my husband has to discuss his eating habits with the CEO

A reader writes:

My husband started a new job about a month ago and things are going well. Yesterday, there was an online “wellness and energy” meeting conducted by an outside vendor that everyone in the (small, less than 100 employees) company had to attend. The context was about “reading energy” or so my husband thought.

Last night he wanted to get my opinion on it and said the meeting was focused heavily on nutrition and health. Note, this company is in the tech field. They were “educated” on fruits and vegetables and exercise and then broken off into randomly selected one-on-one groups to “discuss eating habits.”

The first person my husband was paired off with was the CEO. Barely four weeks in, he finds himself having to tell the CEO what “eating habits [he] would change.”

He was paired up with several other people after that too. He says he mainly deflected the questions and made an effort to steer each conversation away from food and exercise, and no one resisted. He didn’t know the other two coworkers he spoke with, but he said people seem relieved to discuss something other than the assigned topic and no one tried to get back to talking about health.

My husband said it was uncomfortable. He didn’t feel the topic was anyone’s business and wasn’t comfortable discussing his eating habits with people he didn’t know. He’s a very private person to begin with, so I’m not surprised he wasn’t on board with this. He’s wondering if this was intrusive or if he was overreacting.

A slew of thoughts went through my own head. What about people with eating disorders (past or present)? People with undisclosed diabetes or Crohn’s? People who don’t want to be judged because they like chili cheese fries? People who feel it is none of their boss’s damn business if they love pizza and brownies for dinner and don’t want to change?

Is the company trying to predict health-related issues as they relate to health insurance? Use it to make decisions related to promotions? (“We like Alex, but his favorite food is cheese in a can. Steve, on the other hand, loves avocados, so he may be around longer.”) Overall, what was the goal here and the point of this session?

The kicker is that these sessions on various “wellness and energy” topics are going to continue through next year. Being new, my husband is worried about opting out of these not-so-voluntary sessions. Is this normal for a company to do? What could be the motive? Are we both overreacting to this? If not, is there a good way for him to bail on it entirely and focus on the job instead?

There’s a trend of companies promoting “wellness” in ways that are intrusive and overstep the bounds of the employee/employer relationship.

Originally it stemmed from health insurance companies pushing employers to promote “wellness” because it can save them money on insurance costs. (Which is yet one more reason to decouple health insurance from employment.)

Now, though, part of it also comes from employers having a general sense that promoting wellness is good — and that they will have more engaged employees who feel the company cares about them as whole people.

The problem, of course, is that your “wellness habits” are none of their business. Your employer has no standing to probe into what you eat, how often you exercise, whether or how you cultivate mindfulness, or any of the other things these programs often dig into.

Your employer is not your doctor, your therapist, your nutritionist, or your spiritual counselor, and it’s wildly inappropriate for them to position themselves as anything remotely in that realm.

As for avoiding future sessions: If your husband weren’t brand new, I’d encourage him to find other coworkers who feel similarly (because I bet he’s not the only one) and push back as a group (using some of the ideas in this post). Since he’s new though, he doesn’t have a lot of capital to use that way. Instead, he could try simply opting out, saying something like, “Oh, I’m really private about that kind of thing (optional add-on: and prefer to manage that stuff with my doctor) so I’m going to skip this one and keep working on my X project.”

{ 459 comments… read them below }

  1. Jean*

    This is one of those situations where I would feel totally comfortable just tossing out some random glib platitude like “get more sleep” or “drink less caffeine” and then change the subject. This kind of workplace initiative is just performative, IMO. They can point to this and say “SEE? We DO care about your well being” when in reality it’s probably just some MLM-tier scam that sold their services to your company, and now they don’t have to put any effort into actual value adding services for their workers. Not worth you (or your hubs) spinning your wheels on.

    1. Lacey*

      Yeah, I absolutely would have turned it into a joke (although probably not when I was new) or else given some canned answer. But on the other hand I don’t have a particularly stressful relationship with food. I can imagine that being glib wouldn’t work very well for people who have food related anxieties.

      1. Jean*

        I definitely have significant issues with food related topics, which is why I feel no qualms whatsoever about just not giving this sort of thing any brain space. “Oh yeah, I need to cut down on coffee. Anyway, did you see the Packers game last night” or whatever. OP and her husband both seem to be spiraling about it, from what I can tell from the letter. It’s just not worth that level of intensity, bordering on paranoia almost (“are they going to somehow use this against him” etc). No one at the company actually gives a shit about what your answers are, they’re just doing it to tick a box and make it look like they care.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I hope you’re right that people don’t really care, but (a) healthism (and related fatphobia) is a thing and (b) people can get moralistic and evangelistic about this area. So, I wouldn’t be so sure that someone who loves nachos wouldn’t be considered not as good a fit as the marathoner.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Me: “I love homemade vegetarian nachos, in moderation. So how about that TPS report? Has anyone talked to Vendor Bob about the shipment?”

            Food Police Cow-irker: “B-but nachos—”

            Me: “Are delicious! Sarah, what did you do last weekend? Anything fun?”

    2. Joielle*

      I especially like “get more sleep” because nobody at work will ever know if you’re doing it or not! You can say whatever. And if you get stuck in a wellness conversation that you really can’t get out of, there’s a lot to say about the connection between sleep and health – you could chat for ages about the general principle without ever talking about yourself in particular.

      1. jiggle mouse*

        I could see blocking out naptime during work hours so everyone would know that I’m prioritizing self-care :D

      2. BubbleTea*

        If you run out of mileage on sleep, I know very few people who wouldn’t benefit from drinking more water. You could discuss all the different drinking vessels, and the relative merits (plastic water bottle versus glass versus metal? Larger volume versus lighter weight when filled? Labelled with volume or labelled with time to have drunk X amount by?). Steer clear of the potential controversy of buying bottled water versus installing a water filter versus a filter jug versus drinking the tap water, but the different flavours and palatability of the tap water in all the places you’ve ever lived or spent time could take you through a full hour.

        1. yala*

          Now I’m just thinking of the ProzD bit about the “before and after” of discovering a hobby subreddit (“You want a nice clean balance, so no *snicker* Dasani. I recommend Aquafina for a beginners water if you MUST go bottled, but…”)

        2. TardyTardis*

          I might go off on how many steps between floors are in the building, and the healthy effects of always going to a different floor to get coffee and water. That would annoy enough people that they’d leave me alone.

    3. Tuesday*

      That would be my approach. Say something boring that’s not likely to spark interest or disagreement. I definitely wouldn’t actually talk about anything I really cared about.

    4. Wendy*

      I agree. People should share what they feel comfortable sharing. It’s like a team building exercise, “two truths and a lie” or “your most embarrassing moment”
      You dont have to give the most honest or difficult -for- you answer. And heck, I cant think of anything is a perfectly fine answer.

      I’ve led some of these (because I had to) and never tracked answers or read much into it

    5. Prairie*

      Yes! My aunt opted in to one of these programs at work bc she thought it was going to be informational sessions. When she realized how intense it was going to be and that the insurance company was involved she set her goal as: Drink more water. I believe she spent three months reporting on her efforts to drink more water lol

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        My daughter-in-law did exactly that, and they found a color chart to hang in the building’s bathrooms. Seriously, there is somewhere a “pee-color chart” and a “Healthy Poop Appearance chart”

        The King of Snark in her division then took photos of poop from all over. He made a poster with things I try not to think of, mostly acquired from sidewalks and dog parks. Next Monday, all of the charts were gone, which was sad, because several people wanted to take them for White Elephant gifts at Christmas parties.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          BTW, we’re all in healthcare except for the Black Sheep of the Family, who is a pastry chef….

        2. Lab Boss*

          Hey, a former workplace had the urine color chart in ALL bathrooms! Granted, that was a summer camp where dehydration was a serious concern, but still.

        3. Mr. Shark*

          We definitely had a pee color chart in one of our locations, with the idea of making sure we weren’t dehydrated. Hard pass on the “healthy poop appearance chart.”

    6. MoreFriesPlz*

      OP says they were specifically asked what eating habits they would change, but I think the sentiment that you just don’t have to engage with this and have 0 obligation to share anything genuine is spot on.

      I think there’s no harm in saying “less caffeine” or “more protein” or anything benign regardless of if it’s true or not. You’re being asked a question by someone with power over you that they have no business asking. IMO this is a situation where lying is morally A-ok.

      I think this approach because if I were brand new I wouldn’t try to opt out. There’s too much risk you’d be labeled “not a team player” early on before you know who in management is nuts enough to support this.

    7. T2*

      I personally never ever talk about personal things at work. I would simply say “I am sorry, I do not speak about personal things at work. How about the game last Sunday.”

      I also do not like to eat in front of others. So I don’t. My personal time is mine. I am not interested in the personal lives of others either.

      Believe me I know how that makes people think. But I am an abuse survivor and if I let you in, it is because I trust you after decades of knowing who you are. So I have serious rules I never break and no amount of pressure will force me to do so.

    8. Another one rides the bus!*

      Glib can be helped by being long-winded. Explain in great detail exactly which part of your day is now caffeine free (it’s the part they don’t see, of course) and your exacting plan to cut down by adding more milk to coffee (“I use a spoon and count out one, two, three…”) or whatever. The more mind-numbing it is to listen to, the better.

      1. All the words*

        So you’re saying to become like Colin, the energy vampire and make them regret ever having asked? Malicious compliance at its best.

    9. Annony*

      Yep. Or you can just say something kind of on topic but not really disclosing the specifics of your diet. “I love fresh cherries. I wish they were in season longer.” Doesn’t mean I eat a lot of cherries.

      1. GlitsyGus*

        I like this one not only because it kind of dodges the question in a great way. It actually is a good opener for a conversation that’s sort of on topic, but doesn’t go down the way too personal road. Like just a generic what’s your favorite kind of fruit? Or Yeah, I love cherries too, my grandma made an amazing cherry tart. That will easily get you through your 15 minute break out session without having to get into any kind of awkward territory.

        1. TardyTardis*

          And there was pie cherry tree in our backyard when I was a kid and the cherries still tasted awesome and disappeared rapidly…if they keep pushing, I’ll tell them about the 168 quarts of homegrown peaches our family canned one year.

      2. Princesss Sparklepony*

        But wait, I do eat a lot of cherries when they are in season! Although I have to ration them unless I want to end up hanging out in the bathroom…. Start talking about that and you will lose your audience pretty quick.

      3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Love that idea. Although that is what some people would think. I once ordered a burger and all of a sudden burgers were supposedly my ‘favorite’ food. I love a good burger from time to time, but I definitely wouldn’t say they are my favorite food. Couldn’t shake that ridiculous rumor for the longest time. Haha!

        1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          And there wasn’t much fanfare around it- just ordered the stupid burger at that particular meal. LOL!

    10. Hey Nonnie*

      I’ll be honest: my petty butt would absolutely put on an oblivious tone with the CEO and say something like: “Oh, I think everyone could eat and exercise better than they do, but when work gets busy and stressful things like meal planning and cooking are usually the first things to fall off your spinning plates, amIright?!” ::BIG-JOVIAL-GRIN::

      And then I’d let that hang there.

  2. Middle Name Danger*

    I would legitimately cry or leave the room if confronted with that. I have a lot of medical issues that affect what I can eat and an unhealthy relationship with food that I’m actively working on in therapy. Nobody at work needs to know that.

    Let’s abolish potlucks while we’re at it. I’ve called in sick to avoid them. (And avoid questions about why I’m not eating whatever everyone thinks is the best dish.)

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, my son was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune conditions a few weeks ago that really complicate what he eats. Our family is taking a lot of time and effort to get into new food routines that work for all of us (the things he can’t eat anymore are staples of his sister’s diet…). Talking about food with a stranger right now might well cause me to break down in tears, or I’d have to totally stonewall and say basically nothing, or dump my family’s medical issues all over the person… I don’t even know how I’d react. I have no idea what I myself have been eating, really, because I’m so focused on making sure my son stays healthy.

      This is so inappropriate for work. If you want to bring in a nutritionist and have people sign up for optional private appointments, maybe that could work? But required, and where you have to discuss things with coworkers? Hard no.

      1. Sauron*

        Nothing to add here except I feel your son’s pain and am sending good vibes to hime <3 I too have recently developed a health condition that's really limited my diet and honestly, it's very hard to feed myself. I hope you find something that works!

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Thank you, and good vibes to you, too!

          My son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, and he’s doing great overall. But it’s a really big adjustment, and generic advice on healthy eating is often off base, irrelevant, or tone deaf. I spent the weekend trying to figure out how my young child could still have a Halloween that felt normal and fun within his new restrictions, after a year and a half of holidays that have been disrupted by a global pandemic. Someone offering advice about eating less sugar would probably cause me to have some sort of breakdown.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            More good vibes from me <3 I have celiac disease, and the same year I got diagnosed my dad found out he had high cholesterol. My mom said there were many times that year when she was in the grocery store and feeling like "I don't even know what food to buy!" Very frustrating experience at the time, but we all got through it. (My sister was a picky eater as a kid and there were nights where we had 3 or 4 different dinners to feed our family of five–my mom said she felt absolutely ridiculous when that happened, but we all got fed!)

            1. Carol the happy elf*

              Your mother must be an angel! When my son dated a truly entitled “veggan”, I made her cook things she could eat. Funny how quickly she decided that it wasn’t worth it, but I didn’t want her to risk compromising her beliefs by cooking for her….I have made several different dishes for people who legitimately have health needs or religious abstinences, and it’s seriously challenging.

              My best friend comes from a family where the Celiac disease is on the men’s side of the family. All of them! They have to have 3 buffet tables during holidays; one for the Grownups (Women and In-Laws), one for the kids, and one for the Men. (The men clean up after dinner, or no GF pie or cake, and the ice cream is Cookies and Cream.)

              It was so rough on the whole family before one brilliant doctor figured it out, but the food was cardboard bricks, and the bread was like foam rubber without the flavor! Once Celebrities discovered Gluten-Free, though, edible food became available for everyone.

              1. Erica*

                I became vegetarian at age 12 and my mom took the same approach – if you want something “special” you cook it. Well I went out and bought a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook at a garage sale for a dollar and taught myself to cook. I’m sure my mom thought I was going to give up on it after a week, but instead I’m very grateful I actually learned to cook full healthy meals at a young age.

              2. becca*

                Full disclosure that I’m coming at this as a person with lifelong medical dietary restrictions who subsequently became vegan, and is converting to a religion with dietary restrictions (fortunately most of which will be made irrelevant by me not eating meat). Food is complicated!

                I’m going to assume that your son’s girlfriend was genuinely entitled and her veganism not sincere, and that’s colouring your description, but your comment is a little snarky towards non meat eaters in general (using the wrong name deliberately, a certain triumphant tone about discouraging someone from it, the disingenuous ‘I just didn’t want her to compromise her beliefs’). Absolutely fine that you don’t want to cook for a specialized diet (I always offer to cook or bring my own food), but your attitude seems unkind here. Perhaps reconsider your attitude towards other people who have made a choice that may seem deeply right to them?

      2. FlyingAce*

        This. A few years ago my company gave us coupons for free consultations with a nutritionist and an ophthalmologist. The clinics were just a couple of blocks away from the office, so we could go whenever we wanted. It was truly no strings attached; they did not keep track of who was using the coupons, much less what was discussed in the consultations.

    2. Rainy*

      I have a laundry list of food allergies, and so I don’t participate in that kind of thing. There are questions occasionally, and I’m just cheerful and noncommittal about it.

      The one time, years ago, that I volunteered to bring something to an office potluck, the only thing I could eat was what I brought or dry tortilla chips–nothing else was safe–and everyone ate my dish. I ended up buying a sandwich in the cafeteria downstairs.

