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Workplace Woedown

August 5, 2014

Halfway-There

Thanks to everyone who has gotten us this far. Please support Casey in improving her mobility while fighting the fat haters by donating whatever you can afford. Read more here or click the image above to donate.

Weight LossFat PoliticsFat HealthEating DisordersMy Boring-Ass LifeDickweedDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of office weight loss and diet talk.

Hi Everyone!

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.

breakawayspace

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.

Kerasi sig

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    August 5, 2014 7:07 pm

    You know, if anyone who works there is in recovery from an eating disorder, all that diet talk and good food/bad food idiocy could be considered triggering and creating a hostile work environment. Not a good thing. Also one of the reasons that when I was working, I put my headphones on and read a book while eating lunch (and when it became possible to eat at my desk in my own little room, that’s exactly what I did).

  2. Kaels permalink
    August 6, 2014 1:45 pm

    Kerasi, so many of your posts relate closely to situations in my life and this one is no exception. Except I’m the fat girl on the other end. At the lunch room at work, we discuss our “diets” (diets meaning what we eat, not what we don’t eat) and compare notes on what we’re doing to stay healthy. By discussing our eating habits, my coworkers help keep me in check, especially when my kale salads and chicken breasts become grilled cheese sandwiches and eventually instant noodles.
    Battling the war of self-image, I decided that I had to do something else other than watching my food intake to make myself feel better about the way I look and feel. From discussing our habits, I found a small group of coworkers who go into the basement meeting room and pop a workout video into the DVD player and I joined them as they went through various programs. Every afternoon now, half an hour before lunch, we message each other and make plans to meet in the basement. Even when it really sucks, I do it because I know that my presence inspires my coworkers to attend and to push hard. And, ultimately, it makes me feel healthier.
    Hearing coworkers discuss food, diets, health, etc can sometimes be a real bummer, especially when you’re finding those to be a challenge in your life, but sometimes – as in my case – it can be the motivation to make a positive change.

  3. August 7, 2014 6:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    I’m so glad I work with a skeleton crew. Less than skeleton, really. There are only three of us on the night shift in my area of the building: me, one other resident assistant, and the security guard. None of us are big on “diet talk.”
    Unfortunately, the co-worker who is on shift before me two days a week tends to prattle on about all her great and vast knowledge of why she is a Food Saint and why People are Obese and how Obesity Causes Disease. I shut her up on one occasion by telling her that I have diabetes, I did not cause my diabetes by eating “bad food,” that you cannot eat your way into diabetes, and that diabetes cannot be cured, it is like cancer and sometimes goes into remission.
    Diet talk needs to be made extinct, as do assumptions about other people’s bodies.

  4. August 10, 2014 4:08 pm

    Thanks for your comments everyone! Sorry about my late response! Vesta, great point about the ED recovery; I was thinking about students, but it’s just as likely that women or men of all ages may be affected negatively by this constant diet chatter. I always eat at my desk as well; it’s the close proximity to others that can make this plan fail.

    Kaels, while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with swapping healthy recipes with coworkers, etc., I don’t think the workplace is the right environment to monitor one’s diet in a support group fashion, especially when the talk turns to “it would be better if you ate this, not that.” I think it’s awesome that you and your coworkers want to support each other, but the public lunchroom isn’t the right place to do that. Meeting up after work and planning for the next day or leaving the office to take lunch outside would be more appropriate, in my opinion. However, meeting in the basement sounds like a great move. It’s a way to engage with your coworkers privately in a way that still allows you the support you need at work.

    The Real Cie, I also have diabetes and love your cancer analogy! Such a simple way to explain the illness to people who assume all diabetics are personally at fault for having the illness.

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