Wellness in Corporate America
How many of us sit on our bums most of the day? I’m willing to bet that most of us sit in grey, monochromatic and depressing cubicles for 9+ hours a day. Hamstrings shortening, back muscles getting weak and lengthened, chest and neck muscles getting tighter and shorter, posture going to hell.
I work for a health insurance company, which I fondly refer to as a disease insurance company. If you’ve never talked to me for more than 6 seconds, let me tell you the jist of how I feel about the health care industry: there’s no such thing—money is made by keeping us sick; not by keeping us healthy. It’s ironic, but it really doesn’t surprise me that the majority of people who work for my company are obese and sick. A company built on the premise of health, but who has benches every several hundred feet for those who can’t manage to walk further than that without needing a break. And really, there are lots of them.
Four years ago, a few weeks after starting my first job with this company, I started losing massive amounts of weight. In addition to doing CrossFit WODs in my living room, I ate better and I made a point of moving more. I got rid of my chair and brought in an exercise ball. I worked in an artsy department, so I hijacked the sound booth for shadowboxing every afternoon. I ran sprints up the stairs when I was frustrated, instead of slouching further down in my chair. I brought in exercise bands and stretched and did light strength training during conference calls. And I was a freak for doing so.
Until now. A friend of mine, Chuck, found himself in the Benefits department as part of a leadership development rotation. Being a brilliant healthy person, an elite athlete, and way less of a cynic than I am, he developed a comprehensive Wellness Program for the company, complete with a committee (of which yours truly is a member) and Champions in each of the company’s dozen or so locations to keep motivation high. There are contests for doing healthy things, working out, walking during lunch, cooking healthy meals, reading health articles, etc. Everyone is pumped about this.
But here’s the thing. Who’s defining what’s healthy?
For years I’ve struggled with reconciling my distrust and disbelief in Western medicine with writing member handbooks for a health insurance company. I finally just decided that this is my job, and some health care, even if it’s not what I believe in, is better than no health care. And now, after spending my entire life in the dark, I’ve discovered the Primal/Paleo lifestyle. Most of what I do flies in the face of what “they” have been telling us to do for several generations. I eat a lot of fat now. I don’t buy anything “light” or “reduced sugar.” I don’t even eat sugar. I don’t buy anything in a box and now that I know where it comes from, I would rather cut my tongue out than eat a Lean Cuisine. I cook Real, Nourishing Food. I do short, hard workouts, no matter the temperature or weather conditions. I’ve stopped adding “light” to the end of my Google searches when looking for recipes. And even though it’s only been 2.5 weeks since I’ve started doing all this, I can guarantee you I’m 500 million times healthier now than I’ve ever been in my life. (The best part about Primal, by the way, is that it totally feeds into my anti-establishment view on agriculture and medicine. Yeah, I love a good conspiracy as a side dish to looking and feeling amazing.)
And now I am on a Wellness committee advocating healthy practices, some of which I don’t even believe in, for almost 4,000 people. But maybe this is just another facet of finding myself at odds with the norm. Walking is still healthy, even if you don’t do it after a 2.5 mile interval run. Cooking a low fat (and high carb) meal is still probably better than burying yourself in a bucket of fried chicken. Getting a mammogram to check for breast cancer, even though they’ve been shown to cause cancer, probably beats not getting checked at all. And maybe doing these small things will spur more to educate themselves on historically, genetically, and environmentally appropriate approaches to health. After all, I was that girl who lived on Baked Lays, out-of-season fruit, and fat-free yogurt for years and years. I suppose the journey means more when you evolve so dramatically.