time. You can make the competitions friendly
and fun, and include the entire company, as well as their families.
Family participation and support are key to a successful transition
to a healthier lifestyle.
7. Lead Healthy,
You are a leader, a
visionary. You can see the possibilities for you, your team and your
company. And there is nothing more powerful than leading by example,
incorporating the basic food and exercise principles that promote
ideal weight, build health, and prevent premature disability and
diseases. Leading is not about perfection; it’s about progress –
steady progress toward your vision. Leading is about sending the
clear message that you care about the members of your team. You
demonstrate that daily by the level of your commitment in providing
a weight-friendly and health-supportive environment, door-opening
opportunities and meaningful rewards for a job performed with
consciousness and excellence.
Is it tough to lose weight and keep it off? You bet. But together,
you and your team will beat the obesity odds, and out-perform,
out-smart and out-live your heavy-weight competition.
Read other articles and learn more about
Dr. Leslie Van Romer.
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