I work in one of those large, non-descriptive open plan offices three days a week. It’s a large household-name corporate and draws it’s workforce from all parts of society. In my immediate desk area sit around eight women mostly about 10-15 years (maybe even 20!) younger than me. They are all from fairly different backgrounds but the one thing that unites them all is food. And by that I mean the constant discussion of food and dieting. Every day they all dissect what they have eaten, what diet they are on, whether they made it to bootcamp last night etc etc. These conversations can go on for maybe half an hour and they always really shock me. Why? Because when I worked in an office 20 years ago, those discussions just didn’t happen in the detail and length that they do now and I find it really sad and really boring.

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Firstly, sad. Sad that women use up so much of their thoughts and energy on thinking about food and dieting (most of these women are not what I would call fat btw). One is on the Paleo Diet, so every morning we have to listen to how gross it is eating steak as soon as you get up. Another is on 5:2 so we have to listen to her endlessly complaining about how hungry she is and another is on Weight Watchers Points so all food is reduced to a simple number. Then there is the control freak who cannot eat from the canteen but instead brings in her own specially prepared, very specific food – no dairy, no carbs, no caffeine, no meat. She keeps her almond butter in the fridge alongside her St John’s Wort, which I’m not surprised she needs to keep her spirits up on that diet.

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I completely understand that it’s great to have support when you are dieting and it’s a great motivator but there comes a tipping point. I’m sad that these young women feel so much of their worth is wrapped up in their weight and as I look around at the male-dominated top management I wonder if this has an affect. Is this lack of confidence about their looks holding them back from promotion? The men of the same age confidently swagger around with their bacon sarnies without a Nutribullet smoothie in sight. Does their constant chatter about their dissatisfaction with how they look tip into how they are perceived – insecure, needy? Is that what you want from your top management? I don’t think so.

Secondly, boring. I am overweight myself and have been for a long time. I rarely discuss it with my friends because to me, it’s really dull to listen to. There is no magic bullet, no magic wand so there isn’t anything anyone can say to me that I don’t already know – eat less, move more. These food conversations at work go round and around with no real resolution and it is SO boring to listen to. Do these incessant chats make these women seem shallow and banal? Don’t they have anything else to discuss?

We live in a schizophrenic world where we are bombarded with images of the perfect female body but also with constant images of food so it’s no wonder it’s a constant source of interest.  Do you find it interesting to talk at length about what food you shouldn’t be eating or do you think like me that we should keep our dieting habits to ourselves? M

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