update: my coworker acts like the food police

Remember the letter-writer last December whose coworker was constantly policing and commenting on people’s food choices? Here’s the update.

I don’t have MUCH of an update on this issue, but did want to mention something that happened recently. I was in the break room with two coworkers — one being the Food Police — and overheard a conversation that went something like:

Totally normal coworker eating a totally normal broccoli/cheese/rice casserole: (insert some sort of justification for why they’re “allowed” to eat this normal meal)
Food Police: Well, it’s not healthy because of carbs.
Me: *rips headphones out of ears* You need carbs to function. Most of our energy comes from carbs.
FP: Well, yeah.
Normal coworker: Really? I didn’t know that!
Me: In fact, you need x grams of carbs per day just for brain function.
FP: Don’t tell her THAT.

Anyway, I basically just told him I wasn’t going to stand back if I heard terrible nutrition advice. Normal Coworker actually thanked me multiple times just for sharing the bit of nutrition knowledge I have with her (I assume because it legalized a necessary macro nutrient that’s been absurdly demonized by loads of people). Not a huge update and it may not solve the problem, but I was at least able to speak up both to the Food Police and for a coworker who was just trying to eat her lunch.

A major reason I wanted to write, though, was to thank all of your commenters. I have been SO encouraged reading through the comments on a lot of posts — but especially the food-related ones. Sometimes being in eating disorder recovery feels like challenging the entire world because the concept of nutritional balance without loads of food rules isn’t spoken or written about much. Reading input from SO many people who seem to have a grasp on what overall wellness and normalized eating looks like has really helped me understand what healthy thought patterns regarding food look like. This is such a supportive and understanding community. I really appreciate it.

{ 285 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Thank you. They were, frankly, stressing me out quite a bit.

      Reply
  1. Amber T

    YESSSS. SHUT HIM DOWN. There is nothing worse that know-it-alls who actually know nothing and spout nonsense. Good for you for sticking up for yourself and your coworkers!!!

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      What REALLY annoyed me was that, after admitting that he knew that carbs are our main source of energy, he told me not to tell her how many carbs are necessary for brain function. Like, “Sure, you need carbs, but don’t tell her how many she needs because she’ll obviously overdo it.”

      I don’t know that that was his intent, but it sure seemed like it.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It seems like an attempt at an alliance with somebody who had authority in the moment–“You and I can handle this information, but the plebs won’t understand.” He’s scrambling to get his cred back after whiffing on the carbs by pretending not only that he knew it but that it was the sophistication of the concept that kept him from mentioning it during his policing.

        Reply
          1. Hotstreak

            It’s odd since they are both actually incorrect. Many people thrive on what’s called a Ketogenic diet, with virtually zero carbohydrate (like, only from spinach and broccoli). Entire populations of people such the Inuit have survived long periods of time without access to carbohydrate dense foods. I say this just to show that even the food police can be wrong and there is a huge amount of conflicting or incorrect information available about nutrition since it’s such a new science.

            Reply
            1. LNZ

              I actually just finished a year working on the North Slope Borough in Alaska (aka inside the arctic circle) and honestly that is a gross oversimplification of Inuit diets (i worked specific with Inupiaq diets) and actually kind of a stereotype. Traditional there were some carbs in Inupiaq diets, tundra greens, berries, and even root type vegetables are massively important, as were un/half digested greens harvested from the stomach of hunted caribou. Fermenting plants or storing them in containers with seal oil is how they stored greens for winter. The blubber from whales and walrus make up a huge part of the diet, blubber is a lot different from the fat of land mammals and not something the average person can get outside of the arctic region. There is also some evidence to point to genetic variations in all circumpolar people that lets them utilize fat differently (though the research is on going and not totally conclusive yet).

              Reply
              1. Bobbin Ufgood

                Hotstreak – OP is not incorrect – although one’s brain can run on ketones (which can be very useful in suppressing seizures for reasons that no one understands) and individuals with rare inborn errors of metabolism who cannot tolerate carbohydrates can survive on a ketogenic diet when a normal diet would kill them, the brain’s preferred energy source is glucose.

                Individuals who do not have a serious neurological disorder or a rare inborn error of metabolism will feel and function better with adequate carbohydrates.

                P.S. Way to go, OP!

                Reply
              2. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

                This sounds super fascinating. Things are often so much more complicated than we realize.

                Reply
                1. LNZ

                  The entire experience really brought home for me how much we still don’t know about the human body and nutrition, especially for nutrition as it relates to indigenous peoples diets and health (because science can still be very eurocentric).

                2. JessaB

                  Yes, every year now the experts come up with something that contradicts what was said years ago. Yes eggs, no eggs, yes carbs, no carbs. They’re really only starting to do in depth science about it. Personally, if it doesn’t make me feel ill, I’m going to eat it. But good on you OP for getting out the truth of things at least as well as science knows it today.

                1. LNZ

                  It was one of the most amazing years of my life honestly. The tundra is just so filled with life, it was shocking seeing it in person.

              3. Chatterby

                That is super fascinating.
                I had read somewhere that the Inuit diet is high in vitamin D, which is usually hard to find in food form, and most humans have to get via sunshine. Lack of vitamin D can cause major birth defects and other bad things like rickets. Because their diet contained enough vitamin D, Inuit populations never needed to evolve towards paleness, like what happened in the northern parts of Europe and Asia, which I also found very fascinating.
                I also read somewhere that polar bear liver is so vitamin rich that eating even a small amount can kill you via Hypervitaminosis A.

                Reply
                1. LNZ

                  Whale blubber is very rich in Vitamin D (it’s also super delicious), a yeah you can’t get much vitamin D from the sunlight up there even during the period where the sun doesn’t set for 80 or so days because you have to stay so covered up.
                  Also yes polar bear liver is massively deadly. I believe it specifically the over abundance of potassium but I’m not positive. It was actually one of the first things i was warned about, don’t eat any polar bear meat if you don’t trust the person who butchered the bear with your life. It’s not just the liver itself but if during the butchering process the juices from the liver spill onto the rest of the meat that meat then becomes toxic too. A friend who was born and raised On Slope told me her uncle actually got sick just because he forgot he had been handling the liver and rubbed his face without thinking and it got in his mouth. He only suffered a small bit of facial numbness and recovered after about a month.

                2. ThatAspie

                  Topic related. I used to suffer from mild hypermagnesemia (barely bad enough to be symptomatic, but it did hurt), purely because of overdoing it on magnesium-rich foods. Had to cut back on many healthy staples for a while to get my magnesium levels down to a normal level. So, yeah it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and that is why, if you keep having painful muscle spasms, looking into your magnesium levels can sometimes reveal an answer.

                  I am all better now, so I can eat lentil soup for dinner and still walk properly the next day. Just, y’know, gotta be careful not to overdo it again, just as one has to be careful not to eat too much of any one thing.

              4. Falling Diphthong

                That is fascinating about the half-digested greens. I knew lions did that, but hadn’t realized people could use the same trick.

                Reply
                1. LNZ

                  Sadly that is a dying skill, or at least it is in this part of Alaska, due to colonization and the westernization of native diets. A lot of the social leaders i spoke to feel the massive uptick in colorectal cancers in the local population is due to the lost of traditional fermented greens in Inupiaq diets.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Eff this guy straight to hell. “Oh, please don’t correct my faulty and abusive dietary advice because I think all my coworkers are slobs with no self-control or health awareness.” I really hope your coworkers notice and start shutting him down, too.

        Reply
        1. Soni Pitts

          > “Oh, please don’t correct my faulty and abusive dietary advice because I think all my coworkers are slobs with no self-control or health awareness.”

          And even if they ARE, that’s still NONE OF HIS BUSINESS! He is NOT their mom, or their doctor, or their spouse. Who, IMHO, are the only ones who ever get to have ANY say in what you eat (and even then, you’re entitled to tell them to bugger off if you want to, since you’re the one who has to live with the consequences). Holy hell, it’s amazing he’s still able to stand upright under the sheer weight of all the bullshit entitlement he carries around with him every day.

          Reply
          1. RVA Cat

            So many problems would be solved if people would just butt the heck out of what other people put into or do with their own bodies!

            Reply
          2. pope suburban

            Sometimes I want to get an old Dear Abby line tattooed on my hand so that when someone is fixing to be rude, I can just hold it up and let them read, “Is it true? Is it useful? Is it kind?” before finishing their sentence. Someone’s looks or diet or hobbies cannot and should not revoke their right to be treated with basic human dignity and respect. All the “being right” in the world is no substitute for common courtesy, especially when it comes to situations where people need to work together as a team to accomplish something- like, I don’t know, work? Or having a functioning society?

            Reply
            1. Augusta Sugarbean

              And the Craig Ferguson Corollary:
              Does this need to be said?
              Does this need to be said by me?
              Does this need to be said by me right now?

              Reply
      3. o.b.

        I am really impressed you were polite and informative, because I am dying to icily shut him right the **** down. (Also, EDNOS recovered/(always recovering) here. Sending lots of good vibes and support.)

        Reply
        1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

          High fives for recovery! I’m considered EDNOS/OSFED myself (atypical anorexia). I’m glad that you’re in that process! It’s so worth it!

