Gaming the System

couchpotato

Portrait of the Author in Repose

So it’s the beginning of a new year, and Paul’s employer has teamed up with Virgin HealthMiles to encourage their employees and their families to “Be Healthy”.

What a crock.

You sign up and they send you a pedometer that will track the number of steps that you take each day. According to them, the more steps you take, the more weight you will lose, and the healthier you will be. And if you take enough steps each day, at the end of the year, the company will credit you with $100 toward your Health Insurance Deductible.

Which is good, because our health insurance payments went up $100 a month (even though Obama promised they wouldn’t).

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GoZone Pedometer
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There’s just one problem with Virgin’s GoZone pedometer and the HealthMiles program – there is absolutely NO WAY that they can tell who is doing the “exercise”. All a person has to do is plug the darn thing in at the end of the day, and the computer will come up with some number (which appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the number on the pedometer).

As far as GoZone is concerned, yesterday I took 2031 steps.

In actuality, I sat on my fat rear end all day, and let Bailey the Wonder Dog do all of my exercise for me. I just attached the pedometer to her collar and surfed the Internet – after a couple of hours, she had racked up over 700 steps.

Bailey 06-11

Good Doggie!

Then, I took the device off of her collar (which added about 50 more “steps”), and just to see what qualified as a step, I swung the device back and forth for a couple of minutes – which added another 533 “steps”.

All of these “fitness experts” seem not to have been paying attention in science class when Newton’s First Law of Motion was being taught:

An object that is at rest will stay at rest.

And I would like to add a little something that I’m gonna call The Koch Corollary:

If there is a way to get around the system, you can bet that a halfway clever person will find it and take advantage of it.

What I really want to know is just how much all of these companies are spending on this program to “save” them money – and how much their employees are paying out of their own pockets to make their company feel like they are “doing something”….

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Richard-Branson.
….when all they are really doing is making Richard Branson richer.
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About Teresa in Fort Worth, TX

A short, fat, middle-aged, happily-married, mother of 4 daughters. A former high school valedictorian (way back in the Stone Age), a Civil Engineering major in college, a middle-of-the-road Conservative, and a moderate Methodist. I know just enough to get myself in trouble....
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13 Responses to Gaming the System

  1. Haha, the same evil plan popped into my head when I read that they sent a pedometer! Of course, I would have racked up a couple hundred points just laughing at “Portrait of the Author in Repose”, I personally would have had my five kids take turns wearing it throughout the day, since we don’t have a dog.

    Welcome to the brave new world of Affordable Health Care! It sucks, but At Least We’re Doing Something (TM)!!!

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  2. Jess Z says:

    Well, I’d prefer a pedometer over my husband’s employer deciding we all require a “weight coach” to see every month. If we are considered overweight by the coach’s Ideal Height and Weight Chart, then we will be fined $25 a month per person each month. As an 18 week, petite pregnant woman, I am curious how this will work for us since there were no exceptions to this new policy, and I have gained about 8 lbs at this point. I’d like to see how I am supposed to “lose the weight” to meet the healthier lifestyle they are mandatorily encouraging. Not only did our insurance costs increase (and we are no longer allowed to use Costco or Walgreens, but strictly Medco mail-in pharmacy), we will be penalized each month. We’re wondering if we’re better off without insurance and taking the “cash discount” my OB and hospital give to the uninsured.

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    • First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! I’m sure you must be excited –

      I would imagine you – and other employees – would have merit to bring a discrimination lawsuit against your company, if things get to be too draconian. I seriously doubt that any employer would be allowed to charge a penalty for an employee (or family member) being overweight – that crosses the line into personal liberties.

      The last time I checked, being overweight is not a crime. And anyone who thinks that it adversely affects health needs to ask themselves how long people with cancer survive (in most cases less than 5 years) vs. how long overweight people live with their condition (in most cases 30 years or more). On the flip side, though, towards the end most of those cancer patients probably score really well on the “Height vs. Weight” charts – I bet their BMIs are to die for (“Lord, I apologize – and bless all of those pygmies in New Zealand….”).

      Let’s not forget that less than 300 years ago, “conventional medical wisdom” decreed that the surest cure for whatever ailed a patient was bloodletting – every enlightened person KNEW that getting rid of all of that blood was guaranteed to get rid of the evils residing in the body. And before that, anyone with a lick of education knew that things like bubonic plague were passed through ill vapors riding in the wind; those crackpots with their theories about germs and bacteria were nothing more than charlatans.

