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"Civilian" co-workers rant(24 posts)

"Civilian" co-workers rantgs6769
Mar 6, 2003 5:22 AM
Like many of you, I'm pretty careful about how and what I eat. It's just part of my life to be mindful of my food intake lest I have to drag much extra poundage up climbs after pouring it into sized medium bib shorts. It also makes good sense to me to keep the 85 pounds I lost 3+ years ago off. 'Nuff said. This being the case, it just bugs the heck out of me when I'm invited again and again by co-workers to participate in "food days" which, in my workplace, consist of setting out copious amounts of pizza, oily meat laden concoctions, empty sugar desserts etc. Upon replying with my customary polite "No thank you" I'm invariably met with a knowing smile that says to me "Oh right, you're that freak who doesn't eat like the rest of us". This has often been coupled with more than mild exhasperation and even pointed remarks about my eating habits. Given that I've been working with the same group for more than two years it seems to me that decorum would indicate that my workmates should drop the issue without further comment. It is, after all, none of their business what I eat or don't eat. Flip the coin over and I would be well out of line to hang around the office cafeteria passing out unbidden invitations to have a Power Bar and hit the road bikes over lunchtime and then click my tongue in the direction of the nearest pendulous gut when I receive a "no thanks".....Whew....I think I feel better now. Sorry to go off but it's a jungle out there and when one walks a dfferent path from the herd a little venting can be helpful.
re: "Civilian" co-workers rantFixie-ated
Mar 6, 2003 5:40 AM
Not only co-workers, but also friends and family. I am 40 years old and my Mom still asks me if I am ok. She thinks I am too skinny.

My wife and I argue very little, but when it comes to why I don't eat "normal" foods, the gloves come off.

I have just gotten used to being the office freak who never eats and can still wear a size 30 waist pants even though I sit in an office most of the day.

I say, enjoy the attention and just see who gets the last laugh.

Mar 6, 2003 5:49 AM
I don't disagree with anything you've said. What you choose to eat is your business and you have done very well in losing weight. Trying to search out a possible middle ground here. Is the food day paid for by the business, or do the employees bring in the food? If employees bring n food, is this an opportunity to bring in things you like to eat? There may be someone that doesn't like the food day choices either but doesn't have the will to say no. During our "covered dish" lunches, I've brought in roast turkey, fresh vegetables, etc. as an option to the casseroles.
Another ViewStewartK
Mar 6, 2003 6:11 AM
I don't disagree with anything you've said, but keep in mind that "food days" are also a way for co-workers to socialize with one another and ease the tension of the work space. You're "no thank you's", no matter how gracious and polite, are probably perceived to some degree as antisocial or even snobbish. I'm not saying you deserve to be perceived this way, but the "knowing smile" suggests that you are, and no amount of being right witll change that.

I would suggest that if this bothers you -- which it probably does since you wrote a post on it -- that you participate in these food days and just push some food around a plate. As long as you have a cup in your hand (it can contain water) and some food on your plate you can still participate -- and you might even enjoy yourself.

I'm sure you can think of a number of valid reasons why you still should not participate (e.g., waste of food, waste of money, don't want to conform to gluttony, etc.), but the bottom line is that the reasons why you should paricipate (at least some of the time) are at least as strong as the reasons why you shouldn't.
Another Viewchriscpa
Mar 6, 2003 6:31 AM
The workplace loves conformityterry b
Mar 6, 2003 6:34 AM
And unfortunately, you're being viewed as "holier than thou" because you choose to exercise your rights to a healthier lifestyle. I'm not syaing you're doing it, but you are being judged as though you are. Simply, your dedication points out other people's weaknesses.

You have two choices - one is participate on some level (as the previous poster said.) Hang out, pick at the food and be social.

The other is to wait it out - two years is not long enough for co-workers to get used to what they consider an "alternative" lifestyle. They will eventually get bored with excluding you, but you might end up actually being excluded. The other possibility is that you have a sparkling enough personality that the exclusion will eventually turn into acceptance and you'll be subjected to nothing more than friendly kidding and interest in your interests.

