The vending machine may not be as quite as popular these days at Consolidated Planning Inc. in SouthPark.
Almost half of the company’s 70 employees recently completed an eight-week health and nutrition course, and company leaders say it had better attendance and a bigger impact than they anticipated.
Employees are stocking their desk drawers with healthy snacks. They talk about their latest healthy food find from Trader Joe’s in the break room. They joke that orders with chips and cookies for a company function could offer healthier options.
“I think it resonated with us,” said James Mathis, director of marketing and community affairs for Consolidated Planning, an agency of Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America.
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Mathis said he and Consolidated Planning CEO Andy Brincefield always are looking for ways to “take care of our people.”
“We’ve built a culture here of that, so we look for opportunities,” Mathis said.
He and Brincefield had discussed health and wellness and decided to call Nadia Miller, a registered nurse, certified health coach and friend of Brincefield.
Miller said that when she began teaching health education, she made herself her first client, losing weight through healthier eating and exercise.
“I then made it my intention to help as many people as I could who were also struggling with their health and wellness,” Miller said in a statement.
Miller led sessions in a Consolidated Planning conference room at 11 a.m. Wednesdays.
Mathis was hoping that 10 or 12 employees would attend; 33 signed up.
Each session, Miller taught the employees about an aspect of health they then could implement in the following weeks. Miller provided in-depth education about nutrition and how to make good food choices.
Some employees say single statements Miller made during the course stuck with them and led to changes in their lives.
For Senior Vice President Jeff Howard, 57, that statement was, “If you can’t recognize what it is on the label, neither can your body.”
“I have avoided certain foods because of this statement,” Howard said.
Mathis said the biggest takeaway for him was Miller’s suggestion to ask if a food he was about to eat came from a plant or was made in a plant. Miller illustrated the statement using a PowerPoint slide showing a vegetable and a manufacturing facility issuing smoke.
“That has stuck with me the entire time,” Mathis said. “I think we have an understanding innately that a lot of what we eat really isn’t very good for us. Wouldn’t it be great if you could make that decision?”
The day after Miller’s session on reading food labels, Mathis said, he spent an hour-and-a-half walking around a grocery store looking at labels. He now keeps a bag of pistachio nuts and cashews in his desk drawer to snack on.
Stephen Norris, 28, a financial adviser for Consolidated Planning, said he now pays attention to conditions in which livestock and plants used for food are raised.
“I also will not buy packaged foods unless I first read the ingredients list to make sure they do not contain anything harmful or that our bodies do not know how to process,” Norris said.
Employees said having the company provide Miller’s course proactively addresses their health issues and helps them feel better about themselves.
Having the course at work also made it easy to attend, Howard said.
Since the course at Consolidated Planning, several of Howard’s family members also are working with Miller, who said he would not have attended a health course on his own.
“I wouldn’t have known about this if it wasn’t for the opportunity I was given to attend.”