“A Walk of Shame to the Fridge”: Fasting at the Office

by Gena on July 13, 2012

Happy Friday, CR readers!

Hope you’ve got a fun weekend planned. After my dive headlong into Physics II and a number of power/internet problems this week, I’ve given myself a restorative Friday, which will culminate in grabbing dinner with Valerie this evening.

Did anyone see this article in the New York Times about corporate juice “cleansing? Though I’ll try my best to be more articulate than this, my feelings can pretty be summed up with one word: bummer. You can read the article yourself, but the upshot is that a number of workplaces are now pushing 3 day juice “cleanses” on employees as a means of team building. They vary in intensity (and duration, I’m sure), but one of the “cleanses” cited is the Cooler Cleanse 3 day liquid fast, on which a person consumes 1200 calories a day.

This number of calories is low for most people, especially active people; it’s the low range of most diets that are sanctioned by health professionals, which is to say that it’s recommended for serious weight loss. So one of the most immediate problems with this system is that the caloric intake being pushed on employees qualifies as a diet by most professional standards. Is this so very different from employers suggesting that their employees go on a 3 day diet?

Of course it’s not called a diet because it’s called a “cleanse” instead. All sorts of health promises are associated with this word; the problem is that there is scant peer reviewed, clinical evidence for them. The nutrition professor interviewed for the piece, Joan Salge Blake, states “there is no science to back up cleansing.” It may sound like a shockingly narrow minded statement here in this raw foods loving, food-as-medicine inspired corner of the internet, but it’s not inaccurate. We don’t have robust clinical evidence to back up the culture of fasting, cleansing, and detox.

What we do have is tons of anecdotal evidence. Lately, a lot of folks are pointing to documentaries like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead as evidence that fasting works. The problem with using such a case as evidence for fasting it’s too facile. The documentary shows what happens when a person whose diet is so poor that he is “nearly dead” goes on a juice fast. If the diet you’re eating is so high fat and high processed that it’s akin to poison, of course fasting will yield positive results. The real issue is whether a balanced, nutritionally dense (and I mean macronutrients—protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat—not just the micronutrients that juices are rich in) would yield the same results without compromising metabolism by restricting caloric intake, all the while encouraging more nutrition and preventing the all too common mentality of “oh, I can splurge on _______, because I’m doing a “cleanse” soon.” And whether it would also discourage people who do not need to lose weight from using fasting as a form of weight loss or control.

Different things work for different people. I know this from experience, and so, as an aspiring health practitioner, I try to balance my skepticism for juice fasts with a respectful recognition that they have worked for some people with specific health challenges. If fasting works for you and for your health, then you should of course follow your intuition and judgment. But given the paucity of evidence that fasts stand to benefit otherwise healthy people, I think it’s too bad that they’re being pushed in offices. I was sorry to hear that people who dropped out of these cleanse were teased about “walks of shame to the refrigerator.” Or that the cleanses have increased productivity by making employees work through lunch. “We didn’t want to sit around thinking about food,” said one of the women interviewed.

Image © FitSugar

If nothing else, that kind of culture is tremendously insensitive to people who have eating disorder histories or issues surrounding food. I’d say that I’m bringing my own baggage to the table with that concern–and I am–but then again, how many people have food issues nowadays? I’ve worked in a few office places, and I know that ED stories (to say nothing of more everyday food and weight anxieties) were as common there as they are anywhere else. For a woman or man struggling with food, an office mandate to consume so few as 1200 calories a day, all in the form of juice, may trigger tremendous anxiety.

Of course, I’m sure all employees are offered the chance to opt out. And I’d certainly have no problem saying “no thanks.” But then again, self-assertion comes easily to me. What of vulnerable, younger employees who are trying hard to impress their coworkers? How do they voice these anxieties without calling attention to their struggles with food? What of the folks who don’t have food struggles, but simply don’t wish to be on a calorie restricted diet for 3 days—and aren’t sure how to say it?

