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How to help your employees shed the COVID 15 (or 20)

Closed gyms, comfort food and extra TV time: The past months in quarantine have proven to be a perfect storm for expanding our waistlines.

Advocate Aurora Health clinicians have anecdotally reported seeing more patients concerned about the weight they’ve gained since March.

“As routines have been disrupted, people are staying at home and many are suffering from increased anxiety, we’ve all seen how easy it is to gain five, 10—even 20 pounds during the pandemic,” says Dr. Ibe Mbanu, senior medical director at Advocate Aurora Health. 

At the same time, physicals and other medical appointments that can serve as motivation to maintain healthy habits by checking weight, blood pressure and cholesterol have been postponed, making it easier to ignore extra pounds.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has added an extra layer of fear to weight-related health concerns. Research increasingly shows that weight is a profound risk factor for becoming seriously ill or dying from the coronavirus. 

Being obese doubles the risk of needing hospital treatment for COVID-19 and increases the risk of dying by nearly 50 percent, according to a recent global analysis of nearly 400,000 patients by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Similarly, researchers at Columbia University found that COVID-19 patients who were extremely obese—defined as a BMI of 40 or more—were 60 percent more likely to require ventilation or to die from the virus.

While these statistics underscore the importance of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, we know that fear and shame aren’t effective weight loss tools. 

Efforts to help employees lose weight should avoid invoking scary statistics and instead focus on the positive aspects of establishing healthy habits with support from colleagues and loved ones. 

“Celebrating non-scale victories, whether it’s hitting your goal of eating five servings of vegetables every day or logging more steps in a week, can be more successful in sustaining motivation than focusing only on weight,” saidMbanu. 

This is where corporate health coaches come in. Using evidence-based methods, trained coaches can provide education and support in the work setting that address the emotional, social and environmental aspects of weight management. 

From helping individual employees set attainable goals to leading support groups in which colleagues can celebrate success and commiserate over challenges, health coaching provides support that has been clinically proven to improve results.

To discover customized wellness solutions for your organization, check out Advocate Aurora Health’s Employer Solutions. We also offer employer clinics, EAPs, occupational health and executive health programs to help you help your employees—because we’re all in this together.

Advocate Aurora Health is one of the 10 largest not-for-profit, integrated health systems in the United States and a leading Midwest employer with 75,000 employees and the region’s largest employed medical staff and home health organization. The system serves nearly 3 million patients annually in Illinois and Wisconsin.

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Advocate Aurora Health is one of the 10 largest not-for-profit, integrated health systems in the United States and a leading employer in the Midwest with 75,000 employees, including more than 22,000 nurses and the region’s largest employed medical staff and home health organization. A national leader in clinical innovation, health outcomes, consumer experience and value-based care, the system serves nearly 3 million patients annually in Illinois and Wisconsin across more than 500 sites of care. Advocate Aurora is engaged in hundreds of clinical trials and research studies and is nationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology, neurosciences, oncology and pediatrics. The organization contributed $2.1 billion in charitable care and services to its communities in 2018. We help people live well.

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