update about the pushy dietician who wouldn’t leave people alone

Here’s the first of a coming series of “where are they now?” updates on letters that were printed earlier this year … and this is a good one.

Remember the letter from the bodybuilder whose company had hired a new dietician, and she wouldn’t leave him alone? She was constantly badgering him with meal plans and insisting he report to her on his eating. Here’s his update.

After I emailed you, I only ended up having to deal with Nosy the Dietitian for another week in my office. If only that were the end of it…

I took your advice and the advice of most of the readers and simply told her that I wasn’t interested and that she was being inappropriate, regardless of what manner she wanted to harass me. Unbeknownst to me, the initial HR person I brought this issue to was on his last week and had the attitude of “not my problem” for everything that came his way.

I went back and spoke to one of the HR higher-ups. She was as appalled and aghast as I was. She confirmed it with my boss and decided to send an email to everyone in my department asking what they thought of the dietitian. She was smart about it; the letter sounded like an HR manager asking how they liked the company’s new service. It didn’t sound accusatory on my behalf despite most everyone having witnessed the dietitian’s harassment.

Luckily, most of the people wrote back and backed me up. Even though she was doing some good for most folks in the office, most still wanted her out or to leave me alone because it was disturbing them.

Since she’s a contractor, she and the rest of her cohorts (who worked with people in different departments) were fired that day and my company canceled the contract with their agency (or whatever a group of dietitians is called).

Things went back to normal. I get to eat steaks the size of my head for lunch in peace and quiet just like the good ol’ days.

But a few days later, while walking through the lobby one morning, Nosy was there and she brought the head hauncho dietitian from her agency with her. I called security before they saw me and got to watch them get dragged outside (while fighting the urge to do it myself).

The woman in HR that I spoke with to get Nosy out of the office came to me a bit later and gave me the rest of the story: apparently, this dietitian agency had been striving to become more well-known and wanted to get some athletes among their clients to show it. I guess they were willing to stop at nothing to do so. Other dietitians had been acting the same way; in our company, there were marathon runners and a powerlifter I was acquainted with who were being endlessly harassed about their diets. No one really noticed it because it all happened kind of fast and our HR operations are somewhat divided up. The company got restraining orders against them and anyone from their agency from being anywhere near the office or any of the company’s employees.

It’s been all quiet for about three weeks now, so I think I’m all clear. What’s more, the company used the budget for the dietitians to provide a masseuse for my department every Friday. So that’s pretty awesome.

Overall, I’m just glad to not have to deal with her anymore, and I even gained some respect around the office. Most of my coworkers told me that they wanted to toss her out a window despite not even being the target of her insanity. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the same way!

I wrote back and asked: “Do you know why they were in your lobby the day you had to call security on them? And what happened that necessitated a restraining order?! Were they simply refusing to leave? I’ve never heard of a company behaving that way to another company.”

More details:

Honestly, I had no idea what they were there for. They were waiting next to the elevators, kinda looking around. I figured it couldn’t have been for any good reason, and I was right. They basically wanted to berate me and some of the other serious athletes there for our diets and talk us into getting their diet advice.

I don’t care if they paid me to eat what they said… their recommendation of a 1800 kcals/day diet filled with wheat and soy does not a bodybuilder make. I eat anywhere from 3500 to 5000 kcals a day most of the year!

They weren’t so much a company as they were a small group of practicing dietitians with a common goal. I’m guessing that most of the craziness emanated from the head hauncho dietitian and she developed something of a cult of personality around her. Being deeply involved in the fitness community, I know people can get really zealous about their own brand of diet or exercise.

{ 94 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    I’m not going to lie: I would have paid VERY good money to see the debacle in the lobby go down.

    But good to hear she’s out of your work life and won’t be bothering you again!

    1. Paul

      It might make sense that they wanted to sacrifice and eat me. I would definitely make for a lot of meals if they had a really big freezer.