I think it’s fantastic that office places are using the pursuit of health as a form of team building. What better and more profound way to bond people than by helping them to experience health improvement together? I’d have loved that sort of experiences with my former coworkers! But that’s all the more reason why I’m sorry that these noble goals are being executed in the form of a fast. Why not have a seminar explaining how juices are amazing, life-changing wellsprings of micronutrients and hydration? Why not place juices in corporate cafeterias for a few days, encouraging them as afternoon snacks, rather than pressuring employees to lower their caloric intake and avoid food for three days? Why not offer healthy eating lectures, or a week of really nutrient-dense, plant based food? These initiatives would be so much less radical than a fast, and—as long as the options were abundant—they would safeguard the feelings of employees who do have anxieties surrounding food.

Three days isn’t very long, and I realize that these initiatives are meant in good faith. I’m also sure that a lot of good workplace humor results from them. But I still think that there are far more healthful ways to encourage solidarity at work. If I were brainstorming about options, I’d consider a cooler of juices for mid-morning or afternoon snacks, or perhaps a week of high quality, plant-based lunches that would get folks talking about how great healthy food can be.

If you want to read more, Valerie—who is no stranger to high stress work environments and has her own unique critique of how the fasting might impact performance—posted about this yesterday. And I’d love to hear your thoughts, CR readers! What do you think about office fasts? Would you opt in or out? What other initiatives would you implement instead, if any?

Speaking of the awesomeness that is fresh veggie juice, don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win a Breville Juice Fountain Plus!

And if you’re in D.C., don’t forget to get to the Logan Circle SweetGreen for some SweetPress!!!

And enjoy it with a big, hearty salad.

photo(5)

With that—happy weekend!

xo

Top image © Well and Good NYC

Print Friendly
Be Sociable, Share!

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Marlena Torres July 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Hey Gena, What a great topic! I agree that education would be more ideal than group fasting in the workplace. For some, fasting done correctly can b amazing and bring great benefit, and for others it’s not only unnecessary but can also be counterproductive to weight loss and healing efforts.
I’ve seen a lot of people overeat before attempting a fast, and the fast usually ends up becoming a heart wrenching experience. Most people do have food anxieties and/or heath issues, so while I think that the gaining popularity of juicing is a great thing, the trendiness of juice fasting, especially in the workplace, seems unfortunate to me.

Reply

Jessie July 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Yikes, this reminds me of those “office weight loss” initiatives, which can put tremendous pressure on employees. Some part of me really thinks that it’s tied up with the fact that insurance is tied to employment in the US. If employers think they’re making people healthier (since skinny = healthy in many people’s minds), employees will have fewer health costs, take fewer sick days, and be more productive. In reality, this is really harmful and potentially isolating and triggering.

Reply

Allie July 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Hi Gena, I just want to say I love your blog! This is a really interesting topic, a juice cleanse seems like a strange office activity, and I’d be interested to know what other initiatives these companies are offering. Offering healthy meals and/or snacks, gym discounts, group fitness classs, health seminars, etc. seem like they might be more effective in promoting long-term healthy habits, but that’s just me!

Reply

Alison July 13, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I also think it’s great that offices are encouraging their employees to pursue health. I just wish they wouldn’t resort to gimmicks. What does it matter if the entire office goes on a juice fast for 3 days just to go back to daily cheeseburgers and french fries on the fourth day?

Reply

Ali July 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm

As a business owner I think this is a *terrible* idea! If something is presented as team-building, there is tremendous pressure to conform. And I don’t believe for a second the “more productive” bit. Most offices are very stressful and my body, for one,definitely needs fat/protein/complex carbohydrates to cope. Worst of all in the article is the bit about the “walk of shame to the refrigerator”. No one should have to deal with something that juvenile.

On the other hand, if I could get my hands on a Kombucha vending machine, I know it would be a big hit at our office!

Reply

Erin July 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I cannot believe that workplaces are doing this. There are so many things wrong with this idea that it’s totally ridiculous — I have enormous skepticism of juice cleanses, and if I tried one at work, I’m pretty I’d be distracted with my stomach growling all day. I need actual food in my stomach that I have chewed to feel full.

