my new coworker is pushing huge amounts of junk food on me

A reader writes:

I feel really conflicted about asking this. It’s really a question of workplace etiquette, I suppose.

Our company recently hired a very sweet gal who is acutely obese. At the same time, a few coworkers and I have been working really hard to support each other in adopting healthier eating habits. I am openly and admittedly weak around tempting treats, so I don’t keep these things on hand at home or at work. This new gal has been bringing a lot (a LOT) of sweets, doughnuts, candies, cookies and such into the office. Right now in the break room, there is literally a buffet of junk food, including doughnuts with Peeps in the middle, a barrel of cheese puffs from Sam’s Club, and a mixing bowl of Easter candy. A few times throughout the day, she will walk around with a box or plate of junk food and offer it fairly insistently. I politely decline, but I don’t know how many times in a row I should have to say, “No, thank you.”

Fully recognizing that my ability to control what I eat is not her problem, is it at all reasonable to at least wish she wouldn’t bring so much junk food into the workplace? I know a lot of this is wishing someone else would stop doing something that bothers me, but that they have the right to.

I feel like it’s a distraction. A lot of attention is being spent on the food she brings in and the walking around offering it up to people. I know it’s coming from a kind place in her heart.

Most folks are trying to eat healthier these days. I guess at the end of the day I wish she’d keep her unhealthy eating habits to herself instead of trying to make it an office activity. That sounds horrible and mean, and I feel badly about it.

Any suggestions?

It’s not unreasonable to wish that she’d bring less junk food into the workplace, and it’s absolutely reasonable to ask her to stop offering it to you.

But it’s not reasonable to push the issue beyond that. (And it’s also not reasonable to connect this to her weight, because many, many people of all weights do what she’s doing. I mean, obviously there’s a connection between her weight and what she eats, as there is for all of us, but I wouldn’t connect the food-pushing with her weight, since this kind of aggressive food-peddling is such a common office phenomenon.)

Anyway, in practice: The next time she offers you food you don’t want, say, “No, thank you. And actually, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t offer me sweets because I’m trying to eat healthy, and I’d rather not have the temptation.” After that, if she continues to offer you food in the future, keep firmly reminding her. In fact, if it still keeps up after multiple reminders, there’s no reason you can’t stop by her office at some point and say something like, “I really want to enlist you in not tempting me with treats during the day. I think maybe you haven’t taken me seriously, but I really am committed to this, and I’d be grateful for your understanding.” And frankly, I have no problem with you yelling out “keep that away from me!” if you see her coming to offer you something.

It’s absolutely true that she’s not responsible for keeping you out of temptation. If she wants to bring in a buffet of baked goods, that’s her prerogative, and she’s not obligated to stop on your account. But it’s obnoxious to keep pushing food on people after she’s been asked to stop, and you’re entitled to politely ask her to cut that out.

As for the broader issue — that there’s now all this junk food on offer in your break room — it’s probably not your place to ask her to stop bringing it in entirely, especially if others like it. I think you could probably mention once that’s it’s tough to have so much junk food in the break room, but from there it’s really up to her. (And I normally wouldn’t say that you should mention it even once if she was just bringing in occasional treats, but given the amount of food you’re describing and the frequency with which it’s showing up, I don’t think it’s out of line to mention it. But again, only once.)

Meanwhile, could you and your coworkers bring in some healthier alternatives, like fruit? It won’t solve the problem of constant cake everywhere, but it’ll at least provide you with something else to snack on when the cake is calling out to you.

{ 612 comments… read them below }

  1. KitKat*

    Can I take this opportunity to tout my love of Graze? Anyone else in love with that thing?

    Asides aside, yeah, I’m kind of surprised she hasn’t gotten the hint after all the “no thanks”es. If I get 3 in a row, I stop asking.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        It’s a company that sends healthy snack boxes to people things like nuts and dried fruit.

        1. Rayner*

          I like it. I’m really hesitant to try new foods, and expanding my palate is hard for me because of my mental health conditions. Graze gives me just enough of new foods to try that I don’t feel like I’m wasting money because I also get favourites too, and if I don’t like it, I can say “No more!”

            1. Rayner*

              Graze is in Europe too. I have a thingie in my suitcase that I brought home with me from the UK to try three more free boxes because I r jammy.

              1. fposte*

                Ah–it says on the website that it only ships to the US, which is what confused me, but I bet that’s the US website and there’s a different domain for the Euro version.

