Yesterday at work I saw a sign announcing an event for the American Heart Association's Go Red campaign. It's nice to see the company supporting heart health...supporting it so very much actually, that they are giving out FREE SUNDAES to anyone that bought a pin! Anyone catching on to the irony yet? Here's the discussion that followed:
Email from me to 2 high ranking people in my company who I thought might be involved in this event:
"I think it's great to promote awareness of heart disease. But I'm having trouble with the idea of incentivizing people to come by giving away sundaes. It sends a mixed message, don't you think, since saturated fat from animal products is a leading cause of heart disease? Are you guys the right people to talk to or is someone else managing the actual event?"
At this point I was feeling nervous about having sent this email. I anticipated a negative response, or no response at all.
"You raise an interesting point. Maybe we serve healthier food! Mau, what do you think?"
After reading that someone saw my point and had taken it under consideration, I felt great! What a win!
Then this, from a woman at the front desk. She is a long-time employee, somewhat of a grandmother figure. Someone must have forwarded my message to her. Turns out she is involved in the event:
"Ice cream – very lo-fat, strawberries – no sugar added meaning they are healthy fruit and I mashed them myself in my kitchen, the chocolate sauce is fat free - I have kept this healthy and inexpensive since money is at a premium for these events that people want us to have but put on WORKLIFE budgets.
This is a fundraiser – we want to give the American Heart Association some money – if the kids here are worried about their health – that is their personal choice – they do not have to buy a pin or eat the sundae – and personally – I would not do anything to jeopardize their health - SUNDAES ARE FUN!!!
We are also trying to save money – I am not charging for the strawberries, or the M&M peanuts (some healthy item there), I am donating all this to save money – it’s a charity that is “close to my Heart” no pun intended – "
After reading this I was extremely frustrated. Clearly she means well and seems to feel insulted by my thoughts on food. But how to explain that even though SUNDAES ARE FUN, it doesn't mean it's the responsible thing to do? I decided that I'd said enough at this point and at least had a small win with the first response.
"I just could not live with myself if I didn’t suggest a healthy alternative for food. Ice cream is certainly the kind of processed food/animal product that causes heart disease, although I respect your attempt to keep it all low-fat and such. I’m still interested in the mixed message it sends to combine a heart-healthy event with ice cream. It’s a point that can be taken, disregarded, or simply considered next time! Thanks for responding."
Speaking my truth was exhilarating, truth be told. But what could I have done better? How could I have handled this in a way that would have made a real difference? And have you had experiences like this, speaking out about food choices in a way that maybe offends other people? Please share in the comments!