      1. DireRaven*

        Why is it that the one safe dish is either all gone by the time we get there or someone used serving ware in a not-safe dish and then put it in the safe dish?

        1. Rainy*

          It’s so often the case. Even my spouse does it sometimes, honestly. We were visiting friends out of town, in a place well known for a wide variety of basically 24 hours available delivery, and we ordered shareplate style, except…all I could eat was my rolls. All the rest of them had tuna or shrimp in them. Sighhhhh. At least my rolls were delicious, and I ate all the calamari.

    3. Ashkela*

      Yeah, while the potluck thing has never been an issue for me (I actually had a boss who would schedule them JUST to get me to bring in a dish I was good at – which I had to shut down because it got costly), the meeting like the one LW described absolutely has sent me into tears and nearly quitting a job.

      The only reason I didn’t was because my sister also worked at the same company and was two tiers above me. When I realized in the opening presentations what was going to happen, I turned off my camera, switched to my personal laptop, sent her an IM and told her I was already crying and we hadn’t even started yet. Given that she knows I’m autistic and that if something was making me cry, there was no ‘suck it up’, I was already past that stage and in full-blown meltdown. She reached out to her boss, who was running the whole thing, who agreed I didn’t need to participate in the breakout sessions.

      That was less than a year ago, so it remains to be seen if it’ll happen again at the next yearly meeting of that type, but at least I got out of it.

    4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      On the potlucks, people I’ve worked with who have food issues would just cheerfully say “Sorry, food issues, but I’ll bring my own so we can sit together!” Nobody gave it a second thought, except maybe to ask if there was something they could bring that food issue person could eat. If food issue people had said “I can’t eat that so nobody should” or “I can’t participate so nobody should” – that would have caused a LOT more than second thoughts.

      1. ThisIsTheHill*

        I used to get harrassed for my anti-potluck stance – I didn’t care if others did it, just don’t come by 10x & ask why I haven’t signed up for something voluntary. I have sensitivities & allergies & germ phobias, can’t just pick off the items I can’t eat. I got so tired of it that I finally started saying, “You want to eat food made by people who don’t wash their hands when they leave the bathroom? You trust that they keep their kitchens cleaned & sanitized? You want to share utensils with them?” (there were a handful of these types who were gossiped about relentlessly).

        It took about a year for all of the requests to completely stop, but at least a few people that I made the comment to joined me in sitting them out afterward.

        1. Salad Daisy*

          Sorry I keep strictly Kosher (or Halal for my Muslim friends, or vegetarian for my Hindu friends). And then there are the folks who are vegetarian or vegan for personal reasons.

          Where I used to work at least 30% of the employees were Hindu and most of them followed strict dietary rules. We had pizza day once a month and the company got all kinds of meat pizza’s including Hawaiian, which mean a large number of the employees were fighting over the plain, mushroom, and onion and green pepper ones if there were even any of those. I mentioned this problem a few times to my managers and the response was that “Everyone” likes pepperoni pizzas.

          1. Retired Prof*

            We learned to pull out all the “special” food choices and put them on a separate table, then invite the people with food restrictions to come up first – not a blanket statement, but dropping a word in their ear. Otherwise all the veggie/halal/kosher choices get eaten by other people. Always a mystery to me why people openly disparage other people’s food restrictions – and then eat all of the specially provided food.

            1. Jack Russell Terrier*

              Thanks for doing that!! It’s so tough when you’re in the queue and see someone take the last two slices of cheese pizza and a pepperoni – leaving me (and others) with nothing.

              1. La Triviata*

                At my office we have some VIPs who are Hindu and so don’t eat meat; on the rare occasions they’re in the office for a lunch meeting, the person ordering will make sure to get enough for them, plus one or two, depending on how many people will be there, mark them and set them aside. It’s the only way to make sure they get something they can eat.

            2. ErinWV*

              Yes, this! I used to work in an international student services office, and at the end of the year we would have a huge potluck party for the students and their families. We segregated all the Halal and vegetarian dishes in separate areas, and made sure those students got first crack at those tables. Our system was: when students came in to buy tickets, we would ask their food needs and then give them a color-coded ticket. Halal was white and vegetarian was green, I remember. So those tables would only serve those color tickets until the lines died down and then they opened to mass consumption.

              (Of course there was always a wide variety of omnivore food that anyone could access from the very start.)

      2. Middle Name Danger*

        I’m glad that’s the experience your coworkers have had. That’s not the experience I’ve had. People stared at or interrogated me about my choices, even when I brought something in and only ate that, without bringing anything up.

    5. anonymous73*

      The problem isn’t pot lucks (or anything similar), the problem is people’s lack of ability to get all up in people’s business. Make non-work related things truly optional, stop pressuring people to attend if they opt out, and for the love of cheese, stay out of other people’s business.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. Even if doing fun things together is about fostering community in the workplace, that will fail miserably when people start judging each other’s choices. The judging needs to stop, or else the non-work events need to stop.

    6. Amethystmoon*

      Potlucks should be abolished anyway due to COVID reasons. You never know if the person who made the food is being honest about not having COVID or being vaxxed, anyway.

      1. Student Affairs Sally*

        COVID is not spread via food. There isn’t even significant spread via surfaces – it is spread through droplets in the air that you breathe in.

        1. Anonny Non*

          COVID is spread through droplets when groups of people are in prolonged close contact….like potlucks where people are crowding around a buffet of food and chatting with their coworkers in a windowless conference room.

          1. Student Affairs Sally*

            That’s true, but the comment I was replying to was referring to whether the people that MADE the food were vaxxed/COVID negative, which is irrelevant because it doesn’t spread that way. That’s what I was referring to.

              1. Sweet Christmas*

                But we’re not talking about future mutations.We’re talking about right now, and coronavirus doesn’t spread that way. It’s important that people have accurate information about how the virus spreads so they can make choices to protect themselves.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Yeah, I’ve had a boss who gave me diet sheets and an objective of ‘lose weight’ and ‘be healthier for the company’ and, look, I know I’m obese but what I do or don’t eat is my business and mine alone.

      No employer has the right to tell me to ‘eat vegetables and go jogging’. None.

      1. allathian*

        As another obese person, I heartily agree! My grandboss is a marathon runner and fitness freak, but fortunately he understands that a large number of his subordinates don’t share his fitness obsession. Consequently we’ve had friendly “take the stairs” competitions with prize draws at my office. The point of those is that anyone who participates can win. The idea isn’t to reward the already fit employees, but to encourage the less fit ones to get some incidental exercise. There’s also absolutely no judgment if you don’t participate. I’ll occasionally take the stairs at the office simply because it’s often faster than waiting for the elevator…

        1. Zweisatz*

          Honestly I still find that contest paternalistic. Sure, the bar can always be lower, but it plain isn’t my employer’s business how much I do or do not move and what I do or do not eat. Contests like these can still affect people who have a difficult relationship with food and weight talk and yes, exercize. Disordered eating is not only about food, but can also be about unhealthy relationships to exercize and I see no reason why an employer needs to trigger that kind of thing (or disadvantage people with disabilities, while we’re at it).

      2. JustaTech*

        If an employer genuinely wanted people to eat more fruits and vegetables, then they could offer them at work. It’s just obnoxious to say “eat your 5 a day!” and then the only thing to eat at work is the lunch you packed yourself or the shelf-stable stuff in the vending machine.

        I know in the before times in my city there were at least two companies that did “snacking fruit” delivery service (ie, fruit most people wouldn’t need a knife to eat, so apples and oranges rather than melons and pineapple).

        Unless your vending machine makes salads (they do exist and I want one) or apples (they also exist and I want one of those even more), then it’s just meaningless talk from upper management.

        1. Erica*

          And you don’t need a fancy vending machine – just get a fridge and stock it with fruit and healthy snacks! If people’s eating habits are going to make such a difference in the company’s finances, the cost of some fresh food should be well worth it.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I worked for a company that had fresh berries available all year round, and I’m crazy for berries. I have never eaten so much fruit in my life.

          Of course, this was before the COVID.

    8. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      Texture/taste/smell aversions, GERD and miscellaneous medical issues, a host of anxieties as a result especially in social settings, and my sympathies. In a lower-stakes (ie, not employment-related) situation I’d probably WANT to go steely-faced, icy-toned ‘that’s a topic I only discuss with my gastroenterologist.’ In reality, I’d probably, yeah, freeze up, cry, and/or have an anxiety attack. It sucks!

      1. T2*

        I am the same way less the anxiety attacks. I have been dealing with my issues for decades though so I am experienced in avoiding forward people.

    9. hayling*

      I have terrible migraines and they’re triggered by a ton of different foods. Pot-lucks are a nightmare for me.

  3. Presea*

    Oh nooooo this is such a massive overstep, for exactly the reasons you listed, OP. As someone with a… very complicated relationship with food and outright competing dietary needs, I would be pushing back as hard as I felt I could get away with relative to my capital. If this is any level of ‘normal’, it shouldn’t be.

    (Also, I am side-eying the general information part of this as well. Telling people about the wonders of eating broccoli and going for a walk is unlikely to be news to anyone, much less be anything actually useful, because chances are the people who aren’t living their “healthiest” life are doing so because of actual challenges that get in the way. To say nothing of the fact that different people have different needs. Can’t your company funnel this money towards something that doesn’t treat you guys like grade schoolers? Yikes)

    1. quill*

      Reminds me of high school health class where nothing worked and everything was taught condescendingly.

      1. esra*

        Not to derail, but I think what you’ve got here is a good example of why companies shouldn’t be involved in this. Yogurt and cheese are perfectly decent foods, and health and diet are incredibly complex. You’ve got a lot of food judgments in this post, which is like cool, you do you. But they aren’t necessarily health-informed, just like a company is very likely not health-informed when pushing these initiatives.

      2. Aspie_Anything*

        I volunteered at a community health clinic in college. One of the diabetic patients was keeping a food log, and under ‘vegetables’ she had listed her hash browns with breakfast and baked potato with dinner. Under ‘fruit’ she had a juice box.

        My own mom was told to eat less red meat for her heart. When I went home to visit the next weekend, she was frying breaded pork chops and SO PROUD that she was following the doctor’s orders.

        It’s really a privilege to have received good nutritional education – many people don’t have that benefit and their health suffers.

        1. Presea*

          As true as that is, there’s still a difference between over-generalized “fruit and vegetables and exercize are always good for everyone” type education that’s overly played out, and “here’s what a fruit/vegetable/workout is and what its role is in nutrition, here are some ways they could be good or bad for different people.” type education. We do certainly need more of the later and less of the former.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I have digestive allergy to all sugars including fructose, and stomach very sensitive to acid. I haven’t had fruit in 20 years.
            These wellness things are not useful to me at all. When I was at one employer they had an automated one where you entered your diet and a robot gave you suggestions. it would’ve been funny if it hadn’t been so stupid.

        2. Polecat*

          It doesn’t make work the right place for this. It doesn’t matter how many anecdotes you tell. It doesn’t make work the right place for this.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Hear, hear! *applause*

            Work is never the right place for picking apart people’s personal habits or evangelizing about food or exercise. NEVER, period, full stop.

        3. Nesprin*

          I think that you’ve actually demonstrated the difference between an appropriate discussion with a community health educator and a screamingly inappropriate discussion at work with your boss. There’s a huge gap between nutritional education with a trained medical person who knows your health history, and discussing diet with your boss, who figures out what your next raise should be.

          And eating well is commonly believed to require two of the three: Time, Money and Education. When I’m working 60+ hours a week, I just don’t have the time to eat the way I’d like to, and no amount of education on the virtues of Kale will give me an hour to cook. An appropriate workplace intervention would be limiting hours, or offering discounts on gyms or farmers markets, not discussing confidential medical stuff.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            And it’s even better when the medical establishment hasn’t caught up to your needs and your doctors know less than you do.
            I diagnosed my own food allergies because doctors did not. I figured out my own diet because nutritionists and dietitians were so clueless it was
            I’ll go through the motions for a wellness program if there’s a financial incentive, but I get nothing from it. At least they consider my weight to be healthy so I don’t have to do the coaching calls.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                Like, I told one about my digestive allergy to all forms of sugar and she told me to eat wheat, which has a high fructose content.
                I mentioned to one that sunflower butter can’t be used with baked goods and she had had no idea. That visit was not fruitful for me, I was mainly teaching her what I knew and she was a G.I. specialist! A week later she sent me the information about sunflower butter that I had given her.

              2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                DJ Abbott clearly stated that they had to figure out their own food allergies and work how to eat because the doctors and nutritionists weren’t knowledgeable enough to be any help; i.e., they were “clueless” about the whole thing.

                “I diagnosed my own food allergies because doctors did not. I figured out my own diet because nutritionists and dietitians were so clueless it was

                It would be obvious to me (or pretty much anyone, I think) if the diet advice someone was giving me wasn’t addressing my problems, and that would indicate to me that they didn’t really understand my needs. Describing that as “clueless” sounds right on the money to ne.

                1. DJ Abbott*

                  Thanks! I replied but it’s apparently stuck in moderation.
                  Long story short, I knew so much more than they did I ended up teaching them. Not a good use of my time or my insurance company’s money!

        4. mc*

          What this shows is that the there is a big problem with the inexact language and the “sound bite slogans” that are so commonly used by medical people when talking about nutrition. Potatoes are indeed vegetables. It is also true that pork chops aren’t red meat. And fruit juice is marketed as a health food everywhere despite being nothing but empty calories. Thus sound bits such as “more fruits and vegetables” and “less red meat” aren’t actually helpful. Education should focus instead on portion control, calories, fiber, salt, carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

          1. Tess*

            Or, you assume people are smart enough to know what is meant by “fruits and vegetables.” That some don’t isn’t the fault of a doctor.

            1. BubbleTea*

              It is not to do with smart. I used to work for a Chinese family who would buy Chinese produce and let me try it. There were items I would not have recognised as being fruit/vegetable. Lack of familiarity with things isn’t about intelligence, it’s about what you’ve experienced. And in the UK at least, the “eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day” advice does not include white potatoes (too starchy), but does include one serving of fruit juice, one portion of baked beans, and any amount of frozen, dried or tinned fruit/veg as long as it isn’t in syrup. You can’t tell me that knowing all of that simply requires a high level of intelligence.

              1. Been There*

                I was very surprised as a kid in France where French fries were considered vegetables. Potatoes would never be considered a vegetable in Belgium (but fruit juice would count towards your fruit intake).

          2. Zweisatz*

            Maybe let’s not get into the specifics of what’s “right” as that depends on the individual and also “empty calories” is not a thing biologically.

          1. WellRed*

            I think the point was that she was breading and frying the pork chops (considered by many to be white meat).

            1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              Yes, the National Pork Board had a slogan “Pork. The Other White Meat.” Of course, pork is NOT considered a “white meat” (as, say, breast of chicken or turkey would be) but it probably confused a lot of people and is at least borderline deceptive.

      3. Erin*

        Yes, there are definitely people who could benefit from a conversation about healthy options when it comes to eating. However, there are many other things tied up in statistics about obesity (such as income inequality, food deserts, BMI as a completely useless form of measurement) that make work not the place for these conversations.

      4. Marillenbaum*

        Wow. I’m amazed your sister-in-law has anything to do with you. The condescension and anti-fat bias just leaps off the page.

      5. quill*

        There are many ways to teach people about nutrition without it being condescending, however. A one size fits all workplace chat to your peers who may judge you isn’t going to fit that bill, most likely.

      6. Polecat*

        Your post is incredibly offensive. Your condescending and insulting anecdotes about your sister-in-law is gross, not because of her, but because of your judgment. I feel really sorry for her that she has someone so mean and cruel judging her and sharing those judgments online. You are the kind of person who makes fat people’s lives miserable.

