I read Dear Prudence every week in Slate.com and this kinda caught my interest (look at where it's from). Let me know what you think or what advice you'd give this woman.
Geneva, Switzerland: I am a recent college graduate working abroad for a small nonprofit. Most of my coworkers are European women in their 20s or early 30s, and we generally get along pretty well. We eat lunch together every day, and I eat substantially more than they do, since they are all on very strict diets. I don't watch my calories, and I don't think I need to—I am 5'5" and 120 lbs, and I get plenty of exercise by riding my bike to work every day and going hiking on the weekends.
Weight is a very sensitive issue in the office. Every time somebody brings in a snack for the office (like zucchini bread—yum!), the other women instantly start complaining about their diets and having those horrid conversations about how fat they are. I, on the other hand, always happily accept these treats, along with the two men in the office. This wasn't a problem until one woman said, "Look at the cow, she just keeps grazing all day!" Now the whole office comments on my eating, and everyone chalks it up to me being an ignorant American, as though I can't control my food intake! They have also recently started making comments while I eat about how my overconsumption contributes to poverty and famine. It has gotten so uncomfortable that I have tried to eat less, but then I am hungry (and cranky) all afternoon. I have asked them to stop making these comments, but they persist and say that healthy eating is too important to let it slide. I think my eating habits are perfectly healthy, and I don't understand why they care. What should I do?
Emily Yoffe: It sounds as if your office is acting out some geopolitical struggles over the zucchini bread. It would be one thing if the American amongst them was obese, spoke in tongues, and kept a loaded shotgun on her desk—then they could satisfy themselves about their European superiority. But here you are, having the audacity to sate your appetite while remaining thin! You could shrug off an occasional snipe about your ability to have a slice of cake, but a daily badgering about your intake is intolerable. What's next, they blame droughts in Africa on the fact that you shower daily and flush the toilet? Stop being intimidated about your eating. The next time one of them insults you, you need to say firmly, "Gerta, I'm afraid my personal eating habits are irrelevant to our work. Things have escalated to the point where I am being insulted daily, and this is not conducive to a harmonious work atmosphere." Repeat to Veronique, et al. (Alternately, you could joke that their complaints sound like something they should take up with The Hague.) If the harassment persists, you need to address your complaint to the boss.
| current weight: 185.0