Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stress plays role in weight gain
Dissolve tensions by resolving issues
Stress for Success
March 23, 2010

Unless you’ve ignored all news over recent decades you know that obesity either causes or worsens six of the seven most common chronic diseases that fuel sky-rocketing health care costs, including diabetes and heart disease. There’s a plethora of programs to help you lose weight, some more effective than others. Yet the obesity epidemic continues, disturbingly and increasingly among children.

But losing weight isn’t only about eating a healthier diet and moving your body more, crucial as these are. Another very important contributor to weight gain – stress - needs to also be acknowledged and addressed if true weight loss is to be sustained over the long haul.

Americans are vulnerable to too much stress due to our society’s fast pace and to our penchant for so little time off from work. If we took as many days off as the German’s – the average American works 12.5 weeks more/year – how many of us would simply get another job rather than enjoy the time off? It’s not only corporate America who’s stingy with time off; it seems that workaholism is part of the American psyche. But over the years it takes its toll on our collective health.

Exacerbating this traditional stressful lifestyle is our rotten economy creating chronic stress for most of us. Chronic stress typically triggers weight gain, which can lead to obesity, which contributes to so many diseases.

You can find yourself packing on the pounds when you’re under increased pressure because when stressed your survival brain tells you to eat more carbohydrates. It would be one thing if you reached for complex carbs like carrot sticks but of course we tend to go for donuts or other refined flour and high-fat foods, contributing to diabetes and heart disease.

But becoming consciously aware that the urge to eat carbohydrates is part of the normal stress response can help you make healthier choices. Additionally, just because your brain pushes you to eat carbs, doesn’t mean you have to eat the bad ones. You could choose to eat healthy ones. Hopefully all weight loss programs tell you this.

You can lose all the weight you want but if you’re still highly stressed you’ll have to fight this carbohydrate urge endlessly. So, include a stress reduction plan along with your weight loss regimen, heart-healthy plan, or your diabetes management approach.

The most effective strategy for stress reduction is to face your challenges and solve them. What are your options regarding each stressor? If you can’t see any talk to someone who could help you. By reducing your stress you’ll diminish your natural stress response’s urge for carbs.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Employers can help cut health care costs
Stress for Success
March 9, 2010

Health care costs are exploding and endangering our economic recovery and future stability. Government can’t fix the cause. Only we can because we, individually, are the cause.

First, here are some of the facts.

Employers’ average per employee cost for health care grew from $6,384 in 2003 to $9,312 in 2008. During these same years, employees’ share of their own health care costs increased 59%, creating great stress among many. (Source: Towers Perrin 2008 Health Care Cost Survey)

The cost of health insurance premiums has far outpaced the rate of inflation and earnings over the past 20 years (source: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005) and if food prices had risen at the same rate since the 1930s we’d be paying:
* $80.20for a dozen eggs;
* $13.70 for a pound of sugar;
* $122.48 for a pound of bacon;

And no wonder our premiums have skyrocketed. An Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne Study in 2006 found that employee lifestyle counts for a vast majority of health care claims costs: 87.5% to be exact! This seems extreme to me because it doesn’t seem to take into account our genetic weaknesses. My belief is that your genetics, along with your good and bad habits of a lifetime determine which afflictions you’ll suffer. Your stress level throughout your life will determine when your genetic weaknesses will kick in.

Having said that, if your workforce is typical compared to national demographics there are health risks and costs you face. For every 100 employees you can expect:
* 25 to have cardio vascular disease;
* 12 asthma;
* 6 diabetes;
* 26 high blood pressure;
* 30 high cholesterol;
* 38 overweight;
* 21 smoke;
* 31 use alcohol excessively;
* 24 don’t exercise;
* 44 suffer from stress;

To pay for rising healthcare employers have increased copays and deductibles and switched providers. This has only restrained costs for awhile so employers are now working to motivate employees to live a healthier lifestyle through wellness programs. Impressively 62% of all companies offer them. This is great news!

The National Business Group on Health in 2005 documented the many benefits organizations realize after implementing workplace wellness programs. Below they’re listed in order of their benefit:
* Increased morale, 56%;
* Employee health improvement, 41%;
* Reduce health care costs, 27%;
* Reduce accidents on the job, 9%;
* Reduce absenteeism, 8%;
* Increase productivity, 8%;

So is an employer’s return on investment worth the cost of a wellness program? What is the savings per dollar invested? Many published studies on worksite wellness found that the ROI is $3.48:1 due to reduced medical costs and $5.82:1 due to reduced absenteeism. (Sources: Aldana, SG, 2001, and Chapman, LS, 2005)

But after all is said and done, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Will your employees drink from the wellness stream? After all, the improvement in our health must ultimately be done by us individually, my topic for next week.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.