How To Deal With Fatphobia At Work

Posted by Jen Anderson on

How To Deal With Fatphobia At Work

It's frustrating that we have to be on our best behavior at the office because some people are the absolute worst. Sure you can't tell off your obnoxious Aunt Tilly either, but you don't have to see her for 40 hours a week. Plus team lunches! And after works drinks! Tilly isn't writing your performance review, even if she's calling your mother every week to tell her what she thinks is wrong with you.

But that doesn't mean you have to put up with any and all abuse your colleagues dish out.

red print jacketI Love My New Diet

Maybe Joe from Accounting is on the latest diet and talks about it all the time. This is boring. If it doesn't go any further, or you want to shut the conversation down before it does escalate then you can tell him all about this episode of This American Life about someone's mom's Rules of Conversation. She has seven topics that you should never talk about because no one wants to hear it and you certainly don't want to be a boring conversationalist. One of them is dieting. It's a great way to change the subject and tell someone that they need to find something more interesting to talk about without actually saying that.

You Should...

But it may be worse. Joe could end his diet talk with, 'you should try it." Or Jackie from Billing could be talking to you about a work thing and then asks how you're doing and then immediately goes into how much weight she's lost on her new diet.

olive green workwearI have a little sympathy for these people. I used to be one of them. But just because I was obnoxious in the past, that doesn't mean that other people get to be in the present. If you've ever dieted, you know that Joe and Jackie are hungry most of the time and every meal time is a big hassle. They're fanatics about their diet because if it isn't the greatest thing ever, all the effort and suffering isn't worth it.

As much as I want to de-program these people and show them how they're actually harming their own health, it never works. I like to point out that there is no one diet that works for all people - certain conditions mean you can't eat vegetables and some people have to follow a low FODMAP diet, and how is that pronounced and what does it mean anyway? This is like shaking keys in front of a baby - this person loves talking about diets and you've distracted them with diet talk that isn't personal.

concord purple workwearStop In The Name Of The Food Police

This is a tough situation because you're put on the spot. If the usual deflections don't work (my doctor has no objections, this sort of talk is bad for the digestion), you may need to address the issue when there's no food in sight. A few years ago, someone wrote into Ask A Manager about one co-worker food policing another co-worker. The letter writer printed out the post including the comments and placed it on the offender's chair. And the food policing stopped. I really love this tactic - it gave the food police officer the time and space to absorb the info and process it so she could reflect and change her behavior. You may not have written that letter, but that doesn't mean you can't print it and share it anonymously.

Time To Escalate

It's best if you can deal with someone directly, but that doesn't always fix things. The chain goes: your manager, the other person's manager, HR or your manager's boss. The magic words? "This is disruptive and interferes with my ability to do my job."

What Does This Have To Do With Clothes?

Some people are going to be jerks to you no matter how well you dress. But wearing polished, well-fitting clothes sends a message to yourself. It reminds you that you deserve better treatment and that you should stand up for yourself.

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Check out our other posts about working while plus size.

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