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How to escape the office diet talk

The office is a great place to find support for a new diet or exercise regime, but sometimes the weight loss talk goes beyond a joke. Some experts even equate competitive dieting with harassment. Here are a few tips for handling the accusing glances if you’re not as strict as your colleagues.

Diane Shipley from The Guardian says she spoke to one woman whose boss used to fish food wrappers out of the bin to read the calorie count out loud. Another was on a temporary contract following cancer treatment that made her gain weight and her co-workers’ constant focus on dieting affected her mental health. Shipley points out that a 2014 survey revealed 10 million women in the UK feel depressed about their bodies.

According to Helen O’Byrne, diet talk can fit into the Acas definition of workplace harassment. She recommends starting with a direct approach because some people may be oblivious to their actions. Tell the guilty party how their comments make you feel.

The next step is keeping a record of every incident to build a case to bring to your manager or HR department. Being open and honest about the complaint will ensure that future employees don’t have to deal with the same behaviour if you leave. Don’t shy away just because weight is a sensitive subject.

Finally, if a formal complaint doesn’t change anything, it may be time to find a new job. It’s a difficult step to take, but O’Byrne comments that you’re at work too long every day to be unhappy. Until you escape, keep your head up and don’t let the conversations get to you.

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