Obesity in the workplace is a part of a growing national trend, one that is getting larger at an alarming rate. The cost of obesity in the workplace is in the billions of dollars every year, due to the ill health of millions of employees. Companies who struggle with this problem and take a pro-active stance toward it will be ahead of the curve, not only by saving money, but providing a healthier workplace environment for their employees.

What weight is considered obese? 

  •       Persons who are 30 – 40 pounds overweight are considered obese.
  •       Severe obesity is 60 pounds overweight.
  •       Morbidly obese being 100 lbs. over normal weight.
  •       Super obese is 200 plus pounds overweight.

These classifications aren’t flattering, causing many overweight persons to feel that they are discriminated against because of their weight.  Race, gender, age, disability, religion, and now obesity are reasons that persons may feel  discriminated against. 

There can be many reasons for being overweight.  Some are genetic, caused by certain health issues, or lack of exercise, and eating unhealthy foods.  This problem is going to continue if our schools don’t serve healthy foods and require physical education for youngsters.  It should be a given that kids “get out and play an hour a day.”  Parents should strive to start their families out with a healthy breakfast, and choose fruits and vegetables rather than fast food on a regular basis.  It’s a proven fact that there are more obese youngsters than in past generations.

Regardless, no one should be bullied, harassed, or humiliated because of their size.  People that are obese have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, gall bladder disease, lung and breathing problems, and early death.  As of now, Michigan is the only state that declares discrimination of this sort as illegal.  There are no federal laws making it illegal.  Some cities do, though.  Through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and courts, persons diagnosed with morbid obesity may be seen as disabled, thereby possibly being protected under the Americans with Disabilities Amended Act of 2008.

Companies can achieve having healthier and happier employees through weight-loss plans, employee wellness programs, and/or health club memberships.  Planning a better environment,  such as healthy snacks in vending machines, less fast foods in the cafeteria, and holding health fairs would be good for everyone.  The programs should not be targeted toward certain groups, in order to be nondiscriminatory, but to all employees, and those who wish to enroll may do so on a voluntary basis.  Start up a group walking program during lunch break. Wear a pedometer to see how  any steps you take in a work-day.  If it’s not very many, we need to step it up when we get home!  (The recommended number of daily steps is 10,000.)  You may be surprised at just how much  or little walking you actually do each day.   The Centers for Disease Control report that obesity can cause chronic health issues that equal twenty years of aging. 

Let’s start parking the car a little farther from work, walk up stairs rather than take an elevator, and encourage others to do the same.  If you have a friend or family member that is overweight, offer to go to a wellness center or take a daily walk with them.  Possibly, you can get them started on a healthy path, and reap the benefits, as well.