our health committee chair is anti-vax, anti-science, and out of control

A reader writes:

I’ve decided what my own actions will be here, but wanted to get your thoughts on whether or not an employer has an obligation to shut this down.

My workplace (a state government agency) has various Employee Resource Groups. All 100% voluntary, and there are limits to how much time we can spend on them.

Last year I joined the wellness committee and eventually became a board member. I found quickly that our chair is an anti-vax, anti-medicine, anti-science, MLM (think shakes, protein powders, perhaps named after a summer body expectation) distributor. When she’s sick, it’s essential oils and vitamins, no meds.

I support our right to choose what wellness path we feel is best for ourselves (except the vaccine one … but moving on), but she has taken it to extreme “MY PATH IS THE ONLY PATH AND EVERYONE MUST BE ON IT” levels.

She regularly shames people’s food choices, going as far to demand they throw it out, but she is of course happy to recommend a suitable <> product. Fortunately, we’re remote so she can’t tell if it’s done or not.

She’s suggested we write articles pushing coconut oil instead of sunscreen and implied that oral contraceptives are harmful (and rejected requests to add “talk to a medical professional”).

She believes being unhealthy is a choice. Can it be? Sure. But it can also be a lack of education, funds, availability … all of which will more significantly impact low income and people of color. She recently demanded we change a recipe to replace a couple tablespoons of flour with a hard-to-find alternative costing $8/pound. I, and a few others, pushed back and said we wanted something more inclusive and accessible, and she went on a rant about how being healthy is a choice and we shouldn’t suggest harmful things just because people don’t want to make that long-term investment in their health.

I’m not naive … I know (and sincerely hope) no one is making life-changing decisions based on our newsletters. But I still don’t want to give her an audience, so I’m resigning from the board later this week and will cite our differences of opinion and general concerns on what we’re putting out there.

I just wanted a group with some meal prep tips and workout ideas … didn’t expect to argue about pesticide cereal (yup, that happened) and flour types.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wow.

I’m not convinced employee groups should be distributing any information about diet to employees … or even more general health advice for that matter, beyond publicizing public health guidelines. There’s too much room for weirdness and misinformation. Your coworker is taking that a particularly ridiculous new level, but I’d say that even if she weren’t.

Employees have lots of places to get diet and health information from — like their doctors — and it’s not an appropriate role for a workplace to play.

So personally if I were on this committee — or had some authority over it — I’d advocate for dramatically overhauling its mission and activities. Rather than telling people what personal health decisions to make, focus on what the workplace does — advocate for strong Covid protections, flexible schedules, easy access to healthy food at work, subsidized gym memberships, stand-up desks for anyone who wants one, good insurance with strong preventative care, and other actions from the employer rather than from individual employees.

But if that’s not an option, I’d at least focus on getting rid of this chair, whose stances should be disqualifying for the role. I assume she doesn’t speak for the majority of the committee — does she only have power because no one else wanted to do the work and/or doesn’t feel like standing up to her? What she’s doing is egregious enough that it’s worth using some capital to get her shut down, including pointing out to The Powers That Be that she’s using government funding to push those viewpoints. (I do need to note that I can’t tell from your letter whether or not she has tried to push her anti-vax, anti-medicine, anti-science views in an official capacity beyond the anti-sunscreen and anti-contraceptives stuff, although both of those are problematic enough on their own.)

I know you’ve already resigned, but many coups throughout history have been led by leaders who built up their allies from the outside before deposing tyrants.

{ 348 comments… read them below }

  1. senobically*

    I would go to HR/her manager, citing a conflict of interest with her peddling her MLM products at work.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      This. She shouldn’t be selling products for her MLM at her day job. This is probably the quickest and easiest way to shut this down without having to get into whether her advice is sound or not.

      1. JustaTech*

        My company banned selling *anything* at work (including things like Girl Scout Cookies) because some people were being obnoxious with the MLM stuff.

        Honestly I’d rather have to put in a smidge more work to get my Thin Mint fix than have to put up with any MLM at work.

        LW, I’d check your agency/department’s guidelines, but the MLM pushing might already be prohibited.

        1. Casper Lives*

          Now that my neighbor’s daughter sells and delivers Girl Scout cookies to my house, I’m on board with this! The samoas are addictive.

          My mother used to leave my cookie order form in her office’s break room. No MLM pressure needed to sell those cookies.

        2. Wenike*

          If it helps? You can buy Girl Scout cookies online and have them delivered to your house, and the funds still go to support your local troop. Or the website will show you which stores and when they’ll be selling if you want to go in person. There’s less of a direct connection to helping out but still a way to get your cookie fix.

          1. IT Manager*

            Also you can support this awesome troop in NYC that is for girls experiencing homelessness so they can also be scouts!!! That’s where I get my cookies every year. They ship them right to my house.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        This is the way my last employer got rid of an ineffective employee who sabotaged other people’s work. She used work time and her work computer to sell Mary Kay.

      2. Maverick Jo*

        Why would a government agency/company green-light this program? If a government “health director” insists that lavender oil will cure pneumonia, and employee followed the newsletter’s advice with negative results, is the agency responsible for the outcome?

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      Report her MLM peddling and her kooky non-scientific medical views which she is promoting.

      You’re working at a state government agency, the MLM will be off limits, unethical, and a violation of rules/laws. Also recommend any information that’s published in this newsletter be from a vetted scientific source, possibly federal or state health agencies. Like you shouldn’t have to do this and it is limiting, but her kooky medical and nutrition agenda should not be pushed or published.

      1. High Score!*

        I hope OP follows this advice. And that HR shuts that dictator down.
        But the biggest thing I’ve learned from AAM is to never work for the government or non profits. Those workplaces are always sheet shows.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          The second thing you should have learned from AAM is not to paint government agencies and nonprofits with one brush. She’s very clear that she runs an advice column for people who are having problems at work, so of course most of what we hear about are the sheet shows.

            1. Erie*

              I agree with the people in that thread that small businesses, family businesses, and restaurants are especially dysfunctional… but honestly, I also stay away from nonprofits after my personal experiences with them. Of course they aren’t all dysfunctional, and Alison is diligent enough that I’m sure she’s been able to make a good environment when she’s been in charge, but too many nonprofits are so mission-driven in my experience that they expect employees to sacrifice an unreasonable amount for the mission.

              I also think that when an organization isn’t driven by its bottom line it can sometimes shy away from making tough decisions in the interest of efficiency. Functional work environments are rare in the first place and I just think they get rarer in the nonprofit and public sectors.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                I don’t think that small and/or family businesses are especially dysfunctional. I think the range from best to worst is greater than it is for large businesses. If the small business owner is a wonderful person who cares about the wellbeing of their employees, it can be a fantastic place to work, where even the best large businesses are inherently more institutional. But if the owner is crazy or evil, the dysfunction can be spectacular in ways that those institutional forces will tend to keep at least somewhat in check. I write this as someone who has worked for the same solo practitioner for going on fourteen years now.

              2. c buggy*

                The idea that an employer being driven by its bottom line is an overall good thing for employees is…something

                1. Kay*

                  I totally see your point here, but as someone who has dealt with many nonprofits and immediately went YUP to the above comment – I’ll explain the why. I can’t say if it was the same reason Erie was thinking but I know I’ve thought the same thing (without realizing how it comes off and will now try to rephrase accordingly).

                  Nonprofits tend to tolerate extremely bad behavior – generally because they can’t pay competitive wages so they, well, get what they pay for. They tolerate this not only from employees but from volunteers. I’ve so many times said of nonprofits (at least on the volunteer side for sure) that the majority of what happens would never be tolerated in a functioning business. Nonprofits often get stuck in the – they have a heartbeat and said yes – mindset that they allow such toxic behavior to run rampant they lose any reasonable people.

                  So while yes, the bottom line isn’t good for employees does ring true, I think the sentiment was more that a decent business concerned about performance wouldn’t allow the sort of things that are much likelier to be tolerated at a nonprofit.

              3. Le Sigh*

                I’ve worked for more than one private company that ostensibly was bottom-line driven and I can point to just as many, if not more, problems than I have found working for nonprofits. Nonprofits aren’t the only type of place I’ve worked that ask for sacrifices for the mission, they just dress it up with different language. I’ve had company owners act like we should *want* to work weekends, because we cared just so much about this IT product, even if we weren’t getting paid a dime more and wouldn’t see any kind of bonus. I want to work Saturdays so only you and the executive team can make more money?

                I also don’t think efficiency should be the main driver of decision-making in all cases — because I’ve seen executives hobble a company’s long-term success by obsessing over squeezing every last penny out of something. Most industries have issues. It’s a question of how the place you’re working for is run and who is running it.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I worked at a for-profit healthcare company, and they made a huge deal about how we needed to work nights and weekends, give 110% effort, and sacrifice for the benefit of the patients. There was a lot of “we” terminology used inappropriately (“We’re saving patient lives!” “We made this mistake that endangered a patient!” “We’re slipping behind competitors in X department, we all need to put in nights and weekends until we catch up, because the competitors endanger patient lives!”)

                  Now I’m working in the public sector for the same industry, and it’s understood that we’re just doing our best within time, personnel, budget and regulatory constraints. Night and day difference.

              4. UKDancer*

                Yes I definitely think size is more important than whether something is public sector, private sector or charity. The most dysfunctional place I ever worked was a small shop with 2 owners who hated each other and their staff. In my experience once an organisation or business gets above a certain size it usually has better procedures, more sensible rules and ways of making decisions so some of the scope for individuals to run the organisation or business as a personal fiefdom is reduced.

              5. Lily*

                I think I must’ve lucked out with regard to healthcare non-profits. I’ve worked at 2 and I was (and currently am) treated and paid better, with better benefits, than I have been at for-profit orgs.

          1. Antilles*

            Bingo. The whole thing about advice columns is that people who don’t need advice don’t write in. And that’s true whether we’re talking about AAM, Dear Abby, or even informal stuff like reddit’s AITA.
            Speaking just for myself, I’ve read/commented on AAM for six years, and I’ve sent exactly one question to AAM in that entire time – and it wasn’t even about my career, but about television tropes.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I started reading AAM specifically because I had no idea what my manager wanted and needed advice. Even then, the general advice was good enough at reorienting me and exposing some of my bad habits that it was about a year before I wrote in about an issue.

        2. Lime green Pacer*

          I’ve learned to also avoid family-run businesses, large multi-nationals, and retail. Good thing I’m self-employed!

          1. Phony Genius*

            Interesting that the multiple stories here of clients not paying self-employed people hasn’t deterred you from that, either.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I’d say just not work, except Alison has also given advice about dysfunctional clubs, volunteer organizations, etc. I suspect the underlying issue is that people are involved.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’ve worked for publicly traded, privately held, global, multinational, local, and tiny companies, and all kinds in between. They are all their very own kind of sheet shows. And they are their own kind of wonderful.

          Let’s not generalize to an extreme degree, please.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I don’t think we can make any kind of blanket statement about entire sectors of the workforce based on who writes in to an advice column. People whose workplaces are functional and good are probably not going to be writing in. As a lifelong government employee, my opinion is that some government employers are good and others are less good, which matches the impression I get from my friends and family who have non-government jobs. Some workplaces are good. Some are bananas. That’s just sort of the way of the work world in general.

          1. JustAnotherKate*

            Yeah, having worked in nonprofits, for-profits, and government and held positions from retail to admin assistant to educator to fundraiser to lawyer,* in my experience every type of employer is a major crapshoot as to whether you get an awesome work environment or, well, crap. Anecdotally, I have noticed some correlation between the amount of hoop-jumping required to fire a problem employee and the general crap factor, but that’s been true in each of these types of jobs.

            * (Yes, I am 400 years old.)

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          I work in an area where working for the federal government is very, very common, and it’s fair to say that whether or not you should work for the government is highly dependent on the department/bureau/agency/team, the type of work you do, and your boss. The government has, overall, been great for my spouse and for our family, and we are looking forward to those pension checks when we retire.

    3. Worldwalker*

      Yeah. The rest is egregious, but the MLM-selling is something they are more likely to actually crack down on.

      1. Anonymous*

        Rather like you needed the tax evasion to take down the racketeer, you’ll need the conflict of interest to remove the… also racketeer

    4. KatieP*

      Yep, report her for theft of resources (her work time, other peoples’ work time, computing assets, anything else she’s used) to subsidize her side hustle.

      Depending on your state and agency, she may need authorization to work a side hustle or external job (conflict-of-interest management reasons). If she hasn’t filled-out the paperwork, there’s also that.

      Signed, year #24 as a state employee

    5. just another bureaucrat*

      I work for in an agency with a pretty lax HR who isn’t willing to do much, but if she’s doing ANY selling on government time even they will crack down on it very hard. It’s a big deal, and if she’s using her “influence” within the committee then it’s a much bigger problem. This is a serious conflict of interest and abuse of power.