  2. Josh S

    Wow. Did not expect that. Props to your company for backing up its people and making sure the services provided were worth the money (and changing course upon finding out they weren’t). And props to you for standing up for yourself and others in your workplace.

    Awesome!

    1. JLH

      “Massage therapist,” please. The terms “masseuse” and “masseur” are no longer applicable for those that practice professional massage therapy.

  3. KayDay

    I would really appreciate it if the OP re-wrote this in TV screen-play form and submit it to The Office ? kthnxbye.

  4. jmkenrick

    Thanks for the update.

    I REALLY want to be in that woman’s head, just for a day. I’m so curious as to how someone can think this kind of behavior is reasonable. I get that it’s totally annoying to deal with, but it’s also kind of fascinating to me that people can justify this sort of thing.

    1. fposte

      I think it’s just typical of evangelism. “I will not be stopped by your failure to recognize how much I can improve your life!” “Oh, yes, you will.”

      1. Paul

        It doesn’t help that the college coursework to become an RD is pretty filled with indoctrination of their methods. I’ve met tons of RDs that can work with any range of clients – vegetarians, vegans, keto, athletes, diabetics, burn victims – and not come across as pushy or holier-than-thou. But it seems like there’s more than a few out there that just will not ever stray from the exact recommendations that the USDA sets.

        1. fposte

          There’s something about health that brings out dogmatism, I think. Which is sort of ironic, as it’s pretty counterproductive.

          1. Paul

            It really is. Partly too because I’ve found that there isn’t one set diet that works on everyone. Activity levels and preference aside, I totally thrive on a very low-carb diet with occasional carb load meals. I have to stay away from really starchy foods or I’ll gain a ton of fat. Another bodybuilding buddy of mine eats rice and bread with every meal, and he excels on it. Yet we’re both similar-sized pro bodybuilders.

            The whole “there is only one way” method of anything is just dumb, especially when it comes to diet. So much of one’s ancestry affects which foods are best handled by their systems.

          2. Rana

            Plus the USDA isn’t exactly a disinterested purveyor of health information, when it comes to diet. Unfortunately, its mandate to support American agriculture can sometimes run counter to what’s nutritionally sound; for example, the mandate that it support the beef and dairy industries can mean that it is, as an institution, reluctant to encourage vegan or vegetarian diets, or to recognize that many people cannot tolerate milk products. It’s not that the people in it are bad people or misinformed, necessarily, but that the institution as a whole serves two masters, and they’re not always in agreement.

            1. fposte

              I think it’s at an even more basic professional/psychological level than that. There’s a lot of discussion right now of the fact that so much medical standard practice is based on dogma rather than actual research (look at the Choosing Wisely project, for instance, or the indicators that mammography-level early detection isn’t actually a factor in lowering death rates from breast cancer). And the farther you get from research level, the more likely people are to bring the, well, sanctimony of superior knowledge while only having rigid belief. I’m not a particular follower of naturopathy, but allopathic medicine often doesn’t rise to the higher standard it thinks it does. So you get self-righteous dieticians who are convinced a thing is true because they were told it and it sounds good and they’ve been able to make people buy it.

    2. Anon1

      You’re supposed to find a job you love. Imagine one that lets you help people *and* be a bully all at the same time!

  5. Catherine

    Sweet, sweet justice. This story made my day.

    “…or whatever a group of dietitians is called.” A gaggle?

  6. K.

    Being deeply involved in the fitness community, I know people can get really zealous about their own brand of diet or exercise.
    You ain’t never lied … I went on a date a few months ago with the most obnoxious vegan ever. He asked me for a three-day meal plan detailing what I’d eaten. The ONLY thing he talked about on the date was his diet. Needless to say, I only went out with him once. (One of my best friends is vegan and is totally normal and cool about it, and when I told her that story she was like “That makes the rest of us look bad!”)

    On topic: wow, I was not expecting such a thrilling, dramatic end to that story! But it sounds like you work for a company that actually values its employees, which is great.

