How Would You Deal With This Unhealthy Coworker?

office space lego

We all know that guy.

Or that girl.

That person in our office who loves to complain about EVERYTHING: the weather, politics, your boss…and anything relating to weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise.

He’s tried every diet and workout plan for less than a week, he blames everything on his slow metabolism, and claims that he’s doomed to failure because nothing works.

In reality, this person just lacks the patience, knowledge, and/or willpower to actually produce positive results.

Earlier this week, I saw a great thread in the Nerd Fitness message boards about a particular rebel who is struggling with one of her coworkers who makes very little effort to get healthy but has no problem complaining about how unhealthy she is.

What would YOU would do in her situation?

The Unhealthy, Complaining Co-Worker

office desk logo

This is the original post on the message boards:

Does anyone else here work with people who whine about being overweight?

One of the ladies that I work with whines about being overweight all day. I see her for a fair portion of the day from nine until five but I don’t see her all the time so I don’t know what she does with her life. I know that as she’s older (about sixty or so) which makes it harder to shift weight due to a slower metabolism. After whining about it for months and MONTHS I couldn’t take being positive to her anymore. I’d been saying things like, “it takes a while to lose weight, but you’ll get there!” and so on. I finally cracked and asked her what she was actually DOING to lose weight.

She’s not changed her diet at all and her only form of exercise is DIY and gardening, things which I know she makes excuses not to do every week. I could pretty much have summed up her explanation with “I exercise even less than I used to, which was very little, and I eat the same crap I always have. Why have I put on weight and can’t lose it?”

I really had to bite my tongue to not point that out to her because:

    • It would be pretty rude to phrase it like that
    • I have to spend 37 hours a week within six feet of this lady

But SERIOUSLY! I’ve talked about what I do for exercise and assured her than ANYONE can do it and I’ve explained to her all about Paleo and low carb etc. Not in a “you should do this” way but just because I talk about things that I’m interested in and she’s asked me a lot of questions about my weight loss success.

This is also the same woman who has probably about thirty times over the last month declared that I’m going to become “a big fat housefrau” now that I’m married. As if I was just losing weight for the wedding and I’m gonna start scarfing Krispy Kremes now.


How do I deal with this without screwing things up for myself at work?

My Thoughts

dilbert doll

This is tough.

Whether you have one co-worker who complains, or you’re the only healthy one in an entire office of unhealthy complainers, it’s really tough to stay positive when those around you are negative.  These people keep saying “I should do this” and then do nothing or “I tried that and it didn’t work”  when in reality they didn’t actually put any effort towards really trying.

To put it bluntly, these people suck at getting healthy.

Unfortunately, most office dullards find it’s much easier to complain and drag other people down instead of picking themselves up.  They figure if they can bring you down to their level, it makes them feel less guilty about being lazy.  If you have success, then they have no choice but to blame themselves for a lack of progress.

So, how do we deal with those that we have no choice but deal with on a daily basis?

For starters, you can’t just go around preaching and telling people how to live their lives – nobody likes that guy/girl.  On top of that, they’ll be even LESS likely to listen to your advice, no matter how helpful it is, because they feel like they’re being patronized and preached to.

Instead, here are my suggestions:

1) The BEST thing you can do is become Captain America.  Put on your suit of anti-negativity armor (yes, it exists) and inspire with your actions.  You can’t force people to get motivated – nobody wants to be told what to do – but as you continue to make great choices, day after day, week after week, month after your month, your coworkers will definitely take notice of your changed appearance and positive confident behavior.  It might take months, a year, or even longer, but eventually they’ll start to subtly ask questions about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.  At this point, you can proudly offer up advice in a non-preachy way.

My favorite response from the community had a similar idea:

The best way to get over your frustration with what other people say about your fitness attempts/goals or do to reach their own goals, in my opinion, is to kick a$$ at what you’re doing and leave them in the dust.  What was that? Oh I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how ****ing awesome I am!!!

2) Share great articles with them.  There’s a way to help people without blatantly calling them out.  Rather than telling them “hey you need to read this and lose weight,” you can say things like “hey, I discovered this great resource; I know you love Star Wars/Zelda/Shawshank/Mario and thought you might enjoy this” or “hey I’m thinking of trying out this diet advice or workout, what are your thoughts on it?”  You’re getting them involved and reading without telling them what to do.

