a weighty issue

January 18, 2008 at 8:41 pm (healthcare, image, they hate you they really hate you)

ever doubt that there were tangible benefits given to thin folk? if so, this may change your mind.

Chris Schulz, president of Pacific Northwest Title, is offering an employee benefit with the potential to transform lives. Workers who shed extra pounds may get the added benefit of extra days off.

the local company is doing its own version of The Biggest Loser:

Thirty-two of the company’s 44 employees, including Tye and her boss, have signed up for the 13-week program expected to start next week. Schulz said Wednesday he’ll pay the program’s full cost, about $156 per person.

He’ll sweeten the pot with a gift of time. The biggest loser, by percentage of body weight, will get three extra days of vacation. Second- and third-place winners will get two days or one more day. Those are nice perks at a business where vacation tops out at three weeks after 11 years of employment.

the prize was apparently something he spent a lot of mental energy on:

“Either the first prize was going to be three days off or going to an all-you-can-eat buffet,” Schulz said. That’s laughable, but we all know the seriousness of obesity.

of course! because obviously the only people who would go to a buffet are the obese folks!

apparently the twelve spoilsports that chose not to participate are shit out of luck, getting neither free weightloss programming nor a chance at the extra vacation time. which isn’t to say that they suffer the poor employees; oh, no! they even have a “happy committee” which presumably benefits people who are achievement-focused enough to deserve other stuff:

Tye, 58, is involved in her company’s “happy committee,” which has planned outings to Mariners and AquaSox baseball games and other events.

the article goes on to talk about the local health district’s concerns about the obesity epidemic, and a King County plan to penalize HMO participants who do not adequately partake of healthy behaviors, by charging them more for their health plans.

the article closes with a flourish, noting:

At the Everett business, Schulz expects a boost in self-esteem, if not profits. “If people feel better about themselves, they’re happier, more productive employees,” he said.

because the key to a patriarchy-approved dose of self-esteem is that it’s only deserved after one has undergone suitably demoralizing actions to achieve it. being compared to your co-workers in a company-sponsored weight-loss meeting and having your body mass tracked by your boss? that’s empowerment, bitchez.

here’s the article

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3 Comments

  1. Musicalbookworm said,

    This seems to be a disturbing trend. Maybe we can hope this is the last gasp of a dying obesity crisis.

  2. Astraea said,

    I came here through Feministe. I’m so glad to see someone else addressing this.

    I work for a very large company. They push a lot of employee safety and wellness programs (I assume to get credit from government agencies and such). I have a huge problem with their wellness activities focusing very strongly on weight loss as healthy in and of itself.

    They are encouraging participation in a similar challenge that appears to be sponsored by Ohio State University, and the fact that it’s happening elsewere leads me to suspect this is a push from somewhere. Our challenge is to get together in teams and the team that loses the most combined weight (not even a %) wins. It’s directly related to health because they even named the challenge “Be healthy now.”
    The benefits of participating are a free membership to the YMCA for the 12 weeks and free “events” to help loose weight.

    The prizes aren’t specified.

    I think it’s horrible how this combines the worst of the weight loss is automatically healthy mentality with peer pressure that will inevitably result form participating in teams. And the most pressure will be on the heaviest, since total pounds lost is the measurement for winning.

  3. Mia said,

    @ musicalbookworm–welcome! oh, i hope it’s a dying trend! but there appears to be too much investment in perpetuating the idea of The Obesity Epidemic (R) for it to stop now. it’s an industry, and if everybody were allowed to be happy with themselves, the profit from that industry would go away.

    @ Astraea, welcome! you know, i kind of view it as the absence of the separation of church and state, per se. when we have corporations providing healthcare, we have corporations leveraging control over the employment sector. one should not be involved with the other. but until the day we have a nationalized, single-payer healthcare system, we are at the mercy of corporate determination whether we participate or not.

    for example, look at the gross amount of corporate welfare that Wal-Mart gets in the form of having their workforce largely covered under med coupons. taxpayers pay for that already…so it affects us. there is a precedent. now we just have to switch it up so that we view it as beneficial to the general public and not just to Wal-Mart’s bottom line.

    another example is the data that hmo’s collect on participants that gets fed back to the companies they provide service for–so one’s boss may know considerably more about their employee’s health than they really have a right to. i feel like this whole system, which was ostensibly fostered in a capitalist, we-should-all-get-to-choose-our-own-providers-and-be-responsible mentality, has morphed into a 1984-inspired disaster where we have no choice and are responsible to an hmo’s actuary.

    those are some feeder issues; they are setting up this whole new breed of social control structures that place Jill Public’s rights at the very bottom of the food chain. i mean, come on! what would happen if we substituted “reproductive health” for “weight watchers,” and had our employers monitoring our uteri? what if they substituted “mental health,” and had mandatory group counseling? (an idea that is starting to germinate in some workplaces, as well)

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