      1. GreenDoor*

        It’s not just selling MLM products in a government setting that’s problematic. The coworkers display of blatant anti-poor bias (“healthy is a choice”) would never fly in the government sector I work for. Public servants are to serve the *entire* public. That means meeting people where they are, especially those segments of the population who lack access and choices. Any use of tax dollars (even for employee-only programs) should not be framed with the level of judgment and bias this coworker is showing.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I don’t think anyone disagrees with this, but a blatant policy violation (selling MLM products on government time) is the fastest, straightest road to firing someone versus just having terrible judgment and bias. You always choose the least subjective cause for termination.

  2. KatEnigma*

    At a government agency, report her to HR for the MLM crap. That is a huge conflict of interest and they will take it seriously.

    1. Anita*

      I second the report her to management. Few government jobs would tolerate using taxpayer-funded work time to bolster an unrelated income steam. As a former manager, I would have removed them from the committee and given them a written warning to not spend another minute of time on the clock promoting their other business. If they didn’t follow this, I would have fired them.

      1. KatEnigma*

        I mean, in the private sector or non profits, they may or may not do something about it. But in Government, there are VERY strict rules that are absolutely enforced about that kind of thing.

    2. Jessica Fletcher (RIP)*

      Yes, especially since she’s pushing her products on fellow board members who eat things she doesn’t like.

    3. The Dude Abides*

      Also recommend reporting her up the chain. Using work time (or even PTO) to support another income stream is a HUGE no-no, and could be a termination-level offense.

      Source – I am a state gov manager, and my partner’s mother founded the state government union chapter she was in until retirement.

      1. Plum*

        Where do you live, that an employer is allowed to control what employees do on vacation days? That seems like a massive overreach! I’ve been in the civil service in various places in Ontario for over 20 years, and the only limits on what I can do when I’m not at work involve conflicts of interest. Or crime, probably, but I belong to a union, so it would have to be a REALLY BIG CRIME before I could get fired for it.* I take time off to do craft shows (or prepare for craft shows. And sometimes to recover from craft shows ;)) and it’s never a problem.

        *I support unions, including mine, which is why I am allowed to make fun of them.

  3. Bookartist*

    Upside vis a vis your concerns about the bad info in the newsletters, your coworkers likely already dismiss the content since the chair apparently is known to be a kook.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      My workplace “wellness” newsletter is a lot more sane, but it’s still useless, unscientific and lacking context. For example, the most recent newsletter let us know that “Broccoli contains more iron than steak!”

      Which is obviously false from any reasonable standpoint: unless you substitute 1.6 lbs of broccoli for your 8-oz steak, you won’t be eating the same amount of iron, and even then vegetarian iron isn’t absorbed as easily by our bodies.

      I looked it up, and apparently what they meant to say is that broccoli contains more iron PER CALORIE than steak, which is a very different (and fairly useless) factoid.

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        That reminds me of the time someone tried to convince me green tea had more caffeine than coffee. It might, if you’re counting it by dry weight, but I’m not putting a teensy spoonful of ground-up beans in a bag to make my morning coffee.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        There was also a section on how important it was to throw out expired food, which just isn’t accurate. The FDA doesn’t actually regulate any of those different labels except for baby formula (“best by”, “expires”, “buy before”, “freshest before”, etc), so manufacturers can put anything they want there.

        Sometimes states regulate what food can be sold, such as the Montana state legislature just deciding that they want the freshest milk in the country and instructing grocers to throw out perfectly good milk.

  4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    Maybe because I’m in a mood today, but sometimes people make unhealthy food choices…because they want to! Yeah I had a donut this morning, yes I know it was unhealthy, but it was delicious. I don’t need some anti-vaxx MLM peddler to lecture me.

    1. 3DogNight*

      We’re adults, it means we get to eat what we want, when we want it. We had Oatmeal Cookies for dinner last night, and it was delicious!

      1. irene adler*

        Strong advocate here for Cake for Breakfast.
        Each year, I breakfast on cake the morning after my birthday.

        Just try and stop me.

        1. kristinyc*

          See also: Pie as breakfast for the entirety of Thanksgiving weekend. There’s probably a fruit in there somewhere. It’s healthy.

          1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

            I do the same thing! One year we had to travel on the Friday after and I totally ate leftover pie in the car. It was awesome.

          2. Tio*

            Pumpkin is a vegetable, so clearly having pumpkin pie for breakfast is a great way to get those veggies in.

          3. KylieHR*

            My spouse and his family invented a holiday for this. Made t-shirts and everything. They call it Five Pies Friday, and the conceit is that you stay home and eat only pie that day, instead of Black Friday shopping. Mostly leftover pie, but in the past we’ve had savory pies (you can make an excellent pot pie or shepherd’s pie from thanksgiving leftovers), fruit pies, pizza pies, all kinds of stuff. Five Pies Friday is even responsible for reconnecting my spouse and I after 10 years, and resulted in him becoming my spouse two years later. :) It holds a special place in my heart.

            1. mli25*

              Five Pies Friday sounds amazing! I need to figure out how to get some part of the family to participate. This is genius!

              1. ScruffyInternHerder*

                This is not going to be difficult for me to figure out how to get family participation. Pies? There’s always room for it. Always. Adding to calendar and its going to be EPIC.

            1. Grew up in Amish country*

              You actually eat shoofly pie?! I thought we just made it up to sell to tourists as a prank.

          4. mli25*

            Leftover pie on Black Friday has been tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. The only debate is with or without Cool Whip (depends on which parent you ask).

          5. Beancounter Eric*

            Or pecans….lots of zinc and anti-oxidants, and with a little Karo Syrup, or better, Maple,…..YUM!!!

          6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Nobody would look askance if you ate a zucchini quiche for breakfast.
            Therefore:
            Pumpkin pie filling = custard = baked eggs/milk = quiche.

            1. Zelda*

              Ditto sweet potato pie. Custard means eggs, and sweet potato is perfectly cromulent nutrition (packed with carotenoids!).

          7. Le Sigh*

            Ahh, I see you’ve met my dad, who each morning tries to cut tiny slices, or just the little triangle tip in the middle, and act as if there is a Pie Ghost eating it all up before we wake up.

            1. That One Person*

              Reminds me of my uncle trying to (playfully) hide the pies from Thanksgiving and not share. I even had a dream about him doing that when I tried to get some so when I woke up I absolutely went for some (and he playfully tried to talk me out of it). Pie for breakfast after Thanksgiving feels happily mandatory in my book!

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I ate chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled pretzels for breakfast today. I figure I covered the major food groups: sugar, salt, fat, and preservatives.

          Some mornings, I like oatmeal and raisins and cranberries. I can be mercurial that way.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            I just placed an order for (mostly) dried fruits and threw in a bag of those chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled pretzels, myself. I am eagerly looking forward to trying them.

            And I also love oatmeal.

        3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Reheated rice pudding for breakfast (specifically, the type my mother made for dinner parties and baked in the oven). Food of the gods.

          (By trial, this also works with Aland rice pudding, but does not work with the arroz con leche I got off Smitten Kitchen, probably because that’s served cold)

        4. Ground Control*

          I make my husband buy my cake a day or two before my birthday so I can have cake for breakfast on my birthday. It’s genius, I know. I’ve been hopelessly smug since I started this practice.

          In response to the wider conversation, I really try to steer away from calling foods healthy or unhealthy. Consuming only cake as the entirety of my diet would be unhealthy, but eating an occasional slice of cake isn’t inherently unhealthy or “bad”. It’s just cake!

          1. That One Person*

            I figure making yourself deliberately miserable is probably unhealthy, just gotta do things in moderation too. An entire cake diet not a good idea – cake here n’ there/once in a while totally okay!

      2. Emotional support capybara*

        Pros of being an adult: you can eat an entire cake by yourself and nobody can stop you

        Cons of being an adult: same

    2. Stay-at-Homesteader*

      I’m going to go even farther and argue that *A* donut, on its own, cannot actually be an unhealthy food choice (unless you have a medical condition that will cause you to get sick from a single donut). A single food or meal has just about no real impact on one’s physical health. It can, however, have an impact on your sense of well-being in the moment, and in that case, a donut can often be construed as a positive choice. Did it bring you pleasure? Remind you of a happy memory? Did you share the food and experience with someone you care about? Did it just brighten your mood? Those aren’t necessary to make the donut-eating “acceptable,” (one can eat whatever the eff one wants for whatever reason one wants), but they are impacts that tend to get overlooked. Plus, yeah, it is absolutely no one else’s business. End of story.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Beautifully said! This idea of “good food”, and “bad food” is so pervasive and toxic. I prefer to think of them as “foods I forget to eat unless I make an effort”.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Bingo.

        Sometimes when I wake up, it’s too much work to make a “healthy” breakfast before work. I’d rather have the extra hour of sleep than some ideal thing with all the healthy food groups served as tastelessly as possible.

        1. Former Employee*

          Since more and more is becoming known about the importance of getting enough sleep and its impact on one’s overall health, you might be making the right choice.

          (I’m also in California.)

      3. Jealous of the Water*

        I love this response so much, Stay-at-Homesteader! As a parent of a recovering anorexic and as someone who struggles to a lesser extent myself with disordered eating, it’s so important to remember that no food is inherently a bad food. Thank you for this.

      4. Here for the Insurance*

        Yes! Quality of life matters, and that includes mental & emotional quality as well as physical.

      5. paxfelis*

        If this donut sparks joy, then let it spark joy as you consume it. If it doesn’t spark joy, then dispose of it… eating it is generally a quick way to do that.

    3. IWasHereToo*

      I was thinking the same! I make some poor decisions, and they aren’t related to lack of education or lack of opportunity. But I’m an adult and if I want to have deep-fried GMO for supper, I get to make that decision.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have seen zero scientific evidence that eating GMO is actually bad for one’s health. Monsanto’s crappy business practices aside, GMO have been around for decades and no risks have been demonstrated. In some cases, such as vitamin-A enriched rice or insect-resistant plants that don’t need as much pesticide, GMO are significantly healthier.

        I also think the “Not Genetically Modified” label is pretty misleading, as it’s often used on foods that don’t even have a GMO option such as mangoes, broccoli, avocadoes, etc.

        /ends rant

          1. DataSci*

            My niece has a severe wheat allergy (she’ll have an anaphylactic reaction from trace amounts) and things like “gluten free raisins” are actually really helpful for her parents, since it means there’s no cross contamination risk.

            With you on organic salt, though!

        1. Yvette*

          “I also think the “Not Genetically Modified” label is pretty misleading, as it’s often used on foods that don’t even have a GMO option such as mangoes, broccoli, avocados, etc.”

          So true, whenever something “bad” for you is a hot topic, suddenly things that never had it, will never have it, and really couldn’t possibly have it are now advertising “Bad thing Free”!!!!! So go ahead and enjoy your Tropicana Gluten Free Orange Juice or your Fat Free Lipton Ice tea! (OK I made those up, but you get the idea)

        2. KoiFeeder*

          I will say that there is the potential for someone to be allergic to a GMO product, but I will also say that in my anecdatal experience the allergies have been to the herbicide-resistant GMOs as opposed to BT corn or golden rice.

          That being said, things like golden rice that are intended to supplement dietary needs are very carefully created to ensure that they’re introducing as few new allergens to the mix as physically possible. They’re meant to be as easy to add to the diet as possible. I’ve also heard that it tastes a little better than white rice, but I haven’t had the opportunity to taste test.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m all for identifying allergens, but the fear of GMOs being particularly allergenic seems overblown. The number one allergy I’m familiar with is peanuts, and there are no GMO peanuts being sold commercially.

            There should just be more food options, in my view. I have a friend who is allergic to corn (GMO or not), and it is difficult for her to find things to eat in the US that don’t have corn syrup added.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Yes, you’re right. As a general rule, GMOs are no more allergenic than their cross-bred and hybridized counterparts. And as I stated, golden rice and similar dietary needs GMOs are very carefully tested to be as safe as possible. I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear.

              I could complain all day about the problem corn syrup. It’s not an allergy for me, but corn and I are not friends, and I really wish it was easier to find things without it.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Try being allergic to soybean oil. It’s in almost everything commercially prepared.

                1. Lucien Nova*

                  As someone very allergic to coconut, which seems to also be in everything these days, my sincerest sympathies.

        3. AFac*

          Not to mention humans have done a lot of genetic modification of crops through cross-breeding and hybridization. It just took longer.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Case in (somewhat ironic in this case) point – broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage (and I might be forgetting a few pieces here) are all cultivars of wild cabbage that were selectively bred to look like the current iterations, none of which look a whole bunch like the wild cabbage.

        4. fluffy*

          I also have a pet peeve of anti-GMO groups using images of corn as something that is wholesome, pure, and untainted. Even ignoring the hideous monoculture crop ecological catastrophe that modern corn farming represents, there is literally no such thing as GMO-free corn, as corn was one of the first GMOs humans ever created. Corn in its natural state is inedible and bears almost no resemblance to the crop we know today.