      Someone needs to remind these idiots that the number one leading cause of death is BIRTH….

      And oh, my stars and garters, dear! Don’t you realize that thanks to the great and powerful O(bama), you aren’t allowed to go without insurance? From now on, there will be no such entity as someone who is “uninsured” – they will simply get “free” healthcare, thanks to the benevolent government taking money from those who make the most and distributing it to those who will vote for politicians who will continue to fleece those who won’t vote for them.

      It’s a “tax”, but none dare call it that……

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  3. The Queen says:

    I am trying to imagine the pedometer on one of my cats when the two of them get to playing chase- I could win a major award for “steps”. I tried a pedometer once, but it counted a step when I stepped on the gas pedal or brakes. That was just too silly!

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  4. I would get the pedometer and put it on one dog, and put a treat on the other dog.

    THAT would be fun 😀

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  5. gerry says:

    You are spectacularly deluding yourself if you believe that being overweight does not adversely affect your health. As the saying goes, you can have your own opinions but not your own facts.

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    • Whose “facts”?

      Seriously – unless you take the time to go to medical sites and study ALL of the research out there (which I do, simply because it interests me a great deal), then the “facts” that you take as gospel truth are merely the ones that have made it through a filter of thousands upon thousands of people, each with their own interpretation of what they have read.

      Do you honestly think that any of the talking heads have a basic grasp of the science behind the studies? If they did, they wouldn’t be reading words off of a teleprompter.

      Having read the studies myself, and having taken the time to sit and think – REALLY think – about all of this, I have come to believe that it is actually the other way around.

      I think – and again, this is just from me being an analytical person who is constantly gathering a lot of information from a lot of different sources – that the reason that people get fat is because there is something wrong with their immune system.

      It just might be that being fat doesn’t make you sick, but rather that having a dysfunctional immune system is what makes you fat.

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    • That was brought home to me quite forcefully on two separate occasions over the past 4 years – the first when our youngest daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (and I ran across an allergy test that had been done on me when I was 9 which indicated that I am allergic to wheat), and the second when I was put on a high dosage of steroids for a week for some medical tests to be run (I have Myasthenia Gravis and have to be very careful with contrast dyes).

      After our daughter’s CD diagnosis, it was easier to make our entire house gluten free – no wheat, barley, or rye. At the time, I didn’t know about the allergy test from my childhood, so I was surprised to discover that when I eliminated those ingredients from my diet, I not only started feeling better, I also started feeling FULL. In one year – changing NOTHING ELSE in my diet – I lost 40 pounds.

      I still drank Cokes, still ate candy, still ate starches; the only things I didn’t eat were wheat, barley, and rye (I also didn’t exercise at all, yet my muscles became MUCH stronger).

      I think that my immune system had been expending all of its energy trying to rid my body of all of the wheat that I had been consuming all my life (I had terrible allergies which literally disappeared when I went gluten-free, as well as arthritis which went away practically overnight). I don’t know WHY I ate so much – it could be that my body thought that it needed more fuel to boost my immune system, or it could be that in concentrating all of its energy on fighting the effects of what was quite literally a toxin, there wasn’t anything left to keep the metabolic system in balance.

      In 2010, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis – something I have probably had for over 25 years – and I had to go on low-level steroids to try to stop the progression of the disease. Fortunately, below 20 mg, most steroids don’t have the well-known side effects that are seen in people on higher dosages. Unfortunately, my weight loss stopped dead in its tracks.

      A few months after that, I needed a CAT scan. People with MG can have very adverse reactions to the iodine in contrast dye, but the test was needed to rule some things out, so my doctors decided to use a short course of high-dosage steroids to counteract the effects of the dye.

      For two weeks afterward, if food wasn’t nailed down, I was eating it – and it was completely and utterly “involuntary” on my part; I was HUNGRY, and the only change that had been made was the addition of steroids – IMMUNOSUPPRESSANT drugs – to my system.

      Ask any cancer patient, and they will tell you that their doctors refer to steroids as “fat pills” – people who had no weight issues before, all of a sudden are gaining weight like there is no tomorrow.

