For the love of God, don’t we have more interesting, important, fabulous, fun things to talk about than constantly discussing diet and exercise for the purpose of weight loss!?
I know that in my past I have done more than my fair share of fat and diet talk, and have lived to tell about it and the toll it took on my life. I still struggle more days than not with my internal dialogue and how I perceive myself. But now more than ever I see how diet culture is so pervasive and intrudes on most conversations on a daily basis… especially at the office! (Disclaimer: I love my job and the ladies and gents I work with, which actually makes me feel more at ease to talk about this.)
The super department of folks I work with could on any given day be classified with such descriptors as ‘gym-goers’, ‘health-conscious’, ‘clean-eaters’, ‘dieters’ etc. They are all also what I would call THIN. Obviously, ‘thin’ is a vague and generalized term, but should you run into any of these lovely people, you would not think of them as FAT in any way, shape or form (pun intended).
I understand that diet talk can serve as a common ground among people. It’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to discuss and share with one another. It builds bonds, it gives us commonality, and unfortunately it unconsciously chains us to the cultural standard of beauty and fat phobia. In many cases, I don’t believe this is malicious, it’s just a thoughtless byproduct of toxic social norms. But all of this fat talk isn’t just annoying, it can be painful and deepen body image issues that many of us already face, especially for those of us whom suffer with eating disorders. Fat and diet talk in the workplace can be tricky to navigate, but it is damn near impossible to avoid when having a work lunch out at a restaurant.
Last week I was set to enjoy a work team-building lunch out at a local restaurant. I was grateful for the fringe benefit and for spending social time with my coworkers, most of who I really enjoy as people. But things quickly went awry. At least 75% of the conversation (for an hour and a half mind you) was pure fat and diet talk. How much and what types of foods we were eating, how long it would take to burn it off, how much saturated fat was in this, which menu option was ‘healthiest’, which diet allows which foods, who was going to skip dinner and hit the gym extra hard, who was so full they couldn’t wait to leave, who “felt so fat”.
O M G. STOP!
I am pretty sure if the conversation had continued another 10 minutes I would have literally exploded, injuring those around me, and/or possibly been fired. It was exhausting, uncomfortable and disheartening, to Me. I’m sure no one else gave it a second thought.
In a very timely coincidence, I had just read Virgie Tovar’s badass piece on diet talk in the office. After lunch ended, I took some time to re-read Tovar’s article. Here are my two cents on this event, using her tips to process my feelings:
- When thin people fat-talk in front of a legit fat person, it feels directed at said fat person. That day I literally felt like the big fat elephant in the room, which triggered my own internal spiral of shame and fat-stigma. Even though they weren’t doing it to me, it was shaming, and for me provoked feelings of anger, guilt and sadness.
- I realize that I allowed that to happen by giving my power away. I didn’t need to internalize their fat talk and let it make me feel bad. I am in control of who I let into my emotional space.
- I can use this experience to positively fuel my own fat activism – standing up for the principle that every body deserves respect!
- Should this happen again, I have choices. I have the right to express how it makes me feel, to change the topic, to move my seat or to even make an excuse and get up and leave.
Thank you Virgie for empowering me to learn from this event and catapult my own body positive journey.
*This blog post is the opinion of a particular Fattitude intern – and does not necessarily reflect the position of Fattitude, Inc.