[Discussion of diets, weight loss, and eating.]
Before the semester break, my employer’s human resources department sent out an email advertising a district-wide New Year’s weight loss initiative. Now, it’s totally voluntary, and not connected to our health care insurance in any way (though I know better than to believe it’s anything close to confidential). And I know from experience over the years that not many people — at my school, at least — actually participate.
Still, I know that reading about what is essentially short-term (8 weeks) competitive weight loss (i.e., the person who loses the highest percentage of their starting body weight gets some kind of cash or gift card prize) is not a good idea for me. So I emailed HR and asked if there was a way employees could opt out of receiving these specific messages.
I received no answer.
Now, this could easily have been that by the time I sent my email, people were heading off toward Christmas and semester break.
So when I found a second advertisement about this in my inbox, I contacted HR again. Still no answer.
I admit, I was probably holding a bit of low level resentment in my back brain about this, less for the initial mass email and more for the two times I said something, and my response seems to have been ignored. Like, even to have been told that my request was unworkable or otherwise just not going to happen would at least have acknowledged that I make the fucking request.
Fast forward to our department meeting during the second week of school. It’s rare that our department — or even, all our site teachers — are left alone — that is, without administrative influence (often interference) — to Get Shit Done. So when we are, we rather relish the opportunity.
A department coworker brought donuts, enough for the group. “Help yourself,” she said at the beginning of the meeting, then let the subject drop. No one took a donut right away.
I didn’t particularly want one myself. I don’t dislike donuts or anything, but I have come to discover that very sweet — and especially, very one-note, simply sweet — foods are not my thing. They still seem appealing from time to time, but once I removed them from my mental “bad and therefore forbidden” category, I discovered that more often than not, I do not actually want them very often.
And so, for a long portion of our meeting, I was content to let the donuts sit and instead to concentrate on getting shit done.
Until that voice came over the PA system.
“Anyone participating in the [Cutesy Name] Weight Loss Challenge, please come to the [School Name] library. And for anyone who hasn’t signed up, this is your last chance to join! I repeat, anyone participating in the [Cutesy Name] Weight Loss Challenge, please come to the [School Name] library. And for anyone who hasn’t signed up, this is your last chance to join!”
We all stared at the PA speaker, which had interrupted some good discussion. And a lot of us glared and rolled our eyes. I think, based on my knowledge of these folks, that the degree of the reaction was not only from it being an interruption but from the specific nature of this interruption.
There was an air of peevedness in the room.
And, I couldn’t help but notice as the announcement was dying out, two unopened boxes of donuts just sitting there.
I stood up, crossed the room, and opened a box. I considered my choices, selected a cinnamon roll, and walked back to my seat with it.
The comments were telling.
“About time someone opened that box!”
“I wanted one too; I just didn’t want to be first.”
“Hey, that’s right! There are donuts!”
I walked back to my seat and pulled of pieces of cinnamon roll, bit by bit, in its spiral layers.
In that moment, I still don’t even know that I wanted the donut. In fact, I think I didn’t — at least not for the taste of the fried pastry itself. What I did want, however was for that voice on the PA system to shut up. I couldn’t do that, of course, but I could at least send a message to the people around me that that is what the voice on the PA should do.
Within a minute or two of my cinnamon roll defiance, at least three other people in the room had claimed donuts of their own — and from the comments, it seems that at least a couple of folks had been anticipating a donut claiming move for a while.
I won’t say that this is a step in the direction of making food my friend. Because what it feels like to me is the somewhat familiar, somewhat ambivalent territory of wielding food as a public tool, a sign post for specific ends. That is not, in a perfect world, what I want food to be for me.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. And what I do know is this —
In this world — the world where people in or out of authority constantly tell me I need to or should want to drop clothing sizes and/or lose weight — that message on the PA system is more my enemy than any cinnamon roll could ever be.