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Denial of Obesity - Obesity can cut into profits

Denial of obesity can cut into profits

By Dr. Margaret Gaglione, Inside Business - Hampton Roads

April 7, 2008

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 33 percent of Americans are overweight and 33 percent are obese. The rate at which Americans are reaching the morbid obesity classification (defined as BMI of greater than 40) is greatly exceeding the rate of moderate obesity. Yet most Americans deny the full extent of their weight issue.

The National Consumers League recently did a study that reveals the depth of our nation’s denial. They surveyed 1,978 Americans, asking for self-reported data on height and weight as well as asking how they would classify themselves (normal weight, overweight, obese). The results are startling. Fifty-two percent of the responders classified themselves as overweight with only 12 percent classifying themselves as obese.

Based on their self-reported numbers, 35 percent of the responders were overweight (17 percent misclassified) and 34 percent were obese, severely obese or morbidly obese (22 percent misclassified). Of the 34 percent who were obese, 82 percent of them misclassified themselves as “simply overweight.”

The president of the National Consumer League hit it on the nose when she stated, “This discrepancy between perceived and actual weight categories suggests that the stigma associated with being obese is a powerful one; many consumers would benefit from a more realistic picture of their own weight.”

For business owners and managers, the higher these numbers go, the lower your profits go. I believe it’s time for businesses to improve their employee quality of life by taking on this issue. The report shows our citizens/employees cannot do it themselves. And I don’t blame them. Losing weight and eating healthy in a society driven by fast-food, junk-food and preservative-laden food is very challenging.

But it can be done. A group of 142 patients at my weight loss medical clinic has lost 3,379 lbs. in 43 weeks, with 34 medications decreased or discontinued. The Hampton Roads employers of my patients are undoubtedly getting healthier, happier and more productive employees.

These 142 individuals are increasing their company’s bottom line. However, statistics reveal their overweight co-workers are not. Multiple studies have shown that obese employees have higher rates of absenteeism and more short-term disability claims than normal-weight employees. Obese employees also are more likely to lose days from work for doctor appointments, and they tire more easily.

A 2005 study demonstrated excess weight costs 1,000-employee companies an extra $285,000 annually in medical costs, 30 percent of which is due to absenteeism. Companies lose more than one-quarter of a million dollars per year because of their employees’ poor health.

The National Consumers League study indicates that positive and compassionate outside pressure may be needed to help individuals seek better health. Businesses can be that changing force and help their employees lose weight and get healthier by doing several things:

• Place a priority on wellness and health and back it up with action.
• Create program incentives to lose weight.
• Offer better food and drinks in the vending machine, cafeteria and staff meetings.
• Develop alliances with nearby eateries that promote healthy eating.
• Give employee premium rebates for health-improving activities.

People sometimes need a nudge in the right direction and a supporting cast. Your program should teach individuals how to eat well both at home and in restaurants, and provide support, education and behavioral supervision throughout the employees’ weight loss, transition and maintenance phases.

Excessive weight is the number-one health problem facing our nation and yet we are in denial as to the enormity of the problem. I urge CEOs and managers not to be.

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This is the first step in improving your health and lifestyle.

At Tidewater Bariatrics, my staff and I are committed to helping you achieve your weight loss goals.

I am a board certified Bariatrician and Internal Medicine physician. I will tailor a program specific to your needs, time constraints and abilities.

Our program is modeled after successful academic university medical center programs, and is dedicated to decreasing your health risk, improving nutrition, providing health education, and increasing your overall wellness. You can expect to lose weight, improve your cardio-vascular health, and reduce your risk of developing long-term obesity complications.

Even if you already have the complications of obesity, weight loss can decrease or eliminate their effects.

Dr. Margaret Gaglione

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