Whole Foods Punishes Fat People

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Undeterred by the epic controversy he sparked this summer over health care reform, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is diving into public health solutions once again. The new plan: punish fat people. That at least is the way outraged critics see it. The plan, in fact, proposes to give graduated Whole Foods employee discounts based on BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and nicotine use. "Healthier" individuals will be eligible for greater discounts. Those reacting to the announcement don't even know where to start on problems with the plan:

  • All Right Then "If your BMI is above 30," explains Anna North at feminist women's online magazine Jezebel, which broke the story, "you'll get to keep the original 20% employee discount, but you'll paying more than your thinner co-workers, who can knock as much as 30% off. Because if public health research has taught us anything, it's that reducing people's buying power totally makes them healthier. Stay classy, Whole Foods."
  • Questionable Methodology Using BMI "could ensnare workers with a higher-than-average BMI, like athletes with increased muscle mass," points out Katie Drummond at AOL. "And there's the irony that controlling discounts based on health means that fresh, natural, nutritious food becomes less accessible to those same staffers who ... need it the most."
  • Yeah--What About Genetics? "I have low blood pressure (good low blood pressure) but it's not because of anything I've ever done," writes Americablog's John Aravosis. Also, "what does the Americans with Disabilities Act have to say about employers who decrease employee benefits based on their physical maladies (high blood pressure and high cholesterol)?"
  • Fantastic Way to Encourage Anorexia and Obesity at Once Law professor Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money goes to town, pointing out both that people of "normal" BMI actually have a greater mortality risk than those in the slightly heavier range, and that the lack of"floor" to the discounts will effectively tell any anorexics they're still healthy. He also adds some punch to the common refrain on the matter: "Even if one decides to enter John Mackey's Epidemiological Fantasyland, where good health is achieved by purchasing $27 a pound Ahi tuna in order to achieve Optimal Thinness, how much sense does it make to make it more expensive for your non-thin employees to purchase said tuna?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.