Additionally, as you mentioned, this touches on so many issues. We have healthy employees who probably weigh twice as much as other healthy employees at my workplace — is HR going to tell them that they all have the same caloric needs? Or push a juice fast on somebody who they don’t know is really proud of herself for eating three meals a day? Or make overweight employees feel like HR is commenting on their weight? Or encourage everyone to do something that some people just physically can’t participate in because of a medical condition? This clearly wasn’t thought through.

My workplace just gave everyone pedometers. If they must do a fitness challenge that seems like a much better idea.

Reply

Northwest Herbivore July 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm

This is appalling. I can’t believe people think this is a good idea to do as a top-down idea, for all the reasons you mentioned. As someone who struggles to keep enough weight on, a calorie-restricted diet would be idiotic for me to do, and I would tremendously resent the choice to either do it anyway or be “not a team player” by not doing it. On the other hand, I’m skinny enough I expect people would support my reasons for not doing it. But what of the heavy person who also chooses not to participate? Does she then get judged extra because hell-o, doesn’t she think she could use this kind of thing? Guess that’s why she’s so big, etc. Like I say, appalling.

I’m pleased to say that my employer has been doing company-wide health-promoting initiatives, and from what I can see, they’re doing everything right. The first one was encouraging exercise. Not weight loss, just moving. You picked your own team of three and then competed in a very low-key way to get the most exercise points (capped at two hours a day, with no benefit for extra intensity, so there was no motivation to overexercise). Now we’re doing a fruit-and-vegetable challenge: just try to get 5 servings a day, logged privately in an online system. Participants are entered to win a few prizes.

I love that there’s not a word about losing weight and that the initiatives are so accessible to people at just about any level of fitness or lack thereof. Gentle nudges to improve, which people can take as far as they’d like, and which are rolled out in gradual, long-term-enough ways that some of the habits might just stick with people, rather than becoming at best a joke and at worst a source of trauma, like I expect these fasting campaigns do.

Reply

Lisa @ The Raw Serenity July 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm

This is isn’t about “team building” at all it sounds more like a marketing tool to get everyone to buy fruit juices by telling employers it’s a great, healthy idea.
When lowering your calorie intake that dramatically people won’t be able to focus and have a clear head to be able to do their work efficiently.
Fasting can be extremely dangerous when you aren’t under professional guidance so why a employer would recommend this is bazar.
With experience of an eating disorder this would be stressful to see fasting going on in the office as it is like a competition as to who can out do each other and this is how many ED start.
Why not play a team sport together, everyone takes turns at bringing in a healthy dish for coffee & tea break once a week with a printed recipe for others to create at home? This is something that will bring people together for longer than 3 days.
Lisa xx

Reply

Heather July 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Wow, I am disappointed to read that this is going on in the workplace. I am all for smoothies and occassionally juices, but pushing something this extreme on someone who isn’t into health will only put a negative impression in their mind of what it is like to live a healthy lifestyle. There is still such a way to go in teaching people how to make healthy changes without going the extreme.

Reply

Andrea July 13, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Something like this sounds good on paper but doesnt actually inspire long term changes. At my workplace, we have the option to participate in a program called healthquest. You basically set fitness and health goals to track longterm. like eating at least twenty different whole foods per week, drinking 64oz of water per day, cycle commuting, etc. When you complete objectives you get money applied towards your health care premiums. A much more motivating long term option than a three day fast

Reply

sophie strout July 13, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I recognize that they may not actually flush toxins out but I love them. I do a 5 day juice cleanse (using my juicer) every 2-3 months…have for a year now. Not saying I will forever but so far that has felt right. The first few were hard but not as much anymore. They make me feel great and I am careful to get a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and 1400+ calories a day. I think that cleanses are trendy and that’s always worrisome because people jump on the bandwagon without learning much about it first…not something you should do with your health. But I think for some people, when done right, they are great. I eat a healthy plant based diet normally but I still feel refreshed after a cleanse.

