An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Benjamin Franklin
Wellness in the workplace is a hot topic. Many employers have embraced health and fitness programs. They know that healthy employees are more productive and less expensive.
Setting aside the workplace, we all yearn for a healthy body and mind. Most of us think about it every day. Yet, by and large — so to speak — Americans seem to be growing bigger and getting more sedentary. What gives?
THINK FOR YOURSELF: GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES MAY BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH
The USDA recently released a new set of “nutritional guidelines” just as it has every five years since around the time President Reagan proclaimed ketchup a vegetable.
As noted by nutritionist and health expert Dr. Philip Maffetone:
It began with the days of the famous four food groups, followed by the various Food Pyramid schemes, and other convoluted images that are really just different versions of the same Gov.Diet. Since then, some interesting things have happened:
- Obesity has more than doubled, and now even affects young children.
- At least 75 percent of the population is overfat (those who have excess body fat but don’t qualify as obese).
- Heart disease, stroke, hypertension, high blood fats and other disease risks and chronic illnesses have risen dramatically.
- Diabetes has exploded, with more than half of Americans suddenly suffering some form of it.
- U.S. healthcare costs have more than tripled since 1980, and this year are estimated to reach $4 trillion (about $50,000 for a family of four).
In his article Death by Dietary Guidelines, Dr. Maffetone chronicles what might happen to his good health if he blindly followed the US guidelines for a year. His hypothetical reveals the dangers of eating poorly.
Companies and individuals need to think for themselves and consult qualified professionals when it comes to health and fitness. Question everything. Evaluate the options. Then develop a plan and stick to it. As the Navy SEALs say: “Plan your dive and dive your plan.”
CREATE A CULTURE AND SPREAD THE GOOD WORD
A large, framed poster of Winston Churchill hangs behind my desk at work. It depicts Churchill pacing aboard a ship in the windswept North Atlantic in 1941 — when England was near defeat to Nazi Germany. Across the room hangs Jack LaLanne’s equally inspiring poster. In it, he grins broadly, a man in his 80s lifting weights in his iconic jumpsuit.
Every time I walk to my desk I see Churchill battling the wind and elements. And when I sit down and look up I see a spry octogenarian grinning ear to ear — living his dream. These images are symbolic reminders to stay strong, make the right choices, and occasionally have a laugh while you’re at it. They are part of the deeply embedded work “culture” at Bourque Law Firm.
We go to work to work. While there, however, couple your work ethic with broader concepts — including those that ensure the vitality of your physical and mental health and well-being.
EMPLOYER WELLNESS PROGRAMS: A GOOD PLACE TO START
As I wrote here, industry leaders like Able Engineering make it their business to ensure their employees’ health and wellness. Able’s Total Wellness program arguably sets the standard in the industry.
However, not all employers will have the wherewithal to implement the kind of system which exists at Able. For these employers it is critical to do something to help employees obtain, maintain and/or regain their physical and mental health.
There are several ways to get started or to enhance a wellness ethos in your workplace:
- Research the issues and develop a list of options;
- Observe successful companies’ wellness programs;
- Consult a professional;
- Brainstorm with management and employees; and/or
- Call me and we can go for a walk, run, lift some weights, do some tree pull-ups, or throw a Frisbee or football — all the while sharing ideas as to how each of our workplaces and households can get better. I’ll buy the drinks afterwards, and they will not include Gatorade.
We all need more than luck in our quest for health and fitness. Increase your company’s odds of having healthy employees by starting or enhancing a health and wellness program.
The same principle applies to all employees reading this article. Start your wellness at home and bring it into the workplace, or vice-versa. You need not overhaul everything at once. Engage in what the Japanese call “kaizen”: continuous improvement.
Have some fun while you are achieving your goals. Use symbols, mantras, and themes that reflect and confirm your values and principles as you continually improve. In this regard, “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. Vince Lombardi
EPILOGUE: FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT JACK LALANNE AND WINSTON CHURCHILL
Jack LaLanne didn’t touch sugar-infused foods after age 15, trained everyday, and lived healthily into his 90s. For a glimpse into his greatness, read the article Jack LaLanne is Still an Animal. And, here he is at age 70 pulling 70 boats one mile:
Winston Churchill, on the other hand, lived to the ripe old age of 90 despite having champagne for breakfast and often imbibing other spirits throughout the day and night. And, he lead England in almost singlehandedly holding-off Nazi Germany before the United States and Russia entered World War II. Churchill’s nation-saving achievement came shortly after he had been laughed out of government for warning of Hitler’s emerging threat.
Read The Gathering Storm if you want to understand Churchill’s greatness (caveat: it is not a short read).
It is ironic that Churchill lived so well and so long despite his lifestyle, not to mention the stress to which he was exposed. He is the exception to the rule, of course. Perhaps it was his sense of humor. When asked why he drank champagne for breakfast, Churchill responded: “Because I don’t like skim milk.”