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New Year, New Weight Loss "Challenge"? Not So Fast...

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

This is the sixth installment of December's countdown of Quizzify's Greatest Hits.


You've heard about the Consolidated Appropriations Act requiring employers to assume fiduciary responsibility with regards to their health benefit. One such responsibility is not harming employees with eating disorders by paying employees to lose weight (or fining them if they don't) within the context of the health benefit.

What follows are the first-person stories of employees who were harmed by employer weight-loss programs.

Imagine if you were a recovering alcoholic. You hadn’t taken a drink in quite some time, attended AA meetings conscientiously, and were getting on with your life. Then your employer had a drinking contest and told you that you weren’t drinking enough. Further, if you failed to drink more, you would be fined. So you need to start drinking again…or else!

Preposterous? Yes—but that is exactly what people with eating disorders (ED) are forced to endure in many wellness programs. They are urged to eat less, and docked points or money if they don’t. Most importantly, they are shamed into relapses by vendors who have no idea the harm they’re causing—and who have no desire to spend money to train their employees to avoid them.

Yet, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness not involving substance abuse, killing one victim every 62 minutes. You will see from the four stories below that workplace wellness can actually exacerbate the problem, causing eating disorder relapses, and sometimes hospital admissions. (As a percentage of total admissions, hospital admissions for anorexia in the commercially insured population have climbed 17% since 2000, despite the vast increase in outpatient and residential treatment options.) While it has been proven that wellness programs have had no impact nationally on admissions for diabetes and heart attacks, it is apparent that the same can’t be said for anorexia nervosa.

Here are 4 testimonials from wellness program participants with a history of eating disorders. In all cases, non-participation would have resulted in fines or forfeitures up to $2470, which explains why these folks felt compelled to participate in these “voluntary” programs.

(Special thanks to Chevese Turner and her colleagues for her assistance, and guidance in understanding eating disorders, and to Jennifer Mathis for helping these individuals organize their stories and describe the impact that their wellness programs had on their lives. Testimonials are edited for content and full versions can be found here.)


My dietitian wrote a letter urging that I not be weighed or have my body mass index measured by the program, as that would be detrimental to the progress that I had made under her care.

The wellness program nurse read the letter but proceeded to weigh me and—despite my stepping on the scale backward so I would not see my weight—she announced how much I weighed and what my body mass index was. She remarked that “it wouldn’t hurt you to enroll in our healthy eating program.” This is precisely the type of trigger that my treatment—and the treatment of people with similar eating disorders—is designed to avoid. She was telling me I was fat—exactly what I needed to hear to stop eating again.

After this incident, I stopped eating for two weeks and ultimately ended up in an intensive outpatient treatment program.


I had taken a leave of absence after a suicide attempt and inpatient treatment for chronic depression and anorexia nervosa. I had gained a few pounds and my depression had stabilized, and I was looking forward to returning to work I found meaningful.