Good read!

Reply

Hannah July 13, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Holy moly. I am shocked by this – maybe more so than the average person because of my ED history. I find this pretty appalling and really, actually, just strange! So I haven’t seen Fat/Sick/Nearly Dead but it seems to me that if one is that overweight/obese, ANY calorie restriction is going to change their health. How can we attribute it to just one thing like juicing? It bothers me when people claim that they can solely attribute massive changes to just one factor when really, things are changing all the time, even below our awareness. I love juicing, but I’m afraid movie docs like that might make some people feel like, “Oh, well I don’t have access to juicing/I don’t have the willpower so I will always be stuck with high cholesterol, X/Y/Z health problem.”

While I have made strides in my recovery, too, I would feel vulnerable if I was in a workplace where this thing happened. I would probably feel lots of jealousy for people able to stick with it, feelings of comparison, etc. Of course I’d have to deal with it – but there is some responsibility for companies to recognize that food is a VERY sensitive issue for a lot of people, and we can’t build miraculous team building through a 3 day cleanse.

Reply

Emilia @ Namaste Gurl July 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I no for me– having struggled with food and body issues myself– would find this situation rather triggering, and would try to opt out by using assertion. There really is a need for building up assertion through using your voice, and I believe it’s looked at in respect and admiration, especially in the workplace. Being a dietary student and having studied the BMR quite a bit, I’m know that consuming less calories that your body needs actually lowers your BMR and puts it into a mode of “hibernation” (which often happens with disordered eating as well)– it can be pretty damaging. The more you yo- yo diet, which is the societal norm these days, your BMR keeps lowering, eventually causing weight- gain even when your consuming very little calories. The damage done form caloric restriction both physically and mentally can be really tough to get back on track, as is why it’s totally not recommended.
Great post, Gena, as always. There is such a need for informing todays society– who’s shifting towards the more orthorexic, rigid, health conscious trend– of the harm of doing extreme fasting/ detoxing/cleansing which and you couldn’t have recited it better!! =)

Reply

Nixie July 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Hello,

I think it is great to incorporate health into the office, but juicing isn’t the best way. I would suggest healthy breakfast and lunch options offered for a low cost, or even free. The company could write it off as healthy workers equal harder, better workers.

I’ve done a juice fast before and Vega Cleanse (which I designed) and when you detox your body, you’re losing a lot of water. The employees would be in the bathroom all day! (Especially ones not used to harsh green juices and veggies!) That would not be pleasant for anyone to see, hear, or smell. =/

-Nixie

Reply

Sarah July 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Maybe I’ve just been exposed to too many college kids these days (I blame it on this post bacc) but this ritualized liquid calorie restriction is just like hazing. It’s violence–no other way to put it.

Fasting is tied into many religious and spiritual traditions. Given that, I would never want to cast aspersions on the practice, and it is completely great that some find meaning or purpose in eschewing macronutrients (as you point out). Peer pressure to fast/cleanse/detox/get wheatgrass colonics/do coffee enemas (I could go on with this!!) in workplaces felt difficult for me while working at a raw vegan retreat center, and honestly I’m glad to have moved on to a college campus where hazing is at least openly identified.

Gena, you’re truly awesome, thank you for your insights as always.

Reply

Gena July 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

Thanks for your thoughtful and smart comment, Sarah!

Re: fasting as a part of faith, I don’t necessarily feel that rituals, attitudes, or behaviors are immune to critical examination because they’re a part of one or multiple faiths. That said, I do think that these rituals deserve respect. My mother fasts yearly for Greek Orthodox Easter, and while I wouldn’t necessarily participate with her, I do realize that it’s an important symbol of gratitude and faith for her. It’s also a very short fast, not an extended fast, which means that I have little reason to balance my respect for the tradition with concern about the fasting. I’ve read a few good posts on fasting for Yom Kippur and other holy days; again, these observances don’t speak to me, but they do mean a great deal to others.

