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Enough with the ‘war on lunch’

Virtue signalling, time pressures, workaholism and fat shaming are behind the trend towards skipping midday meals
work-life balance, culture
It’s a sad state of affairs when people feel they aren’t able to take their lunch due to time pressures, huge workloads and the stresses and demands of modern day life. Shutterstock

By Brian Kreissl

I read an interesting article the other day in Canadian HR Reporter Weekly  about how workers are increasingly working through their lunch breaks or skipping lunch entirely. The gist of the article was basically that many employees don’t feel they can take the time away from work because they’re so busy these days.

There is also the phenomenon of many people wanting to get ahead and trying to get noticed by their employers. At least some of them see working through lunch as a way to prove their dedication to their jobs and employers.

This is a type of virtue signalling and is very similar to people who brag constantly about how busy they are. The implication is they’re so busy and so important they can’t take a short break for lunch — and anyone who does is a slacker and obviously isn’t as dedicated to her job and career.

It’s a sad state of affairs when people feel they aren’t able to take their lunch due to time pressures, huge workloads and the stresses and demands of modern day life. I have been in the situation where most of the day was taken up with back-to-back meetings, and I literally had no time other than my lunch hour to catch up on emails and other pressing or urgent business. Therefore, I was guilty of eating lunch at my desk while I worked.

However, I am generally the type of person who believes in taking my lunch break. Whether I surf the net, check social media, catch up on school work, go for a walk or go out alone or with colleagues for a bite to eat, I usually take some time away from my work routine for my lunch break (although I don’t take coffee breaks).

While I am often guilty of eating alone and should take more opportunity to socialize with colleagues during lunch breaks, I really enjoy some quiet time to myself during lunch hour to plan, reflect and take a break from my regular work routine. On days when I work from home, I sometimes take the dog for a walk.

I personally believe I am more productive if I can take a bit of a break, recharge my batteries and fuel up with some lunch. While we now recognize the benefits of intermittent fasting, I don’t believe we are generally supposed to go for 11 or 12 hours without eating. Surely that must make people overeat at night, and it can’t have a very good effect on our metabolisms.

Skipping lunch as an act of fat shaming

I also believe there is another side to this “war on lunch.” It feels like an all-out assault is being waged against lunch not only in the workplace, but also in society at large. Perhaps I am being a little too sensitive, but I really believe lunch skipping is a subtle form of fat shaming for some people.

Being someone who is carrying around a few extra pounds (even though I’ve lost about 25 pounds over the last few years and am working on losing more), I am keenly aware of how thinner people sometimes try to make people larger than themselves feel guilty simply for wanting to have a light lunch (or even breakfast) at the proper time. It’s as if some people want to show off how “healthy” and virtuous they are by not eating.

Without naming any names, there are several people in my life (not work colleagues) who act like grabbing a quick lunch five or six hours after eating breakfast is an act of pure gluttony. I personally feel like they’re trying to insinuate I can’t wait to stuff my face when I mention I would like to grab a light midday meal.

The funny thing is none of those people are exactly skinny, and I have seen all of them eat very large meals. None of them skip dessert and all of them are much bigger snackers than I am.

While there is an obvious obesity epidemic in Western societies, fat shaming, body image concerns and holier than thou attitudes surrounding food, eating and exercise are also increasing. This is bound to have an impact on the workplace for many people and are also contributing to the war on lunch in many organizations.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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