Just another blog of body acceptance, social critique, rambling rants, and anarchy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Whole Foods gives discounts for having a lower BMI

In the latest news story of thin privilege disguised as "health initiative," Whole Foods is giving its employees added discounts if they have a BMI below 30 (with discounts increasing as BMI decreases).  Their claim is that this will be both an incentive for their employees to be "healthier" and a way to lower their health care costs.  While they do use a few other markers of health (blood pressure, cholesterol and nicotine use) it appears that one must have a low enough BMI along with these other markers to qualify; meaning that an employee who is totally healthy, with good blood pressure and low cholesterol will not be able to take advantage of the discount.
Even if the BMI was a good marker of health (which it is NOT) I would still have huge problems with this initiative.  First of all if Whole Foods were actually trying to encourage their employees to make healthier choices they could do something like discounting healthier food options for everyone regardless of their current health or size. (ie. give the 30% discount for fruits and veggies while keeping the 20% for packaged foods like crackers and chips).  Secondly, what kind of health initiative rewards some people for the way their bodies happen to be even if they make no effort to be healthy,  while not providing the same rewards to  people who may be striving to live healthier lives but simply do not have bodies that conform to a particular standard.  Even if the BMI was a good indicator of potential future health problems this policy would still make no sense.  Imagine for a moment if those whose families had a history of heart disease or lung cancer (arguably far better predictors of future health complications than BMI) were disqualified from participating in such a "health" initiative, there would be outcry.  Finally the people in our society who have the least access to healthy foods, and are the most likely to be "overweight or obese" are people without much money.  While I applaud Whole Foods as an employer for providing health care to its employees this new initiative likely fails to provide the discount to the people who need it most.  

For more about the rediculousness of the BMI check out:





As a personal anecdote/example:   I am a vegan who eats a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains.  I ride my bike an average of 10 miles a day, often more, in addition to taking multiple dance classes a week, going swimming when it's nice out, and working a job that involves a lot of walking/running around.  I have never had any kind of serious health problem *knocks wood* and my blood pressure is just fine.   Oh and my BMI puts me squarely on the line between overweight and obese.

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