          Reply
          1. Nic

            I wanted to thank you for posting about EDNOS / OSFED. I’d never heard those terms, and with a bit of additional poking around I think there’s a high chance I fall into a similar category. It’s nice to know that not only am I not alone, there are enough of us to have a name!

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              I have always loved that. When someone hands you the name of something it’s like the little voice in the back of your head that wonders if you’re dreaming things that are not real, shuts up and you get to go, “see I have a thing, it’s a real thing.”

              Reply
          2. glor

            I can’t believe how excited/incredibly awed to find another atypical anorexic here! I relapsed in March… ish… and am still struggling but getting there.

            Congrats to you on your recovery journey!

            Reply
        2. SusanIvanova

          No worries, Miss Manners assures us that icy is both polite and appropriate in situations like this :)

          Reply
      4. lawyer

        Also in ED recovery and I remember having to convince a friend once that it was okay to eat some fat because fat is literally necessary for the walls of your cells to stick together.

        The funny thing is that I was the “sick” one and she was the “normal” one. Because we consider having a brutally unhealthy relationship with food to be “normal” in our society.

        Reply
        1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

          Being in ED recovery involves SO MUCH nutrition education…haha…I think we do end up understanding general physiology a lot better than the average people because we basically have to in order to convince ourselves to actually eat a varied diet.

          Reply
          1. lawyer

            In addition to knowing a ton more about nutrition, at this point (I’ve been recovered for 13 years at this point), I also have a much better body image than literally any woman I know in real life. Because all that therapy? It actually worked for me! My treatment was effective! And now I’m super-happy with my body and my relationship to food.

            What is depressing is that I’m the exception, and that so many of my friends have a terribly emotionally charged and unhealthy relationship to food and are unable to consistently feel love for their bodies. And yet none of them are considered sick, because our society’s relationship to food and the body is so screwy that we have normalized an unhealthy relationship ( because our current diagnostic criteria will not classify a person as disordered, no matter how sick she is mentally/emotionally, unless certain weight and behavior boxes are checked).

            I had to email our HR department last year to complain about an email that encouraged employees to sign up for our corporate wellness program so that gossipy aunts wouldn’t make fun of your weight when you went home for Thanksgiving. Fortunately, they were receptive – and have since taken steps to ensure that the programming doesn’t portray this as a weight-loss program, but rather as a health program. (So smoking cessation and stress management are both now supported activities – it’s not just WW meetings in the conference room.)

            Reply
            1. Jadelyn

              I’ve noticed the same thing – between recovering from ED and discovering the fat positivity movement, I know more about nutrition and have a healthier relationship with both food and my body than any of the “normal” people I know. I think it’s because in treatment and recovery (and via activism too if you do that) you have to confront and unpack the invisible cultural norms around food and bodies and weight; you don’t have a choice about that. Whereas if you never actually slip over the line into needing treatment, you can continue uncritically living under those assumptions and norms without ever even realizing that’s what you’re doing.

              Silver lining, I suppose.

              Reply
        2. Bobbin Ufgood

          exactly, lawyer — also, muscles really like to use fat for energy and completely eliminating fat can cause muscle breakdown with secondary kidney injury — I’ve seen it — never want to see it again

          also agree that having a disordered understanding of and emotional relationship with and to food is baseline in our culture

          Reply
            1. JessaB

              MJ you have now learnt the number one rule of reading this blog, do not be eating/drinking or doing anything that might cause you to do a spit take over your computer. We’ve all probably done it at least once. I really think Alison should put it in the comment guidelines, be aware of potential spit takes or snorking of various beverages up your nose.

              Reply
      5. Say what, now?

        Also, if she’s “normal” (by that I take it you mean a person within healthy weight parameters), then isn’t her body proof that she can handle this information without his guidelines? I mean if she’s not packing on 10 pounds a week she probably has a good regulation of carbs/fat/protein in her diet already.

        Reply
        1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

          I honestly don’t care about her weight parameters. They truly don’t matter. Even if someone was eating in an unbalanced manner, having information given to them shouldn’t be prohibited. (Not to mention people can be healthy at a variety of sizes which can be determined in part by genetics. I don’t see all of her life, nor does he, so I certainly can’t even begin to speculate if she falls on the spectrum of being healthy. It still doesn’t matter.)

          Reply
          1. Karen D

            Exactly. Exactly! Food Police is being offensive, overbearing and inappropriate when he attempts to comment on other people’s nutrition choices. He doesn’t know what is going on in their lives and he keeps trampling right over the boundary into offensive territory.

            At this point, I would give him clear and consistent direction, because he can’t see the line for himself: Anything beyond a mild “that looks yummy” or possibly a request for a particular recipe is a no-go. And if he can’t manage that, he should be told “You know what? Don’t talk about people’s food. At all. Because you are doing it wrong and you don’t seem to be able to stay on the right side of the line.”

            Reply
          2. I used to be Murphy

            Thank you for this! And, even if she is wildly unhealthy, it’s still none of his fucking business what she puts into her body. She’s a grown-ass woman and can make her own decisions. Concern trolling is still trolling.

            Reply
      6. Artemesia

        The only response to this sort of jerk is ‘Please do not comment on what I eat.’ followed by ‘Do not comment on what I eat; it is no concern of yours.’ to ‘I am feeling harassed by you; I have asked you repeatedly to stop bullying me about what I eat. I never want to hear another word about it from you.’ A trip to HR at about this point. This should not be allowed to persist in a workplace.

        Reply
        1. Liz T

          Agreed. People in this office shouldn’t have to bone up on nutrition to shut him up. He could be technically CORRECT about nutrition and he should still shut up.

          Reply
      7. Fluffer Nutter

        OP- good for you on all levels! I had to shut down the FP at Old Job with an anon note in the VP’s box. FP was too senior, and too clueless to approach him directly. Most of the worker bees called him “The Walking Lawsuit.” I wish I could have gone all musk ox on him! Best of luck to you and please send any more updates.

        Reply
      8. motherofdragons

        Ugh, that is so weird of him. Good on you for standing up to him! And your username gives me much joy!

        Reply
      9. Specialk9

        I’d take a new strategy. Every time this obnoxious co-worker is being the food police, start loudly making a siren noise “NEENER NEENER THIS IS THE FOOD POLICE WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP THIS IS THE FOOD POLICE ”

        Even better if all of you who are annoyed start doing it at once. When being bullied, calling it out super explicitly, in a faux-joking way, can be powerful.

        Reply
    2. Specialk9

      “I want you to know how concerned I am about your orthorexia. If you ever need any resources for getting help with your eating disorder, I can help.”

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Oh, last idea – make up a poster that says something like
        “No Food Police
        Food is a personal choice
        Do not create a hostile work environment.”

        Post it in the lunch room. It’ll help people know it’s not just them, and it’s ok to speak up.

        Reply
  2. B

    I would actually say this is a HUGE update. How wonderful you said something to the food police, shutting him down, and ended up sticking up for your coworker. I can only imagine just how grateful she was not only for you speaking but also for imparting your knowledgeable wisdom. Absolutely wonderful.

    Reply
    1. AMPG

      I was coming in to say the same thing. It may have been a small interaction, but it sounds like it was really empowering for you, OP. I hope you’ll do it again when the situation warrants.

      Reply
      1. motherofdragons

        Empowering for OP for sure, AND possibly empowering for that other coworker, and anyone else in earshot. Sometimes it takes one person standing up to a jerk to help others find their courage to do so. I very much hope that is the case at OP’s workplace!

        Reply
  3. Jeanne

    Good for you. There’s no reason to let food police run your lives. You’re adults and can police your own food. I think all of you should speak up even if it’s to say “Go away. I don’t care what you think.”

    Reply
  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    This was so brave and excellent of you, OP! I’m glad you shut it down, and I hope your coworkers see your example and also start shutting him down.

    I actually *seethed* when I read “Don’t tell her THAT.” Seriously?? This guy is a menace. (That’s the nicest word I could come up with for how I feel about him.)

    Reply
  5. Carla

    Well done, LW! It is all too easy to attach feelings of shame and other unhealthy mindsets to food, especially when people around you are policing what you eat. No one should have to experience that.

    Reply
  6. Jaguar

    Is the “brain needs carbs” thing actually true? My understanding was that if you eat a normal amount of carbs (and you should), it’s what fuels your brain, but if you’re substituting something else, your brain will run fine on that instead. But I might be misinformed.

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Your brain runs on glucose, which is a simple sugar. I mean, the body is resilient and can last awhile in a lot of crappy conditions, but thriving without a minimal number of carbohydrates isn’t going to happen.

      (Drawing from my personal experience: when I was in a period of quasi-recovery from my ED where I was technically eating enough and would occasionally eat bread and dessert but overall restricted carbs on a daily basis so said bread and dessert wouldn’t cause a crushing amount of guilt, my body definitely wasn’t working the way it should have been. I know this because as soon as I started incorporating carbs into my regular diet at the instruction of my dietitian, my hair started growing, nails stopped peeling, and my skin didn’t break out as much. Additionally, I had more energy. Any time I’ve started to restrict carbs again, I’ve crashed HARD. Now, everyone’s needs are different and different types of carbs are digested differently by the body, but people do still need carbs…and everyone’s brain needs glucose for fuel.)

