Between 2016 and 2018 I worked in a large, female-dominated shared office of around 20 people. As you can imagine, the discussions held in this office were often on traditionally female topics, such as make-up, men, and of course, diets.
Every. Single. Day.
Each day my colleagues would spend hours discussing the latest diets, how little they’d eaten, how ‘good’ they’d been or how long they spent in the gym. They’d comment on each other’s food choices, and encourage one another to be healthier. At one point a small group even went and did laps around our hospital during lunch time, before counting the calories they had burned in the office later.
As a weight-restored anorexic, this was hard to tolerate. I was surrounded by diet-culture and felt I couldn’t escape it. Add in the fact I was also one of the biggest females in the office and I began to see a few old habits sneak back in.
At one point, when a colleague spoke relentlessly about how much weight she’d lost, I began skipping lunch. I knew I couldn’t get away with skipping eating at home, as my boyfriend was hot on any of my symptoms cropping back in, so I restricted where I could; work. I would take a drink down to lunch with me, and when my colleagues would ask why I wasn’t eating I’d make up the all too familiar lies;
‘Oh I’m having a takeaway tonight so don’t want to eat right now…’
‘I’m not feeling like it…’
‘I’ll eat later…’
‘I ate a lot earlier…’
I also began pacing around whilst waiting for trains and buses on my commute to and from work in an effort to burn calories. I would drink fizzy drinks to fill my stomach.
The worrying thing, some of these colleagues knew I was a weight-restored anorexic and didn’t even bat an eyelid. When I began inevitably losing weight, all I got was compliments.
Thankfully my ability to restrict my food intake has wained significantly and I wasn’t able to maintain this for long periods. But I am fully aware of how close I was to entering a relapse.
I really wish at the time I was able to see the office diet-culture for exactly what it was and call out some of my colleagues for their BS, and the damaging impact they had on both myself, and possibly others within the office. But I now pity my co-workers, who have nothing better to talk about it would seem, and who remain fixed in the notion that their sole purpose in life is to take up as little physical space as possible.
As for me, I’m thrilled to have left such a toxic environment, and to be surrounded by people aren’t aboard the diet-culture train.