As you may know, I have the privilege of leading Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Wisconsin plan, an organization that offers leading health and wellness products. And while I’ve spent the majority of my career in health care, I have struggled with my own health journey. Let me take you back approximately 10 years when I woke up and realized I was only paying lip service to the belief in health and wellness that my company holds.
It was mid-morning on New Year’s Day 2006, and I was in the kitchen prepping food for our New Year’s party. My wife, Wendy, had turned on an all-day marathon of a show I had never heard of before called “The Biggest Loser.” I was immediately sucked in to the drama of these contestants who were competing to lose the highest percent of their body fat.
During a commercial break, I cracked open a Coke (of course not diet) and checked on my bratwurst. As I looked at the food I was about to eat, I thought about my own health. I had recently gone in for my annual physical. My numbers were off the chart – and not in a good way.
Numbers don’t lie. I was an overweight, pre-hypertensive executive with a cholesterol problem on the road to Type II diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle with a pattern of over-eating had landed me here. It was hard to think about how I could be healthy again. But as I watched “The Biggest Loser” unfold, I was astonished at the results. Two trainers helped fourteen contestants lose a collective 1,400 pounds. No pills… No surgery… No fad diets… They achieved this together through activity, nutrition and encouragement.
As a leader in health care, I was inspired to change. After all, how can we ask our employees, or our plan members, to change their habits to become healthier if those of us at the top of the organizational structure can’t do it ourselves? I focused on good nutrition, made exercise a priority, and did many small things that had an impact on my overall health. I am now in the best health I’ve been for the last 20 years. And I realized that health affects everything – your quality of life, your emotional and mental well-being, relationships, work, and finances – even what you do for fun. Good health matters.
Even more than just changing myself, as a leader, I want to inspire others to embrace wellness. I’ve taken this goal seriously with my own team, incorporating healthy lunches and snacks at meetings, running during breaks despite my busy workday, and even giving personal training sessions for gifts.
If you want to inspire change at your company, I think winter is a great time to start. Why? First, because we all can use some extra encouragement to keep moving once the snow starts flying. Second, because wellness is a lifestyle. You can’t just “put it away” for a quarter of the year and expect to suddenly become healthy again in the spring. Rather, view winter as a challenge – make it through and you’re well on your way to a whole new you.
Good health is contagious, and little choices can make a big impact. Join me in spreading a healthy living message to everyone you know. It’s not hard to do. An easy way to get started is to take a look at these 52 hints to stay healthy – and pass them on!