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
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
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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