Here is a phrase you will see in headlines forever: “Your co-workers are making you fat.” They’re shaming you, they make fun of your lunch, they try and pressure you to eat “dense, creamy slices of homemade carrot cake.” * They are ruining your diet with all their Halloween candy and Girl Scout cookies and greasy Chinese delivery.
Anyway, science keeps reinforcing what we already know: according to a recent survey of 325 dieters by a Florida-based franchiser of physician-supervised weight-loss clinics (via the Wall Street Journal), “Some 29% of people on diets say colleagues pressure them to eat more, make fun of their diets or order them restaurant food they know isn’t on their diets.” One dietician speculates this is because they feel “abandoned” by a dieter.
Again, the “your co-workers are making you fat” story is nothing new. Sorry. What is interesting, however, is that your co-workers can also be a surprisingly positive influence on weight loss:
Peers’ attitudes and behavior are linked to success in weight loss, according to a study published last month in the journal Obesity. Among 3,330 participants in a team-based weight-loss competition, including many teams of co-workers, those who reported having positive influence from teammates lost a larger percentage of their body weight than others.
“Social contacts can be extremely powerful,” says Tricia Leahey, the study’s lead author. While peers’ encouragement helps, dieting failures or negative attitudes among colleagues can discourage people from sticking to their own weight-loss plans, says Dr. Leahey, an assistant professor of research on obesity at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. “It cuts both ways.”
Becky Hand, a dietician quote by WSJ, goes to far as to recommend memorizing refusals and pulling co-workers aside to ask for their support. It never would have occurred to us, but yes, that’s probably a pretty constructive way to keep your coworkers from sabotaging diet and health goals.
But! We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve been made to feel uncomfortable by someone else commenting on what we’re eating. …So, let these studies serve as a gentle reminder to be more aware of your own potential shaming tactics. Together, we can eat carrot cake only with explicit consent.
*Where is this office? We would like to work there.