      Reply
      1. Hills to die on

        I’m so glad you are in recovery. I just want to hug you reading what you were doing to your poor body. <3

        Reply
        1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

          Thanks. It really got bad last year. I actually thought about some of the stuff a few months ago and wanted to cry because all I could think was that it was SO SAD that I’d abused myself like that.

          Reply
          1. R

            OP, what matters is you brought yourself back. I’ve been there, and it’s so difficult—power to you. We are very resilient creatures.

            Reply
    2. Just Another Techie

      It doesn’t actually matter because no one owes it to their coworker, or anyone else for that matter, to eat the most perfectly efficient diet for weight loss. “I want to eat this broccoli casserole” is a good enough reason for literally anyone in the world except Perfectly Normal Coworker’s dietician, who I’m guessing is not Annoying Food Police Dude.

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        This attitude about being obsessed with “the most optimal/efficient way” really irritates the heck out of me.

        I drive an automatic because I’m not going to save all that much gas religiously short-shifting a manual. I don’t buy whole chickens or sides of beef because I don’t have the time to butcher or room to store them. I don’t shave with a straight razor because that’s crazy. I bought a new car instead of used because I wanted to and I could afford it.

        You don’t measure people using Big O notation.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          A million times this! It’s literally something I’ve had to work on with my therapist because one of the ways my hyper-perfectionist tendencies manifest is through an obsession with always being perfectly efficient. I still have to remind myself that if the thing gets done, it’s not always a matter of life and death whether I did it in the most perfectly efficient way possible. And as such, it drives me up a wall when people start on the “buying in bulk is more efficient!” Okay, but I don’t have the storage space and don’t like buying in bulk. Let me waste a few pennies. They’re my pennies to waste anyway.

          I think some people just need to feel superior and so they latch onto doing things The One Right Way so they can lord it over everyone who doesn’t do it that way.

          Reply
          1. The Strand

            It’s also insecurity that drives some people to “have the best, be the best”, in every way. It keeps them from actually looking at their life and saying, “This is actually meaningful to me,” “This doesn’t work for me,” and then making the kind of decisions Mike C is describing – large and small. It’s like the kid in high school who doesn’t want to admit he or she has a crush on someone unpopular, because the other kids’ view of the choice is (at that time) more important than the choice itself. Most people grow out of this, but others don’t.

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            1. PlainJane

              So much this–and the comments above. “Living the right way” is living in accordance with *your* values, not someone else’s. If it’s meaningful to you–and you can afford it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone else–go for it. It’s no one else’s business.

              Reply
          2. Argh!

            I have a coworker who is an extreme perfectionist and she does see it as a moral failing if others don’t do all those things, but it’s because she’s driven by a moral standard that tortures her into believing all her clothes have to come from Goodwill, and she has to drive a Prius to save the planet, and food should come from local farmers’ markets, etc. I don’t think she wants to feel superior to others. She just can’t help it because she’s put all this onto herself and she really doesn’t understand other people. I believe she has OCPD (Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder — not the same as OCD) Her perfectionism actually gets in the way of her work performance because if she can’t figure out the One True Path ™ she is paralyzed. She sometimes comes to me for help with decisions that to me seem totally obvious, but she goes into mental rabbit holes that have no pathway to sunlight and she just gets stuck. Even with things that are totally reversible, if she can’t make a 100+% commitment with 100+% assurance she will be right she will come to a dead stop on whatever has her puzzled.

            She seems self-satisfied with her miserly lifestyle but she also seems strait-jacketed by it. Feeling superior to others is definitely not her motive. She just wants to be happy by not torturing herself with guilt, and having other people reflect her weird point of view keeps her from having to question her morality.

            Reply
            1. Argh!

              (and looking back on this I’m not sure where the post I meant to reply to is … please forgive me, commentariat. I am not a perfectionist!)

              Reply
            2. Mb13

              In defense of goodwill I go to the one by the rich neighborhoods in my city and I almost always find a 200$+ dress for 12 dolllars. And since I am frequent costumers most of there employees know me and usually give me a discount. Goodwill is a beautiful and marvelous place

              Reply
        2. Just Another Techie

          I mean, hilariously, I follow a strict paleo diet and do crossfit and drive a manual and also can my own vegetables in the summer, because I get a lot satisfaction from those activities, and from other ways finding the most efficient ways to conduct my life. But like, that’s my choice, and I’m not running around trying to evangelize my lifestyle to everyone, and sure as h*** not my coworkers. (Okay, I do bug my coworkers about inefficient code, but that’s within the scope of our jobs.)

          Reply
        3. Fictional Butt

          Plus, I’ve noticed that the thing that is “most efficient” in one way (say, money) often wastes a substantial amount of a different resource (time, storage space, energy, your family’s patience…)

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            This is a great point. You can either spend a lot of time and energy doing X yourself, or you can spend some money and have someone else do it for you. It’s all currency, you just have to decide which currency you’re willing to part with. Sometimes parting with time and effort is fine with me (or I lack the money) – sometimes I want to prioritize my time and energy and am willing to part with money instead. But that’s an entirely personal choice in each circumstance.

            Reply
          1. Paquita

            YES! DH has back and shoulder issues, and I can’t mow a straight line. Plus the holes and roots and magnolia leaves. I gladly pay someone to deal with all that.

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        4. Turtle Candle

          YES, thank you! I do plenty of inefficient and even downright silly things, and that is my right.

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        5. Emily

          So much this, except for me it’s with car stuff. I don’t particularly enjoy mechanical work, I don’t want to change the oil/tires/filters on my car, I don’t care about being The Best At Maintaining Cars, I’m afraid of messing something up and hurting myself or the car, and I have the money to pay other people to do these things for me. But I feel like with some people I know (including some friends), it’s considered morally and financially superior to do all of these things yourself.

          (I also have to remind myself that I don’t need to justify owning Nice Things – like, as a very casual cyclist I probably don’t need the super fancy bike bag that I just bought, but it makes me happy and works really well for my needs, which in turn makes me much more likely to use the bike.)

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        6. Princess Carolyn

          This reply is making me feel so much better about so many of my life choices. Sometimes I am suboptimal and that’s OK. Thank you!

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        7. Specialk9

          As a long time stick shift driver, we are decades past the point of stick shift getting better fuel efficiency. Computers are simpy better at it than we are. (Not your main point, but still. )

          Reply
      2. LNZ

        One of things about Food Policing i hate most is it acts like food is just fuel for you body and you should only get enough to not get sick. Food has so much culture and history and straight up pleasure wrapped up into it that acting like we should all only eat the most perfectly efficient diet is just willfully obtuse.

        Reply
        1. seejay

          And this is why I eat burgers and pizza and tell people who try to monitor my food intake to shove it where the sun don’t shine. I *like* food and what it tastes like and while I also eat healthy, I love junk food.

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          1. LNZ

            At my last job i did health cooking classes in the villages of Alaska’s North Slope and for a health fair we made roasted chickpeas covered in cinnamon and brown sugar, we are talking 1 table spoon of each for about 6 cans btw. It was mind boggling how many adults were like this supposed to be healthy why did you put sugar in it? Like maybe because make it taste good is the best way to get people to eat healthy

            Reply
              1. LNZ

                It’s super simple (one of the reasons i chose it) you get a few can of chick peas and drain/rinse them then lightly coat them in oil and spread them out evenly on a pan. Preheat the oven to 350F and then pop the pan in and check on it every 20 min to stir the peas around to make sure they roast evenly. Pull it out when they are sufficiently crunchy (about an hr). Then in a bowl mix 1 tbs cinnamon with 1tbs sugar and toss the peas in, string til they are coated in the sugar. Make sure you put them on a large plate or something to cool, if you’re not careful the heat can make condensation and that makes the sugar and peas kinda mushy and gooy

                Reply
        2. PlainJane

          Yes! Sure, most of us want to take care of our health, but eating is about a lot more than that. I love food–healthy food, fast food, junk food–almost all food. And I’m going to die of something at some point no matter what I do or don’t eat, so if I want the damn cookie, I’m eating it. Life is short, and there’s no reward for leaving behind a nicely-preserved corpse.

          Reply
          1. LNZ

            It’s also super ironic because it’s been pretty well proven that the best way to make a weight loss/health improvement diet fail is to tell someone they can never ever have the “bad” food they love the most.

            Reply
        3. Merci Dee

          I like this. You’re so right about culture and history being wrapped up in food. This is the exact reason we have things like Mexican, Italian, German, Korean, and every-othevery-other-nationality-you-can-think-of restaurants. Social scientists will tell you that one of the best ways to understand a different culture is to examine its food. And local cuisine can even pinpoint specific regions in a particular country.

          It’s pretty easy to tell I’m from the southern U.S. when I sit down with a plate of collard greens, fried squash (which isn’t really fried, but cooked down until it’s delicious and caramelized), fried okra (which really is fried), sliced tomatoes, and steaming hot corn bread. This is the food I grew up with, and it really is comfort to me at the end of a hard day – and I thank God for every bite.