        I hope that Alison removes this fatphobic posts.

      7. Presea*

        You’re talking about one specific person who needs specific advice about a specific situation… one where more general health advice isn’t the same thing as the advice she needs (ie, it might not be wise for her to consume a lot of fruits until her A1C is under better control). So really, what you’re saying about your SIL doesn’t really contradict what I said at all… she’ll benefit a lot more from advice that’s tailored to her and her own specific needs (and even individual taste preferences) than she will from general information that ‘vegetables and fruits and exercise are good the end’ type advice, which could contain information that’s harmful for her body specifically.

      8. Jean*

        Palatable is the word you’re looking for. Also, your comment is off topic, off base, and not helpful to OP.

      9. automaticdoor*

        Yogurt and cheese are both healthy items to eat if you’re eating them in normal amounts. Your comment, in addition to being super condescending (both to Presea and your SIL), is just flat wrong. I hope you didn’t give your SIL that advice.

        1. Aquawoman*

          Fat people are not allowed to eat what other people eat. We need to eat only plain broccoli and rice cakes to atone for our sins.

          1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

            Nah, some rice cakes have flavor. Better stick with broccoli and maybe iceberg lettuce. (Fellow sinful fat person)

        2. banoffee pie*

          ok I didn’t see this rude post, but it sounds like it was anti cheese and yoghurt? Yoghurt and cheese aren’t bad! New studies are coming out all the time to show fat is not the enemy, and a lot of the stuff they told us in the 90’s about needing to only eat skimmed milk and one egg a week was a crock of crap. Also even if they were bad for you, it isn’t nice to yell at people for eating them. yikes

          1. Wednesdays we eat chicken*

            Thing is, for me both fat and carbs are the enemy, due to a genetic condition–and right now, while I’m pregnant, I have to consume very exacts amounts of each in order to sustain my body without triggering a medical crisis. And that’s the problem–both with the comment you responded to and with the original letter!

            So much goes into an individual’s health situation. Unless you are their dietitian, you don’t even know what they *need*, let alone what is actually attainable.

      10. LadyHouseOfLove*

        Well Meep, I really hope your SIL does not spend much time with you. I know I would be livid if someone I knew was posting my health and medical info online to punch down on myself and other people that look like me.

        You should be ashamed of yourself.

        1. Ground Control*

          Seriously. As a fat person, these kinds of comments and reactions to “health” initiatives in the workplace tell me who finds me fundamentally repulsive and it’s super depressing.

          1. LadyHouseOfLove*

            Yup. I’m a fat woman myself and it’s jarring how badly people want to dehumanize you.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*


              I may be fat, disabled and slightly crazy but I’m not worth less than anyone else because of it.

      11. Former Young Lady*

        “Palpable” for “palatable” might be one of the weirder malapropisms I’ve encountered, and I’ve seen some lulus.

        On another note: in the year 2021, admitting you’re not an expert, and then holding yourself out as smarter than actual doctors, isn’t a good look.

      12. Archaeopteryx*

        If you care about your husband’s (obese) sister as a person, and want to prioritize treating her well over dehumanizing her because of her weight and/or your (way-too-attentive) observations of her eating habits, I would refer you to check out the website Your Fat Friend and the podcast Maintenance Phase. They can be really helpful in reframing your thinking and in helping you see just how cruel and bigoted your comment comes across. It can be painful to try to deprogram your mindset from the fatphobia of society, but treating other people decently is worth it.

        1. Moryera*

          Oh my goodness, seconding the Maintenance Phase recommendation for anyone else scrolling through these comments a few days late. I mean, like, I knew there was a lot of societal BS that I don’t have to deal with because people perceive me as ‘healthy’ even though I’m just unhealthy and thin? But the STORIES Aubrey has told on that show, WHOOO BOY I had no idea how bad it gets.

          Don’t take that to mean the podcast is a downer: it’s the opposite, it’s freakin’ hilarious. It’s my current favorite thing to listen to at work. (Though it should definitely be noted here that I have my own office. Headphones highly recommended for more public workspaces: thar be SWEARS in them there episodes ;D )

      13. generic_username*

        YIKES to your whole vibe. This comment is gross.

        Also, I’m not sure why, but it’s actually cracking me up that you seem to think a gyro is healthier than a hamburger. It isn’t……. lol

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            But generally even fattier. Also made of lamb if you are going full traditional. Definitely not a healthier option, but IMO a tastier one

          2. All the words*

            Well, the meat is a combination of ground lamb & ground beef. Draw your own conclusions. I didn’t see the original post.

            1. Carol the happy elf*

              Gyro is sort of like a meatloaf on a vertical spindle. With a shavey thing to carve off thin slices. Best served with Tzatziki and onions that reach out and slap you! (I had one yesterday at my favorite Greek place) Much of the fat drips out as it spins and cooks, but there’s always fat involved.
              If the flatbread is made right, and it’s completely loaded with vegetables, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers and those truly aggressive onions, it’s pretty healthy since the meat is more for flavoring.

    2. kiki*

      There probably is *somebody* out there who needs to hear about the benefits of walking, but most people know walking is good for them. They need help facilitating the walks– more flexibility in their work day, fewer work hours (with the same pay), nice areas around them to walk, a walking buddy, etc. Most people know stress is bad for their health, they don’t need a lecture about the benefits of mediation, they need their jobs to cause them less stress (reduce workloads, have better communication, maintain reasonable expectations).
      It’s frustrating because companies *know* these actually helpful interventions would improve employees’ health more than 30 minutes sitting in a circle talking about carrots, but the actually helpful interventions mean they would be extracting less value from their employees in the short-run.

      1. Presea*

        Yeah, fair enough, there’s a non-zero number of people who need that sort of general information, I think I wasn’t checking my privilege enough in the original post. But I totally agree that work is not the place for such education, and employers should be focusing more on initiatives like the ones you list.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This is probably terrible advice, but it sounds like this was virtual. I’d have been really tempted to feign technical difficulties.

    1. CBB*

      Not terrible advice at all.

      Over the years, even before things like this were virtual, I’ve used various flimsy excuses to avoid things like this and no one cares.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      *ccccccc* “I’m going through a tunnel!” *ccccc* “You’re break *ccccc* “-g up *ccccc*

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        And cut yourself off in the middle of your own sentence — it’s gotta be legit if you were talking when the connection went ka-blooie.

        1. BatManDan*

          use “airplane mode” – then the other party gets “signal failed” not “call ended.”

            1. Carol the happy elf*

              I love you all forever for this! I had never thought anything this good could exist!
              My mental health is happy now, and am planning to deploy the wings.

  5. CatCat*

    Why do employers make things like this mandatory? Ugh.

    Let the folks who are interested sign up. This is how my employer does it. Seems to work pretty well! I sign up for sessions with topics I’m interested in and don’t for ones I am not interested in. Simple. Why FORCE people into this?

      1. banoffee pie*

        I don’t think it should even be legal to force it on employees. They used to make us do this crap in school (FT class, so food technology) and all the girls just lied and said that they ate very little. It was the late 90’s so everybody had to pretend to think they were fat, unless they were as thin as the girls in friends.The whole thing was intrusive and pointless anyway because no one was telling the truth, so it wasn’t like you were gonna get any decent advice about your diet anyway. I can’t tell if it’s worse to force this on schoolchildren who can’t fight back, or adults who feel they can’t as it’s tied into their jobs. I wouldn’t be surprised that a lot of OP’s coworkers just lied about what they ate anyway. The whole thing is weird af

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. My employer has voluntary programs like this. I’ve participated in some, opted out of others. If that makes me look like I don’t care about my health or not a team player, I’m fortunately privileged enough to blow that off. I’m not going to get written up for refusing to participate.

    2. Mars Maybe Me*

      During my company’s “wellness week” last year we had to do a forced several minute long laughter session in the middle of the meeting. Like, management had to instruct us to stand up and laugh in front of our computers for I think a minute or two. As that point in time my job made me want to not exist and I was a ball of anxiety and depression. A minute of laughter was… uncomfortable at best. Still better than a forced talk about dietary changes.

      1. Lucy Skywalker*

        You just had to laugh? Even though there wasn’t anything funny? It is true that laughter can help reduce stress (thank you, Stephen Colbert for helping us get through the pandemic!) but it seems to me that if it’s forced laughter and fake, that it wouldn’t be as effective.
        However, if there is a job where all employers are required to watch Colbert or some other comedian, let me know so I can apply!

        1. CC*

          Apparently “laughter yoga” is a thing, and probably other types of just-start-laughing practices. I guess the idea is that even if you start out with a forced laugh when there isn’t anything funny, in a group, the other people laughing turns your forced laugh into a real laugh. No idea how well that would work when mediated by computer screens…

    3. Lucy Skywalker*

      My old workplace offered yoga and other wellness activities for people who wanted them, but it was entirely optional and no one was ever shamed for not participating.

  6. Just Pay Me*

    The money spent on that BS would have done a lot more for the wellness of the employees if it had been split up and given to them.

    I was subjected to a similar project at an accounting firm I worked at back in the early 1990’s. There were many reasons I quit working there, but this nonsense was the final straw.

    1. TrackingCookieMonster*

      Seriously. Whatever happened to, say, companies working out discounted memberships/reimbursements for gyms, weight loss services, offering PTO for routine checkups, etc.?

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Hell, buying everyone a nice water bottle to keep with them during the workday (or forget in the back of the drawer, none of their business either way) would probably have done more for employee wellness than this crap.

      2. The Original K.*

        I used to work somewhere with a physical fitness reimbursement and it was such a great perk. I used it for my gym membership, my work friend used it for dance classes, my other work friend bought a treadmill … It wasn’t invasive and the ways in which you could use it were broad enough that most people were comfortable taking advantage.

      3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        Those still exist, but they take more work than scheduling a session like the LW’s husband attended.

      4. MoreFriesPlz*

        Right?! Or buy a bag or carrots for the break room every week. Congratulations, now I’ve eaten a vegetable, leave me alone.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Even if it’s only enough for a cheeseburger, it’s a better sign they care about the employees’ needs than this invasive and performative … mess.

  7. Gerry Keay*

    This would trigger my eating disorder so fast. Hell, I even ask that friends and family don’t talk about this stuff around me, let alone make me talk about it. This “wellness” initiative would cause me to be deeply unwell and would greatly harm my ability to do good work. Terrible top to bottom.

    1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Yeah, same here. I was just thinking about how hard I worked to get out of the mindset of having to track every calorie I eat and having to justify every meal as being “good enough” and how crappy it would be to have to re-litigate my food decisions with someone who doesn’t have any idea of my history.

      Like, it’s bad enough to hear Betsy from Accounting giggling about how she was “so bad” because she had a piece of chocolate cake instead of a salad when I try every day not to think of myself as a failure of a person for choosing the cake.

      1. jiggle mouse*

        So glad I no longer work near my religious extremist coworker who calls pleasurable food sinful and wicked and does the performative ‘I’ve been naughty’ giggle.

        1. Texas*

          Argh yes! The assignment of moral value to food consumption is so frustrating. There’s a seltzer water that lists on the can something like “0 calories = innocent!” and like… 1) it’s water and 2) something having calories isn’t bad! That’s the energy we need to live!

          1. banoffee pie*

            I hate that ‘I was so naughty thing’. Ugh, it’s so coy and knowingly arch and flippin annoying. Or the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’. I always respond ‘I never feel guilty about pleasure’. I stole the phrase from the newspaper so I can’t take credit. It’s pretty funny though and bonus points if you say it with a slight twinkle in your eye so they think you’re talking about other stuff too

          2. Coder von Frankenstein*

            “The assignment of moral value to food consumption is so frustrating.”

            YES. It’s fuel! There’s no moral valence to it. Eating different things will have different effects on you, the eater; deciding which of those effects to experience does not make you a good or bad person.

            I tend to avoid eating certain things. Sometimes people around me comment on how “good” I am (usually when I turn down something super sugary), and it really bugs me. No, I’m not good or bad, this is just the choice I’m making for me, and it’s a lot easier to make that choice when I view it as a neutral decision made for technical reasons.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          I’ve been trying SO HARD to decouple morality from food. All food is good food! All food provides value, whether that be nutrition or simply pleasure! The only “bad” food is food that’s spoiled or that you’re allergic to.

          1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

            My current favourite answer to, “Oh, I was so bad, I ate (sweets/cake/etc)” is a mildly confused look and “Did you steal it from a baby?” No? You bought it legally with your own money? That’s not bad, you’re allowed to do that.

          2. Random Bystander*

            Exactly–and while there might be some foods that one ought to eat more of and others that one ought to eat less of, the food itself isn’t bad. I like to just make sure that I eat mindfully–which means that I’m paying attention to the taste of the food while I’m eating it.

        3. DJ Abbott*

          This makes me think of the scene from the movie Waitress where she’s bringing her boyfriend “ naughty pumpkin pie“.
          It wasn’t about the pie. ;)

    2. Karen from accounting*

      Yup, my disordered eating behaviours reappear as soon as I notice (or even think I notice!) that someone else is monitoring what I’m eating. I’ve put a lot of effort into fixing my relation with food and setting hard boundaries with everyone in my life about how they talk to me about food, and just knowing that my bosses cared or wanted to know about my diet would be enough to mess me up for a while.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’m still not able to eat in front of other people because I am 100% sure they’ll think ‘look at that fat slob stuffing her face’.

        Starving myself is my stress response.

        1. Paris Geller*

          One time in college I was eating a salad in the dining hall when a completely random stranger walked by and said “Good for you!” in the most cheerful (but unintentionally condescending tone). For the rest of the semester I took all my meals to go. Even though it was supposedly “positive” the fact that someone thought it was OK to comment on my eating like that just because I was fat really did a number on me. I’ve been fat pretty much my entire life, and have had all the insecurities and disadvantages that go along with that, but that was definitely a pivotal moment on my fat person journey. Even though I had been insecure from time to time before, especially during my teen years, it was really the first time I realized strangers looked at me and saw Fat. Nothing else.

  8. The Smiling Pug*

    Why do workplaces do this??? These “conferences/timewasters” help literally no one get work done. Not to mention, the topic is highly invasive and none of my boss’ damn business. I’m so sorry that your husband has to experience this, OP.

    1. HS Teacher*

      Because in this stupid country we continue to tie health insurance to employment, an outdated model that needed to be gone yesterday. I do not take the health insurance offered by my employer because I get it from the VA, but the wellness programs at my job don’t seem this intrusive or triggering. However, we really need to stop tying health insurance to work.
      I wonder if companies realize that with the savings they get from universal healthcare they could probably afford a living wage.

  9. jiggle mouse*

    Maybe hijack the purpose to cover what meal subscription services the company would be providing for all employees, in the interest of non-invasive ‘healthy eating’.

    1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

      Yes! I would definitely shy away from that conversation but what a great opportunity to convince the CEO to give everyone a raise so they can afford “healthy” food!

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    People seem relieved to discuss something other than the assigned topic.
    I like to think that your husband endeared himself to his new coworkers with his quick-thinking and ability to pivot.

    1. sacados*

      Definitely! They will remember him as “oh yeah my new coworker, he seemed cool” rather than “person I had a super awkward conversation with.”

    2. LQ*

      Yeah I’d totally lean into this a little, you can crack a joke about getting back to the topic when you have 6 seconds left if you need to. But I’d 100% just deflect and talk about something else. This is my only small talk skill, deflection, but it’s always useful.

    3. Coraline*

      Yes. The deflecting seems like a good technique & his new coworkers will breathe a sigh of relief.

    4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Well, he could always say that he’s going to reduce his stress level by not participating in none-of-your-business health-related “interviews” conducted by totally unqualified people. Hmm…you know, come to think of it, that actually WOULD reduce his stress level so it wouldn’t even be a fib!

