You Can’t Hide from the Doughnuts!


Whenever I travel, I find my eating habits significantly challenged. I recently discovered a reasonably acceptable on-the-go breakfast, only to discover this weekend that the “Starbucks” in my hotel didn’t serve the damned things! Grumble, grumble.

So Saturday morning I stood in line staring at the muffins, cakes, and doughnuts in the pastry case and thinking, “If I eat this crap, I have to go for a run—on my vacation. And if I eat this crap, I won’t feel like running. I’m screwed.” Fortunately, they did have oatmeal. So I didn’t go off the deep-end with my eating habits.

I mentioned my frustration when I sat down to eat my oatmeal with my friends. And then I steered the conversation towards my recent light reading material from the plane ride up – emerging healthcare trends resulting from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I have wonderful friends to indulge me in my obsessive fascination with the PPACA over coffee on a Saturday morning!

At this point in their careers, most of my friends are managers or leaders of some sort in their various lines of work—so I pretended I was doing them a favor by making them consider this.

One friend, let’s call her Bernice, spoke pretty candidly about her frustration with her overweight diabetic co-workers who regularly bring in doughnuts for each other, never pass up dessert at lunch, and routinely max out their sick leave sometimes before the year is even over. We all politely agreed that to some extent it’s none of our business if Rebecca in accounting orders a cookie every day at lunch. But we also agreed that we shouldn’t bear the cost of her nutrition and health decisions, especially if we’re all paying into the same collective healthcare pool.

It’s a dicey situation. We believe in freedom of choice, but we also believe in personal responsibility.

The question I then posed to our group is “how do you create a culture of wellness in your office? How do you stop teaching people that doughnuts=rewards? And instead teach them that walking to lunch or eating a healthy breakfast is a better behavior?”

When I was part of the Michelin team at Aon Hewitt, I marveled at their commitment not just to creating wellness programs but to marketing them through some pretty creative channels.

Most impressive to me was their use of vending machines to market their wellness brand. They didn’t just put a poster in the break room with a generic “eat right” message. They actually labeled the snacks INSIDE the machines with their wellness program’s logo (a healthy green apple). It was undeniable what Michelin wanted employees to choose when that next junk food craving struck. They drove the message home all the way down to the very point of decision where employees purchased snacks daily.

Healthy people are made one small decision after another. That’s how habits, lifestyles, and cultures emerge.

Michelin has figured this out. And they have made a significant investment in shaping their culture through communications that intercept employees at the very point where they’re most likely to go off-track with their wellness goals.

What simple changes or additions to your communications plan have helped transform the health of your workplace? Tell us in the comments section below!