          And now I’ve made myself hungry … time for dinner!

          Reply
      3. Artemesia

        This. I am not obligated to eat healthy, whatever that is, to please you. Just as the only reason I need to break up with someone is ‘I want to.’

        Reply
  7. Rebecca

    So glad to hear this! We don’t have a one size fits all diet, all humans are different, and what is healthy for me could literally put someone else in the hospital due to food allergies.

    Reply
    1. kb

      Healthy is overall such an ambiguous term! There’s this dude in my office who is anti-fruit because it has too much sugar. My frozen mint- watermelon pops (I make it myself with just watermelon and mint put through the blender and into a popsicle mold) may have more sugar than he wants, but they are significantly better than my previous afternoon Mountain Dew habit.

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        I should have said “what I consider healthy for me”. I totally get you, though, and I love watermelon and can I ask what kind of mint? There is a ton of spearmint in my neighborhood. Someone had it in a garden once and it got away from them.

        Reply
        1. kb

          Oh, I was agreeing with you! Healthy for you may not be healthy for me. And healthy for me in my more sedentary winter months may not be healthy for me in my active summer months. There’s just so much variation in where people are coming from.
          And I actually experiment with different types of mint. Spearmint is good and gives a really strong mint flavor, but my favorite with watermelon is Lemon mint.

          Reply
        1. kb

          I don’t have formal ratio because the potency of the mint varies so much between types (and even by plant). I would start with 1 large leaf of mint per cup of watermelon, then taste test. I don’t usually add anything more than that, but a little sugar and lemon zest can make the flavor more intense and turn them into more of a dessert popsicle.

          Reply
          1. kb

            Though I would start with a ratio 1: 1 (esp if you’re using a potent variety like spearmint), I have used ratios towards 5 leaves: 1 cup. Have quite a bit of mint handy, if you can.

            Reply
  8. paul

    I still prefer a simple, pointed, icy, “My diet is not your concern”. Screw justifying it or explaining it.

    Reply
    1. Searching

      ^ This! Anything else just invites more arguments from Food Police. It’s his rude behavior that’s the biggest problem, more than his nutrition knowledge (or lack thereof).

      Reply
      1. Brandy

        Exactly. I don’t need to justify to you my food or anything. This makes me want to put out a spread of “bad or junk” food and chow down.

        Reply
    2. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      If it had been directed toward me specifically, I’d have said something along the lines of, “Oh, let me get my dietitian’s number for you so you can discuss your concerns about my diet with her!”, but it was directed at someone else, so I would have felt weird about being that direct. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I think what you did was great. You can’t give *all* the possible great responses–one is fine :-).

        Reply
      2. Violet Fox

        I would ask him when he became a doctor or a dietician when he starts doing that to people, because really that sort of commenting on coworkers food is just rude, obnoxious, and needs to be shut down.

        Reply
        1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

          That is actually exactly what I told him when I first heard him do it a couple of years ago, but it didn’t actually affect behavior. Haha…

          Reply
    3. Liz T

      Yeah, it’s like that bodybuilding hobbyist who was being pestered by a nutritionist his office had hired. The issue wasn’t that she was wrong about salt–it’s that she was harassing people who didn’t want her advice.

      Reply
  9. Here we go again

    Oh goodness.

    Seriously, nutrition advice changes on a weekly basis and it is so individualized that making comments like that are so obnoxious. I think I would’ve given you a standing ovation. OP, kudos to you for standing up to him!

    Reply
  10. Malibu Stacey

    Is he like this about any other topics out of curiosity? Whatever you car you drive was a rip-off, a POS, or will for sure get stolen? You live in the wrong kind of house or wrong neighborhood? You went to the wrong college or send your kids to the wrong school? Just wondering because I have rarely met a contrarian who didn’t like to branch out. :)

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      I have very little contact with him outside of the break room, so I’m honestly not sure.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        That sounds like a net plus. FP types, especially this sub-genre, tend to be fairly hard to take in large doses even when food isn’t the topic.

        Reply
    2. Adlib

      Oh gosh yeah. Contrarians are the worst. Unfortunately, a friend of mine is one. I sometimes wonder how we’re still friends. (It doesn’t matter what it is, she’ll argue about everything.)

      Reply
    3. Gazebo Slayer

      Yes. And you do the wrong kind of exercise, and have the wrong hobbies, and read the wrong books, and watch the wrong shows (or you shouldn’t be watching anything at all, I don’t even ~own~ a television), and and and.

      Reply
    4. Moose and Squirrel

      Reminds of the sports car guy from a few months back. Every other car was inadequate in some way.

      Reply
  11. MuseumChick

    Ugh, people like this guy annoy me beyond words. As someone who a low carb diet works well for, this guy gives everyone like me a bad name. I literally never talk about my eating habits unless explicitly asked. I went (mostly) paleo a few years ago and it worked for ME. That doesn’t mean it will work well for every other person on the planet.

    OP, good on you for shutting this guy down. He’s a jerk.

    Reply
  12. The Rat-Catcher

    Love the phrasing of “totally normal coworker eating totally normal broccoli/cheese/rice casserole.”
    I feel like a lot of our crazier letters start with Totally Normal Coworker trying to cope with some ridiculous thing or other.

    Reply
  13. Iris Eyes

    “Don’t tell her THAT” Should now be your (and as many people as you can recruit at the office) response anytime he mentions anything food related.

    Reply
    1. o.b.

      Oh my god, please. “Don’t tell her THAT.” “Why not?” “Because it makes you sound like an asshole and no one wants to hear it”

      Reply
      1. o.b.

        Granted, I work in a very casual workplace where that would probably be an actual acceptable comment …

        Reply
  14. AwkwardKaterpillar

    I’m so glad you said something. People need to understand it’s not ok to police what other people are eating. Regardless of whether it’s healthy or not – and those choices don’t need to be justified.

    I could come in with a gallon baggie of oreos and half a pizza every day for my lunch and it would be no one’s business – flat out.

    Good for you for sticking up for yourself, this other coworker, and hopefully everyone this guy is harrassing.

    Reply
    1. many bells down

      My brother lived for most of high school on a diet of Oreos, Hot Pockets, and Pepsi. That was almost all he ate, for almost 4 years. Today he’s a gluten-free vegetarian.

      What Food Police sees for one meal a day doesn’t really give a good picture of current, past, or future food choices.

      Reply
          1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

            As someone who has to eat sub-par gluten-free Oreo imposters, I can assure you that they do.

            Reply
            1. CMart

              The Fun Fact! that Oreos are vegan somehow translated in my head to mean “free of all the things that people with restrictive diets avoid”, haha.

              Even gluten-full Oreo impostors are sub-par. Nothing beats the real deal.

              Reply
            2. Mononymous

              My kingdom for actually-good GF oreos! Sigh.

              To keep this on-topic: brava on shutting down the food police, OP, and congrats on your recovery!

              Reply
            3. Episkey

              The gluten-free Joe-Joe’s from Trader Joe’s are actually pretty good! My friend has a little girl who has celiac and I’ve bought them for her before and I tried one and it tasted pretty much like a normal Oreo.

              Reply
              1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

                I will say that Aldi’s brand is actually pretty good. But they don’t have the flavor variety or Double Stuf options, so really what’s the point of life?

                Reply
                1. Karen D

                  Aldi’s everything is good :D

                  Big Lots also seems to have a surprising variety of GF stuff. That’s a good place to find off-beat varieties of common things, though once you find it, buy all of it and resign yourself to never seeing it again.

                2. IvyGirl

                  Aldi ROCKS. Like, I’m an Aldi superfan.

                  If only the ones in my vicinity sold the booze that they temptingly list in their weekly app updates. Le sigh.

    2. Argh!

      It’s not okay to police any aspect of coworkers’ personal affairs. They can drive a car with an oil leak belching smoke, refuse to recycle, dress like it’s the 1980s, go to the wrong church (or none at all), sleep around with anyone they want (outside of work because … ey yech if they use work as a pick-up bar), backtalk to their parents or anything else they want to do. It’s nobody’s business!

      Reply
      1. Julia

        I don’t know. They are still on the same planet as me and if they did something completely horrible, like pour oil into a river, I would feel compelled to argue against that.

        Reply
        1. Karen D

          I would urge you to hold that compunction in check.

          You never know what might be going on in someone’s life. As long as someone is not breaking the law (which, to be fair, the example you picked IS breaking the law, but none of the examples in the post you were responding to fit that category and your justification — “They are still on the same planet as me”– covers a vast array of behaviors that do not in fact break the law) the basic rule is MYOB.

          The only exception I can think of, other than the breaking the law, is that if someone is engaging in an activity that clearly would reflect badly on the company and is open enough about it that people could connect the behavior to the company.

          Reply
          1. nonegiven

            Yeah, if you want me to recycle, give me a list of stuff and how to recognize it, pick it up once a week at the least, sort it yourself and YOU drive the 50 miles one way to take care of that.