  11. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    If employers wanted to really promote “wellness” they’d a) give people flexible schedules so that people can go to the gym/see a nutritionist or therapist etc more easily, b) offer free or subsidized gym/exercise memberships (or reimburse for them), c) offer ACTUAL real accommodations for folks with disabilities (and bake a lot of that into stuff everyone has easy access to), and d) reduce the cost of healthcare by choosing insurance plans with actual coverage.

    Unless they’re doing some or all of that – it’s just feel-good lip service.

    1. Staja*


      I’ve been with my nutritionist/food therapist for 7+ years. I am not sure one of these sessions could unpack my issues, because they sure as heck aren’t because I don’t KNOW I should eat the broccoli and do the exercise.

      But, my gym was closed for a year and I still don’t feel safe going back, I don’t have space (or time now that it’s getting dark out early) to exercise. And, food is just fraught with issues for me and a lot of others.

    2. Generic Name*

      Right? How much of each employee’s insurance premium does the company cover? I bet it’s a number less than 100%. They want to promote wellness? Make insurance affordable.

    3. LizM*

      I would add having a solid EAP that offers *confidential* services like access to a nutritionist, therapist, or wellness coach. I had a coach through my HMO a few years ago, and it was super helpful.

      Of course, the key there is confidentiality. People need to be able to access these services without their boss knowing.

  12. Koalafied*

    For a split-second I had hopes that a seminar on “reading energy” was going to be strategies for making more time for reading and digesting/retaining written information faster and better. “Maximize Your Learning Capacity: How To Develop Big Reading Energy.”

      1. banoffee pie*

        hehe big doc energy.
        So what did it mean then, reading energy? Reading the room? Reading the energy levels of the staff? I don’t understand all these buzzwords sometimes, they haven’t quite made it to Northern Ireland yet lol

  13. Nea*

    Go with the doctor script. There are too many people who think that they have a right to debate and even negotiate private decisions or blow off privacy concerns with “Oh, but we’re all talking about x here.”

    “My doctor says” is a lot harder for a stranger to argue with.

    1. BethRA*

      Unfortunately, there are plenty of people (and my money is on the people pushing this nonsense programming are a part of that group) that would only see that as an invite to ask even more prying questions.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I’ve had good results by saying “I can’t eat this thing because it makes me sick in these ways.” Then they say “well eat this”, and I explain how that makes me sick and why.
        After a few times through this they just stop and stare at me, and I move on. :D

        1. Heron*

          This is brilliant! Thank you for the suggestion.

          My usual line about my nut allergies is, “I can be around them, but I can’t eat them.”

          The next time someone queries further, (s)he’s gonna find out more than (s)he’s ever wanted to learn about how eating nuts affects my guts!

          1. Rebecca Stewart*

            That’s my go to with why I don’t eat most vegetables, and why a mixed bag salad is a problem. Yes, even a tiny fleck of red cabbage is a problem. Accept this and let’s not talk about what happens if I eat it.

    2. Esmeralda*

      You’d think so… I cannot tell you how many people (from friends to strangers and all levels of relationship in between) are eager to insist that your son’s oncologist is just wrong! (politer people said, probably hasn’t seen the new research) and you should insist on Latest Whackadoodle Cure or Outright Deadly Drug or Let the Body Cure Itself and Stop Poisoning Your Sweet Child with Deadly Chemotherapy.

      Ha. My natural RBF has come in handy…

      1. Sara without an H*

        I’ve found masks very helpful in disguising my responses to idiocy.

        Very sorry you’re going through this.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This one can work, or it can backfire, depending on the stranger’s feelings about the medical establishment.

      I’m a melanoma survivor. Ive been successful in shutting down people’s MLM sales pitches with “my doctor and I have already decided on the skin care regimen I should use, but thanks for thinking of me!” But I did have a very uncomfortable conversation with the workplace science deniers the year after my diagnosis in which they told me I shouldn’t wear sunscreen because it has “toxins” in it.

      So, feel free to try the doctor line, but know that it won’t work in every situation.

      1. Hex Libris*

        I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I’m sure I’ve overstepped here or there trying to be helpful, but no matter what the topic is I try to have some self awareness and be respectful of stop-it signals.

        There was one time where an anti-science coworker went way over the line with me, and I made direct eye contact, said, “I am not having this conversation and I don’t want to hear about this again,” and just left the area. With no swears! [pats self on back]

  14. OrigCassandra*

    Ugh. It’s concern-trolling, it’s gross, and it needs to stop.

    For a glorious while, my employer handed out a no-intrusion, no-questions-asked, bring-the-receipt benefit that we could use to subscribe to a CSA share or buy a gym membership or a couple other things. Loved it, used it toward several years of CSA.

    Then they started coupling it with finger-shakey health screenings AND they turned over administration to the notorious data-hounds WebMD, and I noped all the way out of it. Heckuva job, employer.

    1. Rock Prof*

      We had something similar and you could get something like $100 toward a CSA or gym membership. Now you only get $50 back but now you have to do a really invasive health survey PLUS 2 options from joining a gym, getting a CSA, buying a pedometer/fitbit, etc. It has become so many hoops to jump through, and I am particularly uncomfortable with a health screening being reported to my employer.

    2. Oliver Who Sticks*

      My wife’s employer does this and requires us to fill out a form including our weight, fasting blood glucose, cholesterol numbers, and a bunch of other completely inappropriate things for them to know.

      Fortunately, we fill out our own forms. I just lie like a rug and take my $150 VISA gift card with a clear conscience. Two can play this game!

  15. nnn*

    The weird thing about this (apart from, like, all the other problems with it) is it doesn’t leave any room for the possibility that people are already eating right!

    (I’ve noticed that about wellness stuff lately – there’s all too much wellness stuff that doesn’t provide for the possibility that everything is fine and no further improvement is needed – but that’s a whole other rant.)

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Or the idea that there’s one way to “eat right”! Different bodies have different needs; there’s no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan.

      1. nnn*

        I mean, my own body has different needs depending on various medical considerations that wax and wane. Sometimes I can’t keep certain foods in the house because I’ll eat too much of them and Bad Things will happen, other times I keep a dish of that very same food within arm’s reach so I’ll mindlessly eat and intake something my body isn’t getting enough of at that moment.

      2. Lucy Skywalker*

        No kidding. A healthy meal for someone recovering from anorexia would be an extremely unhealthy meal for an obese person with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

    2. pope suburban*

      Yeah I’d be incredibly frustrated with this both on general principle because it’s insensitive and intrusive, and because I…genuinely don’t have much I could do. I’m an athlete, I worked with a nutritionist to build a sustainable meal-prep plan, and I’m fortunate not to have much trouble sticking to it. Sitting there trying to find a way to self-flagellate because some random numpty thinks that’s “wellness” would drive me up the wall. And that’s still a thousand times less stress than someone with, say, a medical condition would experience. This endeavor is garbage and whoever thought of it or endorsed it should feel pretty bad.

    3. Seacalliope*

      That came up at a training I had to do that was largely about out of workplace communication and happiness. Some people are pretty happy, or feel that they have healthy mechanisms for solving problems in their life already. Pushing people to make up problems really highlights what a sales pitch the whole things is — they have to sell the value of their program by convincing people in the program they have problems.

    4. kiki*

      That’s such a dangerous thing with so much diet talk– there is alway someone pitching ways to improve. There’s always this pressure to improve or optimize or find the new superfood with more vitamins and fewer calories. Is it ever possible to just be eating completely fine?
      I find this with exercise talk too. If I start walking every day, somebody tells me I should consider running. If I do start running, somebody tells me I need to do HIIT. If I start doing HIIT, I should do Orange Theory. If I’m doing Orange Theory, I “won’t see real results until you start doing cross fit.”
      What if walking is fine? I was sitting around before, walking is great! But somehow it’s never enough

      1. banoffee pie*

        Yes the people who say ‘we could all stand to lose a little weight’ are pains in the ass. No thanks, some people already underweight and what if they listen to that and go and lose more? So dangerous and lazy. My bmi (I know it’s not that accurate and a bit racist, don’t kill me lol. It’s just an example) is sitting about 20 and I am not trying to lose any weight and don’t want tips on how to do it thanks.

      2. James*

        “That’s such a dangerous thing with so much diet talk– there is alway someone pitching ways to improve.”

        And it’s always “lose weight”. Which I get, we have an obesity epidemic–but what about people like me, who are naturally just shy of underweight? If I lost 50 pounds I would actually die. When my wife started trying to lose weight we had to figure out how I was going to eat too, because eating her diet for two weeks was causing serious issues (mostly I eat far more than her, and add in healthy filler-foods like bread, rice, skin-on potatoes, and the like). The relentless hammering on losing weight is extremely annoying, and can easily lead to body dysmorphia in a healthy person.

        1. Presea*

          And not everyone who’s considered ‘obese/overweight’ needs or wants to to lose weight. Us fat folk get eating disorders/body dyspmorphia, gall bladder issues, etc too. Or we could be otherwise perfect in our vitals and not want to risk messing that up just to fit into smaller pants. Or the stress of calorie restriction is not worth other health effects. Or we could have allergies/physical conditions/work conditions that make dietary changes or exercise changes not be feasible. Or we could just… not want to lose weight, for reasons that are nobody else’s business, especially a boss or a coworker.

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            You mean actually let grown-up adults manage their own health and their own lives?? But…but…but…then the companies creative and marketing intrusive “wellness” programs and questionnaires would go out of business!

          2. I need tea*

            This. Only 6% of people with eating disorders are underweight – there are plenty of fat folk for whom losing weight would be actively dangerous, such as because we’re in recovery from an eating disorder. If I tried to lose weight to “improve my health”, I’d relapse within approximately three days and could be dead within a year or two. I think my health is better when I’m alive and fat, thanks.
            Working with a doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer, psychologist etc., to improve my health and quality of life in a way that minimises the risk of a relapse and accounts for my personal needs and wants? Great. The CEO wanting to interrogate me on my eating habits? Could trigger a serious relapse (which probably won’t help the company’s insurance premiums, if this is what this is about) and if it doesn’t, will probably seriously affect my work performance as I’d have to divert lots of energy to managing to mental health and staying in recovery.

        2. Huttj*

          For me, my personal focus is on getting/being healthy. While weight can be an indicator of that, it is not THE indicator.

          Even cutting out muscle/fat/water discussions, I put on 40 lbs in the last 6 months. That fungal infection I had was burning a LOT of calories.

          I’m more concerned, personally, about things like how is my stamina, how am I feeling, etc. Not the scale (though the onset of the fungus coincided with a dietary change I made, and I was assuming that was responsible for the weight loss, even though I knew what was up felt disappointing when the wight came back).

        3. EchoGirl*

          Yep. My health insurance group (Marketplace plan, not through an employer) had some stuff on their website ostensibly about “eating right”, but basically all of them were along the lines of assuming everyone (or at least, everyone who isn’t already “eating right”) is overeating — there were no literal mentions of losing weight, but a lot of stuff about portion sizes and how you’re probably eating more than you realize and here’s how to eat less. And I was actually looking for tips on how to eat better, but the resources were useless to me because apparently overeating is the only problem even worth mentioning.

          1. Zweisatz*

            Also “over”eating is generally a sign of restriction (the body panics because of current or potential future restriction and asks for more resources) so this focus on ~portion control is complete bogus when it comes to health and quite likely to make it worse/trigger disordered eating behaviors.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is my problem with the whole self help sector, and with “wellness” in particular. The whole industry exists to tell you you’re not okay, because people who feel good about themselves aren’t buying self help books or going on fad diets.

        1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

          Right. If I start trying to optimise my diet, I’ll basically stop eating because it’s just too hard, because once you start it’s such a rabbit hole – so much constantly changing and outright conflicting advice, it’s insanely stressful and confusing, and there’s no way to feel like you’re Definitely Doing It Right.
          It took me a while to realise this, but making a conscious effort to “eat healthy” is extremely flipping unhealthy for me. And I don’t think I’m that unusual in this!

          1. Presea*

            You are not! I am very much the same way. I have just started focusing on making sure my belly is full and finding a wider variety of food I like. Sometimes its cucumbers, sometimes its chicken wings, sometimes its chicken wings with cucumbers on the side. Food rules are optional!

          2. kiki*

            Yes. All the conflicting information and moralization around food is confusing and stressful. You know what studies have clearly shown doesn’t help people eat well? Confusion and stress!

    6. Nikki*

      Agreed! On the other side of the coin, sometimes you’re doing everything you can and you still aren’t “well.”

      I have a genetic disorder that’s painful and messes with a lot of my body systems. I spend hours every week working on my “wellness” and I’m still one of the sickest people I know. It is what it is! But it irritates me sometimes that my efforts aren’t considered “wellness” because no matter what I do I won’t be a healthy person. I don’t need someone pressuring me to drink more water or whatever.

  16. Gigi*

    I feel like this incentivizes people to lie. “I’m a total salad hound. I’m thinking of going vegan.” And then off camera hork my street tacos because it’s nobody’s business.

    1. Jean*

      Lying is exactly what I would do here. And not feel even a tiny bit of remorse. This kind of crap doesn’t deserve one iota of my sincere effort or honesty.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It always makes me think of a line from Ratatouille, where Remy scolds his brother Emile by saying “don’t just HORK it down!”

    2. Junimo the Hutt*

      Yeah, my first instinct when reading this post is that, put into this situation, I would just straight up lie. It’s already difficult enough to explain my food sensitivities to the people in my life affected by it. Random coworkers don’t really need to know, and the thought that I would have to tell them is exhausting to me.

    3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I was thinking of having snacks during if it’s a live meeting. Loud, crunchy snacks like Doritos. In really rattly cellophane bags.

  17. Italian Sub*

    Wholeheartedly agree with the add-on saying “I prefer to manage eating habits with my doctor.” Should stop it. It’s literally nobody’s business. And a good employer would recognize that.

    Then again, a good employer wouldn’t suggest discussing eating habits in the first place.

    I digress.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Might’ve replied to one of these with “I’d rather discuss my eating habits with a licensed RD or RDN and my allergist, thanks”. Because that’s what I actually need to do – otherwise I’ve got someone giving me questionable advice that may or may not even be do-able. (I can’t have milk, for example. It isn’t a lactose intolerance thing, its an anaphylactic allergy to the freaking milk proteins. So preaching at me that I need to eat low fat yogurt because of the calcium? Strong bones do nothing if I can’t breathe.)

  18. Aspie_Anything*

    I would never push anyone into these programs or pressure my staff or pry into why they aren’t participating.

    But when it comes to me, I’m one of the few people who really loves workplace wellness programs. I struggled with my weight most of my life before losing 100 lbs and keeping it off for almost 10 years now. I’ve found that I overall do a better job taking care of my health when conversations about health, diet, and exercise are a part of work – because I spend 40 hours every week there. It also gives health-conscious employees a chance to meet like-minded coworkers to grab lunch with.

    I get why these things can be problematic and if I owned a company, I would shy away from them for other’s comfort. But I guess the way I see it is that just by the numbers, the majority of people in the US are overweight or obese and a good portion of them want to do something about it. Even people who aren’t overweight fight an uphill battle for health in our food-saturated, too-busy-for-the-gym culture. Rather than treating it as something shameful, it’s nice to be able to acknowledge it at home, work, school, wherever, and destigmatize the health struggle.

    That’s my pie in the sky take. I’m in the minority, I get it, I wouldn’t implement it if I was in charge for all the reasons Allison said and then some. But I do get to think it’s a bummer.