      2. Erie*

        Can I ask what rough area you’re from? I’m curious about whether “supper” is a regionalism – I don’t hear it much!

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Not IWasHereToo, but a quick google says that “supper” is more common in Southern and Midwestern states and usually more common in rural areas than urban ones.

        2. BookMom*

          Supper is always the evening meal in the US Midwest. Dinner is the largest meal, either at midday or early evening. This stems back to when farm workers would “come in for dinner” at midday and eat a large, hot meal before returning to the fields for the afternoon. As the years pass, this seems to be changing to dinner always being in the evening. But my relatives who are aged 80+ always say breakfast AM, dinner Noon, supper PM.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            In Ireland, Dinner is the same. It’s either breakfast, dinner and tea or breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the former being more rural and the latter more urban (urban workers tend to be at work at midday whereas people in farming communities are more likely to have their main meal earlier), to the point that when Leo Varadkar (an upper-middle class Dublin man) tried and failed to gain the leadership of a political party from Enda Kenny, the leader who was from a rural background, the papers dubbed it “a victory for the people who eat dinner in the middle of the day.” In other words, the rural small town guy winning over the stereotypical yuppie from the capital city.

            1. SarahKay*

              That’s interesting, I hadn’t known about a potential urban/rural split, although as anecdata I grew up in rural England and had dinner in the middle of the day. My ex-boyfriend grew up in urban Scotland and had dinner in the evening. To avoid confusion we eventually agreed that our meals would be called breakfast, lunch and supper, thus avoiding the contentious and confusing ‘dinner’ altogether. (Sometimes it’d be tea rather than supper, if it was late afternoon and a bread/butter/cake type meal).

      3. Irish Teacher*

        I make many poor eating decisions, largely because I almost certainly have some kind of sensory issue around eating (pretty sure I have sensory processing disorder and wouldn’t be surprised if I were on the spectrum, though that’s more a 50/50 thing). So “I can eat this without gagging or being left with a horrible taste in my mouth. Cool!” I do try to eat reasonably healthily, but I have enough restrictions without banning foods I CAN eat.

    4. Worldwalker*

      Weird food fanatic: “This diet will let you live forever!”

      Normal person (after reading the list): “No, it’ll just *feel* like forever!”

    5. Tin Cormorant*

      Mental health is health too. If I want to have a bowl of chocolate ice cream after dinner because I had a rough day, and it brings my stress down when not eating it would have left me stressed and unhappy all evening, I think I’ve done something good for me.

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I mean, there is no point in having a Wellness Committee if they can’t comment on anything either. We have no clue what this OP’s workplace is like but if you have a bunch of really unhealthy people, nudging them in the right direction isn’t some egregious violation of their rights. There is a reason this committee exists, and it’s not because everyone is super well.

      I used to work with someone who guzzled coffee then huge pepsis and never ate a vegetable and whose eyes were blood shot and who was overweight. You could see his diet on his face. Lo and behold he had lots of stints of 2-3 days off and always had headaches. Would not care if the company had a sit down with him about his constant caffeine/sugar overdose/nightly beer routine and how it was ruining his health

      Had another coworker who just drank too much and was always calling in late, and I would not care if his feelings were hurt if they told him to knock it off.

      I think people are mistaken when they think these programs should create no tension. People always push back against change. To be hyperbolic, even when people are dying on 600 pound life, they still pushback against healthy eating

      1. Hannah Lee*

        But the thing is … it’s not the function, role of the workplace, or managers, or co-workers to police and critique an employee’s choice of what they eat and drink.

        A manager can address the WORK related behaviors: excessive absenteeism, tardiness, poor work product, etc.

        But “I can see your diet on your face” and “BTW you’re overweight, your eyes are bloodshot … too much caffeine, sugar, beer for you! And we’re going to counsel you on how to stop ruining your health” is WAY out of bounds for the role on one’s employer IMO.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          It can depend on your relationship with the person. Some people need a gentle nudge in the right direction and don’t have people in their life to give them a reality check. For whatever reason, our society has decided we can get really personal if it comes to some types of substance abuse, but other types of issues are off limits. Seems reasonable online, but when you live with or work next to someone who’s killing themselves with food and 1000 calories of sugar beverages a day, the distinction and boundaries seem very arbitrary. You sort of stop caring about being polite when your coworker looks like they’re about to have a heart attack any second. Only so long you can dance around an issue.

            1. Prospect Gone Bad*

              I was only 30 then and didn’t say anything because it would’ve came out wrong. Still think of that guy. Now that I’m middle age I have more nuanced ways of wording it and would know exactly how to gently word it. No point of writing it out here since it’s completely dependent on the person and what they need to hear.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                I still would report you to HR for harassment if you said anything to me, “gently” worded or not.

                People have the right to go to hell in their own way.

              2. Bob-White of the Glen*

                You gently nudge me by stating the obvious, my bad diet for example, without knowing any of my history, reasons why, eating disorders, etc., I’m going to bite off your mansplaining/womannagging little head and enjoy it for lunch.

                1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  Good lord, yes!

                  Anyone who tries to tell me what to eat or not eat can go take a flying leap. I do NOT CARE if someone thinks they know how to fix everything that’s wrong with me by telling me how to eat; it’s simply NONE OF THEIR DAMNED BUSINESS.

                  As a lifelong picky eater (I suspect I have undiagnosed ARFID -Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder), I had to put up with constant criticism of my eating habits and being treated like a freak because I couldn’t stand foods other people insisted I “should” like the whole time I was growing up. As an adult, I do not have to take that from anybody!

                  Ugh, this topic really strikes a nerve with me!

              3. STLBlues*

                Spoiler alert: You still have NO idea how to say it without being overbearing and offensive.

                Because saying that to a coworker in any situation is overbearing and offensive. Never, ever do that. Ever.

                It is Not. Your. Business.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Ugh. That’s a terrible attitude. Like someone sees me eat a pizza and a Dr pepper and now I gotta explain executive functioning, how caffeine can improve job performance, why I’m ugly and all I wanted to do is do my work.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            “You sort of stop caring about being polite when your coworker looks like they’re about to have a heart attack any second”

            Is your coworker’s appearance somehow preventing you from doing your job?

            Whatever someone might want to say about “society” and its norms, it’s not the role of an employer or manager to manage people’s lifestyle choices. If there is a work impact, such as excessive absenteeism or failure to complete assigned work *that’s* what an employer can and should address.

            Otherwise, unless one is a co-worker’s spouse, parent or other close family member/friend or health care provider, it’s not their place to give a “gentle nudge” or try to manage someone else’s personal choices or life. And even for people who have those particular relationships with an employee/co-worker, delivering “a reality check” should be on a personal basis, NOT as their employer.

            1. Prospect Gone Bad*

              Not sure how you take that comment and think it’s about their appearance? That’s so disingenuous it’s ridiculous and doesn’t warrant a response beyond calling it out.

              1. scribblingTiresias*

                ….Please stop being so rude and look at what the rest of the comments section is saying. Your point of view consistently hurts people who were less lucky than you are.

              2. Hannah Lee*

                You’ve made several comments in this thread about co-workers’ appearances “you could his diet in his face” “looks like they are about to have a heart attack” “bloodshot eyes” “who was overweight”

                I simply called *that* out. And tried to refocus the discussion back to workplace impacts and what a manager might legitimately focus on when addressing workplace behavior.

                Unless you’re a medical professional, and maybe not even then, it’s not possible to know health status of your coworkers simply by looking at their appearance in most cases. What they eat or drink at work or do on their off time is not really your business to police or give them a “gentle nudge about”

              3. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

                You quite literally said “you could see his diet in his face”. Do you have x-ray vision?

                Anyway your cheerful methods of harassing those you deem unhealthy are counterproductive to improving their health. A link follows about how “fat shaming is linked to greater health risks”

          3. Esmae*

            I promise that your fat coworkers do not need a “reality check” and already know they’re fat. They don’t need you to tell them, gently or not.

            1. Bob-White of the Glen*

              And many, many of them know far more about nutrition and what they should be doing than you do.

          4. I should really pick a name*

            For whatever reason, our society has decided we can get really personal if it comes to some types of substance abuse

            In a work context? Not in my experience.

          5. Emotional support capybara*

            It costs you $0.00 USD to mind your own business about what another person eats.

          6. WhatAmIDoing*

            There is no “gentle nudge” based on opinions of appearance that is appropriate for a lecture on health in the work place. None. Zero.

            Those “nudges” will overwhelmingly harm people who don’t need any of it – chronically ill people don’t need to be told to eat a vegetable. People’s food needs are many and varied and there are enough special circumstances that we have actual professional specialists to have those discussions with, with access to bloodwork and testing. And even then, a lot of conditions don’t have a great understanding of what is really causing them and how to help.

            Random office monkey X can’t actually advise me on my health, I have literally a dozen doctors who do that, and they don’t all agree. I do a lot of experimentation to find what blend of food and exercise works for my body, and someone who watches me add sugar to my tea every morning isn’t in a position to participate.

            Please let me gently nudge you away from this idea, its not good for you or others.

          7. Lenora Rose*

            Here’s someone trying to earn the universal New Yorker Cartoon Caption as their title. how unkind and judgemental.

      2. Student Affairs Sally*

        The point is that it’s not the workplace’s place to tell people how to live their lives in their off time. The coworker who was always coming in late should have been managed from an “impact on the work” standpoint, but whether he drinks too much on his own time in his own home (i.e. assuming that he’s not driving drunk) it is literally 0% his employers business. Or yours for that matter.

        1. Angstrom*

          Yes and no. If asked, a LOT of people would say they’d like to lose weight, quit smoking, get in shape, sleep better, have their back not hurt, etc. My company offers extensive resources to help with those things. All require the employee to make choices about things they do outside of work.
          The company’s interest is in reducing absenteeism, improving productivity at work, and slowing the interest in health insurance costs. Our company health insurance costs are affected by the previous year’s usage, so fewer claims -> smaller rate increase the next year.

          1. Former Employee*

            That’s the key: Your company OFFERS resources to help their employees live a healthier life, but the CHOICE to take advantage of these resources (or not) is left up to the employees.

            While I know nothing else about your company, assuming it is good in other areas (pay, benefits, fairness, etc.) this is just the sort of place I would have wanted to work.

            This is a great balance – offering lots of assistance while not mandating anything.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Bingo.

          If he shows up on time and gets his work done, it’s not your business how much he drinks, or eats, in the comfort of his own home.

        3. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I had a team member in a previous company who probably had a drink problem which made him late for work and less reliable. We managed the lateness as a performance issue, we didn’t tell him not to drink because that was not our place. We made sure information on employee assistance was available if he wanted it.

          I mean if I ran an HGV or bus company, I’d need to make sure my drivers were sober, but in a white collar job, you manage the work issue, not trying to make people live their lives the way you think they ought.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        An employer does not have the standing to address an employee’s health. They can offer great health insurance, EAPs, gym memberships, healthy snacks, flexibility, a good work-life balance, etc.

        An employer also doesn’t have the expertise or individualized knowledge to make good health recommendations. For example, I have an ongoing health condition that requires a high-sodium diet. Even when the employer makes health recommendations that are accurate for the general public, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate on the individual level.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          That’s an interesting example, but can’t really be applied to a large group of people. Besides some food sensitivities, few people are going to be recommended counter-intuitive advice like “don’t exercise and eat more fast food!”

          1. metadata minion*

            Sure, but for the people who are, it’s usually for a *really good reason* and it’s very frustrating when everyone shouts JUST DO THE OBVIOUS HEALTHY THING. Case in point: when we figured out I needed a pacemaker, I was on strict instructions not to exercise until they got it installed, because my heart was malfunctioning when I exercised. There are actually a fair number of cardiovascular conditions that make exercise dangerous. Yoga can be dangerous for people with hypermobility. Common types of mindfulness practice are counterproductive for people with some mental illnesses.

            And yes, all of these are a tiny percentage of the population, but when you add up all those tiny percentages, there are probably multiple people in your workplace that at least once applies to. This can all be avoided just by making thing available to employees rather than sending out “helpful” notices telling them what to do, and focusing on things that are actually the employers’ job, like keeping work schedules sensible. (There are people for whom working 12-hour shifts is *less* terrible, but as far as I know that’s not going to improve anyone’s health.)

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              … focusing on things that are actually the employers’ job, like keeping work schedules sensible.

              This is part of the stress reduction type things that an employer can do. The best stress reduction is prevention – which having sane working hours and workloads helps a great deal with.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              I have a friend who (at a doctor’s recommendation) lost a significant amount of weight. Losing that weight actually made another condition she has much worse. I can’t imagine going through that much effort to lose weight only to feel less well than I did before.

