Why poor nutrition is a corporate problem

Good nutrition is the starting point for good health. No amount of exercise, stress management or sleep will make up for poor nutrition and there is no pharmaceutical or medical procedure that can rectify the consequences of poor nutrition. Our body’s need a basic set of nutrients from our daily food consumption to maintain homeostasis and to function optimally. The onset of symptoms is the body’s way of telling us that it is compromised in its ability to function optimally and that things are starting to unravel. Our DNA will allow us to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ for a while but ultimately disease, and even death, will eventually follow if those deficits aren’t rectified. This is not usually a rapid downward spiral though and subsequently, we become accustomed to our symptoms and our inability to function the way we used to. We often chalk this up to ‘getting old’ when in fact it is nothing of the kind. The Standard American Diet (SAD) based on the old science of the food pyramid, relies heavily on carbohydrate-centric, processed foods, and minimal fats. It fails to meet these basic nutritional requirements. This is the approach to food that the vast majority of American employees adhere to and it is the root cause of the epidemic of metabolic and inflammatory diseases that we are witnessing in the US today.


There is a simple solution to most of our health woes. Namely, educating and supporting employees to eat REAL FOOD – nutrient dense, whole foods like those our ancestors ate, that nourish their body’s and provide the full spectrum of nutrients they need to return to homeostasis and vibrant health. As they transition to an ancestral approach to eating they will watch their body weight normalize and the vast majority of their symptoms resolve.


Someone has to pay for that education and invest in the infrastructure and culture changes required to support a long term, change in employee’s food and lifestyle habits. Corporate America is uniquely positioned to do this. Corporate America has the power to change the trajectory of the health epidemic that is threatening, not only the financial well being of organizations, but of the nation as a whole.


Poor nutrition is a corporate problem to solve for two main reasons.


Organizations have the most to gain in a multitude of ways in both the short and longer term. It is employers who wear the financial pain of spiraling healthcare costs. Most organizations see an average increase in healthcare costs of 5-7% year-on-year. Research conducted by Berry, Mirabito and Baun reported in the Harvard Business Review entitled “What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?” found wellness interventions could achieve an ROI of up to 6 to 1. Johnson & Johnson, one of the companies they studied, estimate cumulative savings of $250 million on healthcare costs over the past decade. The return from 2002 to 2008 was $2.71 for every dollar spent on wellness. These numbers are impressive even before the soft costs associated with decreased productivity, absenteeism and reduced morale are factored in.


Secondly, employers can provide an environment that dramatically increases the likelihood of long term, sustainable habit change that delivers permanent health improvements. For most people, making changes to entrenched habits is challenging. When those habits affect something we do as frequently as eating, the challenge can become insurmountable and health-compromising habits re-emerge. As many of the popular weight loss programs like ‘Weight Watchers’ have demonstrated – being part of a like-minded group with similar goals is an essential ingredient in achieving long-term change. The social environment of the workplace is the perfect situation for most people to undertake a habit change. The employees are immersed for such a large volume of time each week in a social setting that is both supportive of good food choices and can hold them accountable when circumstances might otherwise see them make a poor choice.


Finally, poor nutrition is so endemic and the symptoms of poor nutrition so ubiquitous that an ancestral nutrition program is equally relevant to all employees. The organization doesn’t need to conduct an extensive biometric screening program, or gather HRAs that are notoriously difficult to engage employees in, to know who to target with an Ancestral Nutrition intervention. Everyone who participates will see dramatic health improvements. Employers can roll out an ancestral nutrition program en masse and implement the appropriate social infrastructure to engage whole teams or business units creating the social immersion necessary to drive behavior change long enough to reset habits. The health improvements employees see, when they adopt an ancestral approach to eating, such as weight loss and renewed energy emerge quickly which maintains the momentum of the program long after workshops conclude and ensure its long-term effectiveness.