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Food Should Be Fuel, Not What Makes Us Fat

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The tweet heard round the world -- Oprah tweets about bread and the weight loss world went crazy.

For me, as a wellness expert, my heart broke. We still don't get it.

Food has become what makes us fat or skinny -- acceptable levels of fat or skinniness are determined by sex appeal, not by doctors, physiologists or experts in health. So-called sex appeal is determined by magazines who air brush photos and sell nonsense to us all.

We hand select beautiful people who won a genetics lottery, put them on a pedestal in social media, TV and magazines. We covet their qualities, and then we blame bread when we are fatter than them.
Here's the deal:

  1. Oprah is awesome -- she has done amazing things in her life and will continue to do so.
  2. Carbs are the only fuel that your brain can run on. Talk to a dietician or doctor about your diet, not the 23-year-old "hottie" that calls themselves a trainer because, well, they like the gym and taking selfies.
  3. We absolutely need to redefine beauty -- not just because it's trendy now to speak out about body image shaming or being healthy at any size, but because our definition of beauty is killing us.

My day job takes me into workplaces to talk wellness and reduce sick time and disability leave. I even get to write about it for my local chamber of commerce. What I see regularly is confusion, followed by a massive flaw in how we promote health. We base everything around an "IF" model. "IF" employees take part in a walking program, healthy lunch or whatever the initiative is, they will get healthy and then more productive.

Now we make the CEOs and CFOs angry because the employees who need help and have attendance issues don't engage the programs. Instead, the already healthy people at work get free assistance to become healthier. The company gains nothing and the disparity between the fit and un-fit employees grows.

The fit people engage and take an active role in their health, those needing help cling to the hope that cutting out bread or the next miracle pill will solve their health/weight problems. With kindness, empathy and sincerity, we need to reach out and build a base slowly for those who struggle with health issues. Identifying those who need help is easy in a workplace, we have the data. Helping them takes work, and it's not a blanket program, it's meeting them one on one and making it all make sense.

Oprah tweets she eats bread everyday and the world goes nuts. It helps me realize that there are millions of people who are so lost on the path to health, not sex appeal, that we are in a lot of trouble. We need moment of clarity here.
  1. Carbs don't make you fat, over eating carbs and not burning calories makes you fat.
  2. Gluten-free is not for every single North American. You can do it if you want, but the only people who have to are the people who feel like they swallowed glass and it's tearing apart their insides, or they break out in hives when they eat gluten.
  3. We need to teach our youth and adults about portion size and the importance of health! The information needs to come from experts, not the fitness space that is trying to make us skinny (see above again if you forgot why you were reading this).

In the workplace, I'm asking CEOs, CFOs and the VPs of HR to give me one more shot at this. Wellness promised you sick time reduction, short-term and long-term disability reduction, and work time loss claims, yet it has not delivered.

I can solve that! If your strategic plan for the year is set around addressing employee attendance issues, there is an answer. It's on focusing on the employees who are lost, confused and retweeting Oprah's daily bread-eating tweet (the focus is a bit better than that).

Blanket wellness programs, over-arching story lines about weight loss, quick fixes and gimmicks all have to stop. The health of the nation, and the monumental spending we have to fix health issues related to poor diet and inactivity rest on it.

Let's bring food back to what it was supposed to be -- our fuel to go on adventures, be active and explore the world. It's not what makes fat or skinny, and it's not the enemy of the perfect full-body selfie.

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