    1. quill*

      I feel like the best way for a workplace to address this is instead of individualized work / potential judgement by peers, they could ask what work could do to help promote wellness. For example: is the cafeteria “healthy” food options bland and unsatisfying? Are employees getting less exercise in the winter because the sidewalk that they would otherwise take a walk on isn’t getting shoveled? Is the company’s wellness initiative actually accessible to all employees, regardless of physical capabilities or dietary restrictions? Is the workload preventing employees from meeting health goals?

      1. banoffee pie*

        Pretty often people have to work too hard and have no time to exercise or cook right. I would never judge them for that. It’s up to workplaces to make sure they have the time to live healthily and not try to sticking-plaster over the big issues with these dopey ‘initiatives’ like discussing your diet with coworkers. Also hyper-processed food doesn’t help either. But I do kind of agree with Aspie Anything that if people can help each other to lose weight non-judgementally it can really keep you on track. Like people don’t always mean it judgementally, sometimes they’re trying to help. I’m gonna get yelled at now aren’t I? *runs away*
        But healthy eating stuff definitely shouldn’t be at work or mandatory.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Eating disorders have higher mortality rates than fatness. Diet culture is harmful and by talking openly about this stuff without getting prior consent from the people you’re talking to risks causing people to relapse. At the very least, please give people the chance to opt into these convos (“are you cool if we chat about diet/exercise? totally fine if you prefer to keep that stuff out of work!”) as opposed to waiting for people to opt out on their own, which they might not feel comfortable doing.

      1. Aspie_Anything*

        I mean, you’re not wrong about mortality rates. But which is overall a bigger killer in the US, disordered eating or obesity?

        Sure, of the people who have anorexia, a higher portion of them will die from it than those who have obesity every year. But according to the Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, about 10,200 die annually from eating disorders and they affect about 9% of the population.

        Per the National Institutes of Health, more than 40% of Americans are obese and it kills more than 300,000 every year.

        Which one am I more worried about not only from a public health standpoint, but as an individual and for my own kids?

        Like I said I’m my original post – I don’t think the answer is stigmatizing health discussions. People by and large don’t like to have these conversations because of shame, guilt, and embarrassment. But these problems affect so many people and are largely the result of very successful marketing campaigns by big food industries spanning decades. There’s no reason to feel shame. And in fact, that shame fuels depression, anxiety, and disordered eating.

        But all of that is just my grand scale, oversimplified, sociological solution to a big public health issue. At work, I focus on work and privately get excited at health initiatives while realizing they just aren’t a best corporate practice based on how I understand the world to be.

        1. BethRA*

          “But which is overall a bigger killer in the US, disordered eating or obesity?”

          There’s a growing body of data that suggest that much of the increased health risk usually associated with obesity is in fact the result of the disordered eating people often turn to because of their weight and yo-yo dieting in general. There’s also data showing that being slightly “overweight” can actually have a protective effect.

          If wellness programs are helpful to you, great! But forcing these discussions and programming on people really isn’t.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            Not to mention the fatphobic bias of the medical system and that fat people are essentially refused care by many doctors, leading to worse health outcomes!

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Exactly this. There’s research that indicates fat patients are more likely to have care delayed or denied than thin people, and are also more likely to be labeled as “difficult” or “defiant” by medical professionals.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            Also, some of the risk factors are the wrong way. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence for this in real-time and my sleep doctor confirmed that it’s becoming clear that actually, obesity doesn’t cause sleep apnea, but that sleep apnea can cause obesity. I would not be terribly surprised if this was the only incident where causality got reversed.

            And frankly, people who aren’t underweight don’t get diagnosed with eating disorders. When my intestines decided that I wasn’t allowed to eat anything, that damaged a wide range of other functions in my body that I am never going to recover from. How many of those “obesity” deaths are because of an undiagnosed eating disorder that lead to heart failure?

            1. quill*

              Yes. There’s a growing body of evidence that weight gain is far more likely to be a symptom than a cause of disease, and america especially is painfully behind on updating not only our popular thinking, but our medical institutions. Personally I blame all the cultural calvinism, but there’s plenty of profitability of the weight loss industry and lack of governmental commitment to actually taking care of our citizens going into it too.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Actually the “obesity epidemic” is not nearly as accepted fact or as “deadly” as the public perception of it is. I referenced the podcast above, but Maintenance Phase has an exceptional (and fun) debunking of that whole idea.

          Eating disorders are the deadliest mental health problem. And large size =/= heart or blood sugar issues.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            Yup, weight on its own barely has a correlation to health outcomes. Behavior, on the other hand, does.

          2. Robin Ellacott*

            Yes! I came in to plug Maintenance Phase too. I am learning so much about how junk the “science” is around weight and how much badness in society I was blissfully unaware of because people read me as thin.

        3. Karen from accounting*

          This is literally my first comment ever on ask a manager, and I think it’s really important to say:
          The overwhelming reason that overweight and obese people have worse health outcomes is because doctors DON’T LISTEN TO US! We are told that every health issue is because of our weight, and doctors will often withhold testing unless and until we do lose weight. Fat people are dying of completely treatable conditions because doctors refuse to diagnose them.
          And, as others have already said, there is actually very little evidence that obesity is harmful to health in and of itself, and the maintenance phase podcast is a really great place to start learning more about this.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I would like to subscribe my doctor to Maintenance Phase; despite being 100% healthy by all other measures (labs, BP, cholesterol, etc) she gave me a whole lecture about eating like I had no idea what a carrot was.

            Instead I’m just going to change doctors.

            1. Paris Geller*

              Going to the doctor while fat is an experience in this EVERY TIME isn’t it?
              For pre-diabetes we want to–oh, actually your blood sugar is really good. Moving on here’s how we can control your cholesterol -oh, never mind, that’s good too. Well watch the weight and I’ll see you in a year.”

          2. JimmyJab*

            Yes, people/wellness industry wants us fat people to believe we are morally failing when we are being failed by the system every dang day.

        4. zuzu*

          Where do you get your statistics that obesity is a direct cause of death vs. a contributing cause or simply an attributed cause?

          Because doctors will attribute EVERY malady of a fat person to obesity. Earache? It’s the fat. Hit by a bus? It’s because you’re fat. Cough? Fat. Covid? Deathfat.

          And in the meantime, they won’t treat the actual, underlying issues you’re there for because you’re fat and you should lose weight to deserve treatment. So you lose weight, and surprise! You still have cancer.

          Meanwhile, eating disorders are direct causes of death. And there are more of them than anorexia.

          1. JimmyJab*

            You said it better than me, good job! Fatness isn’t the evil the wellness industry tries to convince us it is.

        5. I should really pick a name*

          The recommendation to keep these conversations out of the workplace is not to stigmatize them. It’s to avoid the almost inevitable judginess that seems to accompany them. These kind of conversations should be opt-in only

        6. JimmyJab*

          People don’t die from obesity, and many diseases the public associate with obesity have no causal link – there is a correlation but zero evidence obesity is a cause of so many illnesses. Rather, there are many factors outside of weight that impact why so many overweight people are ill/dying, and more can be attributed to anti-fat bias and refusal to treat patients by doctors, racism, socioeconomic reasons, food desserts, etc. I encourage you to reassess your understanding of fatness and death/illness based on recent research that places the blame on many factors outside of an individual’s control.

        7. Aquawoman*

          There is literally zero evidence that obesity causes early death. There is only evidence that obesity is correlated with early death. A really good chunk of that is due to the fact that obese people get subpar health care because rather than getting the treatment that normal-weight people get, they are told to lose weight. But there is no reliable method to lose weight (very few people are able to lose weight).

          1. Despachito*

            “But there is no reliable method to lose weight (very few people are able to lose weight).”

            I beg to differ.

            There IS a reliable method to lose weight – to achieve a negative intake-output balance. You must spend more energy than you ingest.

            The tricky thing is HOW TO do that, because we are different and what suits one person does not necessarily have to suit the other.

            Another tricky thing is that society in general pushes you to lose weight even if you technically do not have to do that to be healthier. It always reminds me of Bridget Jones who is portrayed as fat and Renée Zeelweger had to gain quite a lot of weight, yet Bridget is, weight-wise, a perfectly NORMAL average woman. And many women report that as teenagers, they felt awfully fat, yet today they would kill to have that weight.

            And the third tricky thing is that fatness is associated with character/lack of willpower. While it may be true that someone’s eating habits could indeed be improved, the same could be said about someone who smokes or works too much, and it can be even more harmful, but it is by far not as socially stigmatized as fatness. Nobody is perfect yet few things are judged as harshly as excessive body weight.

            I think that if we were able to get rid of this thinking somehow, fatness would become a normal thing we live with, which is perhaps not perfect but so what? None of us (except perhaps Mary Poppins) is practically perfect in every way, yet we can live pretty happily with it.

            And, regardless, all this is NONE OF THE EMPLOYER’S BUSINESS.

            1. JimmyJab*

              There are physical attributes your body has that make it hard to lose weight or maintain weightloss – your body only sees a deficit in calories as starvation and responds accordingly. So, no, it isn’t as simple as calorie deficit.

              1. Despachito*

                Hard, yes.

                Impossible, no.

                The maintaining of the loss is actually harder than losing weight.

                And there definitely is more to it – you are right, it is not ONLY the calorie deficit, it is also about the ratio of fat/proteins/carbs, and – most of all – whatever changes in your habits/patterns you make – and you will probably have to make some – must be doable for you in the long run. I would say any diet during which you feel you are suffering and are looking forward to its end so that you can eat “normal” again, will probably not work.

                I have lost about 38 pounds with what is roughly our local equivalent of Weightwatchers 5 years ago, and I have almost maintained it (gained about 10 back, which is still an outcome I am comfortable with). The key was still to burn more than ingest, they explained you some principles, but stressed that you have quite a lot of space within those limits, and for it to work, YOU must be comfortable with it. So there are no such things as “healthy” or “unhealthy” food, and if you like something, you can absolutely have it, but you must plan for it and perhaps learn how to enjoy a smaller portion.

                So I think it IS doable, but do not want to say everyone should do it, or that we should judge people based on whether they even decide to do something similar, let alone succeed in it. And again, if I did it it was because I decided I was ready for it, absolutely not because of some workplace BS.

              2. Despachito*

                You are right, it is more complicated, but still it is the main principle you have to observe.

                And yes, it is hard, but not impossible.

                However, it is none of the employer’s business.

        8. aebhel*

          Moderately overweight people have better health outcomes than thin people. Dieting often leads to frequent massive weight fluctuations, which are horrendously bad for the body. Many overweight people would be much healthier if they were not shamed into dieting constantly.

          I don’t think that health discussions need to be stigmatized. But diet talk is not a health discussion, and diet talk is already FAR from stigmatized; the opposite, in fact.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I think it would be OK if these topics were offered as one of a menu of optional seminars/classes/appointments. It could be like a retirement planning, know your HSA, all about FMLA etc seminar

      1. generic_username*


        My job offers stuff like this. I did a lot of the mindfulness/meditation sessions during 2020 (sorely needed). The key is that there is no pressure to participate.

      2. UKDancer*

        Definitely it needs to be optional. My company is arranging a few events for International Mens Day. One is around diet and mood and the others are mental health and warming signs of testicular cancer. The key thing is they’re all optional. People can attend or not and nobody makes a note either way.

      3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        At my place, the judgment from HR if you refused to participate in “optional” programs was pretty grim.

      4. Paris Geller*

        My former workplace did this, and they had a wide variety of things they considered “wellness”. In almost every aspect my current workplace is much, much better than my former one, but the former one definitely had a better health plan and a better wellness incentive. They had seminars you could go to on traditional wellness topics, but they also had ones on interpersonal communication/conflict, family communication, reducing debt, tobacco cessation, an adaptive exercise one, etc. I appreciated the broad label of wellness.

    4. Ha2*

      I think making it voluntary is the key there. I think if it’s optional, at worst people would say “oh, it’s not for me” and move on. If Everybody Participates, then it feels invasive and prying to those who aren’t interested.

    5. I should really pick a name*

      An opt-in program can be a nice perk.
      A mandatory one like the LW described is just intrusive.

    6. QAPeon (formerly HelpDeskPeon)*

      We have a work place wellness committee and I like the way they handle it – we get a monthly email with “here are some cool events this month” and they’re a mix of zoom, in person, and non company things like a local farm market pop ups and health fairs, and also a mix of nutrition, exercise, mental health, stress reduction etc.

      Their stress reduction initiative recently was centered around hobbies and they had people who led little informational sessions about journalling and yoga, but also photography, gardening and knitting. No requirements, no attendance taken, and none of it one on one (ick)

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        At an old workplace they sponsored a Farmer’s Market in a park 1 block away from work. They subsidized all the vendors so that prices were below that of local supermarkets. Awesome for the employees and freaking amazing for the residents in the neighborhood since it was a food desert.

        1. Jean*

          See, THIS is the kind of wellness initiative that companies need to be investing in. Not this scammy woo-woo garbage like the LW is talking about.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            It was really cool and everyone I ever heard mention it loved it, even if they never or rarely went. I would bet $$$ that they were able to write the costs off as a charitable contribution since they partnered with the city and some non-profits. They got great publicity, employees and local residents got cheap fresh food , and win-win for all.

    7. Esmeralda*

      Yes! Offer these as an OPTIONAL benefit. Maybe even offer free consultation with a licensed nutritionist? Something actually helpful. And legit.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      This sounds like you benefited from choosing to talk to your friends about topics you were mutually interested in, not a mandatory program with questionable practices like LW described.

      Keeping discussion of personal health out of the workplace is not shaming or stigmatizing anything, it’s just basic respect of boundaries. The bummer to me would be a workplace full of diet talk!

    9. i will do it anon*

      OK, so here is my unpopular opinion: I wish talking about weight loss was actually stigmatized. I never want to hear anyone talk about trying to lose weight ever again, and it honestly makes me at least as uncomfortable as hearing about other people’s sex lives.

      I know it’s not going to happen anytime soon, because this letter makes it pretty clear that the “health struggle” is not actually stigmatized in our society. Everyone feels super comfy talking about it all the time! I wish they wouldn’t! But it is what it is, and I find it a huge bummer.

      1. Anon for WW*

        It’s funny you mention that – in my (lefty, feminist) circles intentional weight loss definitely is stigmatized! I’m doing WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) right now for entirely vain reasons. I know it’s society-imposed BS! I don’t think losing weight will make me appreciably healthier or happier, but I do think it will make me fit into my pre-covid pants better, which is something I want. But I absolutely cannot talk about it with my friends or on social media because it’s just not the done thing. It would be considered very rude and out of touch to talk about trying to lose weight.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          I mean you’re replying to a thread of people talking about recovering from eating disorders with how you want to fit into your pre-covid pants so clearly it’s not that stigmatized lol.

          1. jiggle mouse*

            Did you miss this part? “in my (lefty, feminist) circles intentional weight loss definitely is stigmatized!”

            1. Gerry Keay*

              I’m making the point that Anon for WW sure does seem comfortable using potentially triggering language in a conversation about eating disorders while trying to portray themselves as a victim of stigmatization. Perhaps that’s why their friends don’t want to talk about intentional weight loss with them. Just a thought!!

        2. Aspie_Anything*

          Omg it’s so stigmatized, especially in progressive circles, and it’s weird because we’re usually so live and let live. When I worked in a very conservative industry (construction) talking about diet and exercise was no big deal among men and women of every body type/fitness level. Even here you can see a lot of comments about “don’t mention your diet, ever” and such. But food is a huge part of everyone’s culture, family, traditions, life, and yes, even health. Not talking about it just isn’t workable; it’s on all of us to learn to handle these topics with maturity and grace. Shutting down “diet talk” (cringe so hard at that phrase) is impossible, and even if you managed, it could easily lead to Catholics, Muslims, Jains, Jews, etc feeling like they have to hide common religious practices (fasting, dietary restrictions) at work for fear of bringing up something “inappropriate”. But if you make it clear those conversations are ok (as they should be), then what about a vegan coworker who cares about animal welfare? Obviously, no problem. But what about a vegan who did it for their health, like Bill Clinton….is that person free to talk? If so, what about a keto dieter? You can really go down a rabbit hole of anxiety and judged motives when really, it’s just food. We all eat and we all need to do so to live.