    1. Bridgette

      My sister’s boyfriend is a lifestyle coach and has a similar personality to Super Vegan. Who asks for your 3 day meal plan on a first date???

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I like to think that he asked for it be emailed to him ahead of time so that he could read it beforehand and come prepared with his thoughts.

        And I say this as a former vegan (who was never like this) and with many still-vegan friends (who are not like this).

        1. K.

          Funnily enough, we met online, so he did have the opportunity to ask for the meal plan via email, but he saved that for in person. He didn’t come across that obnoxiously in his profile or over the emails we exchanged (although we didn’t exchange that many before meeting in person) – his profile said he was a vegan, which is a non-issue for me, but beyond that the emails were kind of basic name/rank/serial number stuff. Had he showed his “true colors” via email, I wouldn’t have gone out with him in the first place!

        2. jmkenrick

          I think it’s worth noting that there are meat-eaters who act obnoxiously toward vegetarians and vegans just as there are vegans and vegetarians who act obnoxiously toward meat-eaters.

          It’s just that more people notice the latter because most people are meat-eaters. (I say this as a fellow meat-eater, who has sat through WAY too many dinners listening to random people lecture my veggie roommate about how she needs iron, etc, etc.)

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            OMG, yes. In fact, the second article I ever published in the Washington Post was a guide to etiquette for meat-eaters when they’re around vegetarians! I should scan it in and post the link.

            1. Anonymous

              You should! I’d be interested in reading it. It’ll be something different from your management articles.

              I’m not a vegan or vegetarian. I’m just a plain old picky eater. I’m afraid to try things I’m not used to, and I clam up when people try to get me to try new things. When people are not used to me being like that, they tend to come across as annoying, and in some cases, vicious. Some are annoying because they’ll make sure to point out to the crowd that I’m not eating something. Others are vicious because they bring it up even when I’m not eating and will make fun straight to my face. It took all my might the last time to not insult this one person the last time she did it.

              So I can imagine what it is like to be someone with a particular diet. I don’t care what the other person eats; just don’t bug me about what I eat! Believe it or not, I’ll come around on my own to trying new things when people don’t make a spectacle of it.

              1. Anonymous

                I’m a picky eater, too, and the more I’m pushed, the less likely I’ll try something new. I do try new things, but they have to appeal to me, not someone else!

          2. anon.

            Too true. When I was dating, I never mentioned being a vegetarian until at least the second date, unless it came up in a “want to share a steak” way.

          3. K.

            No doubt. I’ve been with my vegan friend in a group and people have been on her about “you should eat meat, you need more protein” or whatever.

          4. PW

            Oh, I HATED being a vegetarian! Not because of the way of eating, but because everybody, just EVERYBODY had to comment on my diet. I’m off it now because of health reasons, and honestly, my life is much simpler. Can’t we all just leave each other’s food alone?

            1. Rana

              +1

              I have never understood why some people are so insistent on sharing their opinions about other people’s food and/or bodies, nor why they get so huffy when politely told to mind their own business. So what if Peggy the Random Co-Worker eats cake/tofu/bacon/sushi and is larger/smaller/fitter/less healthy than you. Why do you freakin’ care so much?

              1. Natasha

                Because they have decided if someone is doing or eating or being something they have decided not to do/eat/be it is obviously an intentional slight to them and they must change you to prove their decisions are right. So basically insecurity.

                1. Liz T

                  Also: guilt. I noticed this same thing in college when my non-activist friends made fun of the (granted, sometimes silly) activists on campus. It was a way for them to not feel bad about not being activists themselves.

                  (Not everyone needs to be an activist, but we should be slow to criticize people who are trying to make the world a better place.)

