A Total Health Approach for Totally Different Results

By Sarah VanEerden, RDN

Organizations are seeing the benefit of wellness programming in establishing a culture of wellbeing and supporting the health of their employees and members. Many offer fitness reimbursements or access to gyms, nutrition programming and steps challenges to improve one’s physical health. However, wellbeing is complex, expanding far beyond the physical condition of the human body and is an ongoing endeavor that changes with the seasons of a person’s life. Webster’s Dictionary defines wellbeing as “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous,” which, when considered carefully, includes so much more than bodily health. 

The concept of wellbeing has ancient roots dating back to 3000 BC.. In the latter part of the twentieth century, at least in the mainstream, the definition narrowed to an imbalanced focus on weight and physical activity. Recently, holistic wellbeing concepts are resurfacing and trending as the medical and professional communities understand more about the facets of wellness.

The multidimensional aspect of wellness is now widely accepted in the scientific community, with models including anywhere from six to twelve dimensions of wellbeing, and this broadened approach has many benefits. While physical wellbeing is always one piece of the puzzle, other contributors to health include mental, emotional, social, spiritual, financial, and occupational wellness. Ultimately, wellbeing cannot be achieved by only focusing on physical health, and doing so will hinder engagement and stunt the impact of your wellness program.

Reasons to Intentionally Shift Focus to Total Wellbeing

Our culture has grown accustomed to wellbeing activities that include step and weight loss challenges. Diet culture touts short-term, restrictive diets and plans that include lists of “allowed” foods. An intentional move to a more holistic wellness approach will benefit not only your program but the individuals it serves as well.  

  • Total Wellbeing is More Inclusive

Broadening the language attached to your programs and events can invite a more diverse set of participants, allowing people of varying abilities, ages and fitness and confidence levels to participate. Recognizing that readiness to change varies for all people, offered solutions should feel approachable and customizable. 

  • Shame-based Behavior Change Doesn’t Work

The link between weight-based shame and depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders and exercise avoidance, outcomes that certainly diminish a person’s wellbeing, is well documented. Shifting to language like “energize your lunch” rather than “lighten up your lunch” can speak volumes when it comes to welcoming all bodies to the wellness table. Consider a nutrition program that teaches how to effectively plan meals rather than running another weight loss challenge to yield better results and build community faster.

  • Total Wellbeing is Proactive

Focusing on physical health is important; there’s no doubt about that. Research shows it is crucial to understand whether one’s blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar are within range or if they’re at levels that might elevate disease risk. Only focusing on physical health can lead to missed opportunities to be proactive about keeping biometrics at healthy levels. A total health approach can impact risk factors that, if addressed, could end up improving physical health measures, like elevated stress, poor sleep, and social isolation.

  • Looking Beyond Physical Health can Increase Compliance

Imagine: An overscheduled person that has been struggling with quality sleep joins a 4-week challenge that includes daily step goals and weekly weigh-ins as the only measure of success. They intend to participate but find it difficult to recruit the time and energy to complete the tasks, so they disengage during week two. Now, imagine a challenge that also includes nightly meditation, connecting with coworkers, or hitting hydration goals as ways to earn points. That same person may discover a way to complete the program, keep trying, and in turn, increase confidence to engage in the next wellness activity. While there’s no perfect formula, intentionally broadening the scope of wellbeing and including options for multiple dimensions of health can improve participation and program completion.

Vitality Acts on Total Wellbeing

  • Vitality’s reimagined challenges launched in 2023. The flexible and inclusive platform encourages camaraderie and excitement for both clients and members.
  • Vitality’s HealthyMind program focuses on sleep and meditation to support mental and emotional health.
  • We know physical health is an important aspect of wellbeing. The Vitality Check is a biometric assessment used to identify areas of health that are strongest and might need some focus. Reasonable Alternative Standards (RAS) provide support and action steps to earn the same number of Vitality Points as an in-range value, broadening the definition of success.  
  • Vitality Goals are customizable and include suggestions that help members address work-life balance, stress management, and quality social engagement.
  • While the Vitality Health Review gives an overview of a member’s general health, the Mental Wellbeing Reviews help identify social support needs and stressors.

If you’re interested in exploring how Vitality can help your company adopt a total wellbeing approach, please reach out – we’d love to connect.

Sarah Van Eerden - Vitality
Sarah VanEerden is a Registered Dietitian and a Marketing Specialist with Vitality. She earned her B.S. at Michigan State University and has a passion for making the healthy choice the easy choice. She’s an experimental cook and a terrible baker, and she loves diving into home improvement projects and music in her free time.

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