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Today’s Special: Virtue with a Heaping Spoonful of Self-loathing March 29, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Fat, Jobz.
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2 comments

So our healthy lunch program has begun, and it is…awkward. I decided that since I couldn’t stop the program, I would just personally avoid it, but that’s pretty much impossible to do because there are always questions from coworkers about who tried the food and who didn’t, who liked it and who didn’t, and the slightly judgmental why that comes along with taking no part in it.

Truthfully, I’m not finding it that hard to deal with, but a year or two ago I would have found it excruciating. I have never been good with eating in public; in fact there was a time when I could barely manage it. I feared, as I suspect many eating-disordered people do, that I was being judged for what I ate, that people were looking at my plate and tallying calories to decide if I was virtuous or a total pig. And in some way this is true; I don’t know a single soul who hasn’t had someone, sometimes a friend, sometimes a relative, other times a total stranger, comment on what they were eating.

For me, these comments definitely left their mark. When I was in high school I went on a field trip with my English class; a couple of my traveling companions were guys I had known for a couple of years. As we sat in the grass in the park enjoying our lunch, one boy, who I was starting to fall for, remarked that my turkey sandwich was the first thing he had ever seen me eat. I (sadly) how proud I felt in that moment (even though they in no way expressed admiration for my food-avoiding skills). They noticed how little I seemed to need food! I was a worthy girl-type human being! I can also remember comment that came from my grandfather, the sweetest man to ever live. He remarked that I seemed to be eating more at dinner one night and I stopped fork in midair and didn’t eat another bite. In retrospect, I can only imagine how bad I made him feel. My grandfather believed in food; happiness for him was taking people out to dinner. Here he was, happy to see me eating, and there I was paralyzed by the voice in my head screaming “PIG!!!!”

Even though I’m a hundred miles away from those moments, I doubt I’ll ever forget them or the feelings they inspired. So having the girl who sits across the room want to know why I didn’t eat a pasty plate of pasta with cardboardy meatballs can be extra unpleasant for me; I still feel a little like I’m being accused of something.

But the more I hear the questions, the more I realize that they aren’t really questioning me; they are questioning themselves. Just the other day we were sitting down to lunch when one of my coworkers passed by on her way to the gym, lamenting the fact that she had to go to the gym instead of eating lunch. It wasn’t that she wanted us all to drop what we were doing and join her on the treadmill, but that she wanted to drop what she was doing and have some diet chicken salad, but she wasn’t allowed. She had no choice (in her mind) but to spend her thirty-minute lunch running at the gym. Now, if she had been psyched about working out during lunch, there wouldn’t even be a need for discussion; she would have been doing what she wanted to. However, the longing look she gave us as she ran out the door told anyone watching exactly how much she wanted to go to the gym.

And it’s this same kind if thinking that fuels questions and comments about food choices. My coworker doesn’t really want to know why I think I’m too good for a diet lunch –she wants to know why she isn’t good enough for a real one. I only wish I knew how to tell her that she is, but somehow I doubt she would believe me.

No Free Lunch. February 13, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Jobz.
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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.

Avocados and Other Demons. September 28, 2007

Posted by Jae in Jobz, The Cast, The Crazy.
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Today was one of those days were I felt guilty every time I took a bite of food, and now all I want to do is jump on the scale.

I have long denied any connection between my emotions and the way I feel about my body. The most I was willing to say was that my body got in the way of my happiness, and it did, but not in the way that I meant it. My body got in the way of my happiness because I made it my enemy and swore that I would never be truly happy until I had vanquished it–lost 50 pounds, shed five inches off my thighs, wore a size 8–however, that was the only connection I was willing to acknowledge between my body and my emotions.

Today though, guilt followed me around like the proverbial trained puppy. I wanted everything and nothing for breakfast; I picked on dried fruit and pretzel chips, and felt bad for even wanting pretzel chips, let alone eating them for breakfast. At lunch, every nibble of my grilled chicken wrap felt like one bite too many. And when the pilot light went out on my stove, leaving half my dinner undone, I didn’t even bother to relight it, even though that was the part of the meal I most looked forward too. The strange part though was that I wasn’t really having any (more than normal) negative thoughts about my body, but I still felt tremendously guilty for having a body that needed things.

Tonight I think I figured out why.

My best friend got a new job yesterday, and I truly am very happy for her, but a part of me is envious. We both graduated college this year; I graduated in the winter and she escaped just this past May. It took me until the end of July to secure a job, and I was only able to get it because someone else left the small company where I was interning, and even then they waited nearly two months to offer it to me. In spite of having a degree, with a double major, in spite of having graduated with honors, in spite of having some experience in my field, I had no other job prospects. I never even received a call-back for the jobs I applied to.

My best friend on the other hand, had several interviews scheduled, and blew many of them off or didn’t take follow-ups as seriously as she might have. She went weeks without applying or even looking for jobs. And then, this one fell into her lap, and it seems like a fantastic job. Don’t get me wrong, she deserves a fantastic job; she works hard, she is smart and talented, and she has suffered more than her fair share at work and in other areas as well. But that’s why I feel so guilty.

She’s my best friend and I love her, and I want her to be happy, yet I can’t seem to shake my petty jealousy. She’s going to be making more money then me. She’s going to have better benefits than I do. She’s working for a well-connected company, so she can build a big network. She has an assistant. She’s also going to get to travel and go to some pretty exclusive events. And I get to work in a shabby loft in a no-frills neighborhood, making less than she would have if she’d accepted a management position at her retail job, in an area of my field that doesn’t interest me that much.

Are there perks to my job? Of course there are. In fact, most days I’m sure it is the right place for me to be right now, but sometimes I just get so tired of working so hard and feeling like I have nothing to show for it–especially when I see someone else work just as hard and get so much more.

That’s a hard thing to admit though. It’s much easier to feel bad about eating half an avocado.

Think I’m gonna stay home, have myself a home life. September 24, 2007

Posted by Jae in Jobz.
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The worst time to call in sick is when you actually are sick.

In my life I have taken a few *ahem* mental health days from work/school/life in general and though I’ve read quite a few articles telling me that I should feel guilty about that, I don’t. I’ve never done it when it would wreck someone else’s day, and in my opinion, they make me a better employee/student/person because they keep me from walking around grumbling and plotting anyone’s demise.

However, when it comes time to call in sick because I’m actually sick, I usually cannot shake that nagging feeling of guilt; today was no exception. I felt off all day yesterday, but as I was getting ready for bed I got sick to my stomach. My mother had a stomach bug over the weekend, and I spent time with her, so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. In addition to (or perhaps because of) the icky stomach, I found myself unable to fall asleep. I was hot and jittery, not to mention wide-awake until about 4:30 a.m.

So when my alarm went off at seven, I vaguely remember waking up, resetting it for eight, and falling back asleep. At eight I woke up and emailed my boss to tell her about what was going on and to apologize. After that I laid on my bed feeling guilty and watching T.V. until I drifted off to sleep again.

I didn’t do much else all day, and eventually I stopped feeling so guilty. I wish I understood why I get that way. I guess I just don’t want to let anyone down. If I’m having a planned day-off, I feel like I’ve taken care of things beforehand: tied up my lose ends at work, given everyone anything they needed from me, picked a slow, relatively harmless day, etc. But when I get sick out of the blue I haven’t planned anything, and though I’m sure the world can turn without me for one day, I hate to think that I had to make anyone’s life more difficult.

Perhaps I have some control issues. 😉