You too can be a big loser

Here's a Businessweek article about Microsoft's clinical weight management program. You know those hours in front of the computer screen aren't making us any more fit. Many of you know that I struggled with weight problems in the past, not significant enough to qualify me for the clinical programs but I've put in a lot of hard work to get to where I am the best shape of my life.

For employees that have some fitness challenges, there are many options. There's the clinical program mentioned in the article (the person needs to suffer from weight related illnesses to qualify), there's the 20/20 program at the ProClub (it's a combo exercise and eating plan focused on healthy fats, whole grains, lean meats, etc). For me, just having the ProClub as a benefit has made all the difference (plus working with my trainer, El Diablo). I'm finally at a place where I've trained myself to make good choices.

I can't believe that Microsoft employees have lost 61,000 pounds through the clinical program. I'd like to see Oprah wheel that out on a wagon. That doesn't account for all the weight we've lost through other programs. Or the pride I feel when I flex my guns. Oh yeah. I've got guns. And I still have work to do.

I find the statements about companies doing this type of thing solely to save on health care costs a little pessimistic. They don't take into account that the people that enroll in these programs are putting time into them that they could/would otherwise spend at their desks working. I know because I've been there and now I need the gym time to feel "normal". Yeah, companies want to save on health care costs, they also want their employees to live. Plus a healthy employee is a happy employee. I swear there's a poster somewhere that says that.

Comments (12)

  1. mrscrooge says:

    Sigh, ok I think its great that the company encourages us to be healthy. I mean, thats why they practically give us a FREE gym membership. I think paying $6,000 to get anyone on a program to force them to go to the gym on a schedule and make them eat less – I think its ridiculously over the top. Eat less sugary stuff, avoid alcohol, and exercise regularly == lose weight? Its not rocket science ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Nobody is being forced to do anything. The employee decides whether they want to go on the program.  It’s a personal decision and the resource is there if people want it. That is why it’s considered a "benefit".

    Some people need more support/resources than others. Anyone that thinks it’s easy has never had a weight problem. It’s not easy. Like I said, I didn’t have the kind of fitness challenges that would qualify me for the clinical program, but even making the changes that I have made to get fit (now it’s not about pounds, it’s about fitness), I have had to work hard (and force MYSELF) every step. And I needed to be educated on the impact of what I was eating and I needed structure and encoruagement. I personally need the accountability that results from working with a trainer. We are all different and need different things. To suggest that it’s a simple equation of eating less and exercising more, while that is how the body works, doesn’t take into account that there is a brain attached to the body that is fighting you every step of the way (or is that just my brain?).

  3. tod hilton says:

    I agree about the pessimistic, bottom-line mentality for offering the health benefits in the first place. It’s too bad that corporations promote this type of benefit in that light. They fit great into the ‘life balance’ equation…a healthier employee makes for a happier employee which [most likely] makes for a more productive employee.

    I have always been lean which means I have never used these benefits, but I’m glad to see they are offerred. I’ve known more than a few people who accomplished great things under the 20/20 program.

    And Heather, as you know, I whole-heartedly agree with needing gym time to feel "normal." Now, let’s see those guns girl! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Haha…not on the blog, but in person, I’ll flex them on command…all you have to do is ask….hee!

  5. Tecumsah says:

    I think Ballmer should be used as a pace setter when it comes to this program.

  6. Bad_Brad says:

    Heather – you just can’t please some people.  If a company (especially an evil corporation like Microsoft) gives them something, they automatically think that there must be some ulterior motive behind it (that ulterior motive is almost invariably a fatter bottom line).  True, there are some benefits to the company of rolling out a program like this, but more significant are the potential benefits to the individual.  And, as you pointed out, it’s not like Microsoft is holding a gun to anyone’s head and making them take part in this.

    I belonged to a gym before I worked for Microsoft, and I remember paying $40 or $50 per month for it.  I have no need whatsoever for a weight loss program (a weight gain program, maybe), but I love the fact that Microsoft provides the ProClub membership free of charge (well, okay, I pay the taxes on imputed income, but you know what I mean).  To me, it not only has monetary value, it is also a very clear message from the company that my physical health, which benefits me in my personal life in so many ways, is valued.

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Bad_Brad, that’s a great way to think about it. And I’m going to try to control my jealousy over your comment about needing a weight gain program. Oh, all the things I’d eat!

