My very good friend Coley Tangerina has a splendid post up about bodies, food and fitness in the workplace:
We lean over our cubicles or bemoan across the kitchen how long it’s been since we went to the gym, or how badly we’ve been eating lately, or how we’re worried about gaining weight or how we shouldn’t have had that thing for lunch.
We start up conversations to feel camaraderie in our slog. The receptionist’s salad looks healthy. Your boss must have hollow legs. Thank goodness your analyst is eating for two. Gosh, your PR person must be hungry!
This talk is common place in offices and while it’s totally understandable, it’s bad for workplace welfare. Here’s why.
I had a great experience recently working with a new team. Maybe it was because we’d already been talking about wellness and empathy in a broad sense, maybe (probably) it was because I’d been That Person who deliberately set a boundary early in the process, saying “A lot of workplaces have a really damaging culture around food talk.” Either way, we found ourselves discussing food – but it wasn’t negative. It wasn’t judgemental, or normative. Someone had brought something delicious for lunch, which reminded someone of a thing they’d cooked for dinner the week before, and (because these things are inevitable) we somehow ended up discussing the great Vegemite/Marmite dichotomy.
Yet, in contrast to almost every other work-based conversation about food that I’ve ever been party too, it was just … fun. A nice positive chat before we got back down to business. Nobody walked away thinking their body or food choices had been judged and found wanting.
Imagine if that were the norm. It’d be pretty awesome.