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Companies Fight Food Culture

Jul 23, 2008
Today, we are fortunate to live in an amazing culture of abundance and wealth. Think about the possibilities around us: a Starbucks on every corner, yoga of every imaginable type, a free-flowing stream of information on the internet, and an endless variety of food.

While some of the abundances we experience can enhance our health, our fixation on food has led the United States into a crisis of obesity. Today, over 65% of America is overweight and approximately 25% is obese.

Think about some of the extremes we're experiencing. Sugar was once an expensive and hard-to-obtain commodity. It was reserved for feast days and very special occasions. After the scarcity of the Depression and World War II years, it became a staple on Sundays. By the 1950s, dessert every night was common. Today, according to the FDA, the average American consumes 126 lbs. of sugar and approximately 36 lbs. of high fructose corn syrup, a cheaper form of sugar used in soft drinks and commercially baked goods.

Exotic and rich food is readily available everywhere. Billboards scream "eat me" with large seductive pictures. Even the simple ice cream shoppe has complicated their menus with add-ons, stir-ins and layers and layers of sugar in various forms.

Workplace cultures often feature a candy dish on every desk and donuts or bagels at every 10 a.m. meeting. This corporate attitude towards food has a big impact on everyone. After a while, no one questions popping mini candy bars throughout the day, or running the day with great quantities of simple carbs, which only briefly provide energy but pack on the pounds.

Changes to the corporate culture may be perceived negatively by the majority of employees but many companies like Coors, Johnson & Johnson, and McDonnell Douglas have found success with their Corporate Wellness Programs, which often feature educational presentations, health assessments, and even available personal trainers and health coaches.

Business & Health magazine reported some of the following results of corporate wellness programs:

1. Coors reports that their special cardiac rehabilitation program has saved the company $1,390,661 over a six-year period.

2. Johnson & Johnson claims that its Live for Life wellness program saved the company $378 per employee in one year by lowering absenteeism and slowing the rise in the company's health care expenses.

3. General Electric's research shows that regular exercisers were absent from work 45 percent fewer days than nonparticipants.

4. Scoular Grain Company in Omaha opened a fitness center for its 600 employees, and the company saved more than $1 million in health care costs in 1989, or about $1,500 per employee.

5. McDonnell Douglas' employee assistance program has returned more than $4 for every dollar spent helping employees recover from alcohol-related problems.

6. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana found that over a five-year period, benefit utilization savings of $519 per wellness program participant resulted in a benefit-to-cost ratio of 2.51 to 1.

Clearly, workplace culture has a tremendous impact on the weight of employees. Not only are employees spending more time at work, they are spending less time being active, due to the increased use of computers, email, fax and other general automation.

Given these changes, and the resulting stress many workers report due to economic downturn, companies are turning from birthday cake as a reward to "de-stress" lounges stocked with herbal teas, mini massages, and mile-long hiking trails sculpted around their workplace.
About the Author
Pat Barone earned her title "America's Weight Loss Catalyst" by coaching thousands of clients toward permanent weight loss and presenting wellness programming for companies across the country. Receive her free newsletter "The Catalyst" by visiting http://www.patbarone.com.Receive her free newsletter "The Catalyst" by visiting
patbarone.com
today!
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