That said, the huge difference between religious fasting and non-religious “cleansing” is intention. It’s one thing to fast for the sake of spiritual purification, contemplation, tradition, or gratitude. It’s quite another to fast for the sake of health, and to make health claims for fasting. While I have no doubt that Yom Kippur fasting or Easter fasting might incite a sense of appreciation and kinship among believers, I do have to look at the health promises and “detox” dialog associated with fasting critically. If fasting yields profound emotional benefits, then by all means, explore them, but it’s different to say that fasting is physically beneficial. So perhaps there has to be more distinction drawn between personal, spiritual/emotional benefit, and health improvement?

xo

Reply

Simone July 14, 2012 at 12:08 am

I agree with everything you have said here and I think that the ideas you offered up to encourage healthy eating were far more sensible and approachable for people. Juice fast are often combined with a few ‘quiet’ days, maybe over a weekend where you can slow down a bit, but quite frankly for most people a full work day that is usually combined with exercise, looking after children, meeting friends or other tasks, requires more energy input then this so how they can say people are being more productive is beyond me, maybe for one day but by day two I’d be shutting down. I’ve heard of work places where employees team up and once a week a team cooks and shares a healthy, plant based, homemade meal for everyone. This of course obviously works better for smaller organizations but the principle of it I think is really great. It not only encourages healthier eating habits and the importance of taking time out to eat your lunch but also encourages team spirit.

Reply

sophie July 14, 2012 at 8:11 am

This makes me sad, because it’s making disordered eating commonplace. That’s all.

Reply

Marissa July 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

This is bizarre. The comment about wanting to indulge on the weekends instead of sipping celery gave me a laugh. Like you mentioned Gena, it creates the impression that cleansing is this quick fix for otherwise atrocious dietary choices. Also, I’ve never done a juice fast before, but I don’t think I’d want to be working while doing it. Isn’t it meant to be a time to rest your body and mind fully? I don’t buy that it increases productivity.

I won’t say much on pressure to conform or affects this has on body judgement and disordered eating habits. It’s been said much more eloquently than I could’ve done by Gena and the commenters. Thank you all for sharing.

Reply

Alex @ Raw Recovery July 14, 2012 at 11:13 am

Great read Gena! I’ve been hearing more and more about juice fasts as a result of that movie/documentary, and I completely agree with your stance on it. Sure it can be a way to lose weight if you are nearly dead, but I am uncertain of the message it sends to those who live a healthy lifestyle and then are encouraged to “take it to the next level” so to speak of doing juice fasts or cleanses. I know for some of us (myself included) that kind of pressure, whether it comes from an office environment or societal influence, can be detrimental and lead into more serious and long-term restrictive behavior. I did like your idea of using the juices as a replacement for an afternoon snack. I find that kale blended with a banana and some coconut water gives me a lot of energy in the afternoons in place of coffee, which eventually makes me crash suddenly and hard.

Reply

Christine (The Raw Project) July 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Wow, that’s crazy about office fasts! I decided early in my transition to a high raw vegan diet that juice fasts are not for my, I’m too active with running and working out and would probably crash. I remember at a raw vegan recipe class I went to years ago where a regular juice faster promoted the benefits of a fast and how “rewarding” they are with the emotions that come out, but all I noticed was how skinny, gaunt, and lacking in energy he seemed.

And I did have to share an office with a girl trying a juice fast for a bit, by day two she was too cranky to work with and threw in the towel, so I’m thinking it’s not the most productive idea for a workplace. :-)

Reply

Carrie (Carrie on Vegan) July 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I see your point why there might be unhealthy aspects of doing cleanses with fellow employees. But, is it really that much different than a company-wide rally to do a race or a biggest loser-type competition? I see it as sign of the times that more people are joining together to try different ways of getting healthy. There is definitely research from a public health perspective that corporate wellness initiatives are great ways to improve employee health and reduce health care costs. Sure, corporate juice fasts is an extreme example of “corporate wellness” and isn’t exactly covered in the scientific literature, but I personally think it sounds pretty cool and would appeal me a lot more than the ice cream socials we used to have at my old corporate job.