          As an aside – as a manager, you definitely want to know when one of your reports is observing Ramadan. Trust me, I know from experience.

          It’s weird and a little narcissistic to be so kneejerk defensive about the subject of what others eat. In the past, comments about what *I* am chosing to eat and *my* goals have been taken as an indictment on what others do (I think lots of people have that experience when they lose weight). My very best friend told me years ago she would never congratulate me on my weight loss because that implies it’s a worthy goal – that one stung. Like, just because it isn’t your goal you can’t be happy for someone you love? There are lots of things my friends and family aspire to that I don’t; I’m still happy for their successes.

          I totally get and respect “I’m sorry, I can’t be a part of this conversation right now” and everyone should be empowered to say it (I say it myself on a few subjects) and others should respect hearing it. But food/dieting/health just isn’t the kind of thing that should be assumed verboten or rude to chat about.

          1. i will do it anon*

            I have no desire to stigmatize talking about food. I want the opposite. I want people to stop stigmatizing eating carbs. I want people to stop stigmatizing eating a whole slide of cake instead of being “good” and only having part of it.

            I don’t care if you tell me what you eat. I don’t care if you tell me you’re doing keto or you’re vegan for your health or for animal welfare or because (like me) you just don’t like meat. I just don’t want to talk about losing weight! Why is that so hard?!

            Apparently people can’t talk about their food without also talking about weight loss, and that is what I hate.

        3. i will do it anon*

          That’s sort of the point of WW then, isn’t it – those are the people you can talk about losing weight with. Most of the world is more like WW than your friend circles, and for me that is the problem as I wish it were the other way around.

          I think people in general feel comfortable talking about weight loss in the AaM comments. I was hoping this particular thread would be different :/

    10. Lizcase*

      Our company had a fitness trainer and nutritionist who would send out articles and video exercise routines. There was a Yammer group to discuss for this who wanted to. And webinars once a month or so for those who wanted to attend. The rest could quietly ignore it. This is the best way, imo. Make it Opt-In and don’t badger folks who want to stay out.

    11. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      What you’re describing sounds a bit like an EAP-like program focused on preventative care, which would be much better than what OP had to deal with. It’d be voluntary and more customized to each person.

  19. Polecat*

    Employers do not care about promoting wellness. They get a bug up their ass about insurance costs and then they get pitched a program like this by a vendor and they go for it. There’s nothing altruistic about it. Or they like to put on their website that they care about their employees and promote wellness. It’s just part of the bullshit we’re expected to put up with in order to have a job.

    I’d tell your husband to keep his head down, go to one or two of the least objectionable of these, and skip the rest. It doesn’t sound like the other employees are thrilled about it so attendance may be dropping rapidly.

  20. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Yea; I’d totally blow this off, continue working, and invite anyone who complained to pursue discipline if they thought they could make it stick.

  21. nnn*

    Actually, I have a practical idea for your husband: always, always respond to wellness stuff as though it has inspired you to devote less time to work.

    So, for example, in response to “What eating habits would you change?” he could say something like “After thinking about everything discussed in the meeting, I’m coming to realize that I really need to be disciplined about taking my full scheduled lunch hour and making a point of stepping away from my desk so I can eat mindfully and recharge.” (And then go do it! Be incommunicado for an hour in the middle of the day!)

    1. ASeattle*

      Love this.

      I also think in a situation like this that lying is fine. Yep, I’m a vegan marathoner whose doctor says not to bother coming in for an annual exam because I am so healthy already…

    2. Meep*

      ^This. I think there is nothing wrong with company-wide-wellness plans if they are geared more towards healthy mindsets rather than forcing people to eat healthily. Sure, put up a veggie vending machine. I will buy from it. But put it next to the vending machine full of “junk”. Sure, insist people eat better, but do that by not forcing them to eat at their desk while they are working or give them no time outside of work to meal prep.

      Healthy eating is more than just eating your fruits, veggies, and lean white meat and drinking plenty of water. It is about not encouraging stress eating and forcing employees to remain at their desks for 9+ hours a day.

    3. i will do it anon*

      I love this. Maybe you could also say something like “I really need to be disciplined about leaving work on time so that I can make time for going to the gym, which will help me sleep better at night and decrease stress levels”?

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Oh you wouldn’t believe the pushback over this. Wait, no, everyone here would probably be accurate, never mind!

    4. Batgirl*

      The really sad thing is that there are bosses who would lap up that answer within the wellness context, but be really pissy with an employee who decided to take a true break of their own accord.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Honestly this is what I’ve always done.

      What would make me healthier?\
      A work sponsored gym membership and allocated time during the day to use it.
      A spending account so I can go to the farmers market or the hipster vegan place for lunch instead of eating a bag of chips at my desk.
      A six hour workday to reduce my stress.
      A weekly masseuse paid for by my employer.
      Starting my day at noon.


  22. El l*

    Yes, in theory it would be great if employers could provide wellness as a service to their employees, and employees would feel taken-care-of by their employer.

    But you don’t have to be too cynical to wonder if “wellness” is just a cheap substitute for what employees really want and employers don’t want to give:

    Time off when employees ask for it
    Flexibility around family situations
    Sufficient time during the day to do a bare-amount of exercise
    Reasonably priced health insurance
    A culture of positivity and reasonable expectations

  23. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    It’s the “energy” thing that raises my hackles here. Woo-woo sales BS.

    “You seem like a high-energy guy, Bob. Would you agree? Would you say that you want to bring that high energy to the rest of your company? Would you like to harness your high energy to achieve peak performance and maximum profitability? Then do I have the program for you.”

  24. oranges*

    I see what the company is trying to do, but yes, they missed the mark. Offer to subsidize gym memberships and put healthy stuff in the vending machines, but don’t make people bear their souls about their relationship with food .

    As for whether the company has some ulterior motive to suss out potentially expensive insurance risks- I vote no. It was likely planned by someone without any of the concerns you highlighted. They don’t have a complicated history with food, health issues, or anything they wouldn’t want to talk about in front of people. They thought the activity would be a bunch of people committing to more veggies and less wine because that’s what THEY’D do.

    It’s still thoughtless, crappy, and should definitely stop, but I don’t think they were being malicious about it.

  25. Chairman of the Bored*

    This sounds terrible, but honestly a meeting about “reading energy” sounds like it would be as bad or worse.

    At least a nutrition thing I can improvise some halfassed response like “Yeah, I’ll eat more salads or whatever”. It’s dumb, but at least it’s grounded in reality.

    At an energy seminar who knows what sort of zany answer will be required to get people off your back?

      1. Chairman of the Bored*


        My response to an employer wanting to talk about nutrition and exercise is “Welp, my new company is dumb”.

        My response to an employer wanting to talk about reading energy auras is “Uh oh, my new company is a cult”.

        1. James*

          I would take a different tack. There’s an increasing awareness of toxic positivity–the incessant need to always be “high energy” and upbeat and happy and focus on the good is increasingly acknowledged as horrible for mental health, even by those who believe in energy work, auras, and the like (it was recently brought up in the pagan/New Age newsletter The Wild Hunt, for example). A relentless focus on the positive ironically makes one more miserable, as it’s an unattainable goal. You can always be more happy, more upbeat, more positive, more energetic, so you have always failed. In contrast, if you look at the good and the bad, you learn to strike a balance. Bad things happen, and we all have bad days, and that’s part of life.

          “Healthy eating” is similar. First, most research on the topic is demonstrably garbage, unable to survive rigorous analysis or even to be reproduced. Humans are heterogeneous in terms of diet, and this research always looks for the One True Diet Plan, dooming it to failure. Plus, most of the research is funded by people with clear vested interests–farmers will NEVER say “Eat less”, for the same reason Exon Mobil will never say “Drive less”. Second, you can always eat healthier, either because the metrics are so vague or because the person judging you can always change the metrics. A relentless focus on “healthy” eating makes eating a chore, and therefore undermines one’s willingness to actually eat healthy. Having a bit of candy isn’t healthy by any means–therefore you have failed–therefore you are a failure. And of course once you’ve failed there’s no reason to not go all-in; you’re already a failure. That sort of thinking is horrifically bad for mental health and for dietary habits.

  26. awesome3*

    I think what he did in the moment was good. As a new employee he can introduce himself in the breakout rooms, chances are people would rather meet him than talk about their eating habits anyway

  27. animaniactoo*

    Does the virtual food I consume also need to be discussed?

    File this under: I would try very hard to make this a non-issue for myself, and as a new person I might go around evincing some surprise that this wellness initiative went so overboard on wanting people to discuss their diet habits rather than making info available to them if they wanted it. See how that goes over and decide then whether to shut up and go along with it (while finagling to not discuss eating habits during those breakout sessions and so on) or talk to HR a little more seriously “In other places I’ve worked, this kind of deep dive stuff was limited to people who really wanted to do that kind of discussion, company-wide, wellness initiatives were designed to be informative for those who were interested, or provide options like having more fruit than candy available as company-provided snacks. I thought that maybe this was intended to be more along the information lines than it ended up being?” and then mostly leave it there as more of food for thought than any real attempt at getting it changed since you have zero capital as a new person.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I like this strategy.

      The calculated puzzlement ploy: “Gee, I just don’t get it…”

  28. generic_username*

    Ugh, the worst! As someone who has struggled with unhealthy eating obsessions and body image issues, this is my nightmare. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to normalize my relationship with food and my body, but I still struggle to eat in front of people or admit exactly how much or how little I eat in a given day.

  29. Ozzie*

    There’s no way I would ever be honest in this type of thing. I would just say the most generic, hard to argue with nonsense to get through the day.

    I hate this wellness trend that’s cropping up. Make it easier for me to use my time off instead of trying to encourage me to eat a certain way. Assure me I don’t need to worry about a 2.5 hour commute instead of mindfulness sessions in the middle of the day when I still have work to do. Ensure I have a vaccinated work place to return to instead of… No I’m out of the “benefits” my job offers.

    Anyway, yeah, my work isn’t my doctor. Give me appropriate employer-provided benefits – including good pay – and stop pretending like you’re helping me by trying to get me to meditate over zoom.

  30. Velawciraptor*

    For someone with the capital to do so/no fu(*s to give, I’d recommend taking advantage of being paired with the CEO to say “this is all so educational. So, what does the company plan to do to promote healthier wellness choices for us? Providing healthy snacks in the break room? Permitting fitness leave? Adding wellness spaces to the office so people can meditate, etc? Making XYZ changes to insurance and sick leave policies to ensure people stay healthy and don’t bring disease into the office?” Etc. until the CEO saw their responsibility/power here or gave up on the whole thing .

    Absolutely not an approach everyone can or should take. But if you’re in a position that allows for this, do it. If your employer makes a big public show of how important X is to the company, make it uncomfortable for them to do anything other than put up or shut up.

    1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      This is my favorite. I get where a brand new employee would feel uncomfortable with this, buuut….

    2. Nesprin*

      There’s also “Can I ask why the company has decided to do this? What were you hoping to get out of it?” as a starting off point.

    3. Batgirl*

      This has highlighted for me just what kind of bosses make this stuff up. “I manage people because I just love to tell them what to do and remind them that all responsibilities are theirs”.

  31. LibraryLady*

    I am a very picky eater. I’m a normal weight though, and perfectly fine. Eating makes me very self-conscious. I hate eating in front of other people. Talking about my eating habits like this would probably cause me to go hide somewhere. It’s so uncomfortable. It’s not part of my job/performance. It’s not anyone’s business.

    1. Despachito*

      You make me think of Hansel and Gretel… and the witch who was feeding them only to eat them later…

  32. Essentially Cheesy*

    As someone who has pre-existing conditions .. and my body doesn’t work like it’s supposed to so I’m heavier than I should be .. this type of thing really sucks. I’m all for good health and nutritional foods and a balanced diet and all that .. but yikes please don’t jump on me at work about this. It’s hard enough dealing with my crap outside of work.

  33. Madtown Maven*

    My agency’s health insurance provider has a wellness program that offers gift cards after earning ‘points’ for participating in the program. It’s entirely voluntary, the agency only provides guidance toward the program, and the agency only gets an annual report on participation. I like that the program incentivizes itself, and that there are lots of options for participation.

    Requiring wellness discussions and participation would be thoroughly shot down by all staff in my workplace. Maybe LW and his colleagues can push back on this stuff in their office.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      At an old job I regularly won $500 a year by dropping the same 10 lbs over and over. The contest started in Jan/Feb and went to Oct. I run marathons, but drop training in Nov/Dec, so every Jan I would weigh in with my downtime weight and in Oct weighed in at my post-8 months of training and racing weight. It was great because I would get the cash right before the holidays

      1. quill*

        Given how many people naturally have varying weights throughout the year… I smell a potential cash grab that somebody else could also take advantage of. :)

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          They basically voluntold everyone to participate, whether we wanted to lose weight or not so, I went full malicious compliance. I set my goal as 10 lbs and gamed that BS every year without a smidgen of guilt

    2. ArtK*

      Our company’s plan will reduce your insurance premiums depending on the level you achieve. It’s a good motivator.

      1. allathian*

        For some people, no doubt. I guess I’m just grateful that I’m not in the US. Health insurance here isn’t dependent on your employer, or even on being employed.

  34. Random Internet Stranger*

    No. I am so “sorry” but an emergency just came up or I was having internet problems. No, no, no, nope.

    Signed, someone who has literally written to Alison in the past about how to stop diet talk at work.

  35. Choggy*

    My company recently got a Noom subscription for the entire company and I have received at least three emails encouraging me to sign up! HELL NO. It’s not of your f’ing business how I take care of myself. They should focus on reducing the unmitigated stress that running a VERY lean company puts on the few individuals who keep everything running. The projects alone are enough to kill a marathon runner. Putting yet another stressor on top of it all, by *inviting* us to use a gimmicky diet service which is soooo not anonymous, is so freaking tone-deaf I just want to scream. I’m sure they’re keeping track of who did not sign up, but I don’t care.

    1. Laney Boggs*

      Oh, Noom is insidious. I read an excellent takedown other day – recommending way too little calories for people and encouraging people to think about everything in terms of good or bad. Ugh.

      1. anonymous73*

        That’s actually not what Noom is about. In fact it does the opposite of encouraging people to think in terms of good or bad. It may not be for everyone (it wasn’t right for me) but at least they’re not trying to sell you prepackaged processed food.

        1. Aspie_Anything*

          I looked at Noom out of curiosity and I don’t think it would work for me. However, I know two people who used it, loved it, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

          1. DLW*

            I’m currently doing Noom and no, they don’t encourage good vs. bad, but in fact actively help you rid yourself of that kind of thinking. I’m sure it doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s definitely working for me (have lost 23 lbs.) and I’m still eating mostly the same food I always have (I had half a slice of chocolate cake last night), just increasing the healthy stuff and decreasing the unhealthy stuff and tackling the mindless snacking.

            1. ThatGirl*

              What is good vs bad if not healthy vs unhealthy?

              Of course noom encourages that, they are as much a diet as any other app, just dressed up in pop psychology.

              1. M*

                Their point is teaching you to be intentional about your food choices. Why does mindless snacking happen? What do you crave, when, why? How do you figure out what your body needs? How do you balance that with your actual life (stress, parties, kids, all the great food in the world)? As someone who was never taught that growing up I found it really helpful.