        2. The IT Manager*

          Hmmm … I got a three month gift subscription to Nature Box. It’s been interesting – not quite as good as the unhealthy stuff and not inherently lower calorie, but not terribly. I haven’t paid the cost, but it does seem kind of pricey.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Oh, I’m familiar with that one as well. Don’t you know that going to the post office sucks?

    1. klaygenie*

      I’ve been wanting to try Graze but 1) I’m totally a volume snacker and 2) I snack constantly. So I’m too worried it’ll go too fast.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, that’s my issue with those as well. I’m a volume eater in general and my brain is like “Oh, we’re supposed to finish the entire bag! Duh!”

        This is why all my plates are tiny.

        1. OP*

          We did this at our house! I got a set of vintage restaurant-ware. It really does help us with our portion size. Otherwise anyone would be tempted to fill their plate. That’s normal!

        2. Laura*

          FWIW, Graze portions are quite small. Someone who wants a lot of snacks will run out quickly, but Graze does portion control really well.

      2. LK*

        Graze lets you pick the frequency of the deliveries – I have mine set to monthly. There’s 4 snacks in each Graze box so it’s built-in portion control for me :)

    2. dawbs*

      The ‘no thank you, I don’t snack during the work day”, repeated, verbatim, ‘broken record’ — where you don’t bother to hide the fact that you’re saying the exact same thing, in the exact same tone (possibly slightly more irritated each time) every time is usually a pretty darn clear hint.

      (I don’t do graze, but I DO have a stash of ‘keep at work snacks’. There’s some junk [pudding cups and granola bars–sometimes pop-tarts], but I try to have non-crappy things in there too Dry roasted nuts, sugar free jello (for desperate days), clementine oranges, cheese sticks, dried fruit, baby carrots and dip, etc. Then when the need strikes, there’s something there that’s not crappy. My coworkers know that they can hit me up for something besides the vending machine candy bar)

      1. Sarah*

        Tea was my savior at work when I was forced to sit behind a huge bowl of candy at reception for a year and a half. I’d get a large pack of fruity teas, and drink them almost constantly all day long. No calories, strong fruity taste. I never added sugar so I felt like I was drinking something good but had lots of hydration. Plus, it kept me warm. (In a moderately cold climate here.)

        Your stomach will growl and tell you you’re hungry when you aren’t if it’s cued by your mind visually when something is in front of you. Drinking a lot of liquid to keep it full will help.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Do fruity teas really have no calories? I know that’s what it says on the label, but I’ve never quite believed it (and yes, I drink them anyway!) If there are pieces of dried fruit in the tea bag, and if the tea tastes of fruit, I’m assuming that I’m drinking some some fructose…

          I found a fruity tea in Germany at Christmas that’s got visible chunks of dried apple and berries in it. It tastes like a liquid version of my apple/pear/cranberry/ginger/cinnamon crumble. Soooooo good!

          1. Sarah*

            Really, they have basically none. Even if tea is made with chunks of fruit, the fruit is strained out of the tea when it’s done, and it’s just coloring the water. You might have less than a calorie remaining, but at 10 cups a day, I’m assuming we can deal with 8 or so calories in our diet as a fudge factor. ;)

          2. Diet Coke Addict*

            Basically, no. I’d be surprised if there were more than 5 calories per cup of tea, even fruity tea or tea with chocolate bits in the bag. Really the only calories in tea come from sugar or milk people add.

        2. University admin*

          I had this issue too, but i asked that the food be moved. I get that reception is a common space, but the receptionist shouldn’t be forced to sit in front of a bowl of food all day. In my case, it was literally a buffet sometimes of leftover catering. Within 3 months of my starting, the conference room became the new place for leftover food.

          Candy doesn’t add that much to the office. She’s sitting at a front desk, not your kitchen counter.

          1. PA*

            We have a Yammer site, named “Vulture,” where the location(s) are posted of the food left from meetings. You’d be surprised how quickly the vultures appear to make that food disappear!

            1. Bea W*

              There was a kitchen counter in one of my workplaces people called the “seagull table”. You get the picture.

        3. Del*

          This has been one of my great diet strategies! My office is frigidly cold, and I have a terrible sweet tooth — cue the entire file drawer full of fruit teas, and me drinking 3-5 16-oz mugs of tea a day! It’s a great way to satiate my sweet tooth and stay hydrated.

          1. Sarah*

            High fives for the tea drinkers! What are your favorite brands?

