Anti-fatphobia writer condemns ‘triggering’ workplace health programs, warns ‘weight discrimination’ legal in most states

A so-called anti-fatphobia writer has written a piece for NBC News chastising workplaces for not being inclusive enough of overweight employees.

The problem, according to writer Kate Bernyk, is that some workplaces have the apparent audacity to promote healthy lifestyles, particularly around the New Year.

“Following every holiday season, there’s seemingly no escape from the weight loss industrial complex. Social media is inundated with weight loss ads, people are constantly posting fitness goals, and gyms are in your face talking about ‘beach bods.’ … “The worst was when it would show up at work,” she writes.

“I might be able to easily report social ads and mute friends, but how do I escape an email from human resources encouraging staff to join a team weight loss challenge with monthly weigh-ins? Or a boss who encourages her whole team to buy Fitbits so we can compete on daily steps? (Both were real things that happened at two of my former jobs.),” she adds.

Oh, no …

Bernyk continues her piece by arguing essentially that an office that believes in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) should do much more to make certain heavier employees “feel welcome.”

Like what? Like not promoting wellness because such behavior is “fatphobic,” “ableist,” and allegedly harmful to obese people.

“These kinds of programs and incentives value weight loss as healthy above all else, completely disregarding the complex factors that go into measuring one’s health. They also ignore the findings of studies that suggest that anti-fat bias and weight stigma contribute to worse health outcomes than a high Body Mass Index (BMI),” she writes.

“In fact, weight discrimination (which is still entirely legal in 49 states) leads to poor outcomes for fat folks at work — including harmful biases in the hiring process and less pay,” Bernyk further claims.

Continuing her screed, she then acknowledges that companies promoting wellness are merely trying to reduce costs, since it’s believed unhealthy people tend to cost companies more money.

But it’s not just believed — it’s factually true:

“A new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion finds that, on average, a morbidly obese employee costs an employer over $4,000 more per year in health care and related costs than an employee who is of normal weight,” Science Daily reported in 2014.

“The study also revealed that obese individuals who had comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol incurred more costs than obese workers without these conditions, says Karen Van Nuys, Ph.D., lead coauthor and economist at Precision Health Economics in Los Angeles,” the outlet added.

(Source: ScienceNews)

Nevertheless, Bernyk claims, “Many of the underlying arguments for these kinds of discriminatory programs are in the name of saving health care costs. But that argument starts to fall apart quickly when you consider that fat is not a reliable indicator of health.”

To prove this, she cites a 2016 UCLA study that found “misusing BMI as a measure of health incorrectly labels millions of fat Americans as unhealthy, even though by other measures like blood pressure and cholesterol, they are not.”

“And yet, workplace wellness programs that focus on weight loss and other fatphobic-related measures like BMI and fat percentage persist,” she continues.

To be fair, it’s true that BMI isn’t the be-all of health. But it’s important nonetheless.

“As a single measure, BMI is clearly not a perfect measure of health. But it’s still a useful starting point for important conditions that become more likely when a person is overweight or obese. In my view, it’s a good idea to know your BMI. But it’s also important to recognize its limitations,” Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, MD, wrote for Harvard Health Publishing three years ago.

Bernyk continues by citing a few studies that suggest that workplace health/wellness programs aren’t very effective.

“So we’re shaming fat folks, excluding people with disabilities and triggering those of us recovering from eating disorders for … absolutely no reason at all,” she concludes based on this study.

OK, sure, but what exactly is it that she wants? Apparently, it’s for every company to implement liberal policies and giveaways.

“Organizations and companies should be focused on how to make the workplace as safe and welcoming as possible for every one of their employees. This means offering benefits that cover mental health care, paid time off for vacation, sick time and family medical leave,” she writes.

Anything else?

“One of the truly best workplace ‘wellness’ benefits I’ve ever received from an employer is a blanket, lump sum stipend that I could use for reimbursements on what I felt would improve my health,” she continues.

“I could use that benefit for a massage after I had a car accident, a set of classes at my favorite yoga studio, or a meal box subscription so I didn’t have to meal plan every week. The incentive was to take care of myself and enjoy my work — which in turn, makes me proud to work there and more productive,” she writes.

And so it appears that, instead of companies simply encouraging employees to eat better, exercise, and practice personal responsibility, Bernyk would rather they give their employees — particularly their overweight ones — free stuff.

Sounds very liberal …


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Vivek Saxena


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