          2. MeepMeep123*

            With Long COVID being more and more of a thing, “don’t exercise” might be a more common recommendation soon. Overexertion with this particular post-viral thing is a dangerous thing and can seriously exacerbate the condition.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yeah, and I suspect I have a “mild” form of it. After an illness in January 2020 (the “cold from hell”) I suddenly was getting winded when walking up a slope. I am still getting winded walking up a slope, whereas I wasn’t in 2019. Plus, I now need much more sleep than before. But since I had the illness before there were any tests there is no way to know whether it was covid or not. I know it tried to turn into pneumonia, but I managed to use a leftover inhaler to stop it short. Scared me.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            You probably have a coworker right now who was told by a doctor *not* to do one of the following “common sense” things because it would be harmful to them:
            – exercise vigorously
            – lift weights
            – do yoga
            – meditate
            – reduce fat in their high-fat diet
            – switch to a vegan diet
            – reduce sodium in their diet
            – lose weight (for someone with an “overweight” BMI)
            – increase fiber consumption
            – reduce caffeine intake

            The thing is, general health recommendations are for “average” humans, and no one is actually average.

        2. xl*

          > An employer does not have the standing to address an employee’s health

          In the vast majority of cases, yes. But there are different rules for jobs involving public safety. My health is a great deal of concern to my employer, to the point I have to report to them every time I take or am prescribed a medication. Many of them are disqualifying for work (even getting the Covid vaccination disqualified me from work for 48 hours). And every year I have to have a physical where my health and medication consumption over the past year are scrutinized, along with having an EKG.

          I understand that this is not the type of job that was being discussed, but I wanted to point out that there are indeed some cases where an employee’s health are under the purview of the organization. People are generally surprised to learn that.

          1. Moryera*

            *I’m* certainly surprised, at least. Exactly what kind of work do you do, so I know never to go into that field?

            1. Wintermute*

              It’s not particularly rare, anything where your sudden incapacity could create an emergency that impacts others– people immediately think of pilots, but anything with a commercial driver’s license also counts (whether you’re driving around passengers, propane or cylinders of chlorine, it’s pretty important to minimize the risk of you passing out our dying suddenly).

              Anything that involves respirators or breathing apparatus as well, whether that’s chemical industry or confined spaces or anything else.

              1. amoeba*

                Yep, if you’re working in a chemistry lab, you have mandatory check-ups when you’re starting and then every year or so (although that depends on the particular employer. But especially the one when you start is considered really normal.)
                That’s mostly for your own safety though – and the company doctor is not sharing the specific results with your employer! They only declare you fit for the work, and if they find something non-disqualifying that should still be checked, they’ll refer you to your family doctor for follow-up.

                1. Moryera*

                  Okay, that makes more sense to me than it did earlier (especially because I originally intended to find a job in a chemistry lab when I left college, but ended up landing in healthcare instead).

                  Or at least, I understand annual physicals, monitoring exposure to hazardous chemicals, etc. I still don’t quite have a grip on what job requires SUCH attention to detail that a simple vaccine will take you out for 2 days straight. This part isn’t sarcasm, I am honestly confused.

                  (Speaking of sarcasm, apologies to xl if it sounded like I was snarking at you personally. Definitely not my intention: I just react very strongly to the idea of my employer sticking their nose into my medicine cabinet.)

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        The employee who regularly called out or came in late would be something the company should address, but nothing else you mention here has anything to do with the company’s business dealings. It also sounds really judgmental and mean. You have no idea what was causing your coworker’s headaches, and blaming him for it is really uncalled for.

        The only thing a workplace should have to say about my health and wellness is that they provide me with access to licensed practitioners and discounted prescription medications. Maybe they could even offer coupons for wellness based services that aren’t generally covered by insurance plans. But beyond that? No. That’s between me and my doctor and my workplace has absolutely nothing to say to me about it.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I mean, I know that for my sister, caffeine helps keep migraines from getting bad/worse, and I medicate my ADHD with caffeine in addition to prescription meds. The headaches could be causing the caffeine consumption instead of the other way around.

      5. scribblingTiresias*

        For some people, caffeine can actually be a treatment for migraines. Yes, really.

        You’re not *supposed* to use it for that purpose more than 2 days a week, because you can wind up with caffeine rebound headaches and other !!!FUN!! stuff. But if you’ve got an incredibly treatment-resistant case of chronic migraine and the only thing that works for it is caffeine… well, you wind up mainlining whatever kind of caffeine you like best, all day long.

        If your coworker was frequently leaving for 2-3 days and complaining of “headaches”, and the company let him leave? It’s not unlikely the poor guy had chronic migraine, and was using caffeine to self-medicate.

        1. KRM*

          I have been known to guzzle a Coke and eat a small bag or two of Fritos when I feel a migraine coming on–and 95% of the time, it works to get rid of the migraine! If some coworker decided to judge me for doing that–yeah, you have no idea of my health conditions and the things I’ve found that can work to manage them, so keep your mouth shut and your judgement to yourself.

        2. raktajino*

          Caffeine is also self-medicating (in a functional way) for dopamine disorders like ADHD and narcolepsy. In my household’s case, it’s the best option for both of our disorders, even though we do have health insurance with decent coverage.

          The only time an employer has ever told me to lay off the caffeine was a college job during finals week when I was visibly twitching from all the red bull and overnighters. At that point it was clearly affecting my work performance. Plus, college staff can have more mentor-like relationships with their student employees and it’s less out of line to say something.

      6. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’m glad I don’t work with you.

        You have no idea what is going on in those coworker’s lives that causes what you see. You have no idea what medications they take, their genetic history, or their psychological burdens.

        You see, what you miss is it’s their life! Not yours, no the company’s, theirs. It doesn’t matter whether they are 100 pounds or 600 pounds, it’s not your business!

        I’m one of those people that will “… push back against change.” Why? Because it’s not your f’ing business! Butt out!

        Health and wellness driven by judgemental people in the workplace are insulting, infantilizing, and waaaaaay out of line.

        You are the kind of person I would eat a massive donut in front of just to piss you off that you can’t control me, shame me, or guilt me about what I eat.

      7. KoiFeeder*

        I mean, I guzzle milkshakes and never eat a vegetable and look about as sick as I am, but no one gets on my case about it because I’m thin.

        1. TinySoprano*

          Exactly. I’m scrawny and nobody ever comments on my horrendous diet. My best friend is fat and people say horrendous things no matter what she eats. She’s the one with the healthy diet, but people make incorrect assumptions because of her weight. It’s never really about health, it’s about fatphobia.

      8. Irish Teacher*

        Honestly, you have no way of knowing his diet was the cause of his absenteeism. It might have had an impact or it could have been completely irrelevant or the cause/effect may have gone the other way. He may have had a health issue that cause both his headaches, etc and food cravings.

        Plus, I am sure he KNEW it wasn’t healthy. He may not have cared or he may have had a food addiction of some kind or he may have had other eating restrictions that meant he was eating what he could or there may have been any one of 100 reasons. But I am 99.9% sure that the reason was not he never heard that constant caffeine, sugar overdose and nightly beer was unhealthy. The odds are he knew far more than anybody else in the company about how healthy his diet was because he knew everything he was eating and the context in which he was doing it and nobody else there did.

        Telling people things they knew when they were 12 doesn’t usually encourage them to change their behaviour. It just makes them roll their eyes at how patronising the speaker is being. It’s usually best to assume the person you are speaking to knows more about their own life than you do.

        And this of course, is the problem with these programmes. The people running them often know no more than anybody else, so in cases like the OP’s, it’s people who are completely ignorant pushing their ignorance on others. It’s not that I think these programmes should create no tensions. It’s that quite frankly I generally think they shouldn’t exist. People without medical training should not be giving medical advice. People who have no qualifications in nutrition should not be commenting on coworkers food choices, etc, because they know no more about what is healthy than the people they are advising and know less about what is healthy for the person they are advising than that person knows. And THAT is a problem.

        Now, I DO think the company should tell the other coworker to knock off coming in late, but that would be equally true if he were coming in late because he hated leaving his dog or was staying up late playing video games. His health is none of the company’s business. His punctuality is.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Telling people things they knew when they were 12 doesn’t usually encourage them to change their behaviour. It just makes them roll their eyes at how patronising the speaker is being.

          This. I find the “healthy eating” lectures I am frequently subjected to to be very patronizing, and often flat out wrong.

          I probably have done more reading of academic sources on nutrition than most people, because I have food intolerances, weird allergies and fat genes. But I don’t tell other people how to eat, it’s just not my place, I’m not a nutritionist.

          … that would be equally true if he were coming in late because he hated leaving his dog or was staying up late playing video games. His health is none of the company’s business. His punctuality is.

          Bingo. I was in a bout of depression so deep I couldn’t get out of bed when I had issues with being on time. It had zero to do with booze or food, and everything to do with a very hostile work environment that was causing most of my depression. (I don’t have the problem in a decent workplace.)

        2. Anon for this*

          This! Heck, if we replace that coworker with one who is equally late every day because they’re getting in their morning run before work and it takes a while, it would still be a problem for the workplace. Even though that employee would be presumed to be healthier, they’d still be late.

      9. MeepMeep123*

        It’s still kinda none of your business. Someone who “guzzles coffee then huge pepsis” sounds like someone who is overstressed and overworked and desperately trying to do anything to stave off the exhaustion. What he needs, most probably, is a vacation (and possibly some respite care, depending on what his caretaking situation is), not a lecture about how fat he is. He might also need a shorter work day (with no reduction in pay) so that he has time to actually get the sleep his physiology requires. He might need a raise so that he doesn’t have to work that second job that he currently requires, which is exhausting him and making him require all that coffee.

        Americans love to assume that all the health problems in the world can be solved by diet. You can’t out-eat a stressful, precarious lifestyle in a culture that isolates you from any sources of family support, prevents you from getting the outdoor access, movement, and rest that your body requires, and requires you to be at work for 90% of your waking hours and thinking about work for the remaining 10%. No amount of vegetables will fix that.

      10. That One Person*

        Better reason to do articles/news letters teaching healthier habits or some dangers. For example with caffeine it wouldn’t have to be about going cold turkey, just the dangers of what too much can do and maybe a suggested personal challenge to scale back. I can see doing the occasional targeted article too if maybe a company party goes too wild so they send out something about the dangers of alcohol consumption and ways to mitigate as well as moderate one’s self.

        Maybe a little tension is okay, but it’s a really tricky tightrope since you pointed out people will push back and can just as easily write off these in-company groups or opt out because they become tired of it. To be fair using shame and fear wouldn’t be my go-to suggestions, which is where the tension would likely come from because that’s not going to factor in things like health, dietary needs, monetary restrictions, will power levels, or even motivational factors. If you can create a healthy tension in a more inspirational way that doesn’t rely on fear and shame though, and can create a genuine desire towards self improvement that would be the ideal I think.

        As to the performance issues caused by the poor health choices…well those are ultimately still performance issues. Things like that should be addressed no differently than if someone kept calling out because they simply didn’t feel like showing up regularly because its an impact regardless. If they tried to claim medical reasons there comes a point where employers start asking for doctors notes and the like. So maybe you had really ineffective management at that place if their lack of work wasn’t seen as an issue worth addressing (or it was and wasn’t broadcasted to the office as a whole).

    7. Selina Luna*

      As a fat woman with a number of health issues, I’m a common target for a bunch of former classmates peddling MLM crap to me, and I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve stopped being polite to them. No, Blarin, I don’t need your expensive, bad tasting protein powder. No, Blosh, I don’t need your religiously named lemongrass oil.

    8. allathian*

      Hear, hear. I have an anti-vaxx filter in my brain, as soon as it engages, I automatically ignore everything else that person says, on pretty much any subject.

      Thankfully I work with reasonable people.

  5. Smithy*

    If I have this right and these committees are voluntary but supported by the infrastructure of the employer (?) – I do wonder if this chairwoman’s particularly extreme positions creates enough of a case of documentation to support canceling the wellness committee or strongly limiting its purview.

    Like, if a workplace cooking slack chat was had a lot of discussion around recipes for making Tylenol or butchering blowfish at home – you could see an employer potentially being concerned about liability. While a cooking slack channel going too far beyond “what foods are safe to eat raw” is unlikely, a wellness committee just seems potentially so much more problematic in that space. And unless an employer really wants to be getting behind coconut oil in lieu of sunblock for all their employees with zero caveats – maybe this chair has ultimately just provided the ammo to make this group far more regulated or more narrow in scope (i.e. ten great stretches to do in the middle of the day from your desk!)

  6. grumpy old lady*

    I would think HR might take exception to the “being unhealthy is a choice” mindset. That is VERY disrespectful to people with chronic illness. For example someone with type 1 diabetes would like helpful info on food options, not a sales pitch for protein supplements. Doesn’t that run afoul of ADA?

    1. Roland*

      I really don’t see how the ADA is relevant here. “Recipes in the volunteer health newsletter are relevant to me” is not an ADA requirement.

        1. Ann Onymous*

          For what it’s worth, people with type 1 diabetes don’t generally have a lot of dietary restrictions. We need to take insulin for the carbs that we eat, but what’s healthy for a person without diabetes is usually healthy for us. When you see diabetes friendly recipes or diets, those are usually have type 2 diabetes in mind where dietary modifications can be a significant part of the treatment strategy. Because 95% of people with diabetes have type 2, most of the info out there is geared towards type 2.

