For Me, It’s No to Corporate Wellness

It’s the chatter I think I hate the most. I don’t like chatter at the beginning of a race, before an exam, and evidently relating to a “corporate wellness challenge” at work.

The company which is relatively new to me, where I work, does a yearly “corporate wellness challenge” that kicks off every January. Sounds nice. Kudos to them for caring about their employees’ health and trying to do something positive about it. What could someone have against a corporate wellness challenge? We all want to be well, and encourage others to be well. Unfortunately, I don’t always think like the rest of the crowd in terms of the best way to achieve this goal.

When I started hearing about this year’s challenge, the part of me that knows I don’t like “wellness programs”, which tell you what you can and can’t do, was feeling swayed to give it a try. The plan has different components, and I thought, even if I don’t fuss too much about the food plan, participating might encourage me to drink more water regularly and fulfill my goal of cooking more often. There are other components such as exercise and meditation and sleep. I don’t feel like I need incentive when it comes to my exercise, as I already workout 4-5 days a week, in a way that challenges me. I don’t have trouble sleeping on the whole. I might binge on sour kids on occasion, but I try to incorporate highly nutritious foods in my meals on a regular basis and I listen to my body when it is feeling full or tired, from too much of anything. My occasional bright blue sour/sweet candy addiction hasn’t come up at any of my health check-ups. Thankfully, it doesn’t define me or my health condition.

Alas, despite my intuition, I signed up at the last minute before the start of January (it began the 3rd week in January). But as the kickoff approached and I heard more about how it actually worked, I bailed. My desk is close enough to the main area where the speaker talked about “restricted” and “non-restricted” foods. A colleague told me enthusiastically about the online forum, where participants share their successes and “failures” daily, and count their daily “points” for meeting all of their targets (you lose points for eating a “restricted” food, for example or not meeting your daily target for exercise or water). That online forum sounds like my idea of hell (not as bad as a Sunday afternoon at Costco, but close). My anxiety about the challenge started to rise and I decided it wasn’t worth it.

A couple people have asked me if I am doing the challenge and I’ve said no. If they ask why, and I try to explain – my aversion to “restricted” and “non-restricted” or “good” and “bad” foods, and the associated guilt and why that doesn’t work in the long run, I get blank stares, that tell me people believe I’m overthinking it. Perhaps, but how can a small piece of dark chocolate be on the restricted list anyway? Also, why do I have a part of me that still feels the need to say “it’s not that I don’t care about being healthy, I exercise regularly, etc. etc.???”

I am all for people being encouraged to move more (within their abilities), pay attention to their health markers and to add more vegetables to their plate. What I don’t like is the incessant talk about what is “right” and “wrong” for everyone. The blanket statements. The emphasis on perfection.

There are a few people around me now who talk about their daily experience on the challenge. Their talk about it just reaffirms for me why I don’t care for this approach. Lamenting about being at a friend’s party and not being able to eat anything there, except for the meat. Or not being able to put a tiny amount of honey or maple syrup in their morning steel cut oatmeal. Or being restricted from dairy in their daily coffee. That is not about health or wellness, as far as I’m concerned. Not to mention the talk that is starting about what people will be able to do – once the challenge is over – does nothing to help establish sustainable habits.

So, for now, I’ll just try to block out the chatter (mindfulness practice!), continue exercising, make food choices that fit my life, ensure I’m getting enough sleep and water, enjoy the odd glass of wine or (gasp) piece of chocolate or bread! I have no doubt that my habits will outlast a 6-week corporate wellness challenge.

Nicole Plotkin after a nice run on an unseasonably mild Sunday in January.

8 thoughts on “For Me, It’s No to Corporate Wellness

  1. Wow. Good for you for bailing on this one! Corporate dieting.
    I’m afraid I would not be as chill about such a thing as I would want to be–I’d find myself rolling my eyes, railing against unhealthy notions about food, etc, etc. . . I’d probably start out patient but then slowly alienate myself with some hopeful people. 🙁 Yuck.

    1. I find myself rolling my eyes and railing against the chatter, in my head, at my desk. It just doesn’t feel like the right environment to address it.

  2. Wow, that sounds invasive as hell! Good thing you managed to extract yourself from it, and sorry you still have to endure the chatter.

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