Corrections or additions?

This article by Ned Weiss MD was prepared for the June 23, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Warning: Office Food May be Hazardous

If business and professional workplaces were freed from the ubiquitous

fattening junk food and calorie-packed baked goods, there would be

healthier employees, fewer absentee days and even more energy and

vigor in the office. In fact, a number of current research reports

show a positive link between worksite wellness and productivity,

attendance and in some cases health care cost reductions.

The evidence is that health risk factors correlate with lack of

exercise and poor eating habits. I see more cases of diabetes every

year I practice, and there is no doubt that when my patients lose

weight, their health risk factors – diabetes, heart and lung problems,

blood pressure, mobility – all improve.

One study concluded that we could prevent 100,000 cancer cases a year

by 2015 if more people adopted an overall healthy lifestyle. Prime in

this goal is keeping weight in check and exercising more.

OSHA is the government agency that regulates workplace safety, but

there isn’t a word in any of their regulations about what is ingested

by employees. Actually the dangers of some of the food that is brought

into the workplace is sometimes more dangerous than the common hazards

identified there.

It is sad that employees are literally making themselves sick with the

quantity and quality of foods that are commonplace in area offices.

One large company in the Princeton area prides itself on the generous

arrays of bagels, cheese and pastries always available to staff. This

is certainly not helping people – it is reinforcing the bad eating

habits that become even further ingrained.

With two-thirds of Americans overweight, and diabetes, heart and

breathing problems on the rise directly related to obesity, I would

like to suggest that good health can begin at work. After all, most

people spend at least half of their waking hours in the work

environment. Why shouldn’t that home away from home be a model of

healthy living?

I invite all employers to follow my policy of encouraging my own staff

to take exercise breaks during the day and to "eat healthy." Medical

offices are particularly vulnerable when it comes to bad eating

habits. Pharmaceutical representatives love to bring "treats," and

frequently show up with "care packages" of dangerous goodies.Not the

pharmaceutical representatives who appear at my Princeton office! They

know the rules: fresh fruit, veggies, sugarless beverages. We even

tell them where they can shop for these acceptable foods.

I recall an occasion about seven years ago when a sales rep left some

pizzas at the office. I love pizza and I almost demolished one

complete large pie and there were three others to go. At that point I

realized that simply trying to avoid temptation is not a successful

technique. I made a conscious decision to assure that only healthy low

calorie foods would be permitted in the office. Recently a patient was

delighted that I was able to free a time slot for an office visit.

Upon entering my office she handed me a box of cookies. I politely

thanked her for the gift but returned the box because I did not want

to be tempted to eat them.

My office staff are role models for my patients; we all practice what

we teach and all have lost considerable amounts of weight since

signing on to work here. We provide a microwave and refrigerator to

make it easier to "eat healthy" on the job. Can we get other employers

to do the same?

Dr. Weiss, a board certified endocrinologist, is medical director of

Princeton Weight Management on Bunn Drive (609-921-1511).

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