                That’s why it’s not about good or bad foods. But if you go in with that mindset and don’t do the work you’ll come away with good/bad. I will agree that their target calories are way too low though, I effectively ignored that part and focused on the rest.

            2. Rake*

              I used noom for a full year and I loved it too, until I ended up with an eating disorder. I had a full on meltdown about being served 2 eggs. That sh*t creeps up slowly and ruins your life.

        2. i will do it anon*

          I have done Noom for a month and a half and they definitely encourage you to think of “red”, calorie-dense foods as bad and “green”, mostly-water foods as good.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            The fact that they use the red-yellow-green color coding would indicate that they’re encouraging good/bad thinking about food. They don’t have to say in words that red foods are bad foods, because when we look at a red-yellow-green categorization scheme, we automatically link red with bad/stop.

            1. Mockingdragon*

              Right? It’s trivially easy to do blue/green/purple or something if they wanted to decouple the info from judgment

      2. kiki*

        I tried Noom for a couple weeks because it was offered for free at my job and I had to quit. The amount of calories it recommended for me was wildly low, especially considering it had asked for my activity level and I am a fairly active person. It also didn’t seem to have any safeguards to prevent folks from setting unrealistic target weights and unrealistic timelines. Like, I could say I wanted to drop 50 lbs in 4 weeks to be 5’7 and 100 lbs. Even if the app could make me successful in achieving that, it doesn’t seem like a good, healthy idea.

        They did seem to be trying really hard to avoid thinking of foods as good or bad, but having “calorically dense” foods be red on your daily allotment meter seems like it insinuates the same good/bad mentality they want to avoid. Also, the tablespoon of cream I use in my morning coffee was considered half of my “red foods” allotment for the day. That’s really restrictive!

        1. Laney Boggs*

          Yes, the red/green was exactly what I meant. You can’t claim you “Dont think of foods as good and bad!” and then assign very culturally significant colors that mean good and bad.

    2. Mockingdragon*

      When i did a Noom free trial, the agent they assigned me specifically said she couldn’t help me because i was worried about my history of disordered eating (shrug) i didn’t find the cbt aspects helpful in the slightest either but to each their own. Seems better for other people.

    3. Rainy*

      I finally found the “please unsubscribe me from future weight loss program emails” link in the weight loss program emails my workplace sends out. It’s in the tiniest font imaginable.

      Noom is repulsive.

  36. Mostly Managing*

    Best wellness plan I’ve seen so far was a company my husband worked for about ten years ago.
    Every employee was given up to $XXX to spend on “something that will promote your wellness” but it couldn’t be exercise equipment. Submit your invoice, get your wellness.
    Gym membership, sure!
    Zoo membership because a walk with the family is good for all of you? Yup.
    National park pass? Absolutely.
    Dinner out with your sweetheart? A healthy relationship is important, so go for it.

    It was very flexible, and had extremely high take- up.
    It did not require anyone to talk about their health issues with their coworkers, though there was some sharing of ideas.

    1. Semprini!*

      I know someone whose employer had a plan like that and managed to justify using the money to buy a guitar.

      1. Mostly Managing*

        Because statistically most exercise equipment is not used, and they wanted people to think at least a tiny bit outside the box.

        The goal was to promote wellness, and an unused weight machine just made people feel guilty. So they added the rule.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I like this! Hey Alison, as a counter to all of the crap wellness plans out there, how about and “Ask the readers” for workplace wellness programs that people like. We are rolling into the “Wellness Committees Gone Wild” season, and putting out some good ideas to counter the tons of bad might be nice. Who knows? Maybe people who plan this are readers?

      1. Paris Geller*

        I second this request — I think it would be really interesting and potentially beneficial for the AAM readers who have the ability to make decisions in their workplace about wellness programs.

  37. Abogado Avocado*

    I am not sure I agree that de-coupling insurance from employment will result in a reduction of wellness efforts by insurance companies, who are, after all, in the business of making money. As long as insurance companies believe they can reduce claim costs (and, thereby, increase profits) by making their insured populations adopt healthier habits, they’ll continue to hound the insured to do so. And that means that all of us with various conditions — such as obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol — will continue to be bombarded with entreating phone calls, emails and texts from our insurance companies to join yet another wellness initiative or group so that it can appear we’re doing something to get healthier (while never minding whether that something will be truly effective for us in making needed changes).

    1. Christmas Carol*

      So maybe we should go to single (gonvenment) payer so nobody else makes an extra profit off of health care except maybe the actual providers?

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      My insurance is not through a work group, and I get one call every year or so just to nicely remind me about seeing my eye doctor or anyone else I’ve missed in a significant amount of time. They’ve never bugged me about anything else. My goodness, the generalizations people are making here today!

    3. Despachito*

      Where I am from insurance has always been decoupled from employment, and nobody bombards or hounds you with anything.

      1. allathian*

        Yup, same here. My employer does provide occupational healthcare, and they also offer wellness programs through the healthcare provider. But the healthcare provider absolutely doesn’t tell my employer who participates and who doesn’t, just the total number of participants.

    4. Paris Geller*

      Sounds like a good argument for getting rid of for-profit health insurance companies all together. . .

  38. Robin Ellacott*

    It’s understandable that as a new employee he may not want to speak up so soon, and his choice to steer the conversation elsewhere is great. Maybe the employees could start using these small groups for brainstorming what actually useful health initiatives would actually be (expanded EAP or whatever) and then pass their suggestions on, turning the expectation of action back on the employer.

    Perhaps if he wants to be more direct, OP’s husband could mention to their manager, or HR, whoever seems more approachable, that they were surprised at the discussion of food and weight/health (not the same thing! But often treated as the same) because they have always understood these are very sensitive areas for a lot of people.

    I would hate this. Years and years ago one of our managers did “high and low for the week” type things at meetings and I didn’t even like that. I only want to “share” on my own terms, thanks.

    I know the other “wellness” areas of discussion are also encroaching and should not be part of work meetings, but this seems like the one they are most likely be be able to see as crossing a line.

  39. not a doctor*

    On the one hand, this sucks, and I get it.

    On the other hand, it sounds like the kind of thing it’s very easy to lie or deflect about. I think hubs has the commentariat’s approval to do just that instead of expending capital he doesn’t have yet.

    1. UKDancer*

      Agree with the recommendation to lie and say something anodyne. Saying you’ll get more sleep or eat a banana every evening or cut back on coffee are easy ones. It’s not as if anyone can check. In my experience as long as you look like you’re conforming, people don’t usually check the details.

    2. Despachito*

      I think he is actually GAINING capital with how he handled the situation many people certainly feel awkward about. Kudos to hubs.

  40. Elizabeth West*


    Wanna promote wellness, companies? Offer discounts on healthcare for smoking cessation, pay for that, and pay for a gym membership, at the gym of their choice, if your employees want one. Other than that, Mind.Your.Own.Freaking.Bidness.

    1. Robin Ellacott*

      Exactly! We added more mental health coverage and a bunch of things like massage and nutritionists and various consultation (legal, parenting, eldercare, etc. etc.) to our benefits when we wanted to help with employee wellness.

      I imagine actual experts will have more ability to help people than some attempt we made to have meetings about such topics, however well-intentioned we would be.

  41. Helen J*

    Ugh, the dreaded “wellness program”. I’ve shared here before about our wellness program. If we choose to participate, we get a discount on health insurance and we have to do a yearly lipid panel and height/weight/waist/body fat measurements. Then we are put into a “risk” group depending on the results: low, medium or high. Then each risk group has different requirements- X number of “healthy breaks” per year (basically 30 minutes health seminars) and if you are medium-high risk, additional 1:1 with the “healthy coach”. Every quarter, someone is named “Health Warrior” (usually someone who has lost weight) and they tell an “inspirational” story about their “health journey”.

    Supposedly, the company doesn’t get access to your results or risk category, but I’m not optimistic that is true. As I’m sure you can tell from all the quotes in my post, I’m not a fan of the wellness program but I have to go along with it in order to be able to afford health insurance because the price difference is significant: $2.50 per pay period for those who participate in the wellness program vs. $97.43 for non participants. I still have the benefit package from last year for proof.

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Good lord, that’s the most disgustingly intrusive work thing I’ve ever heard about. I would be angry (and useless) every day under those conditions.

    2. Despachito*

      This is really mean, and I’d even call it criminal thinking.

      To blackmail someone about their health and to force them to “virtually undress” in front of the employer… ick, ick, bleeeh. Awful, horrid, untolerable. I am so sorry you have to go through this.

  42. ceiswyn*

    If an employer did this, I would very publicly describe my eating disorder issues, ask the programme runners for help, and leave the whole thing hanging out there being really uncomfortable for everyone.

  43. J.E.*

    This sounds like the employer is doing this to check a box saying they are doing wellness initiatives. This may be something the employer is being told they have to do and this is what they’re doing to meet that requirement.

  44. Tara*

    Amen! I don’t have an eating disorder but I do have some mental health issues and let me tell you sometimes that means dinner is an excitingly large quantity of crackers and goat cheese (or on a really rough night gelato) and I don’t think I or anybody else should ever feel forced to share that with co workers or offer some performative mea culpa for doing our best.

    1. Daisy Avalin*

      This made me laugh, because as I read your comment I looked down at my plate – I’m eating crackers with pepperoni and salami for dinner, and I’m most likely going to follow it with some sorbet (or chocolate, I haven’t decided yet!) and this is a regular dinner for me!

  45. Not your typical admin*

    Ugh…. I get where companies can feel like this is a good thing. It gives theme a chance to show they care about then “whole person”, and their employees well being, rather than just treating them as replaceable drones. However, this can cause so many problems. For many people, this would lead to disclosing medical information they want to keep private. Also, there’s so many ways to eat healthy. I follow a loose Keto diet, I have friends who eat vegetation, gluten free, whole food, trim healthy mama, intermittent fasting, and WW, just to name a few. All of these eating plans look vastly different. Others are happy eating whatever they want. You shouldn’t have to defend, or even discuss your choices to a coworker.

  46. I'm Done*

    That is such a condescending paternalistic overreach. As an employer, I would start with the assumption that everyone who works for me is an adult who has access to all kinds of information via the internet and their health professionals if wanted. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean that I’m brain-dead and unable to look for information if I’m interested. I just went through an extremely stressful period due to a completely dysfunctional workplace that left me sleeping fewer than 5 hours per night while working 60+ hours per week. I knew my food choices were unhealthy but it was either comfort food to get me through the day, or having a complete nervous breakdown. If they had started lecturing me on my diet or any other health choices, I would have quit on the spot.

  47. Jessica Ganschen*

    This sounds unbelievably obnoxious. Like, personally, despite being classified as “overweight” according to most systems, I actually struggle to get enough calories for a person of my age and activity level every day. Even attempting to pad it out with alleged “bad calories” doesn’t always get me there. Somehow I suspect that they wouldn’t like me talking about THAT in a health meeting.

  48. Gracely*

    Yeah, I got very cynical about employee wellness programs a few years ago when I needed to have a surgery (on the recommendation of three different doctors) that my employer’s state-wide health insurance does not cover. I had to pay for it out of pocket, and while I’m thankful that I was able to do that (b/c of help from family, not because I make enough money on my own), I profoundly side-eye any and all wellness BS from my employer now.

    If you wanted me to be well, you’d provide insurance that covers a basic surgery (or require covid vaccinations, or any number of other things that would actually provide wellness).

  49. louvella*

    Uggggh I would hate this. I’m vegan and getting stuck in workplace conversations about it is the absolute worst.

    1. i will do it anon*

      So agree. I’m a vegetarian and I hate talking about it at work because people get on my case about how “carbs are the devil” all the time in a way they don’t with omnivores. Does that happen to vegans too?

      1. quill*

        IDK but as a part time vegetarian I’ve seen people on both sides of the fence come up with some deeply bizarre pseudoscience because apparently when it comes to diet “this is what I’ve chosen” is never sufficient: people have to make up expertise in things they know nothing about. :/

          1. quill*

            My personal pet peeve is people who don’t understand what wool or honey are, or who decide to make shit up about environmental impact of things that I did an entire degree in, aka why california does not have enough water to be spending it making almond milk.

        1. i will do it anon*

          Yup, both sides of this issue can be very weird about their fake science. As someone who is vegetarian because I personally hate the taste of meat… I know what you mean about your reasons for choice of diet never being enough. Either I “just haven’t eaten the right meat” yet or I’m a hypocrite for drinking milk.

          1. londonedit*

            Oh yes, absolutely! I also don’t like the taste/texture of meat and therefore haven’t eaten any since 1993. I don’t say I’m vegetarian, just that I don’t eat meat (because I do sometimes eat fish) but that just sparks off a load of ‘You don’t eat meat? Why? Not even bacon? How can you not like bacon? What DO you eat? Do you eat fish? Prawns? Why do you eat fish but not chicken? What do you mean you don’t like it? Are you vegetarian because you don’t want to kill animals? You’re not vegetarian? But why don’t you eat meat? That’s vegetarian, isn’t it?’ and so on.

          2. quill*

            At least I have a good story for people who get curious: I used to work in a biosample lab that used pig tissues, it’s sufficient to gross out people who want to go on a rant about the wonders of bacon!

        2. James*

          Someone once asked a former boss of mine what his thoughts on the paleo diet were. My boss is a paleontologist who has studied human coprolites (fossilized poop–a holy grail for paleontologists, as it definitively shows “This species ate that”). The person was not prepared for the level of detail in that lecture–people that routinely deal with anatomy, decaying carcasses, and ancient fecal matter tend towards a clinical view of this sort of thing, so we tend to be a bit…graphic. Since then they’ve studiously avoided asking anyone with knowledge of historical sciences about diet!

  50. Bethie*

    My state insurance did this for awhile. They had people call and do health check ups (I guess?) One lady I know got a call monthly, and she started referring to it as her monthly reminder that she’s obese call. My husband, who also worked for the state, would get advice contrary to his doctors orderes re: his kidney issues. It was super stupid and seems to have fallen by the wayside. And we had to do screenings every year in our building not with our doctors in order to keep our “discounted” rates.
    Now I can see showing something from my actual dr stating I am healthy, but lining up in the cafeteria to have someone tell me my BMI is too high…nah.

  51. DG*

    I feel like so many companies do stuff like this.

    Employer: We care about your physical and mental health!

    Employees: Great! We want decent health insurance including mental health coverage, at least a few weeks of PTO and the ability to take it, flexible work schedules…

    Employer: No. But here’s a webinar on healthy eating, an extremely triggering office wide weight loss challenge, and a $10 gift card for reporting the results of your last physical to HR.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Are you sure it’s a $10 gift card and not a $10 voucher at McDonald’s?

  52. Massive Dynamic*

    My #1 wellness tip for life, that I will tell CEOs or anyone else who asks, is that I make sure to leave work on time. If I work late, I can’t meal prep and cook, I can’t stay up on other stupid chores like the laundry, my kid doesn’t get enough of my time to help with homework, I’m more likely to go to bed late and blow off my morning workout.

    Late hours at work destroys wellness.

  53. Tired of Judgemental Wellness Gurus*

    Given how judgemental the whole topic of nutrition, exercise or wellness has become over the past 15 years this type of activity being promoted within a workplace is concerning. It is one thing to offer financial incentives (paid memberships for physical activity etc.) that require no intrusive details to support efforts to maintain well being. It is something entirely different and unhealthy to start the type of intrusive activity we are starting to see reported more often in organizations now. Employees should and can find ways to provide a message to employers that while support for wellness is a positive it is best served with a healthy dose of respecting the privacy of all participants.

