Corporate wellness still has a long way to go. Programs have to break the stereotype of being smoking cessation class-giving, pedometer-distributing, gym membership-paying token gestures to keeping employees healthy.
Am I glad to see the efforts taken by companies like Google and General Mills? Yes. Am I glad to see the rise of wellness companies like Keas, who integrates technological and social means into its wellness solutions? You betcha. We are, after all, in the age of social media.
The problem isn’t that people aren’t aware of wellness, or that companies don’t provide ways for employees to be more active.
The problem is that nutrition education is one of the most glaring omissions in most modern corporate health and wellness programs.
Nutrition plays the dominant role in determining a person’s health, not exercise. As renowned fitness expert Craig Ballantyne likes to say, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”
Yet, many wellness programs ignore nutrition. The question becomes: why?
The first thing is that there are a plethora of nutritional perspectives out there. Paleo/Primal, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, The Zone, vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, low-fat, all fruit, raw, Standard American Diet (fittingly abbreviated SAD), Dr. Oz-approved, and AHA-approved. The last three should not be approved by you, the nutrition-conscious employer. Let’s not even get into the various fad diets and “cleanses” bandied about on the Internet and in magazines.
The news doesn’t help, either. Every day, it seems, new studies come out that add more confusion to the mix. Red meat’s unhealthy, then it’s healthy, then it’s unhealthy again. Eggs are horrible, then they’re just fine. What types of oils are best? What fruits and veggies can harm you? It’s a minefield of information out there, and since the most self-education people do is through the news, through magazines, or through their friends, they don’t quite get the true picture.
The problem for a corporate wellness program is deciding how to educate on nutrition without introducing too much contradiction.
The simplest answer is to find someone who can educate on just eating real food — minimizing refined grains and sugars; maximizing fruits, veggies, natural fats, and meat; moderating nuts and seeds; and including as-close-to-unrefined-as-possible grains/dairy on occasion — while including the science behind WHY.
Leave the final choice of what to eat to the employees.
How you do this should be organization-specific. Monthly seminars on nutrition are good, but speakers should be vetted on perspectives and experience. In-house newsletters are great ways to spread information by email on a weekly basis.
It is often said that nutrition is 80% of the solution to a healthy, active body. Shouldn’t your corporate wellness program have the same focus?
Soon, I’ll be going over some ways to introduce practical nutrition options for the workplace. In the meantime, tell us what nutrition education your company offers!