to heal employees, employers must first heal themselves

June 1, 2012

in culture,wellness

new york made news again yesterday with its proposed ban of super-sized sodas and other sugary drinks. the ban caught soda, sweet teas and coffees, energy drinks and some fruit drinks in its snare and left fruit juices, milkshakes and diet drinks unaffected.

the reactions were tepid about the ban actually altering people’s behavior. after all, the ban leaves many high-calorie beverages available in all sizes, downscales banned drinks to a “puny” 16 ounces, and doesn’t affect convenience stores or grocery chains. nor does it touch refills.

even so, there was recognition of bloomberg’s many efforts to change new york’s landscape to better promote health. bloomberg’s steered the city in its ban of smoking in restaurants, bars and public spaces; its required listing of calories; a health-grade system for restaurants; an expansion of green public spaces and available bike lanes; and more.

it’s hard not to acknowledge that the man means business. he’s not sitting back and waiting for those around him to change while leaving unchanged what’s around them. he’s willing to go out on a limb and try—even when what he’s trying may fail or invite derision.

we now know enough to recognize willpower is a limited muscle at best. bloomberg’s looking at ways to reduce the wear and tear on this muscle, as dr. marion nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at new york university explains:

“‘Something needs to be done, and you can’t just tell people to eat better and move more,’ Nestle said, emphasizing that this new proposal would simply change the default from a 20- to 30-ounce soda to one under 16 ounces. ‘If I’m given huge amounts of food, I’m going to eat it,’ she said. ‘Cheers for the Bloomberg administration, they’re really trying to make environmental changes.’”

employees discouraged from getting up and moving, unsupported when it comes to work/life demands, choosing between paying the rent or paying for health care services, and facing junk in the vending machine and the cafeteria are going to “eat it.” they’re going to get too little exercise, have too much stress, skip too much needed health care and choose too many bad-for-you foods.

employers who are serious about supporting employees’ changed actions and attitudes need to take a page from bloomberg’s book. they need to change their environment and heal themselves before they and their employees lose the wellness battle.

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for employers ready to get busy:

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