Reply

Carrie (Carrie on Vegan) July 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Hi Gena, I did some more thinking on this article and re-read your comments. I think you are right-on in many ways. I wasn’t sensitive enough to the ED community in my original comment. I guess I’m at the point where I’m just happy to see something, anything, done about this health crisis going on in our country, but I think the juice cleanses done in a corporate environment is probably too extreme and could do more harm than good. Thanks for the opportunity to add more of my thoughts.

Reply

Gena July 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Carrie,

Thanks for considering this closely enough to comment twice!

The difference between this and a fitness challenge, I think, is that it involves a practice (abstaining from food) that isn’t scientifically supported, and which may even have detrimental side effects (mood swings, fatigue, slow metabolism, to name only a few). It’s also a practice that may trigger people with ED histories, as noted in other comments, and I think it might also really deter and alienate people who are seriously overweight and/or undereducated about healthy eating. If I were struggling with my weight, or if I were simply distanced from the culture of healthy eating, trying to make small changes, and suddenly a number of my fitness-obsessed colleagues voted not to eat for three days: I’d probably feel a combination of resentment, anxiety, and fear. Not the best way to get inspired to start healthier habits!

As for weight loss challenges, I also don’t think they have a place in corporate settings. But I *do* think that healthy eating initiatives and education about food issues do. So I agree entirely that there’s something better than the office ice cream social or the 8 am meeting with bagels and muffins out there; I just wish it took the form of, say, optional healthy cooking classes for employees, fresh pressed juices rather than sodas as lunchroom beverage options, kale salad at the cafeteria salad bar, or perhaps lectures from inspiring plant-based professionals.

G

Reply

Carrie (Carrie on Vegan) July 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Yep, I like your take on the differences between something like the juice cleanse described in the article and more inclusive wellness programs offered in corporate settings. There are so many other options that are more appropriate. That being said, a course on plant-based (i.e. vegan) living would be great for everyone! :)

Reply

Debby Sunshine July 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Hi Gena!! I read this article too!! My brother just did the Blueprint Juice Cleanse (although not with his office) and he lost a quick 12 pounds. He feels great and claims that it jump started him into healthier eating (he’s been a vegetarian for many years but not the best eater, nevertheless). Despite its pitfalls, I still found it interesting that these cleanses are the new office trend.

Reply

Hannah July 15, 2012 at 5:41 am

I had, indeed, read this article before seeing your post, and am relieved (though I thought you would voice this opinion) to see/hear your concern with the rise of this behaviour. I must admit, one of my reactions to this was “For crying out loud, America!!” but then again, how do I know that this kind of thing isn’t going on in Australian high-powered offices? I have no idea. But I do know that I would not want to do business with, or interact with, people consuming 1200 calories a day on a juice cleanse. Knowing how cranky people in my (small) office (and in life!) can get simply when a meeting runs late and their lunch is delayed, I say ick and no and boo. Plus, as you say, add to this the triggering element?! Not simply just as anxiety, but for people who may be teetering on the brink of either tipping into our trying to clamber out of an ED, it may be extremely hard to resist the sly voice saying “this isn’t an ED, look, everyone’s doing it, you can eat less, consume less, you can do it again, and no one will notice…”

It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Reply

autumn July 15, 2012 at 6:33 am

Wow! I had no idea this was so widespread. My first thought too was that this is a huge trigger for someone who has dealt with an ED… Also puts someone who has history of ED or another medical condition that might lead them to opt out in a position where they feel pressured to disclose. YIKES! Thanks for the info and thoughts on this.

Reply

AmandaRunsNY July 15, 2012 at 8:06 am

I read the article and I thought that NY Times unfairly twisted this around. My take on this was that for most of the companies interviewed, it was just a group of employees who decided to do a juice fast together. Sure it fostered comradery by the “we’re all in this together” mentality, but with the exception of the small businesses (whose cultures are nothing like larger companies and rightfully so, as a company of 10 just cannot operate like a company of 300 or 3000), this is really no different than a bunch of coworkers joining weight watchers, training for a marathon, or going out to happy hour together.