    Maybe I should do a blog post about our evil annual ritual of forcing people to bring their kids to the company picnic : )

    You know I think $6000 is a small price to pay to possibly save someone’s life (if that is the actual figure…I have no idea). There are plenty of employee benefits that other people are using that I don’t (family healthcare, adoption assistance, LASIK surgery benefit, tuition assistance, childcare discounts). I’m just glad that we offer them to the people that do use them. Like Bad_Brad said, it’s about how the company treats employees, not about making sure that everything they offer appeals to every employee (that will never happen). "Bah humbug…cancel the company picnic because I don’t have kids." I think that looking at it that way is silly.

    I say good for anyone that has taken advantage of some of the weight management programs and done what it takes to make a positive change in their lives. I think that’s cool and I appreciate Microsoft offering the programs!

  8. avid_supporter says:

    Ya know, the people who say "it’s not rocket science" really tick me off.  For some, it can be as hard as rocket science.  Like Heather pointed out, the brain has learned all of these bad habits over the years and has to be forced/trained into good habits.  That takes time and A LOT of focus.  Eat less sugary stuff?  Nope, sorry, that’s not it, and I’d go as far to say that’s a stereotype.  That all overweight folks just eat chocolate cake all day.  Not true.

    I’m glad that Microsoft offers this as a benefit to employees.  It certainly sounds like they’re doing what they can to make working there a positive experience.  Kudos, I say.  

    Where do I sign up to become a Microsoftonian?  ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. mrscrooge says:

    >I think paying $6,000 to get anyone on a program to force them to go to the gym

    To clarify, I wasn’t saying that the company forces you to lose weight – its the fact that you’re signed up and invested in a program, thats what ‘forces’ you to get on the regime of working out and eating right.

    >Some people need more support/resources than others

    I guess what I was trying to say was that – as a shareholder, I think that $6,000 is quite a spendy benefit in that regard.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    avid_supporter….you know how to reach me if you want to submit a resume : ) Thanks for the supportive words!

    mrscrooge-thanks for clarifying your point. Let me ask you a question though. Would you think that it would be worth $6K for a smoking cessation program? What about drug rehab? They are all health issues. If someone were to tell you that your child would grow to be dangerously overweight unless you purchased a medecine right now that costs $6K, you would do it, right? Obesity is a medical issue. The solution for everyone isn’t as simple as someone who has never experienced the same problem might think. And if your point is just about cost, the cost of treating obesity related illness is potentially MUCH higher than a $6K program. In that regard, it is an excellent investment for the company. But as Bad_Brad (who I don’t think is bad at all) suggested, that is not the only reason; cost. It literally saves lives. That’s enough for me.

    We are all entitled to our opinions, of course. As someone who is also a shareholder, I support the weight loss programs and the people that choose them. I think it’s an excellent benefit, it’s a good financial investment for the company and it promotes a better and more balanced work culture. I’d also like to see us get rid of some of the junk in the vending machines and have some of the soda in the kitchens replaced with bottled water, but that is just me being picky. I would much rather have health solutions than free soda.

  11. Christine says:

    Are you sure Microsoft hasn’t negotiated a lower rate with the gym, making the cost to the company far less than 6k/year?  My guess is that they have and they’re also getting a decreased cost on their health insurance plans as well.  So, the amount that shareholders aren’t "getting" is much smaller than the market value of the gym membership.  Also, like you pointed out, if Microsoft tends to retain employees for long periods of time, the number of employees attending the gym probably actually lessens their health insurance costs over time–the healthier their employees are, the less they have the pay.  

    So it’s a benefit to the employees as well as the company.  (If my guesses are correct.)

    Does Microsoft want to hire me?  ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. mrscrooge says:

    Good points btw, especially about the free soda (yuck I never drink that!). You know, I thought about this whole thing a bit more. Speaking purely from a shareholder pov, I guess it IS smarter to pay the $6k upfront if that radically reduces the chances of requiring heart surgery. So I could argue, its as much about saving the company money as it is about ‘saving lives’.

    Re:bottled water. Ah, thats a whole other can of worms. Most bottled water travels thousands of miles so its not very sensible using so much fossil fuel to transport water to areas that do not experience any water-scarcity. Not sure if you’re ok with posting links but I’d recommend skimming thru this article

    And yes, this applies to food and other services as well, we gotta start someplace and try and make a difference wherever we can before its too late.

    Thanks again for all the frank and interesting discussions – thats why I keep coming back here ๐Ÿ™‚

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