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Fat at Work and Loving It

Hello there! Didn’t hear you come in. I was wrapped up in the latest issue of my new favorite magazine. It’s called Obesity, and it’s all about weight loss. Really, nothing is better than settling down with a dozen Tasty Creme donuts and a gallon of chocolate milk, and getting the skinny about the fat.

And boy, you should see the centerfolds!

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger and a study from Obesity, one of the major influences on the amount of adipose you get is the feedback you get from your colleagues.

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“Social contacts can be extremely powerful,” says Tricia Leahey, an assistant professor of research on obesity and 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. It cuts both ways.”

Of course, it would be nice if the attitudes of our co-workers only cut one way — our way. That way we could get a much bigger slice of cake when office celebrations come around. But that’s the whole problem, as the research shows. While a nice plate of sliced fruit would be so much better for us, office parties invariably include forbidden fruit, such as rich carrot cake and dark chocolate mud-slide muffins and irresistible red velvet cupcakes and creamy rich ice cream and delectable mountains of whipped cream, and suddenly, I’m beginning to see why this dieting business while you’re in business is so difficult.

Even if your company has nothing to celebrate, there are still dangerous temptations that are hard to avoid and even harder to resist. As another study showed, “29 percent of people on diets say colleagues pressure them to eat more, make fun of their diet, or order them restaurant food they know isn’t on their diet.”

This is absolutely true. How often do you find yourself sitting in a restaurant, facing an extra-large pizza with extra cheese and extra lard, and you have no idea how this 12,000-calorie monstrosity got there. You meant to order a lettuce sandwich, on Melba toast. Obviously, one of your luncheon companions is trying to sabotage you. It’s difficult to believe a co-worker could be so mean, especially when the only person at the table is you.

Though phantom ordering is an annoyance, the real problem comes when one of your co-workers show up at your desk with home-baked cookies or a freshly-frozen baked Alaska. You don’t want to insult your workplace friend by refusing their offerings, and you don’t want to demonstrate your frustration by hitting them over the head with your copy of “The Jersey Shore Diet Plan,” by Jane Brody and Snooki. My suggestion is that the moment a piece of Tupperware comes within 10 feet of your cubical, you run for your life, screaming all the way. Plan it right and you could run all the way to the nearest Baskin-Robbins, where you can order a caramel waffle chocolate sundae. Order two. After all that running, you deserve it.

If you’re wondering why the co-workers with who you share so much misery would force you to share their calorie-laden creations, the answer is simple. It’s not because they like you or they want to bond with you. It’s because they’re jealous of you. Chelsey Millstone, a corporate dietitian for Medi-Weightloss Clinics, observes that co-workers may “see a trimmer colleague as a career threat.”

Will being thin make you successful? Depends on your company. If senior management is looking anorexic, then you can probably eat everything in sight. If there’s one thing that skinny people love, it’s fat people who make them feel superior. On the other hand, if your executive suite is filled with fatties, then you’d better avoid all workplace sweets. If you remind a rotund senior executive of just how fat they are, they could resent you. (They also could invite you to top-secret, top-executive pig-outs at the Smorgy Bob’s. It’s a great career move. Just make sure you let them be the first to swim in the chocolate fountain.)

It’s no question that work today is hard enough without worrying over whether you’re a hard body. My advice is to eat as much as you can, as often as you can. You’ll gain weight, but when management decides that the best way to cut the fat is with pink slips, all that blubber will help you survive.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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