Did you make a New Years resolution to lose weight, make better lifestyle choices or simply to just be healthier?
Have you been following through with those resolutions, by packing your lunch, hitting the gym and saying no to those 3:00 pm sugar cravings?
Do you have an office job or work with others in a corporate setting?
If you answered yes to all of those questions, it is likely you may be experiencing what I like to refer to (although did not coin) as Corporate Health Shaming.
I worked in the corporate sphere for approximately seven years, in an industry that is predominated by men. While I spent my first eighteen months of my office job joining my colleagues at fast-food restaurants for lunch and hitting coffee shops for a donut in the afternoon, I quickly learned this was not a sustainable lifestyle for me and made many changes. I started packing my lunch or choosing healthier options like Freshii, I always had nutritious snacks stashed at my desk and I traded in coffee for water.
Now I’m not saying anyone who vowed to be healthier in 2017 should make such dramatic changes themselves. However, if you have been trading in your McDonald’s burgers for homemade salads, you may me experiencing some negativity from co-workers, which is the same thing that happened to me.
At the office, my two battlegrounds were lunch invites and lunch rooms.
If I turned down going out to a restaurant for lunch it was often met with some attempted persuading or even hostility; “just come, you can order a salad”…”one burger isn’t going to kill you”…”I’ll pay this time”…”fine, it’s your loss.”
If I brought my food back to the lunchroom, I felt better about being able to eat with my colleagues but comments about my choice of food were always made; “the rabbit is eating another salad”…”aren’t you going to be hungry?”…”don’t you get sick of the same thing for lunch?”…”I’ll pay you to take a bite of this pizza.”
You name it, they’ve said it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been lucky to work with some amazing people and have always loved my colleagues that I worked closely with. The truth is, I think the negativity comes from everyone else’s own insecurities about their lifestyle choices. It’s not uncommon to second guess your food choice when the person next to you orders a salad after you ordered a cheeseburger.
Whatever the cause of this corporate health shaming may be, I have some tips to navigate the negativity and keep you on track with your goals:
- Continue to pack your lunch and your snacks. There are so many benefits to sticking with these healthy habits such as controlling what goes in your food and saving money. Don’t be discouraged by one comment and completely give up. Try and stick with it.
- Leave the preaching to the preacher. While you may believe in lemon water and celery sticks, it is not your place to project those values onto your co-workers. The same way you don’t like the comments they make on your brown rice sushi, you don’t need to comment on their slice of pizza. Let the lectures come from their partners or health professionals.
- Come for the walk. This is a phrase I used on a daily basis at my job. No thanks, I don’t want a donut, but I will come for the walk. And most of the time I would end up ordering a tea. Just because you are not going to indulge in that old fashioned glaze doesn’t mean you can’t be good company and take a mental break from your desk.
- Practice saying no. This is probably the hardest lesson and takes practice. Leftover birthday cake from a kid’s party, children’s halloween candy that mom wanted out of the house, chocolates from Christmas baskets. There will always be something in the office tempting you. Be okay with saying no even though everyone else is eating it. The same goes for lunch invitations. You don’t always need to say yes to going out for lunch. Be okay with eating alone sometimes. Catch up on some reading or have a phone call with a friend. I promise the FOMO is not that bad.
- Save one day to eat out. I always liked to pick Friday’s to go out with my colleagues for lunch. by the end of the week my packed lunches aren’t as fresh anyways and it is mentally good for you to socialize and go out with friends. It is also good motivation to continue packing your lunch on a daily basis knowing you have Friday to look forward to for your big outing.
- Don’t sacrifice your job for your diet and don’t sacrifice your diet for your job. Sometimes your job requires you to eat out a lot. Maybe you have to entertain clients. Or maybe the CEO asked you out to lunch on a Tuesday. Be smart and respectful and go for lunch, which brings me to my next tip.
- Learn how to read a menu. It is so easy to be tempted by unhealthy options on a menu but understanding what to order can be helpful. Skip the appetizers, pastas and pizzas and try a protein. Look for key words such as baked, grilled or poached. Avoid dishes that are heavily fried or saucy. Nine times out of ten there is a garden salad that you can add chicken to. Get comfortable asking for what you want. Dressing on the side, no cheese, whole wheat – these are all simple requests that don’t sound obnoxious when you are ordering and can save you some significant calories.
At the end of the day, understand that your healthier lifestyle choices should not come between your job, friendships and overall happiness. Is it hard work? Yes. Does it take practice? Yes. Does it just suck some days to not have a slice of pizza? Yes. But if it were easy, you wouldn’t stand out at your workplace for being the healthy one. Remember that overall the pro’s ought-weigh the con’s and when your skin clears up, your clothes start fitting better and you are glowing from the inside out, your co-workers will start asking you how.