Tackling a weighty issue

By Angela Dorizas

If you’re not watching your weight, you’re gaining weight.

That’s the mantra of Scott Penn, founder and chairman of online weight-loss program provider, SP Health, and former chief executive of Weight Watchers Australasia.

The weight loss guru has thrown down the gauntlet to government leaders to tackle obesity at a workplace level.

“If we need Australians to be moving more and watching their weight, we have to lead by example,” Penn tells Government News.

“Government leaders have to be setting examples for the rest of the community.”

Penn says changes to the calorie content and energy density of food, combined with a sedentary workforce, has created an obesity epidemic.

“From a pure energy perspective, we are consuming about 83 calories a day more than we need,” he says.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but it can cause a four kilogram weight gain on an annual basis. Weight creep is how I define it.”

With 70 per cent of Australians now classified as ‘sedentary’ or ‘low active’, the challenge is to get employees active again.

“The number one thing we have to do is to get people moving again,” Penn says.

He says management should begin by discouraging office workers from eating at their desks and instead motivate them towards taking regular walks outside.

Employers should also consider introducing online health checks, face-to-face interventions, online weight loss programs, fresh fruit deliveries and subsidised gym memberships.

“There needs to be a range of interventions, so on the whole everyone is having a chance to participate,” Penn says.

“The worst thing you can do is have a one size fits all approach and mandate that it’s compulsory – all that is going to do is turn people off.

“What you need to do is have empathy with your staff and make sure that you are providing a range of solutions that can cater to all.”

Penn says managers must also be actively involved in workplace health programs.

“There’s no question that managers need to be role models for their staff,” he says.

“If management is leading by example, then that is certainly going to set the right tone in an organisation.”

Workplace interventions not only trim the fat on employee waistlines, they also improve the bottom line of the organisation.

Penn says the statistics overwhelming show that healthier employees are more productive.

“Healthier employees are going to be more driven to make a difference in the office and they’re going to get better results,” he says.

“There will be less absenteeism, which ultimately will improve the bottom line of the organisation.”

Read the full story in the October/November issue of Government News magazine.

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