            I love Tazo. Passion’s one of my favorite flavors. Orange spice is pretty good too.

            1. Laura*

              Tea is awesome! I love Tazo, I like a lot of Stash, and Tea Forte.

              Tea Forte’s Belgian Mint tea…. Wow. And Tazo’s Apricot Vanilla Crème.

              (I swear, I like more standard flavors like Moroccan mint, too, but that’s just not as interesting to comment on, hehe.)

            2. Cath in Canada*

              All my favourite types started adding licorice root (which I hate) to their recipes in the last year or two, so I’ve had to find some new flavours. I really love Tetley’s summerberries, and their spiced plum rooibos

              1. JessaB*

                Eww licorice and anise, just NO. Not my kinda flavours at all. I admit I’m a Twinings Earl Grey type myself. Have been since I was a kid, way before Star Trek made it a thing.

            3. Del*

              I’m a Twinings gal myself — their Chamomile Honey Vanilla is really wonderful, and so’s Wild Berry. I got a sampler of Tea Forte and I keep craving more, but I’m having trouble convincing myself that paying double what I would at the grocery store when I’ve got a tin palate for teas is worthwhile.

            4. fposte*

              Mighty Leaf if I’m store-shopping (love their English Breakfast). Harney’s for decaf (vanilla flavored, to get around the fishy thing of decaf black tea). Adagio when I’m going fancy.

            5. Jennifer*

              We’ll, I’m an iced tea girl most of the time . I like the Twinnings k-cups for unsweetened black tea at the office. They are one of the few iced teak cups I can find that aren’t sweetened or that have lemon. At home I brew Tazo iced or some of the China mist flavored tea. I fill a 24oz bottle at home and take it with me to the office most days.

              Hot tea flavored, my favorite is Tea Forte Cucumber Mint.

            6. Fee*

              I drink a Lemon, Ginger and Ginseng combo which is UK own-store brand (Marks & Spencers for the Anglos/Anglophiles among us), but I’m sure some other brands have similar flavours. I find it great as a pick-me-up instead of caffeinated tea and is also really nice for a hangover :)

            7. Elizabeth West*

              I have a cup of loose leaf Earl Grey every morning, along with my breakfast (eaten at work because I don’t have time to eat in the morning). I do put milk and sugar in it, but I’ve cut back on the sugar. If I forget milk in my lunchbox or didn’t bring a lunch that day, I have green tea or green chai and honey in my cube cubby. (I should probably drink more of the green tea later in the day anyway.)

      2. Wren*

        I think short repetitive scripts like this where you don’t offer justifications about willpower/healthy eating/temptation are better in this situation. I don’t know if this coworker is the type, but many food/drink pushers will move to, “oh, come on, just one!” or “loosen up!” type argumentativeness because they take your healthy eating efforts as a challenge to or judgement on how they eat.

    3. OriginalEmma*

      Wanted to try it, but they don’t ship to Alaska. I guess I’ll have to go make my own snack pack of dried raspberries and organic moose jerky. :(

      1. The Editor*

        Fellow Alaskan just saying hi! I’ve been down in “America” for ten years now, and I dream of the day I go back…. Can I ask which part? My wife is from Juneau (Aleut), and I’m from Fairbanks.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          I’m a transplant to Anchorage (like everyone else there, lol). I did have the pleasure of visiting Ketchikan this weekend for work and I feel like Jack from LOST – I have to go back! Haven’t been to Fairbanks and only to Juneau airport.

          And j/k re: moose and berries. I don’t hunt but am trying to score some moose meat off my coworkers that do. However, I will try berry picking this summer.

          1. Stephanie*

            Oh. I actually wanted moose jerky after reading that. My dad hunts and we have delicious homemade elk jerky here.

    4. Algae*

      Ooh! Yes, I love it. And you just reminded me that I didn’t eat one of my choices yet. :)

      1. Ali*

        I have Graze too and just switched to monthly. However, I really don’t like dried fruit or raisins so I’m trying to eventually just have them send me nuts, pistachios and dippers. I’d rather have real fruit as opposed to dry, but that is just me.

        1. Joey*

          Is it really worth the cost? It seems like it wouldn’t be a lot of effort to do it yourself. It kind of reminds me of the 100 calorie snack packs, just on steroids.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oooh, I want to ask about Graze. My assumption is that it would be a lot cheaper to just go to Whole Foods and buy a bunch of random healthy snacks to try, and that you’re paying a big premium for convenience (not that I necessarily oppose that). Is that right, or do you feel like it’s not that much more?