            1. Erie*

              Often people will reply to someone’s comment but it’s not really a response to that person – they’re just thinking “this seems like a good place to stick my additional thought”. That is probably what happened here. I mention it because my experience of commenting improved when I stopped seeing every reply to my comment as a personal response to me.

              1. Ann Onymous*

                My intent was to give further evidence that this isn’t an ADA issue – because most recipes relevant to the general population would still be relevant to a person with type 1 diabetes, so even if “recipes in the newsletter are relevant to me” was an ADA issue, it still wouldn’t apply to this example. Sorry if that wasn’t clear in my previous comment.

        2. one off*

          Many people with disabilities and conditions covered by the ADA are “unhealthy” and not by choice.

      1. grumpy old lady*

        I was thinking more in terms of harassment. As someone below pointed out we humans are prone to diseases. Can we take some precautions like not smoking, wearing sunscreen and healthy diet? Of course! But genetic diseases are just that – inherited. Cancer can and does happen. You could be an avid hiker and get Lyme disease. Who wants to be told it’s all your fault for not taking supplements?

        What really frosts my cake is the person is anti-vaxx. Talk about irony! Vaccines are a choice we make just to keep from getting sick.

    2. Anonym*

      OP doesn’t mention it, but it seems there’s a non-zero chance she might at some point or already harass co-workers regarding health. IANAL, but that could move into harassment/hostile work environment at a certain point under the “disability, or genetic information (including family medical history)” categories, per EEOC.

      Her viewpoint is sickening. Go ahead and tell people that they chose bad genes while you’re at it.

    3. Watry*

      I am T1D, and these sorts of emails are useless to me entirely, though I’d rather get an ‘eat fruits and vegetables!’ style email than a pitch for supplements. The only people who get input on my diet have specialized degrees. :)

        1. Watry*

          This is OT so I’ll stop after this, but I read your other comment in this thread and it’s so interesting, the variable experiences we can have! I actually do have to restrict more than the average T1, but it’s equally bad for us to restrict too much, and I’d be wildly angry at the woman in the OP.

      1. nightengale*

        Even then! As a type 1 who weighs less than the professionals want me to, I get the generic “eat low fat dairy” pamphlets from the same diabetes professionals who also tell me they want me to gain weight. They do not see the contradiction in this.

    4. JustaTech*

      As someone who working in the larger oncology field, I have to say that a lot of illness/poor health is straight up bad luck. You can be super fit and eat a super nutritious diet and still have a heart attack or get cancer or an autoimmune disease. Or, you know, be in a traffic accident.
      Between genetics and plain old chance, being “healthy” or “unhealthy” often isn’t a choice, regardless of the lifestyle actions we take. (Which isn’t to say that we shouldn’t do that stuff too! It does help. It’s just not a guarantee.)

      1. Sans Serif*

        Exactly what I was going to say. I see people who don’t take care of themselves live till 90 because of genetics or luck. I see people who exercise, eat right, etc., die in middle age. Even with something like covid, I’ve seen many young, healthy people with no pre-existing conditions have horrible cases, long covid, and even die. We can raise our odds of living longer, but we can’t control it totally. Shit happens.

        1. KRM*

          My first job had a group that did an aging study, and they interviewed sibling pairs with one who was >95 (other sib had to be >85, nobody could have dementia or any other major disease, things like a heart murmur were fine, IIRC, point being that everyone was healthy and they were wondering if there were overrepresented genetic markers). Most of them told the genetic counselor some version of “it’s the shot of whiskey and the cigars that keep me alive!”, and yes, it’s a joke, but lots of them drank 2-4 shots a day and smoked something. It’s not just your lifestyle that dictates your age/health.

          1. JustAnotherKate*

            Years ago, I saw some show where the host called a man who was turning 100 and asked what his secret was. He said something like, “Hell if I know — I eat pork rinds, drink a fifth of Jack on the weekends and smoke Marlboros from the hardpack. Maybe I’m just pickled!” I honestly still don’t know if he was kidding!

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Thank you!

        It’s like Bob from Biggest Loser having a massive heart attack, or the TED talk doctor who tells the story of shaming a T2 diabetic who showed up in his ER sick with complications because “she brought this on herself” by not being super fit, marathon running, clean eating expert like him … who then developed T2 diabetes his own self. Or the two guys I knew who were super fitness guys … one a runner, the other a bicyclist, who died when struck by cars while out on their daily workout.

        Doing what you can to take care of your body, keep it healthy and functional is great. But shaming people for poor health or hounding your co-workers about their lifestyle choices isn’t the right move. And certainly is not the role of a MLM-hawking busybody co-worker.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        This.

        My father was always thin, healthy, and took care of himself. He died at 78 from angiosarcoma – blood cancer. My mother is fat, diabetic, has Hashimotos, a ton of food allergies, and is still going strong at 81. My grandmother was diabetic and overweight for most of her life, and she lived to 90.

        Genes and luck play as much of a role as being obsessive about “healthy” eating. Everybody dies, it’s just a matter of chance and genetics as to when.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yup, my grandmother smoked, drank, was overweight, barely washed her dishes and plates, refused to see a doctor for decades to the point that when she DID finally have to see one, she was found to have healed fractures that she’d never gotten seen to and…lived to 93. I wouldn’t recommend her lifestyle and it was probably smoking that killed her in the end, but if lifestyle were the only factor, she shouldn’t have lived half the length she did.

          My dad never smoked or drank (he was teetotal), cycled or walked everywhere well into his 70s, saw doctors regularly and followed all their instructions to a t (if his doctor told him a food was bad for him, he’d eliminate it from his diet completely) and while he was also pretty healthy (see cycling everywhere in his late 70s), he was ten years younger when he died than my gran was.

      4. Wintermute*

        exactly! the guy who popularized jogging as exercise in America died of a heart attack while jogging, after all. People like to feel like they’re in control, because admitting the difference between you being healthy and a chronically ill co-worker largely being down to genetics, a chance exposure to a bacteria at age 2, and a bunch of tiny random factors, with perhaps 10% of it being the choices you make requires admitting to a lot of uncomfortable truths.

        It’s a subset of the “just world fallacy”; pretending that it’s all in our control and the only people that get sick “deserve” to be sick, is a far easier pill to swallow (no pun intended) than the fact horrible things happen to good people through no fault of their own.

      5. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        Yes, and — some of the factors people assume are unhealthy/detrimental, statistical evidence actually shows are health-protective/beneficial, or neutral. For instance,, people tend to think carrying any excess fat is bad for you, but some studies showed people who were slightly to moderately ‘overweight’ had longer life expectancy or other measures of good health than people who were ‘average’ weight or less. Does that mean being moderatly overweight is healthy or unhealthy?

        Or a factor can have mixed impacts on health — like, spending time in sunlight or full-spectrum light is good for maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D, regulating sleep/wake cycle, and preventing/managing seasonal affective disorder in those who have it– but it also promotes skin cancer for anyone and can trigger flare ups of some immune (e.g. Lupus) or sensory-mediated conditions in those who have them. Does that mean natural light is healthy or unhealthy?

        It’s not as simple as healthy or unhealthy dichotomy… not even for the majority of average people without uncommon conditions.

        It can be uncomfortable-quite disturbing–to recognize that most of our fate is driven by factors that are not only outside our choice, but also more complex than we can fully understand. Perhaps that’s why it’s so tempting to believe we have more knowledge and control than we do, insisting that health is a choice and “my way” is the best — because the alternative would be to accept that life is not fair and virtue is not rewarded.

    5. nightengale*

      As someone with type 1 diabetes, I want my employer out of suggesting food options all together. It might be helpful to provide the specific carbohydrate content of any food supplied/offered. It would be more helpful to let me bring my own food to events without making a whole big production about it. Beyond that, the subset of people who could offer useful advice is vanishingly small.

      And no, my diabetes (and other disabilities) are 100% not choices.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        It might be helpful to provide the specific carbohydrate content of any food supplied/offered.

        Yes.

        As someone with weird food intolerances and allergies, I’d take this one step farther: Make the nutritional and ingredient information available for any food supplied/offered.

        Sure, it’s a PITA to do ingredients on potluck dishes, but I tend to do it. Why? Because I know people who are: lactose intolerant, are allergic to mushrooms, are allergic to black pepper, are allergic to soy, are allergic to celery seed, etc. Some of these allergies lead to anaphylaxis.

        1. nightengale*

          Oh definitely

          I just find it’s a specific problem where people hear diabetes and decide that the answer is to recommend “low carb” or tell me something is “sugar free,” when what I need to know is “exactly how much carb per unit of food” And this is often harder to obtain than an ingredient/allergen list. Both are definitely needed so people can then make their own food decisions.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, it’s very difficult to calculate for a homemade recipe. I come close with a spreadsheet.

            My spouse has that “My Fitness Pal” app that lets them calculate all that stuff for recipes, but the app is very triggering for me, so I uninstalled it.

      2. NotRealAnonforThis*

        As someone with food allergies, agree. Let me know what the freaking ingredients are, let me know what the food plan for the day of the off-site is, and quit making a big deal over my backup food because trust me, “just a little bit” could kill me.

        I have lots of sympathy for those with diabetes because there seems to be a lot more there than “here, you are allergic to this therefore just don’t consume it”. At least that is fairly simple.

    6. Saraquill*

      “Healthy is a choice” is having me entertain vengeful thoughts. Among other things, my school was a short walking distance away from 9/11 Ground Zero. PTA pressure kept the school open while poison smoke billowed for months outside. The school also threatened families who wanted to temporarily transfer students to less toxic environments.

      While the adults bickered, us students had very little “choice” over what we breathed. May an umbrella open in the health committee chair’s belly.

    7. CowWhisperer*

      Doubt it falls under ADAA (unless she’s getting really aggressive about people’s food choices), but she’s a great example of ableism in wellness.

      We do have some control over health choices, but there are a lot of health issues that are affected by genetics and environmental issues beyond a person’s control. Like wellness types can get really into growing your own foods, but if you don’t test your soil for lead, you can end up exposing your kids to a heavy metal which can have serious, long-term consequences.

  7. Carrots*

    Alison is spot-on. A workplace Wellness committee should NOT be about giving individuals advice about their individual choices. It should be about creating a workplace culture that supports health and wellness – through generous sick leave and health insurance, work-life balance efforts, access (not coercion) to healthy food and exercise options, etc.

    1. Mockingjay*

      It should be about creating a workplace culture that supports health and wellness – through generous sick leave and health insurance, work-life balance efforts, access (not coercion) to healthy food and exercise options, etc.

      OP, copy and paste this sentence. This is the mission statement. Well done, Carrots!

      1. irene adler*

        yes- this is good!
        Supports, not bullies.
        Also, as far as health information goes, I’m very uncomfortable with employers being a resource for such information, i.e. putting out information to the employees about health “dos and don’ts” or recommendations on substances/actions to take/avoid.

        Instead, employers should direct workers to seek advice from their personal health professionals. After all, the employer is paying for the health insurance for their employees -right? So why not employ that resource for all its worth?

        1. JustaTech*

          The retiree letter my mom gets quarterly (monthly?) from her major research university includes some health information, but it’s generally pretty bland stuff, and is always backed up with research (usually from the university, because of course it is).

          Like “eat vegetables!” “gentle exercise is good!” and stuff like that. Nothing way outside the norm, and nothing that doesn’t have at least a few publications behind it.

          I could also see some value in promoting resources for heart health during heart health awareness month, or breast cancer awareness month and so on.

      2. Prospect Gone Bad*

        The issue is that some people always find a problem with any program, or claim they are being targeted when they are not being targeted. Often people with the unhealthiest lifestyles feel the most targeted. Things like commenting on you eating a salad or being uncomfortable when you make gains at the gym. I learned to stop equating “no one is complaining” with “good program”

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, when I was hungry for salads in the office I got “encouraging” type comments if I ate it in the lunch room. I ate them at my desk after that. I wasn’t on a “diet”, I just was listening to my body and it wanted salad that day. The only kind of food comment I think is appropriate in the work place is “Hey, that looks good.” or asking for a recipe on homemade stuff.

        2. Esmae*

          If you’re commenting on someone eating a salad because they have an “unhealthy lifestyle” most of the time, they are being targeted.

        3. Paris Geller*

          Yeah, as a fat woman who has more than once gotten a stranger telling me “good for you!” when I eat a salad in public (aka being “the right kind of fat person” at that moment in time, eating what is considered healthy), I’m 100% sure I would not have gotten those comments if I had been eating a salad whilst being thin. Just don’t comment on people’s food choices.

        4. Lenora Rose*

          I have an overweigt friend who would literally be in the bathroom all day if she “ate a green salad”. Meanwhile, I love them and eat them on the regular…. and am almost the same shape, because as it turns out you can enjoy leafy greens AND be fat. Take your “good for you!” and shove it.