      And that’s when it hit me – what if people are overweight BECAUSE their immune systems are out of whack? Is it possible that all of the “experts” have it completely backward? One of the hallmarks of scientific intelligence is that you don’t close your mind to possibilities that don’t conform to “conventional wisdom”.

      I encourage you to ponder all of this before you accuse me of being deluded, and I ask you to take into consideration that the “experts” are also expressing their OPINIONS – they aren’t “facts” until they have been proven after years and years of experiments by many different researchers who all get the same results with very little deviation.

      To the best of my knowledge, that hasn’t happened – in fact, scientific knowledge is always evolving as more information comes to light.

      Five hundred years ago, the “experts” all agreed that the Earth was the center of the universe…..

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  6. gerry says:

    Sometimes a little bit of knowledge (and internet access) is worse than none at all. I’m glad you’ve taken time to go to “medical sites” and that you believe you’ve studied “ALL the research out there.” Unfortunately, that’s about as illuminating as Sarah Palin reading all the publications that have been put in front of her over the years. You know…”various ones…all of them.”

    If, on the other hand, you’d used all that time and energy to go to medical SCHOOL and become a physician, you’d probably understand that the body of our medical knowledge amounts to slightly more than a filter of thousands upon thousands of people, each with their own interpretations. Fortunately for us, and you, given your experience with the medical community, these professionals are also slightly more than “talking heads” with little grasp of issues. They are DOCTORS, scientists, and researchers.

    Thus, I would suggest that you offer your theory to one of these fine folks. Perhaps they could help explain a few basics. Of course, you never know. You could be right and the world’s best minds wrong. But, my advice is not to bet on it.

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    • The “medical sites” that I go to are places like NCBI and the like – and, yes, whenever possible I actually take the time to read the ENTIRE study, as it was published.

      And when I said “talking heads”, I was referring to the fact that by the time information gets to us peons down here in TV land, the “information” has been culled down to a few choice words and phrases which a newsroom thinks will get the audience’s attention and bring up their ratings (and no matter how “intuitive” it may seem, eating fat does not make a person fat – and yes, there are plenty of studies which definitively prove that point; unfortunately, people with Journalism degrees think that they know science better than scientific researchers).

      Funny thing – even though there is a study out there from 2009 which demonstrates what appears to be a very STRONG link between consuming artificial sweeteners and the risk (67%) of developing Type II Diabetes, to this day I haven’t heard one word in the media about it. The researchers pulled already existing data from the well-respected MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) study, which was conducted over 6 years with more than 6,000 subjects from centers all across the nation.

      The authors of that study were trying to prove a link between sugar use and diabetes – unfortunately, that risk DOES NOT EXIST, and the numbers kept bearing that out over and over and over. Even at the end of their paper, the researchers appeared to insist that they “needed to do more studies”, because they doubted the results which were very clearly staring them in the face.

      Of course, since that study was never mentioned anywhere EXCEPT the medical sites, nobody has heard of it – after all, it defies the conventional “wisdom”, so it must be wrong. Unfortunately, the facts don’t lie, no matter how inconvenient they may be – but if nobody talks about them, then they just stay buried.

      I actually started college with the intent to go to medical school, but there wasn’t enough math to keep me interested, so I ended up transferring to Engineering School instead (where my love of both math and science were more than satisfied). But the reason I wanted to go to medical school is because I found science incredibly interesting; still do, and I still read voraciously on medical topics.

      If you think that the “world’s best minds” are the ones whose message is the one getting out to the public, you need to spend a little time immersed in the halls of scientific academia – electoral politics have NOTHING on academic politics.

      And just remember that at one time the “world’s best minds” thought that bloodletting was the cure for any number of ills, and that the Earth was the center of the universe – despite what all of the rest of the scientific field knew to be true.

      Before you decide to denigrate me further, please do enlighten me – what, exactly, are your credentials? What do you do for a living, and what did you study in college? How much research have you done on this subject, or do you just take it as gospel fact that what someone on TV tells you is the end-all, be-all?

      And most importantly of all, have you ever stopped to consider that maybe all of the “experts” are wrong? (Galileo did, and look where it got him….) If they aren’t asking relevant questions, they are never going to find the “right” answers – a scientific study is only as good as the people who are conducting it.

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