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  • RENATA POLEON

Is Talking About Diets at Work Really Still a Thing?



From an early age, I taught my daughters to not yuck anyone’s yum. “No thank you” will suffice over negative comments and judgment. What a person eats is between them, God—if you believe—and/or their doctor.


Food is never used as a reward of any kind. That means, if you did not eat all your dinner, you still get dessert if it’s dessert night. There will be no convincing or coercing at meal time.


They are also always in full control of what goes in their stomachs, because I offer, you eat. It’s as simple as that. The last thing I want to do is argue about food with children. I will lose even before it start.


Therefore nothing makes me cringe more than adults, loudly discussing or dissecting every food choices of fellow colleagues whether it is solicited or not. When this happens, more often than not, I find that people are outwardly recreating the negative internal dialogue that they have with themselves.


Maybe I am biased and privileged, because I was lucky to have been raised by a mom who encouraged good eating habits without ever attaching guilt or shame to my choices. Imagine what that does to a person who grows up seeing someone in their household who probably did every diet, forced them on a diet or spoke of that person’s body in negative terms.


We have unfortunately moralized food choices. The people who enjoy an occasional or daily processed snacks are deemed as destroying their bodies and placed on a lower totem pole compared to people who maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet etc. Now these are the people who “care” about their bodies. They are supposedly ethical, moral and environmentally conscious ones who are considered one of the “good people” without factoring in motivations.


How did we get there?


Well, no thanks to diet culture, we are developing a starving and malnourished population by choice, many of whom are impressionable teens and young adults trying to emulate what they see in popular culture. When you have the WSJ posting articles titled To Save Money, Maybe You Should Skip Breakfast,” it comes off a very tone deaf.


In 2021, more than 34 million people in the United States live in food insecure households, a decline from 38 million in 2020. Of those, 9 million are children. It even shows that a staggering 53 million people turned to food programs in 2021.


We will try to achieve an ideal at any cost and do it all by being tone deaf. Maybe the WSJ had to meet the demands of one of their advertisers and attached it to being fiscally responsible. I’m not sure, but they most definitely were speaking the language of diet culture.


This is simply body policing and food shaming in the workplace, whether we want to admit it or not, and it has no place there. These conversations can be triggering for people with eating disorders and body issues, especially when you cannot just casually leave your desk and refuse to work till the conversation is over. It’s the equivalent of the dreaded Christmas and Thanksgiving family dinners where family members feel the need to make unsolicited comments about your plate.


So the last thing I want to hear from your cubicle is how you think that slice of cake will destroy your thighs, how you’re on a liquid diet for the sake of getting your summer body, and I surely don’t want you to ever come to my cubicle to criticize my lunch, because guess what, “I didn’t ask you.”


If you’re going to keep it up, do it quietly with willing participants. Don’t subject us all to this. Workplace discussions of diets need to stop, because we’re tired.

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