          5. Ariancita

            Yes! I’ve been vegetarian for many years and I so often get harassed by meat eater friends. There’s the ones like you mention who like to tell me how I’m malnourished because of it. Then there are others who are extremely aggressive and want to start a debate (that I’m not interested in having) about what they think my philosophy is (I talk about my choice to be vegetarian, so it’s weird to hear the reasons and beliefs people project on to me). I’ve heard, “Give me one reason you’re vegetarian and I promise you I can find your logical fallacy.” Um, no thanks. Or, “You, and all your hippie friends are the reason the meat industry is going bankrupt!” Or, “Oh, I bet you think you’re so evolved. Well you’re not and here’s why…” Hey, I’m just sitting here trying to eat my snack/lunch/dinner/etc. Please focus on your own plate.

    2. Paul

      Pretty much any diet or exercise regimen that requires a lot of time and effort tend to make the users of that system be like that.

          1. jmkenrick

            It can be difficult, when you’re really passionate about something, to remind yourself that other peope might not get the same thing out of it that you do. I have trouble with this sometimes.

          2. Ariancita

            This reminds me, I have a co worker who is Paleo and likes to tell me how every thing that may be wrong with my health is because I’m vegetarian and that I need to quit because I’m going to die. It’s super annoying and I don’t need my food choices analyzed for their lack of meat and inclusion of carbs. So super happy to hear that you don’t push your diet on others (as neither do I). It’s great to be avid about something without needing to convert others!

            1. Kelly O

              I will add that I find myself biting my tongue fairly regularly at the office. I have a coworker who is diabetic, has all sorts of problems with keeping her blood sugar regulated, all sorts of foot problems, fatigue, you name it.

              And she complains about all those things as she drinks cokes and eats doughnuts, candy bars, cookies, cupcakes, and those Hungry Man frozen meals. I seriously had to walk away one day when she said she just could not understand why her insulin “isn’t working” as she ate a cream-filled doughnut.

              Disclaimer: I am certainly not perfect, but I do acknowledge my craptastic diet and lack of exercise are what has gotten me where I am today…

              1. S

                Wow. that’s…..just wow. FWIW I’m diabetic too. and I eat that kind of junk. I know there’s a whole host of issues there, mental/emotinoal/physical, but I just don’t understand how she can openly complain while eating junk! When you’re diabetic every.single.person shoves it down your throat how bad sweets are, so at least for me, there’s a small element of shame…Does she work out alot and think that would compensate for a bad diet?

    3. Tater B.

      I see your story and raise you the date who told me my “colon was sad” because I ate dairy products. He definitely got a *blank stare*

      Back to the OP, this applies to so much in the workplace. It may not be diet, but it’s something. In my office, you better be an OU football fan, period. I don’t have the heart to tell them our team has seen better days.

      1. perrik

        I am *so* going to use this the next time someone asks me how I’m doing.

        “Most of me is fine, but my colon is sad.”

    4. Dave33

      I know I’m late to the comments here but I had to add that this exact thing happened to me too. I went on a date with a vegan and the conversation revolved entirely around his diet. He also extolled the benefits of his almost-gluten-free regimen (he never could explain why he did this, since he wasn’t intolerant of gluten), and made a big deal about how he had been “okay” with us going to a brewery for the date, because he knew they made mead and kombucha there too so he would have something to drink. It was so off-putting.

  7. AdAgencyChick

    Wow, you could knock me over with a feather over this one! Just insane that they would show their faces in the building again.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish…and good job OP!

  8. The Engineer

    Lesson for management – Get real feedback about that cool new benefit you are congratulating yourself about. In this case not only were few employees participating it was actively negative on productivity for many others.

    1. Marie

      And not only getting rid of a “cool new benefit” that’s benefitting no one, but to trade it in for something awesome: massages! Talk about a morale booster! Seriously, this follow-up is just awesome. Ridiculously, crazy awesome. Thanks, Paul. Enjoy your steak!

  9. Elizabeth

    Sweet karma…what goes around comes around.

    And it happens even if you’re not there to witness it :)

  10. -X-

    I was kinda hoping the OP and the crazy dietician would end up hooking up and we’d hear about that….

  11. Spreadsheet Monkey

    Thanks for the update!