  54. FYI*

    Get this:
    I am a VOLUNTEER at an organization. The organization now REQUIRES volunteers who do online presentations to take five minutes at the start to lead the (unwitting) participants in a body awareness meditation before we start talking about … history. Yes, history. Which has nothing to do with anybody’s body.
    People who are not trained in meditation, who have perhaps never meditated themselves, are now required to say things like “Breathe. Feel your shoulders relax. Feel whatever emotions are coming up for you. Mentally put aside any other part of your life now … ”
    I raised the point that this seemed inappropriate, and that many participants may not like being ambushed with this when they register for a history lecture. (I was thinking of assault survivors, who may not want to go into / think about their bodies at the spur of the moment.) I was treated like a pariah.

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      OMG, If I had signed up to participate in a history program and got that crap, I would storm out and inundate the executive office with livid emails, write letters to the local paper, do scathing online reviews, and whatever else I could think of that wouldn’t get me arrested. What worries me is I wonder if you’re volunteering at the place I used to work!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I would too. I walked out of a college class once because a professor made us meditate before a test. Screw that.

    2. UKDancer*

      Oh boy would I be displeased to sign up for history and get meditation. I would definitely be giving some pretty pointed feedback. I’ve done history courses before and I expect them to teach me about history.

      I don’t do mindfulness type meditation because it makes me feel worse and hyperventilate. Having it thrust upon me would not be well received.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, same here. The only kind of mindfulness that works for me is tai chi. I have some issues with coordination and proprioception, so attempting to do a series of coordinated movements takes literally all of my focus. I can’t think of anything else while I do it, and it’s certainly a brilliant way to get rid of my stress brain weasels. Sadly, my instructor quit when covid started and I haven’t found a new instructor yet.

  55. Amethystmoon*

    I’ve had anxiety about eating food in public for years due to having been bullied when I was younger repeatedly and having had a fatphobic mother. I would be changing my health insurance if that was the only way I could get out of it.

    Our current plan is well-meaning but makes us check off “healthy habits” in the system every day as if we were first graders. Because of course, no one who isn’t a size 6 never exercises, eats their lean protein, good fats, or fruits and vegetables (sarcasm). I’m hypothyroid. No amount of those things is going to make me a size 6 in this lifetime, sorry. I would be lucky to become a size 12.

  56. Sedna*

    Employers: please do not ask me about my food choices unless you would like to hear how chronic illness has forced me to alter my diet to avoid persistent diarrhea.

    1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      Yeah, it’d be tempting in the safety of my mind to go scorched earth ‘let me tell you about my digestive issues in GRAPHIC DETAIL.’ Would you like pictures from my upper endoscopy? I can bring pictures from my upper endoscopy!

      1. Portia Longfellow*

        The general surgeon who diagnosed me with ulcerative colitis actually sent me home with a printed glossy photo of my very cranky intestines, like a souvenir from Splash Mountain. You can bet I’d bring it in for show-and-tell if I had to deal with any of this wellness nonsense at work!

  57. WorkLifeBalance-notWellness*

    Oof, stuff like this makes me mad. My last job they decided to organize a weight loss challenge where everyone put money in to join and winner took the pot. Which fine, okay, but the amount of pressure I got put on me to join was ridiculous. I couldn’t eat in the break room without someone trying to cajole me into joining or commenting on my weight/food. I have several health conditions that make weight loss hard and exercise harder, and I actually work hard to just maintain my current weight and stay as healthy and active as possible. I take my health and wellbeing very seriously but my job has no place in that. Everything non-work related should be optional, truly no-strings, no-retaliation optional.

  58. Pipe Organ Guy*

    Where’s Henry Ford I? He would have jumped at the chance to get into people’s lives like this.

  59. Student*

    When confronted with this kind of thing at work, I double down. I tell them my preferred lunch is a bag of doritos and a diet coke. I crack a joke that all the artificial stuff will keep me well-preserved. And then I say that I have no intention or interest in changing my lunch. It tastes good and works for me.

    I don’t rag on other people’s lunch. I expect them not to rag on mine, and I’m not going to act like my lunch is some sort of shameful secret, a deadly food sin, or my main personal problem.

    I do offer to share the doritos, but hands off my diet coke!

    1. Don't Be Long Suffering*

      This is hilarious. I would never eat the way you do (I prefer organic, grass-fed, whole foods), but I also refuse to judge you for it. The old saying is “you may not live longer, but it’ll sure feel like it”. If this truly makes you happy, may you die with a smile on your orange-stained lips. If it ever stops making you happy, you’ll change because you want to. Enjoy your day.

  60. AnonForThis*

    I never have had an eating disorder, but I have some past trauma around diets that were meant to “cure autism”.
    You never know what people are going through. Don’t pull this kind of shit without warning, and for the love of dog don’t make it mandatory.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I have a lot of trauma around food insecurity and I also don’t like talking about food. There’s just so much emotional baggage people could be carrying.

  61. MCMonkeyBean*

    This trend is very annoying, though I admit this letter is not quite as bad as I expected from the headline–I thought the CEO was personally interrogating everyone but it seems like this guy was just one of a few particularly unlucky employees that happened to be paired with him during the seminar. This was a super bad idea, but it sounds like your husband handled it pretty well in the moment by just shifting the conversation and hopefully it was just a one-off thing? I’d be surprised if it happened more than once per year so hopefully the next time it comes up your husband won’t be so new anymore and might feel a little more comfortable pushing back or at least asking around to see whether anyone would want to push back with him…

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “The kicker is that these sessions on various “wellness and energy” topics are going to continue through next year” sounds like more than one a year to me

    2. Mockingjay*

      This reminds me of ExToxicJob. We didn’t have wellness seminars, but we did have mandatory “team building” days. After the first one (6 hours of agonizing feelings sharing), I sacrificed one of my meagre allotment of PTO days to skip the next one. (Wellness was addressed in the monthly company newsletter by copying articles without permission off the internet. *smacks forehead*)

      Want happy, healthy employees? Put in good managers, scope and staff the work adequately, increase PTO, and provide decent insurance. (The latter is an argument for a national system. So overdue.)

  62. Kate*

    Ugh, this is invasive and wrong and work shouldn’t be asking people to talk about their eating habits.

    Tangentially, I’m pushing back on my kid’s school – which has a fabulous outdoor program with a one week trip in each year of high school. But one thing they start talking about to the kids is how in 12th grade part of your trip is a 48 hour “solo” and that you can fast during that 48 hours. No one is required too fast, but fasting is talked about as a **really positve thing to do** during your solo. Benefits like “mental clarity” through fasting, and “not distracting yourself with food; spending your time meditating”….yikes, no.

    They’re well intentioned, but holy cr*p do they not understand how “fasting is really good for you” is going to land with any of the kids with body image issues or history of eating disorders.

    And it should be said: any kids who’ve experienced hunger and food insecurity at home? Talking about how great “fasting” can be is just gobsmackingly hurtful and obtuse.

    1. Don't Be Long Suffering*

      What?? Fasting is not recommended for growing bodies. Anywhere. Muslim children don’t fast during Ramadan and they figured that out before modern science. This is active abuse, not just a bad idea. Please get some medical people involved in your push back. Thank you.

  63. Mr EKIM*

    Worked for a company that made learning The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People mandatory except for upper management. The instructors touted Franklin Covey’s Phd, but the book & instructor’s never mentioned a Phd in what? A quick google search showed his Phd was in theology from Brigham Young University. What advice wasn’t non-sensical (Are your pockets full of Big Rocks or Little Rocks?), it was laughably obvious, naive, or outdated (Franklin Covey died decades ago). One aphorism was about sharpening sawblades, which confused me, until I realized it was supposed to be metaphorical, but it didn’t make sense at that level either. HR managed to drag this out in half-day increments once a week for MONTHS. It was better than working I guess, but my brain ways hurt afterwards. Besides putting up expensive framed posters with these nonsense aphorisms all over the company. We were urged to use these aphorisms in our communications with upper management, to let them know we were taking the ‘training’ seriously. For some reason it reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL.

  64. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Dear Goddess, what is WRONG with these companies? Supervisors who would NEVER feel comfortable spilling their health/nutrition/spiritual problems to THEIR managers think nothing of expecting their subordinates to do exactly that! Not only is it incredibly obnoxious, it could potentially open a company up to a discrimination lawsuit if, say, Anne from Accounting feels pressured into revealing that she has a chronic medical problem, is later written up for substandard work and then accuses the company of using that as a pretext to try to ease her out because of her medical condition.

    Please, people – this is NOT the 19th century when certain employers arrogated the right to control their (mostly female) employees’ social and religious lives even though the latter had nothing to do with their work. Employers are no longer expected to do that for very good reason. Let’s show that we’ve learned something in the past 121 years and act like it on the job!

  65. Apocalypse How*

    “One habit I would like to change is to increase my Patreon support for the Maintenance Phase podcast. They are doing excellent work exposing the bullshit of the wellness industry.”

  66. Coder von Frankenstein*

    “Which is yet one more reason to decouple health insurance from employment.”

    Better yet, decouple health from insurance.

  67. ObservantServant*

    I’d be temptedto tell the CEO about my love for legumes and all things cruciferous, then go into detailed descriptions of broccoli farts vs cabbage farts, and whether or not draining the soaking water from my beans reduces flatulence. Oh, and have they ever heard of the magic of epazote?

    1. nonegiven*

      I always heard after you soak the beans and rinse them, then you add a quart of beer to the pot when you add seasonings and water.

  68. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Dear employers,

    What I eat is none of your business. What I weigh is none of your business. Unless I’m asking for accommodations my health issues are none of your business.

    I don’t think you’re qualified to tell me what ‘healthy eating’ looks like and I really don’t believe that ‘everyone could stand to lose a few pounds’

    Eating differently/going to the gym won’t improve my work, won’t reduce my health issues and won’t have a positive impact on the company. In fact it’ll be a negative one because you’ll have a seriously pissed off IT Manager who’s oh so tired of having everything blamed on her weight.

    And trust me, you don’t want that.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      In all seriousness though, if the topic of ‘wellness’ comes up from the firm and it’s not about giving people more money, time or less work pressure then it’s just pointless talk.

      I know I’m fat. But I’m here to work, not sit in some hour long ‘mindfulness’ seminar or be asked for a log of what I’ve eaten.

    2. CW*

      Okay, so I weight 165 lbs, eat pizza, and occasionally drink soda? Am I going to get some kind of reprimand from my employer for that?

      And no, that is NOT my actual weight and diet – it’s none of anyone’s business, as you said. And especially NOT an employer’s business.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I tried to tell the boss from hell that I really *don’t* eat much and none of it fast food (not that this matters, food has no moral) and got dinged for ‘lying’

        Basically if you’re fat, you are assumed to spend half your waking hours shovelling doughnuts down your gullet as well as being judged for having ‘less self control’.

  69. Marspar*

    Would love to see an Ask A Manager column/article about this trend. Seems to be happening on a lot of fronts. For instance, “gamifying” by insurance – I just got an offer for a $25 gift card incentive for getting a pap smear. And also, being in the SF area, have heard lots of health/wellness/nutrition pushes by companies (all-vegan cafeterias anyone?) Would love if Alison could shed a bigger light on this. Glad to have this discussion!

  70. NekoMich*

    I feel like just the “education” bit could be endured and then forgotten or acted upon at personal preference. The sharing your habits, especially with the CEO (and I assume the CEO would share back) would just seem crazy to me.

    1. yala*

      For some people, even the “education” bit can’t be endured. Food and value-judgements about the perceived health value of food are triggers to a lot of people with or recovering from eating disorders.

  71. LizM*

    I was recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It comes with super strict diet requirements. I’m working closely with a dietitian and nurse practitioner to manage it.

    We did a “fun” presentation like this, and were asked to put together a sample meal plan. I just wrote down what I had eaten that day, and was told that I had way too much fat and not enough fruit. I just rolled my eyes and said “ok.” Mind you, this was a meal plan that had been blessed by someone who treats gestational diabetes patients full time and my glucose readings that day had all been at acceptable levels.

    (I haven’t disclosed my pregnancy or the gestational diabetes, and wasn’t about to in that meeting.)

  72. raida7*

    I’d suggest talking to the organiser about how it’s so nice the company is “offering these sessions” and ask where the calendar of sessions that “staff can decide if they are interested in” can look at.
    And really nail down – are these all-hands meetings or are these sessions for the benefit of employees that can take advantage of the business setting them up with no out of pocket cost?

  73. Retired (but not really)*

    My daughter has struggled with weight issues for years. Interestingly enough two recent things have helped her. And they’re not necessarily what you might expect. The first was getting a tubal ligation so she no longer had to deal with birth control meds. The second was getting a doctor to recognize that her borderline thyroid numbers were worth doing something about. Is she magically thin all of a sudden, No. But she feels much better and has lost weight to the point that after a year since the surgery and several months on the new meds some new clothes are becoming necessary. If these changes could have happened ten years ago it would have been much healthier for her in all ways. But I guess better late than never. Fortunately she hasn’t had to deal with workplace intrusion into her eating habits. They just want her to cook for them periodically. Lol!

  74. learnedthehardway*

    A company I worked for had a client company that was an early adopter of wellness programs. They used to base bonuses on how much exercise people did (ie. whether they biked or walked to work). Their cookies were differentially priced in the company cafeteria based on their nutritional value. Things like that. They were very, very quirky.

  75. nonegiven*

    My husband had a thing at work they had to fill out, sort of like that. A lot of them found it pretty intrusive but the company needed them to fill it out to get good insurance rates. If any of them griped about it, they were told to lie like a rug. We don’t care if you lie on these, we just need them filled out.

  76. Don't Be Long Suffering*

    Please also don’t assume what is healthy for you is healthy for me. Put up the vending machine with the fruits, but realize this. I can’t eat apples unless they are cooked. Bananas give me the shakes from the hordes of sugar in them. But those over-salted peanuts in the unhealthy machine? I am not the only person with weak adrenals who must, must have lots of salt. We are the people who over-react when startled. When anything causes a rush of adrenalin, it takes me a long time to recover. I might need a teaspoon of salt and some protein. The salted peanuts are far healthier for me than the fruit. Please stop saying poultry is healthier than red meat, or “anyone” can eat vegan. It’s not true. Everyone really is different. Please don’t say anything about food choices unless someone notices what you are eating and asks for help. Even then, your first advice should be “listen to your body”.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I am allergic to pistachios and cashews. This means I am not meant to be vegan. Vegan cuisine tends to have those things where they don’t belong. Like cashew milk, for dog’s sake.

      1. Rebecca Stewart*

        I have extremely angry guts if I eat any of the cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli and cabbage and their kin) and most legumes. I always say that when the gods cure my IBS I’ll become a vegetarian. Till then, I’ll be eating what I can eat.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          It’s sort of amusing how vegetarian and vegan activists ignore the effects on digestion of cruciferous vegetables and legumes. Many, many people can’t digest them, or whole grains either. Pretending this isn’t true doesn’t help anyone!

  77. QueenoftheWorld*

    I hate potlucks. I’m pretty choosy because of my medical issues but also because I have little quirks about food and people, family and coworkers alike, LOVE to make fun of those quirks. I don’t like certain things together, I don’t like my food touching. It’s very annoying but people think my eating is open season for their jokes. I don’t talk about my quirks unless asked specifically and even though I don’t like to do it. It’s apparently fun for other people to list the ‘issues’ I have with food. I would never even dream of commenting on someone else’s food beyond “ooh that smells delicious!”
    I hate eating in public.

  78. Heron*

    I’d have said, “The eating habit I would like to change is how so many people seem to think what other people eat is any of their business. I’d like everyone to focus on what’s on his or her own plate, and let others eat their own food in peace.”

  79. lilsheba*

    As a self diagnosed autistic with introvert tendencies I have way too many privacy issues going on to discuss anything to do with my health or eating habits. I’m not discussing those with anyone at work.

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