When a Wellness Program Is Unwell

Wellness is certainly a noble pursuit. Plenty of companies are genuinely interested in promoting the wellbeing of their workforce. And in the eight billion dollar wellness industry, some of the vendors are quite scrupulous about selling well-designed programs. But not all. Our friend Al Lewis began a series yesterday to remind us how wellness program can become unwell.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The power of positive thinking lures us into denying a certain truth. Our bodies are frail. We age, we hurt, we develop idiosyncratic health problems. Nobody wants to complain. But for every single person, the pursuit of health and wellness is something different.

That fact of life is especially true when the subject is a person’s weight and fitness. No matter how much we prod ourselves, nobody’s body conforms to an “ideal” size and shape. Some might be closer than others. But we are born with diverse body sizes and shapes.

A healthy wellness program takes this fact into account. Some do not. Consider the case of “Jane,” as presented in Lewis’s new post. “I have anorexia. I have been in treatment for four years,” she tells us. But despite this history, her employer’s wellness program required her to be weighed or pay up an additional $750 for health insurance. She refused to look at the scales, but the wellness nurse read out her numbers anyway.

The result? Jane stopped eating for two weeks and wound up in an intensive treatment program to deal with the harm of this wellness program.

So, beware of coercive wellness programs. The vendors that sell them to employers are out to make a buck through penalties that they split with their customers. They might dress up those coercive penalties by calling them incentives. But they are two sides of the same coin.

Click here for Jane’s full story and here for more on sham wellness programs. And if you have corporate wellness experiences to share, please use the comment section below.

Unwell, photograph © Ted Kyle / flickr

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November 7, 2017

2 Responses to “When a Wellness Program Is Unwell”

  1. November 07, 2017 at 8:00 am, Al Lewis said:

    If anyone has any stories about wellness programs exacerbating eating disorders, please let me know at al@quizzify.com No need to name the people or the employer but it is helpful to name the vendor

    • November 07, 2017 at 8:12 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Al. And thanks for standing up for making “wellness” vendors accountable for the harms they might cause.