            Reply
  15. MuseumChick

    Though everyone here might be interested in this: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151119133230.htm

    “The individualized feedback yielded many surprises. In one case, a middle-aged woman with obesity and pre-diabetes, who had tried and failed to see results with a range of diets over her life, learned that her “healthy” eating habits may have actually been contributing to the problem. Her blood sugar levels spiked after eating tomatoes, which she ate multiple times over the course of the week of the study.

    “For this person, an individualized tailored diet would not have included tomatoes but may have included other ingredients that many of us would not consider healthy, but are in fact healthy for her,” Elinav says. “Before this study was conducted, there is no way that anyone could have provided her with such personalized recommendations, which may substantially impact the progression of her pre-diabetes.”

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      Thanks for the link – that’s so cool! I mean it’s kind of a “duh?” thing for people who are into nutrition and picking apart diet culture and stuff, but it’s also really good to see it being substantiated by hard research like this.

      Bodies are individual! They react differently to different things! Blanket recommendations are of moderate use at best because we don’t all function identically!

      Reply
    2. Argh!

      More of this stuff is in the DNA than the food police suspect. Low cholesterol runs in 100% of one side of my family (including me). I also have low blood pressure. And I’m fat.

      Suck on that, food police!

      Reply
      1. nonegiven

        Oh, me too. My cholesterol is ridiculously low on one side of the family. I think it contributes to my depression.

        Reply
      2. Specialk9

        And the microbiome! In 20 years, we’re going to be appalled by the Bad Old Days when we couldn’t even restore our guts when they got out of whack.

        Reply
  16. NW Mossy

    This is so lovely to read, OP – you spoke up, and that’s the biggest part of the battle with people like your food-cop colleague. They tend to get away with their lectures and moralizing precisely because so few people feel comfortable saying “knock it off.” Simply being forthright about his approach isn’t appreciated or helpful is a true public service for all who encounter him.

    Reply
  17. Kinsley M.

    My work food police are literally the exact opposite. They encourage me to eat more! I joined a gym, been eating healthy, etc etc and they’ll be like here! I brought you a piece of pie! Or they’ll comment on how my lunch is too small/too bland or whatever. Just leave me alone! Me and my plain chicken, brown rice, and carrots are just fine.

    Reply
    1. many bells down

      I worked in an office that had a Food Police woman who was always doing that to me. “You don’t eat enough! You’re too thin!” Meanwhile, she weighed at least 15 pounds less than me, and would say she was “full” after two bites of tuna salad. I think there was a wee spot of projection happening.

      Reply
      1. Rainy, PI

        I had a client many years ago who went on a “diet” that, from her own admission, was just that every time she wanted a snack, she gave her dog a biscuit instead. So then the dog had to go on a diet, because too many Milk Bones make for a a doggo inclined to embonpoint. :)

        Reply
    2. LNZ

      I can’t stand people who don’t take no when it comes to food seriously. I had a coworker like that who if i turned down a cookie would bust out the “come on i know you really want it, just be bad once”.
      I finally got his to stop by just snapping at him that just cause I’m fat doesn’t mean i want to eat every sweet thing in sight. I don’t think he thought that but it made it so awkward for him he avoided me for a while.

      Reply
      1. Bryce

        “food=bonding” is a thing. My grandma used to push treats on my brother and I when we visited, then comment to Mom on our weight. Even outside of family, I have various dietary issues that have made me acutely aware of how much food is used as a social lubricant, and some people simply may not see how what they’re doing is percieved by others. If you want an excuse to meet the neighbor by making some brownies, fine, I’ll pass em off later to someone they won’t kill, just don’t ask me whether I liked them because I don’t lie well and “I gave them to a friend and he loved them” sounds like a putdown.

        We treat food as some universal thing, but even putting aside nutrition and various dietary issues, tastes differ. It’s *okay* for me to not like the foods you love, but it’s treated like some sort of affront.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous Panda

          Oh I know that one. “You haven’t lost any weight have you, would you like a chocolate biscuit?” was a fairly typical greeting from the maternal grandmother.

          Reply
          1. Marillenbaum

            I come from a big, Southern family, and food is the currency of love. My BIL made all my aunties love him when, in his fear of putting a foot wrong (as a white British dude in Black Appalachia), he decided to never talk and always eat. EVERYONE loved him. “Ooh, he has an APPETITE!” was a common refrain, and to this day, my aunties ask after him and mention what a nice man he is.

            Reply
        2. Misc

          Oh my god yes. I have a tonne of food intolerances and it’s so awkward convincing people that no, offering me food is just not going to work. So many FEELS around that whole area.

          Reply
  18. hbc

    “FP: Don’t tell her THAT.” What a jackass. You either challenge the facts presented (possibly with help from Siri), or you share how that piece of information is usually misunderstood or misapplied. No one gets to decide what generally-available information is given to a grown adult competent enough to hold a job, nevermind declare them too unworthy right in front of said adult.

    Your FP coworker has a really special blend of arrogance and stupidity going on.

    Reply
  19. Lily Rowan

    Good for you, OP!! That guy is an ass.

    And people are ridiculous. The number of (totally normal appropriate foods!) I’ve heard described as “not healthy” makes me want to cry.

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Right? I’ve learned so much by going through an eating disorder recovery program. Like…so many recipes that I would have considered “bad” before are just…normal. Like, they provide the nutrients required to live in a generally healthy and well-energized manner. And I’m sure they’d be looked down on in some circles.

      Reply
      1. Normally A Lurker

        Me too. Learning what was actually healthy vs what is not was such a weird thing for me.

        I also have a really hard time with ppl telling me what or how much to eat bc my default is to not eat. Like I am so very careful to eat what I want when I want bc the alternative for me is NOT eat. It’s taken many years to get to a point that I can eat a meal without thinking about calorie content. Please don’t comment on what i’m eating. You won’t help that.

        That’s a long way to say: I”m so glad you stood up to him. What a jerkface.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          I’m with you – if I’m stressed about eating the “right thing” I will wind up just not eating at all. Which is not in any way a good alternative. Here’s to telling the FPs of the world to eff off!

          Reply
    2. Green

      Y’all are all nicer than me. I’d be like, “How about you worry about what you eat and just let everyone else enjoy their lunch?”

      Reply
  20. Liet-Kynes

    The thing that everyone really has to keep in mind about nutrition is that, as a science, it basically sucks. No offense to any nutritionists, because the field is doing what it can with unreliable, lying test subjects, the inevitability that any change in diet represents a change in multiple variables, long human lifespans which delay study results, and a thousand other factors that complicate creating and analyzing data with any degree of fidelity. But it does suck, and most nutrition studies are padded with paragraphs of caveats and assumptions, and most results are shaky under the best of circumstances….and then they get breathlessly reported on by a science press that overstates results to get page views.

    So keep pushing back against ridiculousness from the Food Police, OP. He’s at the end of a long game of telephone that started with a study that by its nature is experimentally flawed.

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Most of my information comes from a registered dietitian who’s helped me tremendously through eating disorder recovery, so…it does come from someone with a background in nutrition science :).

      That being said, she’s of the Intuitive Eating, “All foods can fit into a healthy diet” camp, so she doesn’t demonize anything but just helps people strike a good balance…which is something that occurs on a pretty sizable spectrum and isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing.

      Reply
      1. MuseumChick

        She sounds lovely! Her attitude is exactly right, there is no one-size-fits-all healthy way of eating. I’m glad your’re doing well op! (And I really love the name you’ve given yourself here.)

        Reply
      2. N

        +1 for intuitive eating. The idea is that you listen to your body, what it craves, when it’s hungry, when it’s not, etc. And I think everyone should do it, dietary restrictions allowing. Why do we act like it’s such a terrible thing to have everything in moderation?

        Reply
      3. Adlib

        This is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. I have literally never felt better! Plus, I don’t feel like I’m missing out because yes, treats are allowed! Also, I have been learning the coolest stuff about nutrition by researching on my own. I’ve been enjoying all of your comments on this post!

        Reply
      4. Argh!

        I’m basically on that plan, which has halted a many-years long yo-YO (the regain is always more than the loss) pattern. Maintaining my unhealthy weight is an improvement for me, and me is who I care about.

        Reply
    2. LNZ

      One of the worst things about all health related science i feel is you get people who basically treat “i did this and feel fine” as scientific deviance instead of personal experience (i’m currently battling with my mother about how useless homeopathy is).

      Reply
  21. a Gen X manager

    “… for a coworker who was just trying to eat her lunch.”

    OMG, ^^^^ THIS. On behalf of everyone who has ever been bullied about their food choices thank you, OP, for speaking up!

    Reply
  22. Barney Stinson

    I don’t know if this has been said already, but the larger point is: don’t defend your choices with people who question them (unless it’s someone whose opinion you care about). Defending the choice (‘you need carbs!’) with information that’s true doesn’t help, because the mere act of debating says the commenter has a right to question your choice.

    He does not. Ignore him.

    This stuff ticks me off so hard.

    Reply
    1. LNZ

      The fact that they replied to the info on carbs with “don’t tell them that” kind of proves facts are irrelevant to these types of people. they literally wont accept new information.

      Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford

      This is true. However, in this case, there was a witness who was being pressured to accept the Food Police as an expert. Under those conditions, I think it’s a good idea to prove he was not. If someone’s not secure enough about their choices to take a “it’s none of your business” stance, it’s not a bad thing to throw them a “you don’t know what you’re talking about” lifeline.

      Reply
    3. JB (not in Houston)

      That’s kind of a good point. I’m proud of the OP for sticking up against him, and I think she did a good job. But going forward I’m going to try to remember to respond to food policing by pushing back against the policing itself and not by trying to pick apart their argument.

      Reply
      1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

        Yeah, if it hadn’t involved another person, I’d have gone that route, but since it did, I felt it appropriate to deal with the information being handed out.

        Reply
        1. Hrovitnir

          I think it was great! I definitely support blanket NOs and not engaging, but ketogenic diets notwithstanding, I actually think it’s important to fight the idea of the Bad Food of the Year (fat, carbs, whatever macronutrient that you totally need and is inherently of neutral moral value). Clearly it made an impact on your coworker, so it made me smile a lot. :)

          Reply
        2. JB (not in Houston)

          Yeah, I think how you handled it was great! Especially because it teamed you and your coworker up against the Mr. Food Police in a nonconfrontational way, which I’m sure made it less stressful for your coworker.

          Reply
    4. Barney Stinson

      “I don’t recall asking for your opinion” is the single most useful phrase in the English language.

      Reply
      1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

        My favorite is “I’m comfortable with my choices.” I’m not sure why I like it. Maybe because it implies that I’ve already considered what they’re offering and have still decided to do what is best for me. Ha…

        Reply
        1. motherofdragons

          Oooh…I really like that. And it reminds them that YOU and only you are in charge of making those choices.

          Reply
        2. Former Employee

          I love “I’m comfortable with my choices.” It’s not snarky, but at the same time, it leaves the other person with no wiggle room.

          I’ll have to remember that one.

          Reply
      2. PlainJane

        I’ve always liked, “When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you,” or, “When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you.” Not that I’d ever have the guts to say either of those at work.

        Reply
    5. Argh!

      In my experience food nazis are almost religious in their zealous attempts to save the rest of the world from the dangers that they themselves have escaped. Ignoring them doesn’t solve the problem because you were ignoring them before they butted in.

      Reply
  23. LQ

    Even if his information were completely correct ………………….. he would still be wrong in trying to do anything except be a jerk. Show me the evidence that your method of making people make long term healthy changes actually works. (Bullying people in the lunch room with false information is not a scientifically efficacious method of accomplishing anything, especially changing peoples….food? diet? weight? Exception: It will change their opinion of the policer.)

    Reply
  24. Anon 12

    Is it not possible to just say (sweetly, non-confrontationally) – While you may have the best of intentions, it is terribly upsetting to be challenged about my food choices or hear other people challenged about theirs. Can we please agree that the break room and the lunch hour will officially be free zones in the war against other people’s poor choices? I will respect your if you respect mine.

    Sarcasm and arguing can get blown off but it’s harder to not look stupid in the face of the calm calling out of unacceptable behavior.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      The OP wasn’t being confrontational or sarcastic. She WAS sharing correct information to rescue a coworker who was being pressured about her lunch. Given the FP’s response, I also see no reason to think that the FP would have paid a shred of attention to a reasonable request to not police people’s food choices.

      As for looking stupid – it’s hard to imagine how any response could have made him look more stupid and obnoxious that “don’t tell her THAT.”

      Reply
    2. Hrovitnir

      OK, I’m getting quite upset at the number of people telling the OP she was doing it wrong. She responded how she felt was right at the time, it both shut the Food Police down *and* made her coworker feel better about what she was eating. Win-win!

      She pointed out that carbs are an important macronutrient. While that could have embroiled her in an argument, it didn’t, so the point is moot.

      Reply
      1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

        I’m honestly ignoring it at this point. I fully recognize that there is some truth in what’s being tossed around, but the entire issue is more complicated than “you can survive without x”. It’s outside of the scope of the discussion and is leaning toward becoming pedantic, so I’m just letting it be.

        tl;dr: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Reply
    3. SusanIvanova

      I don’t think people like that will be deterred by being told it’s being “upsetting” – they’re far more likely to see that as a plus. They’ll phrase it as “the truth hurts” and “it’s for your own good” and inside they’re feeling justified.

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        THIS. A lot of people like this are engaging in bullying under a socially acceptable cover, and telling them something is upsetting is letting them know they’ve drawn blood.

        Even the busybodies who genuinely think they’re doing the right thing are apt to hear “upsetting” and be proud of themselves for being so ~brave~ as to defy social norms and hurt feelings in service to The Truth.

        Reply
    4. Argh!

      That’s the way a supervisor speaks to a misbehaving supervisee. I think peer-to-peer issues don’t have to be that formal.

      Reply
  25. Interviewer

    Some heroes wear capes. Others wear ear buds. Thank you, OP.

    And, now I’m hungry for broccoli, cheese & rice casserole.

    Reply
  26. N

    Hooray OP! There was a part-time nutritionist who used to work in my office, and she left up a diagram showing which foods were health and which were “toxic” when she left. (These include things like…barbecue. I get that you don’t want to eat charred steak all the time, but come on.) I want so desperately to just rip it down and declare that everyone can just eat whatever the hell they want.

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Okay, so I work in a building adjacent to a hospital and for awhile there were these “Take one!” fliers in the hospital cafeteria that gave out all sorts of crappy diet information. I absolutely took one. And maybe more than one. Maybe the entire stack.

      Reply
      1. Hrovitnir

        *claps* I’ve been really impressed by all your replies (go intuitive eating!) and I have to congratulate you on your excellence.

        Reply
    2. Kyrielle

      Like, “barbecue” as an entire category? Did she realize you can barbecue almost anything that coheres enough to not fall in?

      Reply
      1. N

        I think it means “barbecued” as in “grilled,” not slow cooked. But either way, it’s dumb.

        Incidentally, the poster is an ad for a brand of health food (think Jenny Craig or something like that) so everything that the poster tells you to eat is their brand of prepared meals. So dumb.

        Reply
    3. Elizabeth the Ginger

      You should take it down! Even if she still worked there, unless she was employed to give nutrition advice there’s no reason for her to put up diagrams… and if she doesn’t even work there anymore, she won’t even get annoyed.

      Reply
    4. Argh!

      Why not take it down? Surely anyone who cares enough to “learn” from it has already memorized every word.

      Reply
  27. Nephron

    I hate having to justify my food choices. I have a medical condition that dictates not just what I eat, but I have to be cautious about when I eat. I had a coworker that would try to push food on me, and I get that for her it was being nice and part of her culture but I have just eaten lunch, or am an hour out from lunch I cannot eat right now. The worst part is that if you give them an inch and try to accommodate and be nice once they will just keep pushing.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      I’ve had to start timing my meals correctly due to hypoglycemia, and just today I had to say no to someone who wanted me to pitch in for a 2-hour stretch over the lunch break that would have been really tough to accommodate. It’s not my fault her department head let too many people go on vacation at the same time! I offered to pitch in for one hour and that worked. Apparently they weren’t quite as desperate as they claimed to be.

      Reply
  28. Dust Bunny

    Where do you work? I’d like to stop by and stand in the doorway of Food Police’s office, slowly and sensually eating an entire loaf of French bread.

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      Maybe we can do a group protest. Just imagine, FP suddenly confronted by a few dozen people all lovingly devouring loaves of bread, making unblinking eye contact with him as we do.

      Reply
    2. motherofdragons

      I shall join you with Double-Stuf Oreos. Bonus: I’m pregnant, AKA already a dart board for unsolicited nutritional advice! Bring it on, FP.

      Reply
  29. Statler von Waldorf

    There are times when being aggressively blunt causes me problems in the workplace. Dealing with the food police is not one of those times. I’ve found that a ice cold, scorn-filled, “Did I ask you?” solves that problem fairly fast. It won’t make you a lot of friends, but I do get to eat my lunch in peace.

    Reply
  30. Turtlewings

    This may be off-topic, but OP, I’m very interested in what it’s like working with a registered dietitian. I’m significantly overweight, but my anxiety-driven Food Issues restrict me to foods that happen to be very calorie-dense. I wonder if a dietitian could do anything to help me work around that.

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Mine has been very helpful, in part because she specializes in helping people with disordered eating and eating disorders and also subscribes to the Intuitive Eating principles (the book “Intuive Eating” is fantastic, by the way). I’ve also worked alongside a therapist to help with my food issues (mine are definitely related to anxiety and a desire for control during rough life happenings). I did have to actually enter an outpatient treatment program for about ten weeks in the winter, which was very helpful for me as well as it combined group therapy with individual therapy, diet counseling, and eating dinner as a group and processing it afterward. There was an emphasis on trying and “legalizing” a variety of foods as well in order to help conquer fear foods.

      I would suggest looking into both diet counseling with an emphasis on mental health and possibly therapy if you’re experiencing anxiety or emotional issues relating to food. The weight is something that may shift with habits, but the real issue is the anxiety, which you totally deserve to be free from.