        5. Very Social*

          As a vegan, I have encountered many people who took my personal food choices as critiques of them and their food choices. It never occurred to me to assume that their lifestyles are “unhealthy.”

      1. CheesePlease*

        Yup!! Company wellness corner in the monthly newsletter is basically this. “[Month] is national oral health month! If you haven’t already, make sure you schedule your 6m dental cleaning to keep your smile healthy! Covered dental practices can be found at this link”

    2. kiki*

      Yeah, I get that the committee chair is absolutely wildin’ and creating the largest issues at the moment, but I kind of feel like this workplace wellness committee shouldn’t really exist at all in its current iteration. As Alison said, there’s no shortage of avenues for folks to get recipes and workout tips. What people really want when they say they want a workplace who supports their wellness are concrete benefits and time away from work for health stuff. What I appreciate from my company’s newsletter’s wellness section are the reminders of things I can get reimbursed and instructions for how to access certain benefits. I don’t need monthly challenges to walk more, I need permission and support to take a full hour for lunch so I can get outside while it’s still light out.

      1. kiki*

        I think this can be a common pitfall of ERGs generally– employees without any power to create substantive change at the company are put in charge of something, so instead of real benefits you get a weekly newsletter with protein muffin recipes. At my former company, I was a founding member of an ERG for Black employees. There were real issues with racism at the company and the deleterious effects that has on Black employee’s careers, health, and lives. We wanted major changes. What we could actually do was meet once a week to have some sense of solidarity and then encourage employees to read anti-racist books.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, my company founded two ERGs in 2020, one for Black employees and one for women employees and during a skip-level meeting with my director he said that we should disband the ERGs (after less than a year) because we still didn’t have any people of color in the C-suite.

          He did not seem to understand that “changing the makeup of the C-suite” was neither in the power of the ERGs, nor what they *wanted* to do.
          (He also argued with me about why I was in the women’s ERG until I got frustrated and said “because I went to girls’ school”. “That’s not an answer!” “Yes, it is.”)

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yeah, the women’s ERG where I am apparently caused complaints about being exclusive and now loudly reminds us that non-women are also welcome. They are also quite focused on pushing women into management/leadership roles. Ironic, since we are in an industry where women are also much less prevalent in individual contributor roles.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              And not all woman, whatever industry they work in, WANT to be in a management/leadership role, anyway. Getting into a role of that type may be some people’s definition of “success,” but it’s definitely not everybody’s (including mine, if you haven’t guessed by now).

        2. Former Employee*

          Were non Black employees ever invited to sit in and hear what their fellow employees were discussing? I only ask because I think that might be one way to recruit allies. It can be a real eye opener for people to hear what others have to deal with that would otherwise not come to their attention.

          (I am not Black, but I am female and a member of a different minority group.)

    3. QAPeon*

      Yes! Our wellness committee organizes walks. Trips to farmers markets. Brings in farm market stands with fresh food. Had an accountant who is also a fitness instructor lead interested people in some easy to do exercise routines.

      1. Anon for this*

        Our wellness committee organizes Wellness Walks… to local restaurants over lunch. When we get back, we all congratulate each other on how well we are feeling now. I guess it’s more about mental than physical wellness. Lol!

    4. H.Regalis*

      Exactly. Ours just sends out mildly annoying stuff like, “Did you know vegetables exist? Here are some ways to cook them” but I still don’t like it. This idea that everything is up to individual choices (and therefore it’s your fault if you’re unhealthy because clearly you did something wrong and are being punished for that) is bullshit.

      The wellness program company we contract with literally has to bribe people with cash to get anyone to participate. It’s useless. Barriers to better health are things like, “I don’t have access to a doctor” or “I can’t take any time off because I don’t get PTO.”

    5. BethRA*

      THIS THIS THIS. My otherwise reasonable CEO wants us to add a “wellness” component to on of our ERGs. And while he gets the need to avoid the paternalistic diet advice, and the more appropriative, White-washed aspects of “wellness” he thinks we could share info or do some programming on managing stress and the like. You know what would help people manage stress? Figuring out how to help people take all the vacation we give them, and not have to feel like they have to answer emails, etc. when they’re on vacation. Making sure we’re adequately staffed, and adjusting expectations for output when we’re not…

  8. justsomethoughts*

    Fed employee here. Report to your attorneys and HR. Sometimes looping in the attorneys for ethics violations (very clear in your examples) would trigger higher level persons in your agency to take her oversteps seriously.

    1. old curmudgeon*

      Cosigned. The Office of Legal Counsel at my state agency would be ALL OVER this nonsense, and said nonsense would come to a screeching halt so fast it would make the chair’s misguided little head spin right around.

    2. TPS reporter*

      The only thing that’s a choice here is being or not being an a-hole. stop this person! Especially someone instate government?! I’m horrified.

  9. Government Condition*

    In government, a lot of the time these programs are run by the EAP, which is often a joint program between the union and management. If that is the case here, you can go to whoever is in charge of the EAP to see what they can do. If the EAP is just as messed up, you’d have to take it up with the union and/or management.

  10. kristinyc*

    Sort of related – could we have an “Ask the readers” about ERGs in general? How they work at different companies, what they should and shouldn’t do, how to make them valuable and useful, etc.

    I’m on the leadership team for a new one at my company (for… women), and I think the whole leadership team has different ideas about what the group should be for and what we should do.

    1. Cranky lady*

      This would be very helpful. I would also include how leadership can support and collaborate with ERGs. I’ve seen a few examples where ERGs were well supported and other situations where their efforts were actively discouraged.

    2. Mf*

      Totally agree. I was the lead for an ERG chapter for several years, and it definitely came with its own set of challenges. I would be interested to hear what Allison and others have to say on the topic.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Although with the way this one operates, Employee Reduction Group might be more apropos.

    3. Student*

      The only ones I’ve ever seen are busy-work-generators for the people the company doesn’t actually plan to help. If the issues were important to the company’s leadership, they wouldn’t be ERGs. They’d be leadership objectives and tasks.

      I think the best you can do is get your particular in-group a place to vent a bit together and a small company budget for weekly donuts.

    4. Ingemma*

      I’d be interested in this too! At my (F500) company they seem like they’re MOSTLY busy work / just used to send out slightly preachy emails & organize some light talks / seminars. But I think there are some things that get done because of them (and we have senior leaders on many of them too) and from a networking perspective they seem really helpful.

      I think I get too impatient with the busy work stuff for them to be a good idea for me to join but I also can imagine that someone with more patience than me could get stuff done that would be rewarding and useful!

      Haven’t totally figured out where this is on the ‘you need to be less judgemental and stop letting perfect be the enemy of good’ to ‘it’s okay to not have a lot of tolerance for things that are ineffective especially if they’re ineffective and holier than thou’ scale.

      I’d love to hear from people who’ve seen them done well and/ or people who have found rewarding ways to navigate something imperfect.

    5. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Yes, please!

      They seem to be a wonderful place to channel enthusiasm into resources and good culture, but because they are often passively managed they are tailor made for drama.

      This is not unique to the corporate space. Any group that exists needs purpose, and if it is not clear from the start, they will find a “purpose” for better or for worse. OPs letter is a perfect example, but I’d proffer homeowners associations as classic example.

  11. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I assume the managers and members of HR are already receiving this newsletter and not putting a stop to it, so I’m not sure what the OP can do to complain, unless the MLM and anti-medicine stuff isn’t ending up in the wellness newsletter. It’s unfortunate that the OP quit the committee because this sounds like one of those instances where a group of the board/committee members could oust the chair with a vote of no-confidence or just vote her out completely. When she doesn’t get any satisfaction from her campaign, she’ll likely quit the committee in a huff.

    If health and wellness is simply a matter of “choosing” then I choose to believe an Egg McMuffin and large coffee is a healthy meal. Mind over matter.

    1. to varying degrees*

      It’s been my experience that the VAST majority of the people don’t read these emails. It’s highly likely that HR and management are just deleting them (that’s what I did).

    2. RagingADHD*

      I seriously doubt the people who need to be notified are reading it at all. I’ve never seen senior management take any interest in internal newsletters.

      The real issue with garbage like this is that the only people who would take it seriously are the very people to whom it could be most damaging. Folks who are well-informed about their health and following a solid plan are going to take one look and know it’s hogwash.

      It’s people with little influence in the org, people with limited information or who struggle with disordered eating who will be negatively influenced.

  12. knitcrazybooknut*

    “[M]any coups throughout history have been led by leaders who built up their allies from the outside before deposing tyrants.”

    I want this on a t-shirt.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      This is, sadly, a pattern that some political groups have adopted. Instead of trying to gain control from the top down, they gain control at the local level. Then, when Big Brother is in place, it’s much harder to get rid of him, because his minions control the bottom up, as well.

  13. Ann Onymous*

    Regardless of the merits (or lack thereof) of the chair’s beliefs, it seems like an employee committee that is presumably not made up of health care professionals should avoid giving out anything that could be construed as medical advice. Even health care professionals tend to avoid giving out medical advice en masse because even something that’s healthy for a large number of people could be inadvisable in some situations. It seems like pivoting to communicating about the resources that are available to employees rather than providing health advice would be the way to go.

  14. Empress Matilda*

    Oral contraceptives, and sunscreen? Oh HELL no. I understand that the vax stuff is controversial – it shouldn’t be, but it is, and I can sorta kinda understand why a government agency wouldn’t want to get involved in that part of it. And sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinions about how to take care of their own bodies, but contraceptives and sunscreen are pretty mainstream at this point – it shouldn’t be hard to demonstrate to The Powers That Be that what she’s promoting is actively dangerous.

    Definitely report the MLM as a conflict of interest, but please also report what she’s saying about health care! The last thing you want is for HR to tell her to she can stay in her position as long as she knocks off the MLM sales. That leaves her with even more room to complain about contraceptives and sunscreen, and, I don’t know, bicycle helmets and child literacy.

    You don’t want to inadvertently give the message that she’s fine other than the MLM’s. She is not at all fine, and the committee needs her gone,not just toned down a bit.

    Good luck, and please let us know how it turns out!

    1. Good Grief People*

      I know a B*achbody rep and she’s also all-in on this The Pill is Bad thing. Is this a stance they’re pushing now?

      1. Meow*

        I’ve seen a lot of pushback on the internet against oral contraceptives the last couple years. People gradually seemed to go from “I wish doctors were more upfront about the side effects of hormonal contraceptives” (perfectly reasonable) to “hormonal contraceptives ruin lives and doctors are pushing them on little girls because big pharma” I think it’s the exact same problem as the anti-vax one: now that a couple generations have had access to BC, we don’t remember how terrible life was for people without it.

        Good news (I guess in a way?) is, I feel like I’ve seen a lot less of this rhetoric now that there are politicians actually threatening to ban it.

      2. Sans Serif*

        That’s not new. I’ve seen anti-choice people state that abortions cause breast cancer for quite a while. No proof of course, but that doesn’t stop them.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh yes. There’s a lot of ‘you shouldn’t mess with your hormones’, ‘you don’t need the pill if you’re healthy – don’t have sex if you don’t want babies and all menstrual problems can be solved by our product/being slim/having a positive attitude’

        (That was on a coworker’s post on FB who has since been deleted off my list. I will not tolerate MLM stuff anywhere)

      4. scribblingTiresias*

        There’s a lot of overlap between “MLM salesperson” and “anti-choice Christian woman who is religiously prohibited from working outside the home, but needs to help her family with an income stream”.

        If you get really really into MLMs, you’re going to be surrounded by that second kind of person. Regardless on what your religious or political beliefs are, you will probably pick up some Views from your new friends.

    2. Minimal Pear*

      There’s a lot of overlap between the crunchy community and the alt-right, so I think that’s where a lot of the anti-BC stuff comes from.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      At one job I got three separate lectures from coworkers who were into alternative health about how I should stop using sunscreen. Three months after my major, painful, and scary melanoma surgery. I told them I would stick with my doctors’ recommendations and avoided them as much as possible for the rest of the time we worked together.

    4. AnonRN*

      I’ve cared for a non-zero number of young women with blood clots caused by oral contraceptives, and also a non-zero number of women with complications from unintended pregnancies. (Not to mention there are numerous other medical reasons for OCP use.) For her to make a blanket statement that one is inherently better (or worse) than the other is irresponsible cherry-picking.

      I’m not sure where the legal line is between “giving wellness factoids” (like ‘avoid screens before bedtime’) and “giving medical advice on prescription medication while not being a doctor, NP, PA, etc…” Within the medical field we talk about working within your scope (for example as an RN it is in my scope to educate, but not to prescribe). Assuming she has no type of medical license at all, there wouldn’t be penalties for working “outside her scope” because she doesn’t have one, but arguably she could be accused of something like “impersonating a doctor,” which HR should be concerned about.

      1. Christmas Carol*

        The only form of birth control with a higher complication rate than pregnancy is being on the pill while over 35 AND SMOKING. For all other forms on contraception, you odds of dying are higher having a baby.

