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No Free Lunch. February 13, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Jobz.
Tags: , , ,

In the past few months I’ve read a lot of horror stories about people whose offices joined the cult of Weight Watchers or started their own version of The Biggest Loser, and I’ve silently thanked God that my office was too disinterested in group activities to ever launch such a thing.  I can only imagine that the pressure to join would be enormous, and it probably makes work a very unpleasant place to be for those who have openly snubbed the idea.  I was never sure how I would handle that kind of thing.

Then yesterday my boss announced that he was considering signing us up with a service that would provide us with a healthy lunch every day.  From a company whose primary function is to produce meals for dieters. 

On the surface, this might seem like a kind gesture, and I suppose in a way it is.  We’re a small company and the perks are not what they would be if we worked in a larger firm, so it’s nice that we’re trying to do something for the employees, however the origin of the meals makes me wonder what exactly we are trying to do.

For you see, without giving away too much about the company, I work for a publisher that works heavily with diet and fitness books.  Thankfully, this isn’t my area (I work in an off-shoot company dealing with other matters), so I don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis, but the idea that we should live by the rules of our products kind of hovers in the background; in fact, as my boss made this annoucement he espoused the virtues of dieting.  So while you could look at this offer of a free lunch as nothing more than a kind gesture, given our parentage and the fact that the healthy meal came with a sticker attached boasting that it only contained 250 calories…it seems that this grilled chicken with lemon sauce and spinach comes with a heaping, cold, dish of morality.

Because if you choose to bring or buy your own lunch, you are saying that, in some way, what is provided is not enough for you.  And while for some people I’m sure that might not be a big deal, for me the implications are tremendous.  Coming off a lifetime of not trusting my body to tell me what it needs, a thing like this looks like another little message that we are all wrong.  Personally, I can not survive on a 250 calorie lunch; I’ve tried that for most of my life and it left me tired and cranky.  But this nicely packaged little box tells me that, in fact, this is really all I need and holds up my participating coworkers as proof, and this sends a message, no matter how subtle, that if you aren’t satisfied with this prepared “healthy” meal, than you are doing something unhealthy.  And my boss already feels it is part of his job to promote the health of his employees…aren’t we on a slippery slope to even more involvement in our personal lives?  Today our lunches, tomorrow our choice of birth control?

It’s probably not going to be that serious, at least I hope it isn’t, but things like this always get me to thinking.  I’m big on personal freedom.  I get nervous when I feel like parts of it are being taken away, and this is often how it begins; give someone a little say in how you live your life, and chances are they are only going to want more.  And in today’s work climate, where employers are given the impression that they have the right to manipulate their employees lives for their benefit and employees are often told they should deal because they are lucky to have a job, giving even an inch seems like a mile.