      Reply
      1. Turtlewings

        The anxiety is inconvenient, definitely, but my limited menu wouldn’t bother me nearly so much if I weren’t trying to lose weight on it! That said, it would probably be healthier to address the issue underlying the weight, haha. It’s great to hear about what helped you with something similar. The book you mentioned, I think I found it on Amazon, is it by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch?

        Reply
        1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

          Yes, that’s the one! And I know the limited menu can definitely be addressed by a dietitian at a speed that will challenge but not overwhelm you. Just remember that, if you do go to one and it’s not a good fit after a session or two, it’s totally okay to look for one that will actually help you. Do what’s best for your health!

          Reply
  31. Sharon

    I think the point being missed is that the goal here is not to have the OP give “better” advice than Food Police Coworker on the necessity of carbs in a diet or not — the goal here is to shut down Food Police Coworker (FPC) so he doesn’t give unsolicited advice about food again. It’s rather like when you have a new baby and people advise you to breastfeed/bottlefeed/family bed/cry it out/ whatever. The point is not to convince them that you indeed have the facts on your side. The point is to convince them that it’s just none of their business. I think the appropriate response is not to get into a fight over what the “right answer” is (if it even exists). I think the appropriate response is to say “I don’t think it’s right or appropriate to comment on other people’s food choices [beyond “oh, that looks good” or similar] unless you are that person’s doctor or other health professional.” Or “I feel uncomfortable hearing you comment on other people’s food choices” might be another direct way of going about it.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      I agree that the point is not how good the OP’s advice was. But, in this case I think it was a good move on her part. This guy is a jerk and he doesn’t accept the idea that this is NONE OF HIS BUSINESS. With this she’s just put him on notice that he’s not going to be able to do his pontificating quite so easily. I have no doubt that if the OP had just told him to mind his own business he’d have given her another condescending lecture.

      Reply
    2. Nobby Nobbs

      In this instance, where FP was trying to bully a coworker out of her lunch by presenting himself as an expert to someone who didn’t know better, I think “Actually I am an expert and your lunch is perfectly fine” was an appropriate and effective response.

      Reply
    3. Argh!

      It’s a start, and people who are overly concerned with doing every little thing right can sometimes be put in their place with one well-timed comment.

      Reply
  32. Springsteen is the best Boss

    Four years ago I was being treated for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. The biggest vegan I know (not a coworker but a friend) told me to avoid sugar “because sugar feeds cancer cells.” Diabetes education classes had just taught mecarbohydrate intake can and should be controlled but carbs can’t be completely eliminated from your diet. And my dairy-allergic roommate wants me to give up dairy products because we humans aren’t meant to digest milk. These people aren’t dietitians or food scientists. Just two of many people who want us all to eat the exact same way as they eat.

    Reply
    1. Hrovitnir

      Ahhhhhhhh. (As a postgrad in cancer research I cannot. even. with the pseudoscience. If you want to be more depressed, I know scientists who buy into similar rubbish – seed of truth and all that. No one can read all the literature, so it’s surprisingly easy for scientists to believe weird stuff about adjacent fields.)

      Reply
    2. Observer

      Gag. The only way to starve your cancer cells is to starve yourself. Period.

      That’s not what people like that want to hear, so they’ll often come up with “clever” ways to get around reality. Of course they don’t work, but that becomes another whole discussion if you let it.

      Reply
    3. Julia

      I’m not sure what your friend’s veganism has to do with any of that? I know just as many meat-eaters who lecture people about their food choices (‘have some bacon, you’re eating my food’s food’) as I know vegetarians/vegans. Probably even more, because the meat-eaters outnumber the non-meat-eaters.

      Reply
    4. Specialk9

      My vegan nutritionist also kept pushing me to go dairy free, even while looking at blood tests she had ordered that said dairy was fine for me. “But hormones. And leaky gut. And just because!” She was a funny one though, and I found a better one.

      Reply
    5. Former Employee

      Wow, Springsteen! First, I like your name and am glad you are done with treatment. I’m vegetarian trending towards vegan. As far as I know, sugar is vegan. (Chocolate is normally vegetarian or vegan.) While many people can’t tolerate milk, especially once they are no longer babies, if you can and you like it, go for it. Unless your doctors have advised you to follow a certain diet or avoid or include certain foods, it would seem that you should do what you think best regarding your diet.

      Reply
  33. Hey Anonny Nonny

    Wow, this guys sounds insufferable about food! I’m so glad you said something to him. If you feel comfortable doing it, I think it would be great if you came up with a blanket, shut-him-down statement that you could pull out every time he starts up, something like, “It’s not okay to police people’s food choices,” and just keep repeating it in a dead-serious monotone whenever he says something food-judgy. Additionally, it would be totally worth it to have HR warn him about this behavior – but again, that’s if you feel comfortable. You have this internet stranger’s permission to make this your hill to die on and I would applaud you for it. ;)

    Reply
  34. Covered In Bees

    Perhaps the office could have a TV/movie party and you could watch the episode of House where the fitness guru had a genetic disorder that is treated by a sugar and carbs-rich diet.

    Reply
  35. Sfigato

    I’m starting to think that nutrition should be added to the list with politics and religion of things you shouldn’t talk about with work colleagues.

    Reply
  36. Noobtastic

    “helped me understand what healthy thought patterns regarding food look like.”

    After struggling with the diet industry for decades, and having many strangers come up to me in cafeterias, restaurants, grocery stores, etc., to police my food, I have learned the following thought pattern regarding food:

    My body, my food, my business. Stay out of it.

    Really, it’s the same principle regarding food policing, sex, and basic personal decisions that do not adversely affect any other people.

    And when I read Food Police saying to you “Don’t tell her THAT” about how she needs the carbs just for brain function, I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout, “What is your problem, that you don’t want her brain to function?!” Either that, or “Obviously, you need more carbs, because your brain stopped functioning.” Or perhaps, “People like you are why our schools are failing and suicide rates are up. STOP THAT, YOU DANGEROUS FOOL! YOU NODCOCK! YOU VARLET! SCREW YOUR COURAGE TO YOUR OWN STICKING PLACE!”

    Because seriously, people like him ARE why our schools are failing and suicide rates are up. Food policing and weight bullying vulnerable children harms us all, but harms the direct victims of this shameful, cruel bullying worst of all. Someone who is spending all their time and energy (limited energy, yet, because of the lack of fuel) on trying to become smaller, and small enough to please these bullies, CANNOT exercise their minds to their fullest potential, and a large number of them cannot bear to live with the pain of “failure” to become small enough to please these cruel bastards.

    Hate is a very strong word. I hate these food-policing, weight-policing, body-policing, bastards.

    This comment has been much edited to remove swear words. But don’t tone police me! This is serious stuff. Fat-hatred kills. This guy, talking about “health and nutrition,” doesn’t give a hoot about either health or nutrition. He just wants the people around him to be smaller, weaker, and stupider, so that he can compete.

    Reply
  37. Schnapps

    So over the last year or so, I’ve been low-carbing. I like it, it works for me because I have a body type that deals well with higher amounts of fat, and I have lost 50 lbs on it. I feel better than I’ve felt in 20 years, which is the last time I was somewhat fit. When a coworker noticed:
    CW: Oh look at you! You’ve lost so much weight!
    Me: Mmmm-hmmm (while preparing second breakfast – eggs, cheese, veggies)
    CW: So HOW have you done it? I need to lose weight too!
    Me: Crossfit and Low Carb.
    CW: So where’s you’re oatmeal? You used to eat that all the time!
    Me: (resisting temptation to roll eyes) It’s high in carbs. I’m low carb at the moment.
    CW: So what do you eat?
    Me: Mainly meats and vegetables, some seeds and small amounts of fruit.
    CW: Oh but you need whole grains too! Those are very important!
    Me: Look, I’m good. What I’m doing works for me.
    CW: Oh you look great! But what about whole grains?
    Me: Look, if that works for you, fabulous. THIS WORKS FOR ME. End of conversation. (and I walk out to eat my breakfast)

    And she continues to comment on my food to this day – mostly on how good it looks, and how I’m doing magical things with scrambled eggs. And it bugs me to no end. I end up ignoring her when she comments about what I’m eating.

    Reply
  38. Master Bean Counter

    Me: In fact, you need x grams of carbs per day just for brain function.
    FP: Don’t tell her THAT.

    So many bad jokes related to these sentences, so little time.

    Okay just one:
    OP: Obviously you haven’t had enough carbs in a long time….

    Reply
  39. marymoocow

    OP, I am really impressed by your response to Food Police but also by your thoughtful comments here. You seem like an intelligent, level-headed, and compassionate person. I have always semi-struggled with my eating habits, but your insight today has me really considering meeting with a dietitian or therapist. It’s pretty cool how you have taken control of your eating, and I would like that too.

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate it. And, yes, definitely get help if you need it! I seriously didn’t realize that my issues had never really gone away until I went to a dietitian for unrelated reasons and all this stuff came up. It’s been a long road for sure, but things are seriously so much better.