      2. Wintermute*

        “Impersonating a doctor” really isn’t a thing for laypeople unless they claim to BE a doctor or put themselves in a position where a reasonable person would infer they are a doctor (e.g. if they put on a coat and walk around a hospital or something).

        They’re free to give all the advice they like, accurate or inaccurate, and it’s a moral issue but not a legal one as long as they don’t say they’re a doctor or make medical claims about a product.

  15. Abogado Avocado*

    OP, I work for a local government and our health insurance provider regularly sends out bulletins about healthy living — think, opportunities for COVID vaccinations at no charge, the value of walking for exercise, opportunities to attend a health fair, etc. — so color me surprised that your government workplace has a committee that, essentially, has chosen to compete in providing health advice. When reporting this crazy person to HR, I’d be inclined to note that her extreme views do not track with those of the government’s health insurance provider. After all, your employer is paying for insurance and likely does not want the provider’s advice countermanded by a crazy committee.

  16. Slow Gin Lizz*

    My thought upon reading this is that I was wondering if the chair started the committee herself expressly to promote her wackadoodle views and MLM. And my second thought is that she definitely needs to be reported to the authorities. And my third thought, of course, is that we absolutely need an update on this one asap.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Also I noticed that OP mentioned several reasons why health is not necessarily a choice, and they’re all good reasons. Might be worth mentioning, OP, that also some people are not healthy and it has nothing to do with outside factors but is in fact because some bodies are just jerks to the people who live in them. So in other words – and it’s not like you need another reason to report this woman, but here’s one for you – seems like she’s also very ableist.

      1. Blomma*

        Thank you! My body basically hates me (hello multiple chronic illnesses and various other problems) and no amount of healthy choices (and I make lots of them!) is going to change the fact that my body is a megaton b**** to me. I can do everything right, make all healthy choices, and it doesn’t cure or prevent whatever nonsense my body comes up with. It’s unbelievably ableist to assume that I have the power to control all of this.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes to all this! I work in the broader oncology field and one thing I’ve learned is that a huge part of a person’s health at any given time is just plain chance.
          Biology (and therefore health) are all about probabilities, not certainties, so someone can do everything “right” and still get cancer, or an autoimmune disorder, or hit by a car.

          That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to have health-promoting habits! It’s just that sometimes/often those aren’t able to balance out the cosmic dice.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Nothing has made me more aware of this than many friends who have autoimmune diseases and working for an org connected to muscular dystrophy. Autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses suuuuuuuuuuuuck and I’m sorry you have so many health issues. Nature really is a total jerk sometimes (well, maybe even a lot of the time; nature always wins, after all).

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        This.

        I had a stroke and now have hemiplegia. I can’t do ordinary exercise. I can’t walk far or fast, I fall off a bicycle now, and I can only do strength training on one side. The stroke was not due to “lifestyle” choices, but rather a genetic defect (an AVM) in my brain. Blaming me for that and all the other health issues I have is ableist as hell, as well as just plain nasty.

  17. Tio*

    They’re probably getting the newsletter, but not the information behind it on how the newsletter came to be. If they get the newsletter and it’s like, three recipes and some tips about walking outdoors, they may not flag it as something that needs to be dug into. I got the impression that a lot of this talk is going on behind the scenes and the OP and others on the committee are damage-controlling it out of the newsletter.

  18. Anastatia Beaverhousen*

    I’m surprised that a government agency is willing to put this information out there as it could potentially open them to legal liability. Second you can give recipes but you cannot give dietary or health advice without the appropriate licensure. How in the world is this happening? If you took this approach could you get her off this committee?

    1. NeedRain47*

      I imagine the liability & licensure issues will be what gets someone outside of the committee to care.

  19. Keymaster of Gozer*

    ‘Being healthy is a choice’, plus quack ‘remedies’ plus antivaxx…frankly I want to yeet her into the cold depths of space. That’s just about everything I dislike in one person.

    Basically whatever you can report her for: do it. Her viewpoints aren’t just offensive; they are actively harmful. How many have died from not getting vaccines alone?

    (And no food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ unless you’re allergic to it or it contains uranium. Food doesn’t have moral values)

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      100% this. I commented above in my thread about how totally ableist she’s being and that’s just one more strike against her. Not that OP needs any more strikes against her, of course.

  20. thelettermegan*

    It seems like she’s putting a lot of work into something that shouldn’t be that much work – is all this effort to get people to eat special flour taking time away from the chair’s job obligations?

    Allison is right that the commitee has fallen into the ‘corral individuals’ trap instead of the ‘provide services to individuals’ goal. Recipies are fun, but it’s much better to put cooking into ‘social banter’ and focus on what the company can provide to employees that MyFitnessPal cannot.

  21. Meow*

    As someone who works in HR I really dislike these types of committees because when they are employee led, they often end up this way with a small number of very vocal employees dominating the conversation and sometimes going off the rails. I agree 100% with Alison that these groups should instead be focused on what the workplace could do, except I’ve never worked anywhere where an ERG was able to successfully lobby for anything unless it was something leadership was already planning to do. These groups generally have a very limited budget and scope. When you take away specific advice that vocal employees want to give AND workplaces aren’t willing to actually provide backing or budget to larger workplace initiatives you end up with a toothless committee that accomplishes nothing. It’s happened literally everywhere I’ve ever worked.

  22. Calamity Janine*

    my heart tells me the solution is simple: grow eye lasers and obliterate her with extreme prejudice, leaving only a pile of smoking ash and a small crater.

    my heart needs to have q consult with the rest of my body about what is physically possible, sadly

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      As our CEO likes to say, sometimes things are simple but not easy. This would seem to fit into that category for sure.

  23. Llama Llama*

    I don’t have a solution but a fun fact. Essential oils do not cure my kids seizures. Despite what I am all too informed about all too much.

    1. StellaBella*

      I am so sorry people tell you this and am sorry for your kids for this as it sounds tough for all of you and scary.

  24. Just saying*

    “Being healthy is a choice” –Every person’s genome has a few surprises lurking in it, and some of them pop up in nasty, nasty ways no matter how healthy our choices.

    1. MeepMeep123*

      Since she’s antivax, she may be choosing long-COVID-related ill health in a very real way.

  25. PinkCandyfloss*

    Not to mention all of this is ableist AF. “Being unhealthy is a choice”? I wish you could see the flames on the side of my chronically ill face right now.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously.

      I didn’t “choose” to have the AVM that led to my stroke. It would have happened whether I was fat or thin. I was just lucky that I was in surgery to remove it when it blew out, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to make this comment.

  26. Spicy Tuna*

    The MLM stuff has to be reported. It’s obnoxious to do that at work and she shouldn’t be spending company time peddling her garbage (and apologies to any MLM folks on the site; but IME, most of that stuff is garbage).

    Someone at my last job was fired for selling stuff at work. It wasn’t part of an MLM; just overstock of some items, but the company took a firm line on her doing a side gig when she was supposed to be working.

  27. NeedRain47*

    I wonder if LW’s state also forces employees to attend weight loss education that basically encourages disordered eating. My former employer does this- it’s not literally forced, but if you don’t participate in enough of their “wellness” programs the cost of your insurance doubles. Point being, they really don’t care about anyones’ health, but I’m very curious if anyone outside the committee will care about this.

  28. Hall or Billingham*

    My state has an ethics board where you can call and anonymously report ethics concerns. A state employee promoting their side hustle (regardless of whether or not it’s quackery like your colleague’s) is absolutely a violation.

  29. Michelle Smith*

    As a disabled person for whom health is not something I can just choose, this person’s actions make me choked up with rage. It is so unbelievably inappropriate for her to take these steps of shaming people that it’s hard for me to put it into words. Health is not one-size-fits-all.

    Hypothetically, let’s talk about ice cream, for an example. You might be able to eat ice cream, process it normally, and be perfectly healthy. Someone else might not be able to eat it without medicine (or at all) due to allergies or lactose intolerance. Another person might use it as emotional self-care and that spark of joy it brings them may help boost their mental health. Another person might grab some because they feel their sugar levels dropping and they need something that will get in their bloodstream faster. Another person may be an alcoholic and have chosen to replace their alcohol intake with sweets when celebrating something good, because it supports their recovery. There are so many reasons why people may or may not eat certain things and how dare someone judge another person for making those choices. She’s not entitled to know why someone is making the choices they feel are right for them.

    If I worked there, I’d be raising all kinds of h*ll. Anyone at your office who experiences eating disorders or disordered eating of any kind, anyone at your office who has an illness or disability people associate with diet (e.g. diabetes, IBS, Chron’s, etc.), and anyone at your office who has had a negative experience with alternative “medicine” is going to be put off by these newsletters. It’s extremely triggering to get emails in the middle of your workday from people you can’t block or send directly to the delete folder with this kind of misinformation and shaming in it, let alone have to deal with the comments face to face in meetings. I hope that someone stands up and actually does something to stop this person from continuing to create a hostile environment towards anyone who doesn’t think exactly like she does.

    1. ZSD*

      Your examples with the ice cream are wonderful! This is clearly written and enlightening. Thank you!

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      There are so many reasons why people may or may not eat certain things and how dare someone judge another person for making those choices.

      Thank you. As someone with a couple food related illnesses that are playing hob with my dietary choices, I love this.

    3. Bob-White of the Glen*

      Another person may want one bite of Ben & Jerry’s and wind up eating the entire pint with no memory of doing so.

      Not that I would know anything about this.

  30. Jessica Fletcher (RIP)*

    To chime in on the “being unhealthy is a choice” comment – first, we really have very little, if any, control over our health. It’s some genetics and overwhelmingly social determinants of health, which are factors like environmental impact and poverty. We decide someone is “healthy” (and also attractive, and worthy of respect and higher pay) when they have the visual attributes we culturally associate with health – like a thin body, visibly toned muscles, publicly eating salads or whatever. But, we as individuals really cannot choose to be healthy. Eat as many salads as you want, but you can still get diabetes, or cancer, or something else.

    We as a culture just like to blame individuals because it’s easy and because bullying people into eating a certain way feels like progress when you’re never going to tax the rich to fund universal healthcare.

    The good news is, it doesn’t actually matter. Health is not a zero sum game. Health is not a moral imperative. Nobody owes you good health, or even effort towards it. Nobody has any business judging anyone else’s choices. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing. It doesn’t affect you at all, ever.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Health is not a zero sum game. Health is not a moral imperative. Nobody owes you good health, or even effort towards it. Nobody has any business judging anyone else’s choices. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing. It doesn’t affect you at all, ever.

      This.

      Thank you.

    2. Jessica Fletcher (RIP)*

      Very upset that I didn’t also say that we blame individuals for their “health” because the weight loss industry is a $3.8 billion per year industry, and it ain’t gonna fund itself.

    3. MeepMeep123*

      Moreover, we live in a culture that promotes and normalizes harmful health behaviors, and it’s near impossible to escape the harmful health behaviors without making superhuman efforts that most people do not have the privilege to make. And even for those who do make those superhuman efforts, the superhuman efforts in themselves cause a certain amount of harm.

  31. Curmudgeon in California*

    Employees have lots of places to get diet and health information from — like their doctors — and it’s not an appropriate role for a workplace to play.

    Thank you for saying this plainly and bluntly!

    I get so tired of workplace “wellness” baloney that tries to tell you what to eat, how to exercise, how to relax, and get all up in your business about how much you weigh. That’s between me and my doctor, they can butt out.

    The workplace should deal with ergonomics and stress reduction – because it causes those. But they need to keep their noses out of my personal choices and non-work hours. They’re not my mommy.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      To be fair, businesses do have a vested interest in their employees’ well-being, which affects everything from health insurance costs to time and money lost due to sick days.

      That said, companies should encourage good health practices that are universal.

      1. norroway*

        And yet they shouldn’t interfere in how much employees weigh, because weight is NOT an indicator of health or well-being. The sooner our culture stop using weight as a placeholder for actual well-being, the better.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        They should then invest in the best health insurance with the lowest amount of friction to use it for routine screenings and checkups, plus have unlimited sick leave. Because an employee’s general health still isn’t their employer’s business, it’s between the employee and their doctor.

        A workplace needs to focus on things that are their business – like ergonomics, safety (including viral safety), sick leave, and stress reduction. Those have the greatest impact on workplace issues like absenteeism. Having one sick worker stay home during the course of their illness prevents probably two others from getting it.

        Things like encouraging handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, getting adequate rest, etc are all generic things that help people stay healthy in the workplace.

    2. Estimator*

      Yes! We have health & wellness newsletters monthly but the monthly focus is on things like sun safety & hydration (90% of our employees work outside), ergonomics, safe lifting, letting us know of things our insurance covers like the EAP. All things that either directly apply to employee safety or knowledge of benefits. I don’t want or need health advice for anything beyond this from my workplace.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this.