I know, because I went through the same thing. I unfortunately am in the position of managing these people (200 of them) so excluding myself was not an option if I wanted to remain effective. Instead, I found a way to turn it into humor, kidding them back about "having to ride 20 extra minutes" to cover that extra slice of pizza. It worked, and things are fine now but it took some time, some personal savvy and some compromise.
Rejection of the deviatePsyDoc
Mar 6, 2003 8:04 AM
There has been a good deal of social psychological research on this topic supporting the finding that people who do not conform to group norms are often rejected/excluded by that group. Perhaps this could be investigated in cycling groups. For example, a "Shimano" cyclist joins a group of "Campy" cyclist.
Agreed - just be sociable and bring some healthy food...PdxMark
Mar 6, 2003 9:14 AM
I doubt that the goal of the get-togethers is to fatten everyone up. It's more likely to foster social connections between co-workers. Whether they are folks you want to socialize with is one thing, but what the heck, you spend everyday with them, why not make an effort.

At an extreme view, it might even affect the perception of whether you're a team player... (which is why cute little social gatherings at work are so pesky, because they might not just be about socializing).
re: "Civilian" co-workers rantPEDDLEFOOT
Mar 6, 2003 6:50 AM
I have the same experiences here at work.What I've done is the same thing a previous reply stated.I'm the guy who brings the vegetable tray or the fat free whatever.Everbody is cool with that and except for some friendly kidding there is very little said anymore.
re: "Civilian" co-workers rantBecky
Mar 6, 2003 6:59 AM
My office regularly has lunchtime "brown bag" seminars and training sessions and the office often ponies up for lunch, usually pizza. On top of being a cyclist and concerned with fitness, I also have insulin-dependent diabetes. Pizza and other high-fat foods don't sit well with my blood sugar. (Forget what you heard about high sugar foods, high fat foods are the really evil ones for many diabetics.) My concession to participating while still looking out for my health is to have one small portion of the food provided and supplement that with carrot sticks, fruit, yogurt, etc and drink a big glass of water rather than soda. Comments from others are limited and I'm still viewed as a team player, even though I'm not eating thousands of calories of crap.
They may begin to understand when they are recovering from triple bypass surgery some dayTig
Mar 6, 2003 7:13 AM
At my old job, they always made sure there were plenty of healthy choices and not just junk. Our management was very considerate of the vegetarians and health conscious workers. I've seen the "standard" food mentality work environments as well.

I'm not wishing anything bad on those who choose to let food destroy their present and future health. Unfortunately, the too common high fat/carbohydrate/sugar diet so many choose is what makes their lives a nightmare when it all catches up. By then, all they can do is regret their past lifestyle choices. Some may even look back and think, "I bet that guy who never ate all that junk food must still be in excellent health. I wish I was more like him." Sadly, the lessons are learned after a tragic health failure. Americans are letting their love of food kill them, or as my Dad says, "All my friends are dieing from their appetites".

On the flip side, one of my teammates just had quadruple bypass surgery in January. He is in his upper 40's and eats better than average and rides quite a bit. His family has a history of med suffering heart attacks by age 50. He kept noticing how weak and tired he got during rides the last few months and wisely got checked out. One coronary artery was 99% blocked! One of his doctors said, "We kill animals to eat, and they end up killing us in return". He is doing really well with his recovery now and will be riding again soon (is already on the trainer). Genetics can be a mean problem to overcome.
re: "Civilian" co-workers rantPMC
Mar 6, 2003 7:32 AM
Why not join in and bring something healthy like a veggie tray with some fat free dip?

We do the same thing on occasion and you'd be surprised how fast the carrots, broccoli and cauliflower disappears.
"Let's do lunch" dayfiltersweep
Mar 6, 2003 7:36 AM
I always dread Thursdays, when I am required to take new employees out to lunch. Invariably it is a restaurant that actually serves "restaurant food" (the kind you can feel and taste hours later). In warmer times, it has definitely affected my desire to ride after work.

My job is in a health care related field, and it seems the climate is a bit different here, but "office staff" are "office staff" wherever you are. Ironically, work is what led to my interest in road biking. Several years ago I was outed as a mtn biker, and one of the owners took me out to lunch to "recruit" me to be part of the company's "bicycle team"- which was mostly about having a presence on charity rides. At the time, I felt like I had a gun to my head, and I purchased a road bike.

There are so many morbidly obese people where I work (actually, probably everywhere in the US) that the owners are on a bit of a health kick and literally have required nutrition and excercise training for all employees (you can guess how well that went over, but it is part of a crusade to contain rising health care costs). Of course they have weight-loss contest, smoking cessation incentives ($$$) and so on- none of which I will ever benefit from, but at least they have the right idea.

We can skip out from work to go to the gym, and they offer yoga and massage on site at the office, so things are a bit progressive around here (or maybe we are just pampered).

The candy dish at the receptionist area has been replaced by a fruit bowl (and there is a scale behind the counter for the weight loss contest of the week, or whatever).

Finally, I think people are ENVIOUS of those with self-discipline to eat right and exercise. People do have a herd mentality that it is OK to eat whatever they want if "everyone else" is doing it. It is likely a bit threatening to witness a "holdout" who abstains.

Several people (generally obese) around here have made comments to me like "you can afford to eat more than that," etc during feeding days. If I commented on their obesity or even hinted at it, all hell would break loose!
I really get a kick out of these types of programsMel Erickson
Mar 6, 2003 10:19 AM
The people who get rewarded with partial payment of memberships to health clubs, help quiting smoking, diet consultations, etc. are not the people who have taken good care of themselves but those who have not. The people who watch their weight, exercise regularly, eat wisely, etc. usually get nothing. Why not an incentive for those who maintain their weight/body fat in the normal range, exercise 3 hours a week and keep their cholesterol within the normal range? Let those that are outside use their own money to get within the range and get the reward.
You actually get ENCOURAGED to go to the gym?ColnagoFE
Mar 6, 2003 10:33 AM
I was yelled at by my boss once for going to the gym over my lunch hour. She told me "people" have been noticing me leave every day for the gym and made it sound like I was spending hours over there or somthing each day (I wasn't). I guess some cow-irker must have been spreading rumors that I was taking long breaks or something. Anyway...I asked her if there was a problem with me going if it took an hour or less and she said that would be fine. From there on out I never told anyone I was going to the gym. I usually just said "errands" and then I made sure I was back in an hour.
same, butJS Haiku Shop
Mar 6, 2003 7:50 AM
our "food days" are for birthdays and special occasions. they're monetary--you don't bring a dish, you give a few bucks (typically $5). though i don't participate and don't eat the food, i always give the money. why? because i'm "part of the team", and maintaining that status is important to the way my job works.

as with other posters, i'm always hassled about my weight by friends and family. though i'm not often too careful about what i eat, from time to time i'll work out a specific calorie deficit goal, and work gradually toward it. when asked, i'll say i'm trying to get to xxx pounds, or drop a belt hole (same belt last 9 years, with 3 more holes punched to cinch smaller). the reaction is always that i'm too thin or "anorexic" already. in reality i'm 15-25 pounds overweight.

the simple answer is that they want you to participate. perhaps one of the not-so-obvious motivations behind people "picking" at you is that (remember, *all* generalizations are false) society on the whole is way, way overweight, eats without a set of standards, often as "sport", frequently as a social activity, and the general view of a "healthy" figure is far beyond a healthy bodyfat level.

Mar 6, 2003 8:56 AM
A have a couple of small children. This means I'm pretty well up on the current crop of kids shows and, not surprisingly, they ofter have messages or lessons to teach. A fairly common one is "don't be afraid to be yourself" or "it's wrong to hassle someone for being different".

It amazes me how we are so comfortable teaching this message to our children but, as adults, any minor deviation from the norm will subject you to such behavior.

On a similar note, last year I was going on a group ride after work with my bike club. I was doing some warm up loops in the parking lot and passed by a couple of people in front of their office who wanted to know why a grown man still rides a bicycle (they both laughed to themselves). I just smiled and rode on but it was all I could do not to say;

"I don't know, I guess it's because I don't want to turn into an obese middle-adged man standing outside his office smoking a cigarrette unable to comprehend why anyone would bother the excersise."

...but then, that would just make me another a$$hole cyclist wouldn't it?
Mmmmmmmmm! Pizza!!!!! ;) nmRJF
Mar 6, 2003 10:24 AM
they are just jealousColnagoFE
Mar 6, 2003 10:27 AM
I can't believe some of the crap people around here eat...and it shows.
I had a similar, but opposite experienceSuddha
Mar 6, 2003 11:33 AM
I was planning a lunch meeting here a while back and we decided that pizza was the safest thing to order for the most people (in terms of taste, not health). One of the women in the planning group said, "well, there's a lot of people in the dept. who have recently joined Weight Watchers, so maybe we could get something besides pizza."

This got me riled up. At all the lunches up to this point, they have happy to scarf down cookies, donuts and pizza, and snicker when I'd only have a bagel and juice. But now that they're on a new kick, everyone has to conform to suit their new diet. I have no problem eating salad or low-fat sandwiches, but why does what we order go on the whims of the yo-yo dieters who don't exercise, but rely solely on a specific diet to lose weight? 80% of them will gain all the weight back and be there eating pizza and donuts again in two months.

I suggested a compromise in which we ordered from a place that offered pizza and salads. Of course this forced some self-control on the parts of the dieters, but that's life! They got their low-fat food.

Sorry for the rant, but this is a good topic and it seems people here understand what I am talking about.
Good topic, but missing the point53T
Mar 6, 2003 12:16 PM
The focus seems to be on the food, but the problem is interpersonal skills. I keep my weight where it should be, but I can sit down and BS with someone who is eating a brisket, corned beef and tounge with Russian dressing on rye and it won't bother me in the least. I don't drink, but I can hang out with people who are drinking.

Opting out of office lunches because you don't like the menu is a symptom of a deeper problem. Do you dislike your coworkers? Is it because they are different from you? Do you have an overwhelming desire to be different and separate from your coworkers? Do you resent their comraderie with each other? Are you possesive of your health and don't want to share your formula with them, in fear that you will be less unique in that instance?

American's who take up cycling have demonstrated a predisposition to being different. This love of uniquness may carry over into other areas of life that may not be constructive. Beware the enemy within you.
My 2 cents...eyebob
Mar 6, 2003 12:31 PM
I like the idea of just pushing the food around on your plate but attending. It's not about the food it's about the comradery.

Here's the deal with me. Take this situation and try having it applied to your life just about full-time. That's what happens to me because I choose to be a vegetarian also. Now, every gathering (weddings that are catered, dinner parties, dining outs) in some way have to involve a meatless option. It's pretty cool really, because no one bothers to needle me about it any more, they just make sure to make sure that I can "eat" along with the others. I'll give you an example that perhaps you can use. I was recently invited to a wedding and on the RSVP I reminded the bridegroom that I was a vegetarian and he got back to me and assured me that there would be somethng that I could eat. Turns out the food was served "Family style" (lots of big dishes served so people could dole out their own helpings) and my table got the most food served because of me! Whooo hooo!

My point here isn't to angle for more food (can't get enough of broccoli) but rather that the next time you're asked, tell them sure, and "bye-the-way could you make sure that there's some "healthy" alternatives there because, I'm a health-atarian." Really. Maybe specifically request that the type of food that you can eat be provided.

Thanks all!gs6769
Mar 6, 2003 3:38 PM
Hey everybody, thank you for your very thoughtful responses. some of these angles I've looked at, some not but I think it all adds up to the fact that if there's to be a solution it's going to be me that does the adjusting and rightly so. Of course my workmates mean no harm or disrespect, it's really about sociability not chowing down and I'd probably do well to bear that in mind. They're a great group and we have plenty of laughs so there's really no need to bundle my undies too much over this. Again, thank you for the honest and insightful posts. You've definitely helped my get some perspective and I appreciate it.
re: "Civilian" co-workers rantRacer C
Mar 6, 2003 3:53 PM
Whoa, whoa, whoa, "food days"??? What the hell kind of socialization party is that? I'd like to meet the obese person who celebrates that it's ok to be fat type who came up with that one. I think the back lash against healthy people in this country is sick. The overweight who have been mocked for years are now in contempt of the thin because the overweight are in the majority! Stand up for your healthy rights, protest those suckas!