    I’m actually astounded that they thought they could get some athletes as clients by treating them the way you and some of your co-workers the way they did.

      1. Kelly O

        You do realize that I will now be disappointed by updates that don’t look vaguely like episodes of COPS, right?

        (Must not submit my own update…)

  12. Ask a Manager Post author

    Okay, for those who expressed interest in seeing the article I wrote for the Washington Post years ago about etiquette for meat-eaters when they’re around vegetarians, it’s here:
    http://www.askamanager.org/vegetarian

    Note that this is very old — 17 years ago, in fact. I was only 22, so forgive the writing. And much has changed since then (like point #6; that’s become way easier).

    1. Ariancita

      Yay! This is great. “Hostile interrogation” really resonated with me. Have been through so many of them! But the biggest problem I encounter is meat eaters trying to convince me that I’m malnourished and then, with great solemnity and looking wise beyond their years, admonish that I be very careful about my diet and think deeply about making up all the nutrients I’m missing. Funny, the it’s not my healthy diet meat eater friends/family who tell me this; it’s typically the ones with the worst eating habits. :)

      1. Anon

        I hate it when people poke their noses into my eating habits, so I try not to to do it to anyone else. If I’m cooking for you, I’ll definitely ask about restrictions, allergies, etc. Or if we’re going out for a meal, and I know you’re vegetarian or vegan or need gluten free or whatever, I’ll ask what restaurants work for you.

        Other than that, if you (generic “you”) don’t harangue me, I’ll be respectful to you. But any sanctimonious sermons about meat eating will result in my eating a bacon cheeseburger or rare steak in front of you, possibly while making yummy noises.

        1. Ariancita

          Yeah, see, as a vegetarian for 20 years, you could eat all the bacon double cheeseburger with gravy fries you want and make accompanying sexual noises, and I wouldn’t care. I’d be happily making them along with you as I eat my quinoa burger. People just need to focus on their own plates and not worry about anyone else.

        2. Hilary

          I live in what is widely known as the meat capitol of Canada (and the largest beef producing province) and I felt horrible when a vegetarian friend came to visit because it’s so hard to find restaurants with a balanced menu! (They’re either full vegetarian or full meat, and most of the ones with mixed menus aren’t the best places).

          What I found from that visit: he could take care of himself (probably not what you would find in a Miss Manners column about being a host(ess) but it works!) If we went out for dinner and he couldn’t get enough to eat, we would stop by the grocery store to make sure there were alternatives at my house for the duration of his visit. Instead of constantly hounding him to make sure he had enough, I just let him take the reins with it, and, in return, he left me and my steak alone :)

          1. Laura L

            Man, I feel you on the restaurant thing. I have a vegetarian friend who is currently trying to figure out if she has celiac disease. The test her doctor gave her was inconclusive (somehow), so she’s been on a gluten free diet (doctor’s orders).

            Last time she came down for dinner (we live in cities about an hour from each other), I had a very difficult time finding gluten-free, vegetarian, AND affordable restaurants. Luckily, we found a very good pizza place that offers gluten-free crust, but, man, it limited our options a lot.

    2. Rin

      I don’t know that #6 is much easier. I constantly feel like a heel, because the whole family wants to go out somewhere, and I’m stuck staring at the menu, debating between the tiny house salad and bread. Once, at Red Lobster (which I can’t go in anymore because of the smell), I ordered mozzarella sticks (literally the only thing I could order without modification, and I hate having to pay full price when they’re leaving out the most expensive part of the dish), and I think the waiter felt sorry for me, because he brought out a gigantic plate of them.
      Other than that, I’m totally sharing this on my FB, etc.

  13. CarHR

    I want to know if anything happened to the HR you complained to originally and did NOTHING about it.

    1. Paul

      It was his last week and he was mentally checked out. He didn’t really care about much of anything at that point.

  14. Michele

    Wow. I’m surprised this woman doesn’t get reported to whatever board or organization that her certification does from.

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