Outwitting oneself and wellness coach

It’s annual wellness program time at work. My employer receives a health insurance price break based on the number of employees shown to be participating in wellness activities. Employees who play along with the system receive medical reimbursement account deposits, presumably to pay for treating illnesses that have remained immune to their wellness efforts.

The whole process amuses me because some people enroll in the program simply to earn the extra medical reimbursement dollars. Other than undertaking the exercise of showing up at various educational presentations, they have no intention of doing anything extra in the name of wellness. They would be me.

To earn maximum wellness program reimbursement, I am told to meet with the program’s health educator for a series of wellness coaching sessions. I begrudgingly make an appointment because I want the money to help cover co-pays from my recent surgery.

Mark (a composite of all wellness coaches) is a nice enough guy. Too nice. He’s one of those perpetually wet behind the ears people who doesn’t have a clue as to what the rest of the world is going through outside of his own well-ordered universe.

Entry-level health educator positions always seem to be inhabited by freshly graduated, unmarried, childless Mark clones who still have enough time, energy, money, and enthusiasm to maintain their physiques and the sanitized bubble in which they live.

Their enthusiasm is especially annoying. These life puppies are so immune to rabid reality they wouldn’t catch a case of it even if it bit them on the butt and broke the skin. Their chief crime is being the way the rest of us used to be at the start of our careers. So they must be punished accordingly.

Mark reminds me vaguely of me before life caught up and gave me a good shaking. Shake-N-Bake, hard knocks flavor. His very existence provokes. I instantly know he’s someone I’m going to have to mess with. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, except I’d give the cod better odds.

Nothing in Mark’s recent college grad playbook has prepared him for the likes of me. My understated cynicism, dishonest honesty, and straight-faced sarcasm in the face of his idealism make me wonder how many life veterans I similarly annoyed when I was 23. 

Our coaching sessions go something like this:

Mark asks if I received by e-mail the results of my wellness profile. Affirmative. And what wellness areas do I need to improve? Weight loss and exercise. How am I progressing toward those goals? I tell him I recently lost two pounds, but neglect to mention it was due to the surgical removal of a couple of organs and the pre-surgery dose of laxative.

I also take credit for another lost pound through slightly more legitimate means, explaining it happened not through gym membership, but through a Red Cross blood drive. My “exercise” consisted of squeezing a little red ball with my hand.

Other improved behaviors I report include parking further from the door of my favorite cappuccino shop (a practice I say I repeated during a bagel run), foregoing free popcorn refills at the movies, giving up baklava following the recent nut-related salmonella scare, and switching from beer to olive-garnished martinis in an effort to incorporate more green veggies into my diet.

Oh, and I’ve also started suggesting more athletic Kama Sutra positions while engaging in my lunchtime affair with a married co-worker. Plus, we always park at the far end of the motel parking lot.

“Well,” replies unfailingly upbeat, yet totally missing the mark Mark, “All those little steps add up over time. You should be proud of yourself.”

Finally I unveil my only truthful bit of wellness: I have started eating broccoli for breakfast. I purchase four-pound bags of it from Sam’s Club and microwave two to three cups of the stuff daily for munching on my drive to work. I view breakfast broccoli as an insurance policy against whatever else might go wrong nutritionally the rest of the day.

“Sounds good except for the broccoli,” Mark shudders, finally coming to life while typing my new info into his laptop computer. “It might be healthy, but it doesn’t seem very sustainable.”

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