My office is actually obsessed with health. We are all given a membership to Equinox and about half the office is on some sort of fitness kick (cross-fit, marathons, soul-cycle) and our fridge is full of diet food, juice, etc. On any given day, I see half of my coworkers in the gym at lunch and it’s perfectly acceptable – even encouraged. Sometimes, people are doing really crazy things – the master cleanse for example. I don’t find any of this to be triggering – I actually find it to be encouraging. We’re always talking about this stuff, both critizing and praising each other’s pursuits (I get called both for my marathoning). This is by far one of the best perks of my job. Now after working in this situation, I would gladly give up some salary to maintain this benefit. BTW – I work in Finance/Real Estate.

Reply

Gena July 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Amanda,

I totally agree that if this is all an “opt in if you want to!” enterprise, then it’s less triggering and problematic. Though I’d still say that it can create an office atmosphere in which dieting and abstinence from food is sanctioned and a peer pressure develops thereto, which isn’t healthful or respectful to people who, for various reasons, can’t partake in that sort of behavior.

But more importantly, I’d draw a big distinction between being “obsessed with health” and being obsessed with thinness/fitness. There’s nothing healthy about the master cleanse, for example, and saying that a fridge is full of diet food is certainly not the same as saying it’s full of healthy food. It’s anyone’s personal prerogative to be interested in fitness and maintaining a certain shape through dieting, but I think it’s a much more complicated issue within office environments. So I guess I’d say that of course coworkers can start these initiatives together in a private way, but my personal feeling is that it’s less savory when an office place is posting signs about the fast, encouraging folks to join the fast, emailing about the fast, and so on. (In fairness, I’ve no idea how much the management in these companies was actually involved in offering up the option to their employees, so if there was no involvement, then it’s a non-issue.)

G

Reply

AmandaRunsNY July 21, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I would whole heartedly agree with you that when these juice (or other more extreme health initiatives) come from management, that it would be a bad thing. But I’m not sure that any of the companies in the example where actively promoting the fast.

That said, I agree, with you that a company should create an atmosphere that is accomodating and accepting of all lifestyles. I was trying to say that my job promotes and encourages all sorts of lifestyles…not everyone is on the diets or partakes in the company gym membership, but no one feels wierd for bringing in green juices or for eating quinoa. This is in stark contrast to when I go to my Pennsylvania office and have to explain what quinoa is. If I wasn’t already comfortable in my diet, I can imagine I might just try to blend in and not bring my green juices, hemp seeds, kale chips, quinoa, and so forth to avoid all the questions and strange looks.

Reply

Christa @ Edible Balance July 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

While I completely understand the negative attachments to this, I do see a positive as well.

I lost 30 pounds about 4 years ago, and it started with a weight loss challenge at work. A bunch of coworkers decided to do it, and I could it to be quite motivating and received quite a bit of support from them and others in the office that were not participating. I have kept it off and learned an incredible amount since then and have transitioned to vegan in continuing this health journey. I don’t think I could have done it without that kind of support.

If a cleanse was done at my current workplace, I would see it as a teaching tool. Many coworkers come to me for advice and information already, so it would be a great way to show them that yes, doing a cleanse is difficult but here are the benefits of juice, and the benefits of cleaning up your diet long-term.

It’s sad to hear of a ‘walk of shame’ mentality. Whatever journey you are on, you should have the complete support no matter what happens. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Maybe I’m just the naive and eternal optimist ;)

Reply

Laura July 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Sounds triggering for just about everyone. ick. You should consult with companies on better choices (in all your spare time ;) )! I’d vote for fitness classes or walking/jogging/yoga groups. Or what about lunches where each person brings one fresh salad or salad topping, for a homemade salad bar?

Reply

Jade July 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I’ve seen this one happen a few times…while I like having a fasting buddy or a workout buddy, it only works well because it’s someone I CHOSE, not someone that was forced upon me in the name of team building! Kudos to those people who grow from it, though!

