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Trigger warning: Discussion of office weight loss and diet talk.
It’s been a while. I had to take a hiatus and put my nose to the grindstone while working my way up the academic and employment ladder. Now that I’m back, I’m ready to make some keen observations that will throw your senses into overdrive. Are you ready? Today we’re going to talk about a favorite subject: workplace fatphobia!
Recently, my department was moved into one of those ultra-cool open workplace environments that the employees hate but the administration loves because they shove 50 people into the amount of space built for 20, therefore saving tons of money on office space (thanks, Google!). Because walls are ripped down and it’s like a giant studio apartment on steroids, everyone hears everybody’s everything. It’s like the high school cafeteria in there.
One of the many, many downfalls of this situation is that we are now inundated with the inane ramblings of those colleagues who choose to spend their time engaging everyone in mindless fatphobic remarks and endless food moralizing (did I mention the kitchen is open air, too?). Instead of this bigotry being relegated to the comforts of a small cubicle, it has now been set free to roam.
To stimulate your visual senses, I’ll paint a picture:
A container of candy sits out in the open as a gesture of goodwill and sweetness by a colleague. This container is located in my general vicinity. People spend the day gasping at how “dangerous” this candy is just sitting in the open like that, how utterly shocking it is to be seen in broad daylight, not relegated to the side drawer of shame of someone’s desk, obviously sitting next to the 50 other empty candy bar wrappers they must be hiding.
Tired of this uninvited back and forth, I decide to take a stand. Now, every time someone makes a comment, I look at them and eat a piece of candy.
Now we’ll add texture:
Yesterday, I was getting coffee when a group of colleagues were sitting in a group talking. I overheard a conversation that went something like this: “And he was SO gorgeous in high school, and then I saw him not too long ago, and he was FAT and BALD! I was like, haha.” As I made my coffee, I sat there thinking, “Is it worth it? Do I say something? Do I walk?” I decided to walk, and then I decided to write, so here goes…
NEWSFLASH! You don’t win an award for having the least unchanged body since high school! You know, that time before your brain is even fully developed? Being fat or bald does not make someone less of a winner in whatever game of life you’re playing; judging someone based on their appearance as a minor versus an adult does.
The finishing spray:
Finally, I’ve never ONCE eaten a meal in the dining area for lunch. Not ONCE. I eat at my desk. I can’t handle all of the diet talk that goes on. I’ve never been able to stand by the microwave with people eating in that area without listening to them wax poetic about their diet meatloaf or losing weight. As much as workplaces push the wellness card, they should really start with addressing negative food culture.
While there are a lot of positives to being in a workplace where we can interact more openly as colleagues, one of the biggest negatives is having to deal with food shaming, fatphobia, and constant diet talk. While I am at a point in my self-acceptance journey that I can move on without focusing on these conversations, there are students working in our space that may be very vulnerable to this kind of negative environment.
According to the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 91% of students on a college campus have attempted to control their weight through dieting. To have adults in your workplace exhibit behavior that suggests that the constant fight for thinness should continue well into adulthood, a poor example is being set for the young individuals we invite to gain work experience and broaden their resumes.
A more concerted effort needs to be placed on keeping conversations professional and appropriate for the work environment. And while we all may get chatty and loud at work, once your conversation veers into a territory that may harm others, it’s more important to check the content of your dialogue than the volume.