Improving Corporate America Through Healthy Employees

Health statistics strongly indicate that the state of American health and health care is largely a product of self-abuse, much of it involving eating and drinking. Most of the top ten killers in America are irrevocably linked to eating habits by scores of research-including the top three (heart disease, cancer and stroke, responsible for more than two-thirds of U.S. deaths). Cardiovascular disease alone kills more men and women than any other disease in America: nearly a million each year, with close to 7 million more afflicted.

For businesses, employees' poor "fueling" (eating too little of the foods needed by the body, and/or too much of foods/substances not needed) can have even more immediate ramifications than the first coronary bypass. Even before your employee begins showing dramatic symptoms of one of these eating-related illnesses, that employee may experience low energy or exhaustion; a high bodyfat level that saps vitality, agility, and self-esteem; and more frequent minor illnesses such as colds and flu due to suppressed immunity.

Since we are a culture that often responds to crisis, we easily miss the significance of these supposedly more subtle signals. But a employee who is eating his way to cardiovascular disease or cancer will reflect that lifestyle in his everyday performance long before it manifests as an emergency. Simply put: an employee without quality "fuel" cannot provide quality performance, and is not the asset he or she could be.

Common sense says any business tool not cared for will become less effective and more costly--and the human body is literally the most sophisticated and important technology your company has. Most business owners believe their success is in their people.

Research has shown that physically fit employees are more productive and are absent less often than those who are not fit. A study published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine found that low levels of cardiovascular fitness were strongly associated with high rates of absenteeism from work. However, significant reductions (25% to 40%) in absenteeism were found for those employees who had a good to excellent level of cardiovascular fitness (Parade, Sunday, December 20, 1992). The overweight miss work more than their normal-weight counterparts and people who are 40% overweight also visit the doctor more. (Marketdata Research, Lynbrook, N.Y.).

In addition to loss of productivity because of low-energy or frequently-absent employees, a business pays for "food ignorance" in another way: through skyrocketing health care premiums.

Having employees-the insured-be accountable for their health is rarely included among the possible "cures" for health care cost/access issues. Instead, blame is laid upon the government, insurance companies, and doctors. But employers can tap personal responsibility as a resource for taking control of health costs--by educating employees in a way that actually inspires impactful changes in eating.

There is a particularly high degree of "food abuse" in the workplace, fostered by an American tendency to place work over health. Rushed or skipped meals, fat- and sugar-laden "snack carts" and vending machines, and heavy business lunches and dinners are accepted as a condition for doing business.

It's considered almost a status symbol, a sign of job commitment, to work through lunch or even dinner. But that's a sham. Fueling the body properly can improve performance on the job--not to mention elsewhere in life. The negative physical and mental repercussions of working through lunch (pushing the machine without fuel in the tank) are not worth the hour of work done while the employee is "running on empty."

You would never send a delivery truck out to a customer without gasoline in the tank. But how frequently do you send your employees out to an important meeting or to begin a vital project, without knowing if they're fueled--indeed, without any consideration of what difference that might make? Yet few would argue that trucks are more important than people. It's simply been, until now, a matter of not thinking about it quite this way.

And it's not just in the workplace. People usually continue to feed their bodies inconsistently when they get home--because most are never given the complete picture as to what kind of eating really works and why. The few who do have the facts are not using them, because they weren't educated in a way that's inspiring to them.

Very simply, Americans don't know how to eat to "fuel" high performance bodies--or even to meet their basic needs--on the job or at home. Many think they know because the news media of fashion industry toss them an occasional bone--a sound-bite with no context. Most are frustrated because applying those simplistic sound-bites rarely works. Americans don't know how their bodies work or what they need, and they're usually too focused on meeting some short-term "weight" or "shape" goal to consider overall fitness, long-term health, energy and strength-let alone enjoyment of food!

When an employee knows how to, and is inspired to, fuel his/her body, he/she experiences: increased vitality or less fatigue, greater alertness and concentration, easier waking, more energy and stamina for exercise, and fat loss--as well as greatly diminished concern about fat, weight, diet and food. All contribute to an employee's morale and performance as well as health, fitness and longevity.

For the company, this means higher productivity, reduced absenteeism and fewer health insurance claims. The employee who learns to be prepared also spends less time spent away from the desk hunting down food (typically either vending machine or burger joint)--foods which waste even more time once eaten, both by decreasing immediate performance and damaging it in the future.

By helping employees learn to (and be inspired to) care for their bodies, a company is not only providing a benefit that will make a difference in employees' lives (which fosters loyalty and reduces turnover); it is also protecting its investment in its people. Such a company is also taking part in a short-term and long-term way to reduce claims and slow health care premium hikes, since an enormous percentage of our health care dollars are spent on preventable illnesses, most of them eating-related.

Remember, most people don't know about what the body needs--and what happens when the body doesn't get what it needs. And there's a tendency in our culture to place work before our health and physical condition--as if it's either/or!--and to miss the crucial connection between our bodies and what we are trying to accomplish.

BodyFueling® can help you and your employees make this connection and learn exactly what to do about it--in a way that will become an exciting, easy and pleasurable way of living.

© 1997-1999 "Fueling and Business" Robyn Landis ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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