Reply

Annaleigh Belle July 16, 2012 at 11:35 am

It does say in the article that these fasts are not usually initiated by the companies – these are groups of individuals who do it together.

Reply

charles July 17, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I think I would rather fast with my coworkers than exercise with them, but fasting requires being restful something many workplaces might not tolerate, and done rite the juices involved should be freshly prepared, which means there would be a lot of juicing going on and not a lot of work. That would not bother me to much but I can see how the boss might not like it.

Reply

Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See July 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I completely agree with you. And to be honest, the word “cleanse” makes me nervous. To me, I can’t understand why we have developed this drastic need to purify our bodies. I’m not militant about my beliefs by any means, but it did make me think quite a bit when I even saw Whole Foods pushing a juice cleanse.

Reply

RandiJM July 18, 2012 at 3:41 pm

The prevalence of workplace fasts makes me so angry I can barely breathe, let alone put coherent thoughts together. Thanks for explaining so clearly what I’ve wanted to say to people.

Reply

Kristin July 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I’m someone who has recently undertaken fasting for a serious medical condition of intestinal endometriocis. Based on the severity of the pain I experienced my doctors think it’s time for another surgery. I rejected the drugs and have been “managing” the condition for the last 2 years w/ diet. The severe pain returned. The surgeon I want to see is in Oregon, so I need time to work out all of the logistics. I tried to avoid fasting. A 3 day live juice fast prior to my monthly cycle is recommended in my nutritional healing book. I suspect the point is to relieve the intestines of any pressure and alleviate the possibility of inflammation in the pelvis which causes the excruciating bad scary pain. Like I said before, I’ve maintained a thoughtful and healthy plant based diet for 5+ years. The 3rd day of my first fast was awful. Like I could barely lift my head and I wanted to cry constantly. I definitely did not binge prior to the fast or after the fast. I eased into the fast and prepared my body with all raw fruits and veggies days on either side of the fast. Prior to fasting I had been on a strict vegan, gluten free, 50%+ raw diet for 30 days. And it was still quite terrible. I cannot imagine asking someone with a Standard American Diet to randomly embark on a 3 day juice fast. I can’t imagine it begin effective or heathful to throw the body into shock this way. Fasting is not for weight loss or team building. For me, the fasting is working. I had no bad scary excruciating pain with my last cycle. I didn’t have to go to the ER (my biggest fear is not making it to Oregon). I am finishing up my 2nd fast and it’s been much better the second go round. I have not binged in the month between my fasts. In fact, my body has craved more raw foods than ever and my eating has probably been more mindful than ever. I would not expect Western physicians to create studies that show fasting is a useful health measure in lieu of testing of pharmaceuticals. I live in Texas. It was incredibly difficult to find an MD that respects, much less supports, my choice to say no to dangerous drugs. Much to my delight I finally found a gem. Anyways, I am proof that fasting can be healthful and healing. I wasn’t into it and didn’t want to do it. But I wanted to go to the ER even less than I wanted to fast. Now I’m a believer. Endometriocis is a painful and scary condition without much understanding or good information. If you read this, please send me wishes for good health and healing.

Reply

Gena July 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm

On behalf of the whole CR community, Kristin, I wish you good health and healing!! xo

Reply

Tiina July 19, 2012 at 6:11 am

Gena I loved your balanced views on this, you are such an amazing writer. It made me wonder about how to design a trial because as you say, there are really no studies on the benefits or even safety of juice fasting. It’s hard to find markers that accurately capture the body’s stress in physiologic terms over short and long time spans. I imagine that one would do blood tests before and after a period of juice fasting with a control group that was not, but what markers? When you are a doctor, I can imagine you doing this kind of research. You know I once wrote (pathetically I admit) a note to Dr. Oz asking him about this, you know, what is the data, what is the safety, is it OK to do this, but understandably I suppose, I didn’t get a response. Best of luck in your studies my dear. As I’ve said many times, you will make an amazing MD. Hang in there!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: