When Wellness Messages Go Bad: Chewing the Fat

by Frank Roche on December 7, 2011

in Wellness

You’re too fat.

Think your employees want to hear that? Is that really what you want to say to them in your wellness messaging? Maybe you should read Hello, I Am Fat to find out the effect it has on people. Writer Lindy West says:

I get that you think you’re actually helping people and society by contributing to the fucking Alp of shame that crushes every fat person every day of their lives—the same shame that makes it a radical act for me to post a picture of my body and tell you how much it weighs. But you’re not helping. Shame doesn’t work. Diets don’t work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.

And she points out that maybe, just for a second, we might want to step back and think about how that You’re Too Fat message is going over with your employees. She pokes a hole in the fake altruism:

You are not concerned about my health. Because if you were concerned about my health, you would also be concerned about my mental health, which has spent the past 28 years being slowly eroded by statements like the above. Also, you don’t know anything about my health. You do happen to be the boss of me, but you are not the doctor of me. You have no idea what I eat, how much I exercise, what my blood pressure is, or whether or not I’m going to get diabetes. Not that any of that matters, because it is entirely none of your business.

“But but but my insurance premiums!!!” Bullshit. You live in a society with other people. I don’t have kids, but I pay taxes that fund schools. The idea that we can somehow escape affecting each other is deeply conservative. Barbarous, even. Is that really what you’re going for? Good old-fashioned American individualism? Please.

Something to think about when you’re writing your wellness messages. Want diversity? Get a fat person and a smoker together and have them write your wellness messages. My guess is that they’d think more about root causes. And they’d focus on underlying elements of poor health, like the accumulation of stress over a lifetime.

Chew on that.

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