Does the thought of your corporate wellness weigh-in give you anxiety? Here’s what to focus on instead, and why you should look beyond the scale.


It’s that time of year again. The time when we roll out our calendars and pencil in our biometric screenings. It may be for an annual physical or workplace wellness, but no matter the reason it seems to have the same result for many:

Stress, anxiety, and a feeling of dread as that date approaches.

If you feel the same way you’re not alone. Despite what your employer and insurance provider would have you believe, there is little evidence that workplace wellness programs do much to significantly improve health for the long term. Weight loss is certainly an outcome, but how many of them successfully keep it off?

Losing weight is not the same as improving health.

And who hasn’t seen a colleague spinning their FitBit to hit the magical 10,000 steps a day? Who hasn’t commiserated over logging into the portal at the last minute to frantically do a quiz or acknowledge you read the article for the sake of getting your points? Did anyone learn anything helpful for long term, sustainable lifestyle changes? Did anyone actually do anything to improve their health?

Remember that this is about money, not about wellness.

If it was really about health or wellness, weight wouldn’t be at the forefront of the discussion. BMI wouldn’t come up when reviewing the biometric results, and recommendations wouldn’t center around “losing just 10% of your current body weight.” You cannot control weight, but you can control certain behaviors. So if employers or insurance companies truly had this in mind, they would be more supportive of healthful behaviors such as:

  • Choosing nourishing foods that you enjoy eating that will be beneficial for your health
  • Finding means of movement that you enjoy, whether that is structured exercise or something else
  • Establishing and maintaining good sleep habits
  • Mental health and access to resources
  • Opportunities to connect and socialize
  • Supporting boundaries and avoiding risks

Safe to say, many programs instead choose to entice participants with weight loss, particularly focusing on those who don’t meet the BMI or weight standards of the program.

However, weight loss alone does not cure, treat, or prevent disease.

People who experience shame in health care settings are less likely to seek care in the future, thus eliminating some of their access to preventative screenings and potentially increasing future health risk.

It is more helpful and beneficial for individuals to focus on:

  • How their weight, health, and self worth are different and separate things.
  • Recognizing and respecting their body.
  • Making choices to improve their overall wellbeing, not just control their weight.
  • Serving their health without focusing on body size.
  • Understanding why thin does not equal healthy.
  • Setting boundaries because they care for themselves.
  • Why they deserve to be respected and to respect themselves.

If you feel vulnerable or exposed on the day of your wellness screening, it’s more important than ever to dig deep into our self-care arsenal and make sure we are taking steps to be compassionate towards ourselves.

No matter what they say, your weight does not define your health.

Adapted from the original article.

Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD is a Kansas City-based Registered Dietitian helping individuals jumpstart their journey to wellness. By breaking the cycle of dieting, Cara focuses on creating sustainable lifestyle changes for people who are motivated to reclaim their health. Connect with Cara over at Street Smart Nutrition.