      1. Del*

        It kind of depends. You could get comparably sized portions of plain dried fruits, nuts, etc for cheaper, but there are other graze snacks that are more elaborate (chili-coated honey almonds, for instance, or the dips with dippers of various sorts) that wouldn’t probably work out to that much cheaper than the graze portion.

        The other advantage to graze (and the brand name uses the lower case, I’m not just being lazy!) is that you can try out things in small portions, without the individual portion being much of a financial commitment. Try it once, then tell the website “ew, never send me this again!” You get exposed to more things that way.

        1. Ali*

          Yep that’s what I like about it. I have regretted buying things online or at the store that I end up hating and never using again. The graze portions are small enough that I don’t get upset with myself if I don’t like them.

      2. Laura*

        Graze and pre-packed snacks from Whole Foods are probably close, though I’m not sure exactly.

        Graze is definitely way more expensive than putting your own together from bulk, but they do some really neat flavors/spicing combinations.

        I tried it for a while but it was just too spendy…but I’ve been happily trying the *sorts* of things they try, getting things in bulk and then spicing them differently to see what I like.

          1. Rayner*

            It’s always worth seeing if you have the option to cycle through various products, and once you find what you like and start getting repeats, just stop it.

            I mean, I never knew I liked some of the nuts they gave me, but now, I don’t order them, and just buy them straight from the supermarket.

            IDK if you have that option, but there might be a way to do it.

            And hey, trying new stuff is always a good plan. If you get tight for cash, it’s an easy thing to drop, too.

          2. LibraryGirl*

            Promo code for your first free box, COSMOGRZ

            I just signed up thanks to these wonderful commenters! Looking for portion controlled snacks!

          3. Blue Anne*

            I totally recommend them. I just get a box every other week and it’s a real treat.

            They’re also fantastic about giving discounts or free boxes if you have any troubles like a delayed box.

      3. KitKat*

        I adore it. $6 for a box is totally worth it for me, because I would never get up the gumption to make my own snack bags otherwise. It’s sent straight to my office, keeps me portion controlled, forces me to try new things (I’m a terrible pick eater), and I have it set for every 2 weeks so I don’t eat them all at once. Cuz I will.

        Now if you excuse me, I’m off to finish my Herby Bread Basket. :)

      4. L McD*

        Definitely a premium for convenience and the excitement/surprise factor. The portion control is huge, too. I’ve recently become more at peace with paying a premium to ensure that I won’t eat the entire package of something. I can’t be trusted.

        1. Artemesia*

          My son gigs me for buying the small cans of coke since it is often about the same as for the large — but I love coke, know it is a calorie sink — and having the smaller cans works for me. I probably drink one a week — but if I have the large can, I will finish it.

          A former skinny person who is at that age where I have to watch calories, I am not willing to suffer and deprive myself. So portion control like small cokes and lots of celery sticks and carrots for nibbling when it is keeping my mouth occupied that seems key really, does work.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, there comes a time in life when “bang for the buck” is not actually the consumption goal.

      5. ModernHypatia*

        I feel like it’s a premium for convenience, but there’s a couple of other benefits. (Yes, to what Del said!)

        A bunch of stuff I can’t get easily locally so I’d have to order it or drive to get it anyway. (Rural New England: your locality likely varies.) Infused raisins! At least half the kinds of dried fruit in their boxes!

        Having stuff pre-packaged is also huge for me: the cost actually comes out about the same as grabbing things I like out of the vending machine or grocery store (but is better for me, and better balanced). Being able to just grab something and go in the morning is huge.

        And finally, I really like that it makes me go “Oh, I wouldn’t have tried that together, yum!” or that I can save a package (like I often do with the more desserty ones) for when I know I’m going to have a rougher day/schedule, so I have something specific to anticipate. There’s something in the combination of ‘I can choose stuff I don’t want to get, but then I get a surprise every week to explore’ that works really well for me which my own grocery shopping can’t duplicate.

    6. Bee*

      Oh my god I LOVE Graze. I have mine set to send biweekly and limit myself to two snackies per week, and I honestly reward myself for a particularly productive day by eating one. There are some losers in the mix but most of their stuff is just really delicious. Highly recommend.

    7. OP*

      Huh. MAYBE I could sign up for this and have it sent to my office. Or now I worry that if I make a point of only having healthy snacks around that it will somehow read as rudely contrary.

      1. Sarah*

        You’re not being rude. The bottom line is that your new coworker wants attention, not for people to eat her unhealthy food. Just interact with her in some fashion, and that’s enough.

        1. Jessa*

          Exactly. The coworker is rude for not stopping offering when asked. It’s the same with people who try to push booze on people. ONE “no thank you,” should be sufficient. At that point it’s on the offerer’s head if I get snarky and end up with “Stop offering me things, ever. Just don’t. If I want something it’s in the break room. Leave me the heck alone, you are not being nice or neighbourly, you’re being nasty now. I asked you to stop. I told you more than once. Just STOP.” Seriously. People do not get “no thank you,” sometimes.

      2. Contessa*

        It would be really irrational for her to be offended by snacks you keep at your desk and eat on your own. Now, if you went and stood next to her desk, chomped loudly, and proclaimed how much you love healthy snacks and hate doughnuts . . . that might be rude. But, you’re under no obligation to eat snacks during the work day that you do not want to eat, or to avoid snacks you do want to eat (as long as they don’t disturb other people, I suppose).

        I think Sarah is right below–this seems like a ploy for attention (maybe she’s nervous and doesn’t think she can make friends in the new office without plying people with food).

    8. cuppa*

      I did Graze for about a year and then quit. The novelty wore off for me and I felt like I kept getting the same snacks over and over, even though I trashed hardly any.

    9. Jennifer*

      I’ve been thinking about Graze but haven’t done it yet. My current thing is Gopicnic hummus and crackers box. I order them by the case. I always have a few in my desk and I always take at least one when I travel. They’re handy if I don’t have a chance to go grab lunch, or if I just want to snack through the box all day. They make other varieties, but the hummus one is the only one I’ve found, so far, where I like everything in the box.

      I pack other snack for the office and have some stashed at my desk, but the boxes are really convenient when I’m in a hurry.

      If you haven’t seen/ heard , Gopicnic boxes are healthy, shelf stable meal and snack kits.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        I just looked that up and it looks amazing! That’s my favorite sort of lunch, too. Maybe I can make something up like that for me to grab and go myself.

    10. HRNewbie*

      I like Graze, but I ended the subscription when I managed to rig the sending options so it would only send me chocolate and cake…. Slightly defeated the object…

  2. Kate*

    Agreed with AAM. If it were me, I’d probably play up the stuff about how *I* am trying to avoid certain things and *I* am weak around junk foods – making it about me rather than the foods so it doesn’t come off too judgey. If you’re pretty insistent hopefully she’ll take the hint.

    1. Bryan*

      I wonder if it would work to phrase it as help, “I have absolutely no will power, can you help me out by not offering?”

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        I think, “No, thank you” and “No thank you, and please stop asking” on a subsequent offering sets a firmer boundary.

        Granted, I move to immediately cranky when I say no to food and others attempt to push it on me. Do not like.

        1. Jamie*

          I go to cranky quickly on this, too. And then I ask them about some work related thing. I do this when certain people get too chatty as well, I just turn the conversation back to work and then they stop heading to me for killing time.

          1. Jessa*

            Exactly. If you keep asking me it’ll get nasty, as above. I’ll be polite maybe the first three times, escallating politeness as necessary. After that. Bang.

      2. LBK*

        I kinda like that, actually – “I’m trying so hard to stay away and I know if you bring it around to me I’m going to cave in when I don’t want to!” Although maybe if this person isn’t so health-conscious, they don’t care if you slip up or if they get you to cave in.

      3. Karowen*

        I think it’d be a good place to start – more friendly, enlisting her help as AAM said. And then if that didn’t work I’d move on to the “No, thank you/stop” as Kerry described. That’s much easier to repeat ad nauseam.

        (I’m also coming from a place of not forcing food on people though, unlike the OP’s coworker apparently is.)

      4. Bwmn*

        I like this version as by going a touch overboard it can add some levity.

        I also don’t think that repeatedly saying “no thank you” is at all the same as “don’t offer this to me ever again”. It may just be “no thank you I don’t like that brand of cheese puff” or “no thank you I already had a doughnut today, but tomorrow might be prime doughnut time”

        I’ve been at a new job for about 3 months, and it’s a pretty “food for everything” office. Since day 1, whenever there’s been food I’ve mentioned to at least one (if not multiple) coworkers, ‘no thank you I can’t eat xyz because I can’t eat gluten or dairy’. Last week was my birthday – and ta-da – they got me a traditional birthday cake. Given this situation, I can’t even imagine a coworker interpreting a few no thank you’s as “never offer this to me again”.

