Weight loss programs in the workplace hurt more than help, say Al Lewis & Vik Khanna

Industry: Healthcare

Employers should stop pushing ineffective and misguided weight loss programs on employees, say experts Al Lewis & Vik Khanna.

United States (PRUnderground) February 18th, 2015

The American Journal of Managed Care today released a much-anticipated study of corporate weight loss programs, finding no benefit whatsoever to attaching fines or incentives to weight loss.  Due to the costs, shaming and potential hazards of rapid weight loss and weight cycling, the study recommends ending what they call “forced weight loss” programs.  The study, by authors Al Lewis, Vik Khanna and Shana Montrose, found:

  1. No corporation has ever shown legitimate savings from a weight loss program

  2. Corporate weight loss programs never count dropouts and non-participants in the outcomes tallies.

  3. They never track people for longer than six months, and often claim success for programs lasting as little as eight weeks.

  4. Most of what vendors claim is mathematically or clinically impossible and vendors don’t defend the claims they make.

  5. The impact of weight on health spending during the working-age years is far too trivial to merit taking steps to alleviate it even if those steps might work.

  6. Economies in the most obese states and countries  grow faster than their thinner counterparts.

  7. Weight loss with fines and bribes simply encourage people to binge before the initial weigh-in and crash-diet before the next one.

Further, studies published between acceptance of this article and its publication have questioned whether weight loss is even the right goal, whether for a corporation or an individual.  “Fit and fat,” or “health at every size” is gaining much more credence.  It’s also easier to achieve, and can done in a corporate setting, as part of a cultural shift towards more emphasis on health.

“When added to the other recent findings about forced wellness programs, it’s clear why nobody defends these programs other than people who make money off them,” said Lewis, also author of the Forbes award-winning Why Nobody Believes the Numbers, the trade-bestselling exposé of invalid program outcomes.  “Wellness vendors and consultants are indeed running what the Los Angeles Times calls a scam.  We’ve outed 30 on They Said What?, with more in the queue.”

“It’s as though the Senate HELP Committee’s internet connection is down,” added Khanna, author of Your Personal Affordable Care Act and, with Lewis, Surviving Workplace Wellness.  “Last month the entire Committee managed sat through an entire presentation by the Business Roundtable without once observing that all the evidence says companies should stop ‘playing doctor’ with their employees.”  

The authors advocate a simple remedy for what they call “wellness-gone-wild,” which is requiring that wellness programs do no harm.  “Simply requiring following guidelines for harm avoidance would improve health, reduce costs and perhaps alleviate some of the negative feelings that employees have,” says Khanna.  “Focusing on what you as a company can do for your employees instead of to them – like improving offerings in the cafeteria and providing easier access to fitness – would be a start, even though health issues go much deeper than that.  At least it’s a step in the right direction instead of the wrong one.”

About They Said What?

They Said What is the world’s only website devoted to the foibles, fables, and pratfalls of the workplace wellness industry. Started and run by Al Lewis and Vik Khanna, They Said What regales readers with hilarious and pointed critiques of the wildly improbable and mathematically impossible success claims of workplace wellness vendors, insurance brokers, and employers who really ought to know how to treat their employees better.

Al and Vik are co-authors of Surviving Workplace Wellness with Your Dignity, Finances, and Major Organs Intact, which is available at Amazon.com.

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