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Home » Uncategorized » In wellness, stupid is the new black.

In wellness, stupid is the new black.

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

A young friend of mine participated in his first wellness program recently.  Being too young and idealistic to understand how the wellness industry works, he actually thought he would learn something, so he didn’t lie on the health risk assessment. (I am not allowed to use the name of his company. He is not so young or idealistic not to realize that dissing his company’s eminently dissable wellness program could get him fired.)

Since he listed “diabetes” as his disease, he got a call from a coach to “help” him with it.  He was young and idealistic, so he answered the phone. She was very impressed with how well he managed it. His BMI is about 22, and his hobbies include basketball, which he played at the college level, and swimming.  She said if he kept this up, he might be able to get off insulin.

“Off insulin? I can’t get off insulin,” he replied.

“I’ve seen many people get off insulin,” she said.

It turned out that his diabetes coach had never heard of Type 1 diabetes. He spent the next 15 minutes explaining to her the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.  “Al, my company is billing out my time at $500/hour, I’m putting in 60-hour weeks…and spending my time explaining to diabetes coaches how diabetes works.”

If the people who run Schlumberger’s wellness program were actually producing drilling equipment, oil slicks would cover most of North Dakota by now.

Recently we observed what a fabulously stupid, pointless, counterproductive and harmful idea it was to run a crash-dieting contest.  We used HealthyWage as an example of a company that does this, and should be avoided.  We recommended doing wellness for employees instead of to them, by –to use one example — subsidizing gym memberships.

Schlumberger somehow interpreted this advice in a way which was the opposite of what was written. They signed up for an inter-corporate crash-dieting contest run by HealthyWage–which they financed by cancelling the employee gym membership subsidy.

A team from Schumberger was able to crash-diet their way to a highly precise 16.59% weight loss. That put them in a 6-way tie. Yes, 5 other teams also crash-dieted their way to a 16.59% weight loss.

The odds of 6 teams losing precisely the same amount of weight?  Suppose that a team can crash-diet its way to between a 10% and 20% weight loss.  As measured to 2 digits to the right of the decimal point, there would be a 1-in-1000 chance that two winning teams would achieve the same exact 16.59% weight loss. But six did. That’s a 1-in-1 quadrillion shot.

That means the odds of winning Powerball are about 1000 times better than the odds that HealthyWage knows how to read a scale.


  1. Samiam says:

    Gotcha! only FIVE companies were in the tie. So the odds are “only” one in a trillion that Healthywage can’t read a scale


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      whoa! Looks like one of our readers is paying attention–but not quite enough attention. Turns out, it isn’t a “gotcha.” Indeed, you are right in the narrowest sense: “only” five teams tied for first with a 16.59% weight loss. But there was a sixth team (Flab-U-Less, from an outfit called Technip) — that achieved a 16.59% weight loss, but somehow was only a runner-up. Not sure how that works.


  2. Sam says:

    Usually your commentary makes me cringe in a funny sort of way; but today…this is painful. A health coach who didn’t know what T1 diabetes was? I am going to start a petition to outlaw the use of the word wellness completely. Every HR person, every organization, that reads this should take note and think long and hard before entering into a contractual relationship for wellness services, as this type of service could actually HARM their employees.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      I can’t make this stuff up. I mean, if I were going to make it up, I would not have the imagination to come up with this. Remember, there are no rules, no regulations, and no oversight for wellness. Vendors can hire whoever they want, train them as little as they like, do whatever they want and sell whatever they can sell.

      PS If it’s any consolation, thanks to my friend, the coach does know what T1 diabetes is today. At least that particular coach does.


  3. Kristine says:

    I am not convinced that the entire wellness industry is a waste and I do know of instances where individuals have benefited from employer based health initiatives. However, if these stories are indeed true, they are very sad!


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Kristine, thanks for the comment. I would agree — certainly there are companies in the wellness field that are reputable and don’t cut corners by hiring unqualified people and not training them. However, there should be some minimum standard for wellness companies and wellness coaches, just like there is in the rest of healthcare.


      • Kristine says:

        Hard to argue with that- standards should be in place. Also, I just checked out Quizzify. I love the idea of using wellness as a way of making employees/individuals better healthcare consumers. I worked for a health insurance company that emphasized pricing transparency and shopping for treatment, but wellness was a completely separate department and I couldn’t get any traction in trying to blend the two. It makes perfect sense to me.


      • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

        (blushing) thank you!


  4. Tom Emerick says:

    You are the king of satire. Keep em coming.


In the immortal words of the great philosopher Pat Benatar, hit me with your best shot.

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