3) Invite them to “level up” with you.  If they are asking questions, then they’re at least slightly interested in improving their lives.  Explain to them you need a workout buddy to keep yourself accountable.  Explain you found this GREAT AND AWESOME RESOURCE called Nerd Fitness 🙂 and you want somebody to work with to stay on target.  Maybe you can suggest cooking meals and bringing them into the office for the two of you to share.  This method only works if they are serious about getting started though; you can’t sacrifice your own efforts by trying to drag dead weight along with you for the ride.

4) Start a competition.   People love to win stuff.  If you have an a few people in your office looking to lose weight, why not lead the charge by creating a fat-loss competition?  Tell your coworkers that you really want to get in shape for ______________ and you’d love to have some fun motivation to get there – a six week challenge where everybody throws in fifty bucks:  whoever loses the most body fat in that time the prize.  Once you start the email chain on the contest, then you can start sharing helpful and beneficial articles without having to tell them “DO THIS, SUCKA!”

5) Be patient and understanding.  Don’t forget, before you were full of fantastic knowledge about eating healthy and proper training, you were a total newbie too.  Some people might not be ready, and they might not be ready for a while.  It doesn’t make them bad people, it just means they’re not at a place yet where they’re ready to make a change.

Saint and I emailed each other for two years before he was ready to clean up his diet and strength train.  It wasn’t that Saint was a failure before, he just wasn’t ready to get started.  Once he finally reached that tipping point, he became an absolute dragon-slayer.

Do what you can to stay positive and supportive while being that quiet leader who continues to have success and inspire.

6) Don’t let them get you down.  Some people just suck.  I’m not trying to be mean, but that’s the way it is!  They are miserable, they’ve been miserable for decades, they love wallowing in their self-misery, and they will pull as many people down in the gutter with them as possible.  These people want you to either:

  • Join their pity party, or…
  • Pamper them, telling them “No, it’s not like that. You look great and are awesome!”

These vampires can easily suck the life out of you and make you question your own decisions, so it’s better to avoid them all together.  If you can’t avoid them because you have to work with them, then recognize the fact that their words are useless.

Once you’ve identified that these complaints are without merits, it’s almost comical to listen to how much they complain and complain without actually getting anything done.  As soon as they bring up the “I can’t lose weight” behavior and you’ve exhausted all other options, simply ignore the comment or say something like “That stinks. Anyways, about these spreadsheets.”  You’ve put enough effort in, focus on YOU and they may choose to come around eventually – if not, it’s not your problem.

Do they complain WAYYYY TOO MUCH?  Make a game out of it  Start keeping track on a post-it note every time he/she complains and see how many complaints you hear in a week – I’d recommend keeping this game to yourself, unless this person is somebody you’re close enough with to offer up some tough love eventually:

They might need to hear: “So far, you’ve complained thirty-four times this month about being overweight.  Let’s talk about what you’re doing to fix that.”

How Would You Respond?

lego man and desk

That’s what I would recommend.

What sort of advice do YOU have?  

Have you successfully dealt with the complainer at your office? How did you do it?

Is it better to try and help out, or is it not worth the time and effort to try and help somebody that doesn’t wanted to be helped?


PS.  Speaking of leveling up, a few weeks from now, we’ll be starting the next 6-week challenge on the Nerd Fitness message boards.  Within the next week, I’m going to be releasing details on The Level Up Club, a project we’re going to make available to a small, select group of people, in addition to the regular free six week challenge on the boards.  Over those six weeks, this small group will work with Staci, myself, and the other rebels involved to learn exactly how to build powerful habits and have success towards building a leveled up life.

More details are coming VERY soon on The Level Up Club, including how much it will cost, what it will include, and the type of person we’re looking for to participate.  I’m only looking for rebels who are actually willing to put in the time and effort consistently over six weeks.  Everything will continue as normal around here at NF; this will just be for people who are looking for more specific direction and daily accountability.


photo sources: office space lego, Dilbert, lego desk, lego man and desk

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