Terri Lynch knows the workplace from all perspectives: employer, employee, vendor
and customer. Issues of obesity and "fat acceptance" play out in the workplace with
a cost in cold hard cash. Terri is ideally qualified to probe all angles of size
issues in the workplace.
This wondrous, magical time of year can add sparkle and warmth to our
lives. But for many people in the work world it can also add food-related
pressures. Most of us, to some extent, encounter norms and expectations
about what, and where, meals are to be eaten with the boss, clients or
customers, vendors, and colleagues and co-workers. These expectations
change with the season. Often, the holiday norm becomes — directly or
indirectly — eat more.
Some people are required to entertain clients in a certain style…
Janice, in her job as a manufacturer's rep, is required to make the
rounds of her top accounts and take the buyer someplace nice for lunch.
Each day, on the company's tab, starting on the first workday in December
and ending the day before Christmas, she will play hostess to a different
customer. This is her company's way of thanking their best customers for
their business during the year.
As Janice says "By the time I've finished wining and dining the last account
I can feel myself ready for the next size up wardrobe. On top of all that,
I still must attend the soup-to-nuts company party the weekend before
Christmas! I've gone through this every year for the past 18 years. I
love my job, and I'm in a six-figure income bracket so I don't want to give
it up. But realistically, I find it impossible to stick to any kind of healthy
food plan at this time."
Meanwhile, Bob, a senior level management consultant, struggles with the
expectations of his clients, many of whom hold office parties that he increasingly
looks forward to with dread. In his words, "Last year, within the space of a
week and a half I crammed in eleven client lunch and dinner parties. Although
partying with clients and eating holiday goodies are all part of the 'I'm there
for you' feelings associated with the consulting tradition, it's hard not to
overeat and gain weight."
You don't need to step out of the office, like Janice and Bob, to run into these
food traps in December. Trouble can lurk even within the confines of the office
when food seems to pop up everywhere and co-workers turn into food pushers.
Katrina views the approach of December with apprehension, worrying how she'll deal
with a steady stream of goodies the women she works with generously bring to the
office. In her words, "It starts in the first week of December with the new
recipes that must be tested..."
"You absolutely have to taste these cookies I made!"
"What do you think of this fudge I made to ship to my son?"
"How would you rate this bread recipe? Does it contain enough cinnamon?"
"Aren't you going to try the dip I brought in?"
"By the time Christmas week arrives, I've sampled and graded candy and cookie
recipes, tarts and appetizers, and breads of various kinds. Last year, there was
even a rich, creamy soup."
Sometimes, outsiders bring goodies to the workplace as an expression of
appreciation... or perhaps a bit of a bribe.
Dan teaches 5th grade in a Midwestern farming community, where there are a lot
of stay-at-home moms who take pride in setting a hearty table. Says Dan, "I
think many of my students' moms see me as a single male who's deprived of
home-baked treats and gooey little confections. The day before Christmas, kid
after kid approaches my desk with tins of goodies, and homemade breads and jams.
I even see an occasional pie. I know better than to haul it all home, so after
leaving school for the day I make my way to a few friends' homes to unload some
of the loot. Some of the remainder gets eaten (by me) and the rest gets tossed
in the trash."
Jeff, a male nurse, is in a similar situation. Families of his patients
somehow think their loved ones will get better care if they ply the nurses
with food. During the holidays this is magnified. "Family members come in
bearing boxes of treats; everything from chocolates to pizza. The cheesecakes
and coffee cakes are always a big hit," says Jeff. "Even in this environment
where everybody knows better, nothing goes to waste."
Then there are cases where no human push is needed. The work environment
itself is a food pusher.
Every December, Pauline takes a second job working for a local candy company
that makes exquisite truffles which it sells in regional upscale chocolate stores.
All day long she is surrounded by mouth-watering and sumptuous temptations which
she packs in elegant gold foil boxes. During the packing process, if something
should become broken or damaged in any way, those pieces are put aside for the
staff to enjoy, free. Pauline admittedly can't stop herself from indulging in
this "little bit of luxury" when she has the chance; otherwise she'd never get
this treat — she couldn't afford it on what she gets paid.
The situations just described would be hard for many to comprehend, especially
those who work from home. But they are problems — sometimes quite serious — for
the people who experience them while trying to control their weight. In the next
issue, we'll look at some strategies for handling them.
Copyright © December 2003 Terri Lynch and Low Carb Luxury