Paid to lose weight

Now I am every bit in favour of supporting a fellow weight struggler to lose a few pounds and raise money for a good cause through a bit of sponsorship but the latest idea from the UK government … I’m not so sure of.

Forgive the use of the Daily Mail Article but it was the most succinct and less waffly than some but does seem to have its facts right.

The idea is that money is made available to employers to give to staff who lose weight. This is to encourage overweight people at work to lose weight and get in better shape, which is great, no denying that. But, and this is just my opinon,  they should want to do it for the health benefits or even the aesthetic benefits, not because they will get a few extra quid in the pay packet.

I see all kinds of problems with this – what about unemployed fat people, what about self employed fat people, what about fat people who are house wives/husbands… it’s not fair to only put some kind of carrot and stick incentive in front of the employed, and that will be a cry going up no doubt. Other commentators have already suggested that it would be of greater use to incentivise fat people to lose weight who are unable to find work due to obesity related issues either physical or mental and I might agree more with that line of thought.

Another issue is who would be considered for the ‘scheme’. Would someone have to be clinically obese, morbidly or super morbidly obese or is it just for anyone overweight? Would there be tons of “I’m so fat I need to lose 5lbs” skinnies claiming extra dosh for having shed a couple of pounds of lean flesh?

And would it be claimable only once? What happens when the incentives run dry and the pounds go back on, can they go through the cycle again? Indeed if the payout is significant enough it might become a nice little minimum wage top up and worth yo-yoing for.

Might some people find it humiliating to be labelled as a recipient of fat cash at work? Perhaps have their HR dept know their weight and have other people discussing their weight loss as part of monthly departmental budget meetings?

What exactly are the payments for? What is the point of them? Does the ‘expert’ who has come up with this idea really think that people who struggle with serious eating disorders are going to suddenly start to lose weight if someone gives them money to do so? It might work for some but not for the ones with a real problem. Would they throw money at anorexics and bulimics and tell them to start eating normally and they might get a fiver?

It has already thrown fuel onto the fat haters flame and I’ve seen various comments from people on social media slamming fat people for being greedy, lazy b******s who are now going to leech off the state when they already cost the state enough in NHS treatments blah blah blah… the usual but now with more venom squirted on like paraffin onto a barbeque to keep everything nicely ablaze. Like fat people asked for this?

On a positive note, I like that it is about employers taking some kind of action or making some kind of provision to encourage health and wellbeing for their staff. I agree that too many staff canteens serve greasy, fried crap and having worked for Renault (car company) and the NHS there was a stark difference between the canteen menus.  Healthy options in the NHS (in my experience) are not exactly appealing or imaginative and usually consist of a bit of dried up looking salad whereas the French company seemed to get it that healthy could be appetising. Besides that, you won’t have to look far in any NHS hospital for boxes of chocolates and packets of biscuits and cakes waiting for staff break time, be it on wards or in offices.

It’s not the norm in these parts for employers to offer any kind of gym provision, or membership incentive either, that tends to be the stuff of city employers. NHS staff do get lots of discounts and no doubt could get 10% off a gym membership locally perhaps and the local college offers membership of their gym at a reasonable rate to staff but it’s not widespread practice. I don’t know how employers could ‘force’ staff to take advantage of such facilities if they were available. It would be the same old scenario which prevents fat people from going to any gym… full of skinny people looking down on them.  Would an obese person be happy to be seen sweating it out in all his or her bouncy glory opposite one of their svelte colleagues? Not convinced they would. If healthy options were run of the mill at the work canteen would a fat person take advantage of that or just bring in the choc and crisps to hide in the drawer? Probably.  I don’t mean to sound defeatist here, I’m just being real and honest. When you have a problem with food, or any other addiction you just find ways of hiding it or skirting around attempts to help you.

Maybe I’m sceptical but I think it takes more than a few quid and a cheap gym membership to make someone change habits of a lifetime. It can take a lot of courage to go eat in the canteen at all for a fat person and even then we are faced with a dilemma, “if I eat burger and chips people will think I’m a fat, greedy, lazy pig but if I eat a salad people will think I’m a fat, greedy, lazy pig eating a salad pretending I don’t want burger and chips”.

It can take a lot of courage for a fat person to go to the gym too, once you start going you realise that most people are not looking at you, it’s only the odd rare person who is cruel enough to take video and post it online and you’re likely never to come across anyone like that, but that first step into the gym is the hard bit. We fat people are quite clever, we usually can find our way to a gym, we know where they are in our neighbourhoods, we know that exercise will help us but it’s what is going on in the head that is the problem, not whether there is a discount available or a gym next to our office.

Perhaps awareness raising would be better, perhaps if fat people had some counselling to consider why they use food as a drug, or to start to build some confidence and self worth instead of lectures on healthy diet and exercise, maybe that could be a way forward. And how about this radical idea, that staff in general are educated about obesity and how it is often the symptom of an eating disorder and how about they start to treat larger colleagues with a bit more sensitivity and understanding so that they felt able to go to the ‘staff’ gym and felt confident enough to eat in the canteen without people staring at their salad laden plate? Just an idea.

It will work for people who are not suffering from eating disorders, it will work temporarily for those people and maybe for obese people but it’s not a long term solution for anybody really. But that’s just my opinion, what’s yours?



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