5 simple things to support every body type, in the office today

blog corporate health & wellbeing ozempic weight inclusivity weight management workplace wellbeing May 01, 2024

With close to half of the world’s population expected to be overweight or obese by 2030 (World Obesity Federation), demand for weight loss solutions is surging!

I thought it was an important topic to discuss further after we touched on the issue in our INSIDE Workplace Wellbeing podcast episode with Be Fit Food Founder and Dietitian, Kate Save. If you missed that episode, be sure to save it to your podcast platform to catch-up on it later.

 Here are my thoughts on 3 key reflections I identified after my discussion with Kate:

  1.  The first relates to the current intermittent supply issues surrounding GLP-1 Medications (that’s the magic ingredient in Ozempic that everyone’s talking about). It is challenging even the most seasoned of dieters to maintain consistency when pursing goals associated with their health and weight. My fear is that this yo-yo impact on weight could be doing more harm than good for those using the medications.  It highlights a huge need to provide multidisciplinary healthcare support to every individual taking these medications, to ensure they can maintain muscle mass and avoid malnutrition during periods of rapid weight loss and periods of intermittent medication supply.
  2. The second reflection was the need to broaden the lens and shift the focus from a weight focus to a health focus in this discussion. I believe this is essential to help remove the stigma associated with weight and body-shaming, and help people get started on a journey to health and wellbeing, which is tailored to their individual needs.
  3. And thirdly, I reflected on the impact of all of this in the workplace and how we need to shape the workplace environment to be one of 'weight inclusivity' and support.

 There’s no question that the discovery of Semaglutide, better known as Ozempic, has been a game changer for those struggling with diabetes and long-term weight management.

These medications have an ability to quieten the ‘food noise’ in the brain and reduce the feeling of persistent hunger.  If we put the side-effects aside, one important discussion that appears to have been overlooked in the media, is the importance of food in the whole equation.

If you believed what you read, you would think that all you need to do is ‘pop that magic pill’ and all your health woes and weight problems will be resolved, regardless of what you eat.

But it is clearly not that simplistic.

So, the first consideration that I am proposing is the establishment of a healthcare team, including a dietitian, to provide expertise on the role food and nutrition for every person taking these weight loss medications. This is not only important when someone is on the medications but important when they are coming off the medications, to maintain the weight loss and health gains that they have achieved whilst they are on the medications.

It is also important because, for many people pursuing weight loss, the risk of malnutrition is real.

Let me explain …If you are someone taking these medications your appetite will be reduced, you are potentially eating less often across the day, and you might be trying to manage side effects like nausea,….. so, it is easy to see how your food choices can become limited and imbalanced over time.

When we look at the impact of this, it means that the nutrients available to your body for health and maintaining your muscle for a healthy metabolism, are reduced. And then, If we add to that, the intermittent supply of the medications, it is easy to see why so many people taking the medications are suffering with yo-yo weight loss and regain.

So, if supply wasn’t an issue, could you stay on Ozempic forever?

Well, that is the suggestion, but a new report has found that 2 out of 3 people on these GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic stop taking them within 12-months of starting. Whether it is to do with side effects, missing the joy of eating or cost, … what happens next when these drugs are stopped, is really the key consideration.

My second reflection focuses more strongly on the health aspect than weight, as contrary to popular belief, our goal as dietitians is to support health at any weight. We also know that there is so much more involved in weight than poor food choices. Genetics for one, influences individual differences in hunger signals or the lack of sensitivity to fullness hormones. So, focusing our attention on the things we can influence and control – like learning mindset and behaviour change strategies, how to eat to support health and satiety, as well as maintain muscle mass are more important than any number on a scale.

We also know that a typical reduced-calorie weight loss diet results in some muscle mass loss of up to 25% but the rapid weight loss on these medications can increase that to 40%!

Ensuring adequate protein is included in the diet, together with a resistance training program, with an exercise physiologist, is key for anyone considering taking these drugs if the benefits are to be sustained.

When we look at broader health circles, all the noise relates to building and maintaining muscle as we age, and for very good reason. It is to assist with strength and mobility, reduce our risk of falls and help us lead a long, healthy, and productive life. Taking weight loss drugs, unsupported by dietary and lifestyle interventions, could be considered contrary to that.

It also begs the question “Why are we all so obsessed with losing weight and being thin, anyway?” It is an important reflection, particularly in the context of the workplace, which brings me to my third reflection.

We spend a large portion of our day at work and the environment plays a key role in our health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, what is all too commonly observed is comments on appearance which need to be called out, judgements around eating behaviours which are rife and the environment is typically unsupportive of managing healthy eating.

So, as promised, here are 5 simple things we can all do to help support the health of every person, regardless of body type, in the office today:

  1. Make sure you’re having discussions about weight inclusivity in the workplace. Identify the stakeholders who can help you improve your policies and procedures to make sure they’re not only sensitive, but also accessible to employees of all body types.
  2. Focus attention on improving healthy food options. Fruit bowls are always a winner when it comes to workplace nutrition. Fruit is not only portable (which means they can be eaten on the go) but they’re also packed with nutrients. Seasonal fruit can sometimes help you switch things up and win over the crowd – this might look like stone fruit or mangoes in the warmer months, if budget permits. 
  1. Review workplace catering and if packaged snacks are an important provision for your team, explore healthier options such as nuts/ seeds, bliss balls, mini-protein bars and popcorn which are all nice alternative to things like packaged chips and chocolate.  
  1. Celebrate birthdays once a month and invest in high quality cakes. Cakes made with healthier ingredients like almond meal, which can help us feel fuller faster, which means we only need smaller portions to feel satisfied. 
  1. And lastly build more incidental movement into your workplace culture. Consider the idea of ‘walking meetings’. As we schedule more and more virtual catch ups, consider times when we can do this over the phone with a wireless pair of audio pods that will allow us to walk while we talk. 

At the end of the day, we are fortunate to live in an age of research and rapid medical advancements. Trials on Semaglutide are ongoing and the results are promising for its positive effect on health, including inflammation reduction in the body, impact on heart attack and stroke risk and other emerging health conditions.

We’ll watch this frenzied space with intrigue and in the meantime, support you to change the conversation in your workplace to be more body inclusive and supportive of those using the weight-loss medications for better health outcomes.

Listen to the full podcast episode here

Nicole Dynan is Australia’s leading corporate nutrition expert and Gut Health Dietitian.