      Also, your name is awesome and I may end up with that dang song in my head the rest of the afternoon.

      Reply
  40. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)

    I love this update and I hate Mr. Food Police! I am so inspired by many of the commenters here and also proud of my little online community of anonymous acquaintances. I am also encouraged by the comments about the mental approach to behavior – I am rolling out a program next month based on the mind-body connection and its connection to a healthy lifestyle.

    I work in Corporate Wellness and people like FP are the ones who give us a bad name. People see me when they have cake in their hand and will start to get all apologetic and I usually stop them and am like “Dude, if you like it, eat it.” It’s really not my business what people eat; I am just hear to give them support and education when they ask for it.

    I’m getting longer than I meant to, but if you guys have seen the video going around on Facebook of the parrots…one is dancing to an Elvis song. He gets all up in the others space and the other one is just like “dude, get away”. That is what I think everyone should do – you might get all excited by something, but don’t force it on someone else.

    Stay in your own lane.

    Reply
  41. One of the Sarahs

    OP, I think you’re awesome, and I know your colleague will have appreciated it even more than they could say. And I’m loving your responses here too – go you!

    Reply
  42. Delta Delta

    All this Food Police makes me want to make a song parody to the tune of Karma Police for OP to sing when FP comes in. “Foo-ooood Police, arrest this man, he denies carbs, he judges food…” This could be endlessly fun.

    Reply
      1. So Very Anonymous

        phew for a minute there… I lost my bread… I lost my bread…. I lost my bre-eeeaadd….

        Reply
  43. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    This update is so timely! I hope no one in my office says things about my food.

    My wife is housebound and can’t cook due to a broken leg right now (in several places, and yes, it’s not a matter of crutches). She is the main cook for us.

    So my breakfast at work is invariably yogurt and chocolate pastries (a Jewish friend gave us this giant…loaf of…chocolate something, kind of halfway between bread and coffee cake?) Idk. Anyway, I have no time for making food, since I do everything else and work, and I can only cook pasta, eggs, and frozen pizza/chicken nuggets. And I’m allergic to eggs!

    Lunch is fast food or one sandwich or leftover frozen pre-made dishes. Usually no veggies because I don’t have time to prep, and maybe a fruit if I’m lucky. If anyone judges my now less-healthy food, I swear I’m either going to punch them or take that as them volunteering to help me so I have time to learn and prep food.

    And I’m a big believer of the Dilbert guy’s “pleasure units” theory that everyone strives to meet however many units of pleasure every day as a minimum. And now that I don’t have as much time for enjoyment, can’t spend money on things, and can’t go on dates with my wife, maybe an ice cream or Skittles will at least make me a bit happy.

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      Is the chocolate thing babka? I’ve not had it, but it always sounds so good.

      And, yes, it’s important that many parts of our lives be flexible in consideration of circumstances. Like, I’ve been sick the past few days and couldn’t be bothered to cook every single meal. There are weeks when I’m crazy busy and more pizza and tacos will be consumed than on other weeks. In already complicated and stressful lives, food should be something that helps us have energy to keep on going, not something that saps our energy due to stressing about it.

      Reply
  44. Kimberly

    Thank you for standing up for others. I bet if you keep it up, other people will start to tell her to stop.

    I’ve taken two different tracks with the food police.
    #1 – Telling them to butt out. Flat out telling them to leave another person or me alone. That we are adults and can make our own decisions. When they whine and say, they are just trying to help I tell them no you are being whiny/bossy and need to leave people alone. Other coworkers took up the same chorus, and she backed down.

    #2 That is pseudoscience – do you want me to send you the studies that show X or deadpanning everything on earth is made of chemicals most of which have long unpronounceable Greek/Latin proper scientific names. Are you planning on giving up dihydrogen oxide after all it is found in every single cancer cell? (Mostly for Food Babe type garbage) I was the geeky tech nerd science teacher being back up by the PE/Health Teacher and the school Nurse, so I got away with it. I also rolled my eyes straight to the back of my head when the full moon was blamed for kids bad behavior.

    There were two times I went to HR. 1 because the FP general purpose jerk was telling students and me that the reason I am allergic to peanuts was I didn’t go to True Christian Church (TM). (this was a Public School in Texas and was not the worst violation of 1st amendment I saw.

    The other was a teacher aide, who supervised my grade’s lunch period. She wouldn’t stop harassing my two vegetarian students over their homemade lunches and threatening to the kids’ faces to report them to CPS if they didn’t eat some meat from the school lunches. One family came from a religious tradition that had a vegetarian diet. I figured they knew their stuff. The other family had a meeting with me about the child’s choice to go vegetarian and they were consulting a dietician and their pediatrician. They asked me to report to them if their daughter complained about being hungry, didn’t have energy to play at recess that type of thing.

    Both of staff members were told to shut up and were gone the next year.

    Reply
    1. Jane Dough

      It’s one of the more controversial translations: But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father, Mr. Peanut, who is in heaven.

      Reply
    2. Observer

      The second teacher’s aid sounds like an incredible jerk. I’m not minimizing #1, but I think it takes a special type of cruelty and power hungriness to threaten a child with being taken away from their parents if they don’t eat what the threatener wants them to eat.

      Reply
    3. Julia

      It’s weird how people get in arms about vegetarians and their ‘malnutrition’, but a diet consisting solely of peanut butter on white bread or hot dogs is somehow never a problem.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        I don’t think it’s a matter of understanding.

        I really hope there were no identifiably Jewish kids there (or Moslem ones). I’d be willing to bet that they would come under extra “scrutiny” with either of these beauties.

        Reply
  45. Gail Davidson-Durst

    Yay, yay, yay! I would give you such a high-five if I witnessed that at my office!

    My new manager is very dedicated to staying thin after having been heavier (and bully for him if he finds that a rewarding hobby, which seems to be the case), but he tends to be food-policey, and just today he was commenting how my lunch joint of choice offers a “bad” crocque madame, but at least they have “good” salads. I tried to react to it like his valuation of foods just makes no sense – sometimes a crocque madame is “bad” – if you had a heavy breakfast or are not up for fatty food that day, and their signature salad is scrumptious, but not always what you want.

    I actually wound up getting the salad, plus a cookie. I ate all but one bite of the cookie, then threw out the last bite because I didn’t want any more. I wouldn’t trade that food normalcy for all the size 8 clothes in the world! (The dieting me would have eaten the whole thing because I was already “off the wagon” and it was my “only” chance!)

    Reply
    1. (OP) Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      I love this! You’re where I want to be (and I’m slowly getting there)! And, yeah, I had a boss at a different job who’d make comments on stuff I ate partially because he seemed self-conscious about his own choices (the man also had no filter, so that was probably part of it). I know I was told more than once that my snack of an apple with peanut butter was me being “good” (just…what? It’s a normal snack?) and once and ONLY once, he questioned my choice to eat like two or three fun-size candies in a day. I was moderately comfortable with him most of the time, so when he did THAT, I looked him in the eye and just said, “Let me take care of me.”

      (I clearly know how to respond if it’s directed AT me; it’s when other people are getting the brunt of it that I struggle with what to say/do.)

      Reply
  46. Argh!

    Food nazis themselves have an eating disorder, and if they can’t refrain from commenting on others’ food decisions then they also have a personality disorder. The line I’ve never had the courage to use is “You should really see a doctor about your OCPD.” (there’s also orthorexia nervosa as a proposed disorder)

    I shut up our workplace food nazi after she lectured me about eggs, telling her that low cholesterol runs in my family (which is true) and I have low cholesterol (which is true) and anyway high cholesterol doesn’t come from what you eat (also true) but mainly… since she’s not my doctor she has no right to tell me what to do or not do for my health. She did apologize, but I think I waited too long. I still look over my shoulder or imagine her critique of my lunch occasionally, and I put a stop to her kibbutzing 10 years ago!

    Keep up the good fight. You and your coworkers don’t deserve to be treated this way.

    Reply
  47. Misc

    I just found the angry chef ( .com) and he spends a lot of time tearing apart a lot of food policing pseudoscience – it’s quite fun to read and exactly the sort of reaction most of us want to have at people like that XD

    Reply
  48. AnonAnon

    Whereas, I’m over here in my office, having pretty much been forced to disclose to my immediate coworkers that I’m Type Two (“Oh, what? No, you’re so young and skinny! Don’t be silly!”) with a gluten allergy (“Oh, isn’t that some kind of a trend?”) and incredibly painful bouts of IBS that bloat my abdomen up 1-2 dress sizes…because, otherwise, they’ll dig in and argue with me about how one little doughnut or one little trip to a junky lunch place or one little brownie or one little soda or haven’t you tried Splenda?? won’t/can’t hurt anyone. It’s a weekly effing battle of constant “no, thank you” and “no, I can’t eat that” and “no, I literally can’t eat that without getting very sick.” Coworkers need to 100% STFU about what other coworkers put into their bodies.

    Reply
  49. RP

    You know how on the Price is Right sometimes the person called to play will go around high-fiving everyone before getting to their seat up front?

    That is how I’d like you to picture yourself getting ALL THE HIGH FIVES!

    Reply

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