A stockbroker platform called ‘Zerodha’ found itself surrounded by controversies, due to a recent initiative. To encourage healthy living amongst its employees, it started a ‘BMI Challenge’ where it will give a salary bonus to those whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated lesser than 25. Not only them, a person who witnesses a large change in average BMI will be rewarded for their efforts.
Zerodha’s CEO, Nithin Kamath, shared his plan on Twitter by laying down the necessary details. However, what started out as a noble initiative has turned out to be a nightmare as several netizens criticised him for pressurising their workers to look a certain way and fat-shaming them by holding such challenges.
What Is ‘BMI Challenge’?
The ‘fun’ health initiative was launched on the occasion of World Health Day on April 7. “We are running a fun health program at Zerodha. Anyone on our team with BMI< 25 gets half a month's salary as a bonus. The average BMI of our team is 25.3 and if we can get to <24 by August, everyone gets another half month as a bonus. It would be fun to compete with other companies," Kamath tweeted about the challenge.
The lowest average BMI or the largest change in average BMI wins. The winner chooses a charity everyone else contributes to. Maybe a health tech company can run the initiative.
If you want to do this at your company, do post in the comments.
Happy world health day! 2/3
— Nithin Kamath (@Nithin0dha) April 7, 2022
For those who are unaware, the Body Mass Index is calculated with the help of a person’s height and weight. It helps to determine whether a person is underweight, overweight or obese. The average BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9. If a person falls under 18.5, he or she will be considered underweight. However, if the BMI falls between 25.0 and 29.9, it will be considered overweight.
In light of this, Kamath shared a disclaimer as well. He adds, “I know BMI is not the best measure to track health and fitness, but it is the easiest way to get started. With health and most other things in life, the most important bit is to get started.”
Noble Incentive Gone Wrong
Kamath’s initiative aims at encouraging employees to stay fit. With the added monetary incentive, the challenge is lucrative in nature. However, since its inception, the BMI challenge has received flak on the internet.
Under Nithin Kamath’s tweet, netizens slammed him for fat-shaming people and pining unrealistic body image expectations on them. One user said, “Hey Nithin! I really appreciate the effort of incentivising and gamifying health for employees. But the same blanket goal for everyone can be a problematic strategy since it, at a lowest risk level, can make people associate their worth with weight or size.”
I hope your team does not have any pregnant women or nursing mothers… It is typical for women to gain weight in this phase of their life. And, in your team they’ll be penalised or made to compete. Is this fair to them ?
— Roshni Babu (@Roshni_Babu) April 8, 2022
Issues relating to body image play a detrimental role in our mental health. It is equated with our self-worth and the dislike towards it can demoralise us immensely. Also, this can lead to eating disorders.
BMI is not a measure of health, and this is ableist, fatphobic, and racist. It’s stigmatizing and shaming those with higher BMI’s. Asking people to develop eating disorders in a “competition” isn’t fun, it’s twisted. You’re harming people’s mental health. Don’t do this.
— joules Pass The Equality Act! (@joules54228823) April 8, 2022
“This is serious discrimination and body shaming. There is nothing ‘fun’ about your program. Why should my pay or a bonus be linked to my body type? The only thing relevant is my work,” another user chimed in.
‘Sitting Is The New Smoking’
Despite the backlash, Nithin Kamath stands strong with the challenge. “We have experimented with a bunch of ideas since COVID & WFH to help the team think about their health. Sitting is the new smoking, & the idea has been to nudge everyone to move,” he added in a tweet.
And this is just an added bonus over and above all other bonuses & incentives that everyone on the team earns. Just like that Rs 10lk prize pool for the lottery we ran last year to pick one person amongst everyone who met their health goals. 5/5
— Nithin Kamath (@Nithin0dha) April 8, 2022
While many pledged their support to the programme, many people still criticised Kamath for not seeing the bigger picture. Started as a positive initiative, connecting an employee’s body image with their performance at the office can be uncalled for, especially when it has an impact on one’s self-worth and identity.
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