Your small talk might be hurting your colleagues.
We’re used to diet talk at the office. Jim from marketing is Keto now, your boss, Alison, is trying to slim down after the holidays. Everyone on your team feels so guilty for what they ate over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
It’s acceptable and expected small talk, something to chitchat about at a lunch meeting as we look around at everyone’s tupperwares or takeout containers.
For myself, and others who have recovered, or are still recovering from an eating disorder, it’s torture. For people in larger bodies, as Your Fat Friend explains, it’s a constant reminder that you don’t want to look like them.
A key part of my recovery was learning to ignore diet culture messages, which by the way, are literally everywhere. We’re bombarded with subtle and overt directives that thinner is better, healthy eating is a moral imperative, and wellness (read thinness) should be our number one priority.
Those messages sunk deep into the recesses of my brain and made me really sick. I’ve worked hard over many years to loosen their grip, and I’m lucky, I’ve been successful — but it’s not easy.
You talking about your diet at work makes it harder.
I had to share an office with someone who was very vocal about her intermittent fasting. I’ve listened to female bosses whom I admire denigrate themselves for eating a muffin. A very accomplished colleague I really looked up to was showing me a goal setting exercise; guess what she used as her goal? To lose ten pounds.
I’m used to ignoring all this chatter in my everyday life, to changing the subject or walking away.
But at work, I can’t just walk away. I can’t vacate my own office. Early in my career, I wasn’t ready to out myself by speaking up and setting boundaries. It felt too scary.
You can help. You can create a safer workplace by paying more attention to how you speak about food with your coworkers.
This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about food at work.
In fact, please do. Talk about how amazing your leftovers are and how much fun you had trying a new recipe. Share your favourite dishes and cooking blogs. Express gratitude for the abundance of baked goods over the holidays, or if it’s easier, just say nothing about them at all. I’ve had colleagues do these things, too, and it was really helpful.
I don’t think anyone who talks about their diet at the office is ill-intentioned or trying to do harm. Most of us have some sort of issue with food and you have your reasons, too.
Yet, there are so many more interesting topics we could discuss. Tell me about your kids, your quirky hobby, or your new found obsession with a Netflix series.
Anything really, but please, just don’t talk about your diet.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.