        When I started at my current job, they had a WW club that I joined because I wanted to lose some weight before trying for a pregnancy. This was like any other of our clubs, my employer provided the space, but those who joined did so on their own time, and my employer didn’t reward people who lost weight in any way.

        These days, I doubt that a weight loss club would fly, nobody’s suggested one for years. We do have “take the stairs” challenges occasionally, but they’re for fun. For every time attendees take the stairs, they get a slot in a prize draw, and regardless of whether you take the stairs once or 10 times a week, you can win something. The point isn’t to reward those who take the stairs anyway, but to encourage the sedentary ones (like me) to take the stairs even once. Sure, the more often you take the stairs, the better the odds are for winning something, but the point is that anyone who participates can win.

        Of course, it helps a lot that I’m in a country with universal healthcare that doesn’t depend on employers (although my employer does provide free flu shots to all employees, not just those in risk groups, for example). Sure, if someone’s out on sick leave, the employer still loses the results of their labor, but there’s no insurance fees to worry about.

  32. Not your typical admin*

    I bet I can guess which MLM this person is promoting. One of the mom’s at my girls’ dance studio was really into health and supplements (from her MLM). She even told me I should cancel my hysterectomy because if I started taking her products I wouldn’t need it.

    With that said, I don’t want my work giving me health or diet advice. There’s lots of different ways to develop a healthy lifestyle, and it’s going to look different for different people.

  33. Yeesh*

    Also CDC has a wealth of resources for employers on promoting actual employee and workplace health. Maybe once this person is gone the group guidelines or whatever governance protocols are in place for the ERG can be updated to suggest implementing best practices per CDC? Something like that could help with future enforcement and protect the agency from liability https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/index.html

  34. norroway*

    I just want to gently add to the LW that people can be unhealthy NO MATTER WHAT THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES. Sometimes genetics will play a role. Sometimes our bodies get long covid and just don’t work like they used to. It’s not a “choice” to be unhealthy, but neither is “being unhealthy” only a lack of education, and we need to stop creating an environment in workplaces and elsewhere that prizes health and discriminates against “unhealthy” people and creates useless “education” programs for them to “learn” how to make foods they’ll never be able to eat because they’re allergic to them, or they can’t afford them, or whatever.

    Poor people don’t eat badly because of poor education. Fat people aren’t fat (which does NOT equal “unhealthy”) because they don’t know what they’re doing in nutrition. Please, please, LW, start listening to the podcast Maintenance Phase and change your own ways of thinking about “health.”

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Yes, that jumped out to me too, but I was assuming the LW was just giving examples of other things that could have an impact.

      Definitely not all about choices, poor education or poor opportunities. I had thyroid cancer (I’m fine and was pretty much the whole way through really, but it’s still a health issue), which nobody seems to know the cause of. To the best of my knowledge, there is no choice, education or opportunity that would have changed that. Not a great example, but it was the one that came to mind for me.

      I think often people don’t WANT to believe luck plays a massive part because it means they can’t control it. If they believe it’s about education, choices and opportunities, well, assuming they are well-educated, fairly well-paid and make what they believe are good choices, they can convince themselves that they won’t experience bad health. Accepting luck plays a large part means it can happen to any of us.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        This makes me think of the people who, when hearing about someone who has lung cancer, immediately asks “do they smoke?” They aren’t asking the question out of concern for the person with cancer. They are asking the question so that if they answer is “yes” they can spin up a message in their brain to reassure themselves “I don’t smoke. *I* won’t get lung cancer”

        Never mind that lots of people get lung cancer who have never smoked, they are just grasping at simplistic straws to kid themselves that since *they* make better choices than other people, *they* won’t get sick.
        LW’s co-worker is just adding gross levels of judgement, bossiness and money-grubbing to that dysfunctional way of thinking.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. And lo and behold, if such a person gets sick after all, they have a harder time dealing with it mentally, because they wonder what they did to “deserve” it and they won’t accept “nothing” as an answer.

          I’ve been lucky healthwise so far, but whenever something unfortunate happens to me, I think to myself “wouldn’t the world be a miserable place if we truly deserved every horrible thing that happens to us?”

          Some people do everything they think they’re supposed to do to, to the point of orthorexia, and still get sick. Others can smoke for a literal century and not get lung cancer (Jeanne Calment, who died when she was 122 years old, reputedly quit smoking at 117 because “a century was long enough”).

  35. OP*

    Hi all!

    It’s been about a month since I sent this so I have updates!

    I resigned. I specifically noted that my own beliefs were at odds with the extreme and exclusive viewpoints being pushed within the committee.

    He let me know I wasn’t the first and a resolution was in the works. She’s been calmer and way less aggressive (at least from what I can see as just an employee, not a board member) so something went down.

    So happy thoughts for now, it was refreshing to see an employer take action.

    Hoping it stays that way.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This is fairly good news but she really should not even be on the committee anymore, much less the chair, if she’s still anti-vax and “good health is a choice.” But thanks for the the update.

    2. Calamity Janine*

      i am glad you’re out of there, and that some action has been taken… but i am absolutely agog that you apparently weren’t the first to resign because of this, and she’s still on this board!

      it’s my perspective of being a disabled person, sure, but even from just a business point of view… this woman might as well have “i am a walking talking extremely expensive lawsuit waiting to happen” tattooed on her forehead. if not for the rank ableism (which, although i know the internet gets too froggy with calling stuff out with this, but it is pretty severe discrimination and she’s actively chasing people out via being so nasty towards people due to their health – that i think could quickly become actual factual illegal!), then for pushing MLM stuff at work and mixing those government interests and resources with her personal profit. (i don’t want my tax dollars subsidizing this nonsense, after all!)

      that’s aside from how being anti-vaxx is at this point a major health risk to others, and how that entire ethos depends on cheering on the deaths of “undesirables” and calling for genocide of the non-ablebodied, which some love to remind me to my face about…

      presumably in government you generally don’t want to declare large parts of the population should drop dead. just as a general rule for interacting with the public in all sorts of industries, i would imagine.

      by her getting to remain, even as a leader of this group, while others are allowed to be chased out? that’s still the office making a pretty strong endorsement! and that’s really a failure on so many levels – appropriate management, suitable office behavior, legal risk, basic ethics and how to treat other human beings, probably about 15 different areas i haven’t even begun to touch on…

      i am sad you had to resign but it sounds like your old workplace is remaining bees all the way down, and this fills me with the urge to go to your old workplace and very solemnly tell every single person involved in this that they are doing a bad job and should feel bad about being bad. …while also somehow growing eye lasers to deal with the obnoxious individual still receiving far more support than those exhibiting actual standards of decency.

    3. allathian*

      Glad to hear that you resigned, and I’m really hoping that the anti-vaxx MLM person gets fired from the committee.

  36. A Pound of Obscure*

    I’m with Alison — just avoid meal-prep tips and any discussion of what’s a healthy lifestyle at work. But zooming out to the 30,000-foot level: What’s “misinformation” is never set in stone. Science and knowledge are ever-evolving. Most people don’t know that their medical doctor learned nothing, or next to nothing (perhaps a 4-hour lecture) about nutrition in medical school; that’s left to dieticians and nutritionists. Suggesting that you should listen to your doctor about nutrition is laughable. Even nutritionists and dieticians are taught based on current guidelines, which can be just as loaded with mis/disinformation as any other source. (If you’ve ever wondered why some days we hear eggs or coffee are good for you and the next day we hear they’re not — rinse and repeat for decades! — then you’ve witnessed this yourself.) Throw in anti-meat religious dogma from Seventh-Day Adventist church and their well-funded “lifestyle medicine” initiatives worldwide (Loma Linda University School of Medicine being their major outlet for it here in the U.S.) and you start to recognize that very little of it is “science-based.” Several members of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines committee have SDA ties; the church has more influence than you realize. My point is — conventional dietary wisdom and guidelines often are rooted in opinion and dogma and profit, not science. The “research” behind them is nearly always funded by industry dollars, so you should question all of it — but on your own time, based on your own interest level (or lack of). This should never be a workplace issue headed by someone with a financial interest in you believing her way is the right way. Holy cow! Get out.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, the sugar vs fat as the primary “cause” of obesity is a classic one there – the sugar industry won out so the guidelines came out saying that too much fat was the cause.

      I’ve been watching the nutrition wars for at least four decades. It’s all a crock of sh!t. Everyone has a hot take on an obscure study that they are misreading anyway.

      The only thing I’ve found to be true is “Moderation in all things, including moderation” and “Listen to your body, not some article paid for by some food industry ad group.”

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        100% this. I have a friend who is somewhat diet obsessed and my mother is too and it’s completely uninteresting to me at best and most often just frustrating to me because of the emphasis they tend to place on “unhealthy” food (and also weight). Mostly I ignore it and when I’m feeling more energetic I make the same argument you’re making here, that it’s all a crock of sheet. It makes me so angry that there are so many people out there who believe in this sheet.

    2. JustaTech*

      Do you have a citation for the “medical schools only teach four hours of nutrition”, please?

      (Registered dieticians are the people who are the experts that a GP should be sending patients to, just like a GP would send a patient with teeth problems to a dentist.)

  37. arthur lester*

    Sure, being healthy is a choice! Example: If you spew a bunch of ableist nonsense all over your coworkers’ inboxes, eventually one of them is going to snap and start biting you.

  38. AnotherSarah*

    I just want to underscore what Alison said about not giving health advice at all! If it’s not reviewed by a medical professional, I wouldn’t send it out. There are legit differences of opinion on all sorts of issues, and even when evidence seems pretty solid, there are going to be exceptions (that’s why a doctor who knows you and your health history well are really important!). Stuff like “if you’re having trouble getting in winter exercise, remember that our office has a free indoor gym!” is fine, “everyone should take vitamin D in the winter!” is not.

  39. Potato Girl*

    I’m halfway to health-nut and still dislike health/wellness talk at work. Any talk of health-promoting behaviors seems to quickly veer into “choose to be healthy” territory, which is super alienating.

    Replacing health talk with mindfulness talk is I better. I have an entire rant on the topic of “workplace mindfulness,” which can be boiled down to: it should not be a thing, because mindfulness is a spiritual practice and absolutely not a way to numb out and quietly accept a garbagefire situation. Being mindful, observing without judging, and stilling the emotions is the beginning, not the goal. It’s the first step to discerning right action. Certainly not something you do to pacify yourself for your employer’s benefit.

    If a company really must have a health and wellness newsletter, just write stuff like “here are some resources the health insurance company offers. Also it’s wintertime so watch your step because slipping on ice hurts.” Better yet, don’t have a gd newsletter at all

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I agree. Besides which, mindfulness really doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve tried it twice, and both times my anxiety peaked. I don’t have generalized anxiety, but sometimes I do get situational anxiety attacks. I’ve had a handful of panic attacks in my 50 years, and mindfulness is a great way to induce one.

        I need movement to get the benefits of any kind of meditation. I’m clumsy enough that getting down on the floor is really uncomfortable for me, but tai chi is great for this. I haven’t been able to go since the pandemic started, and I really miss it. Maybe chair yoga of some kind might also work…

  40. John Smith*

    Alison, ever thought of standing foe president? Or maybe PM in the UK? You’d be very welcome here! Pretty please?

  41. Anonomatopoeia*

    There is 100% an ethics issue here as far as her using her day job to upsell all the products that the MLM pays her only if she pushes hard enough to sell.

    I mean, my public sector job BARELY tolerates the fact that when people travel for work they might be accruing airline miles as an unearned job benefit that in ten years will mean they can take a trip to, IDK, Omaha or something. Using an actual job activity to specifically push products which pay her a percentage is super uncool, even if all of it was great advice. It’s, uh, not, so ugh, that needs to stop, immediately.

    1. allathian*

      Ha. I work for the government in Finland, and my employer issues airline miles cards to employees who travel a lot by air. Using air miles for personal travel is absolutely forbidden, you might get sued for embezzlement if the sums involved are high enough, but you’ll almost certainly be fired. The only minimal leeway you have is that sometimes it’s possible to combine a business trip with personal travel, when the employer pays half and you pay the other half of the costs, but you can potentially use miles benefits, like upgrade from economy to business, with your airline points.

      That said, I’m thankfully in an area where even government employees benefit from some perks, such as free coffee/tea at the office, holiday parties paid by the employer, free or very low-cost gym memberships, etc.

  42. Not Julia Child*

    She recently demanded we change a recipe to replace a couple tablespoons of flour with a hard-to-find alternative costing $8/pound.

    Surely there is a solution to the very vexing quandary presented above. List the expensive ingredient with the parenthetical “table flour will work if you can’t find milled garbanzo beans infused with truffle oil” or what not.

    It is no different than recipes that call for fresh Madagascar vanilla bean, but that add “vanilla extract will do in a pinch.”

    I make no comment on the woman’s other shenanigans.

  43. Luna*

    “Being unhealthy is certainly a choice, I agree, Jane. I mean, it is your choice to swallow a vitamin instead of an antibiotic pill when you have a bacterial infection.”

Comments are closed.