        1. Audiophile*

          Aw that’s a bummer. A lot of people don’t understand gluten or dairy intolerance or allergies.
          There’s a guy I work with who has allergy to shrimp and I’ve heard people ask, how severe his allergy is. I think some of this is curiosity, some concern and then some ‘but how can you not eat/enjoy/love shrimp’.

          I’ve seen similar scenarios for other food sensitivities.

            1. Del*

              I actually tend to get the opposite — I vehemently dislike tomatoes and feel fairly ill if I eat one, but it’s entirely preference, I can eat tomato products just fine, etc etc. Somehow all my friends have gotten convinced I’m allergic and have to be kept away from ketchup and pizza.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I’m that way with mushrooms. But I will eat them if they’re on pizza and covered with other stuff so I can’t taste them. If they are too big, I flick them off and either pitch them or give them to a fungus eater.

          1. Bwmn*

            I’m not allergic and my restrictions have come more recently – so I’ll still talk about great gluten and dairy full items that I’ve eaten. Also, I’ll sometimes allow myself “cheats”. So I don’t necessarily blame people for not getting it and it’s just more the attitude of my office where any excuse for cake or doughnuts must be celebrated.

            Basically if despite telling people “I can’t eat gluten or dairy” – a butter cream covered cake is presented to me on my birthday – I really don’t know how anyone expects a few no thank you’s to stop someone offering snacks. It’s just necessary to be a lot more direct.

          2. FormerPhotog*

            Well, my spouse reacts if he eats a lot of seafood (like more than a mouthful – some jackass fed him a mini crabcake at a wedding once! We were lucky he didn’t end up in ER), so he’s ok going to hibachi, lets say, where it’s cooked on a shared grill.

            I have another friend with a peanut allergy so bad they’ll get a topical reaction touching a table that had peanuts on it.

            There are levels of sensitivity even for allergy, based on lots of issues.

            1. bearing*

              Yeah, if you worked with me, I might ask “how severe is your allergy” so I can consider whether I need to modify my *own* behavior. If I shared an office with you and I found out your allergy to peanuts was life-threatening, I would voluntarily and without a fuss choose not to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. But if I found out you are dealing with something that won’t kill you on the spot if you are exposed to it, say celiac sprue [note: I know that this is not an allergy but an autoimmune disease], I’ll just remember that when I have cookies in my lunch, there’s no point in offering you some.

    2. Bea W*

      That can also come off as “I expect you to be responsible for my behavior.” I really dislike the phrasing about wanting to enlist a co-worker’s help to keep oneself away from junk food. I totally agree that when asked to stop offering, the right thing to do is honor that request the first time, but if someone approached me with a message that basically says, “I want to make you responsible for watching or controllinh my behavior, it would leave a really bad taste in my mouth. I’d be thinking, “Just tell me you don’t want any snacks or you are trying to eat healthier and not to offer them to you. Why does it have to be my to also play personal snack warden?” Anyone who ignores the request is just plain rude, it doesn’t matter if the person is dieting or not. You don’t have to be trying to change your diet to decline office food.

  3. The IT Manager*

    Also I’ll predict lots of comments for this letter. LW worded her question well though aware of the bounds. One thing I did wonder about was this: A few times throughout the day, she will walk around with a box or plate of junk food and offer it fairly insistently.

    That strikes me as odd – this co-worker is really obessed with eating herself and sharing food with others. I wouldn’t even do that with the rare homebake goodies I brought in (I leave them in the break room). To bring food to people everyday, several times a day, seems to be rather time consuming. What’s her job and shouldn’t she be working instead of serving?

    1. fposte*

      Yes, as Just a Reader says below, that’s a lot of interruptions. I think this may be her go-to work break, and it additionally provides her with what feels like a nice chance to connect with her new co-workers. Even with snacks I enjoyed I’d find the interruptions to be excessive.

      1. Jamie*

        The connection thing may be why she’s doing it. We just had a thread about advice for job seekers that doesn’t always land, but it’s a common piece of advice to bring in treats to get to know new coworkers – and she is a new hire.

        I’ve even seen it here, people in the comments recommending putting a candy bowl on your desk to get to know and interact with co-workers. Some people don’t know how to strike up a conversation without a “thing.”

        1. KitKat*

          That crossed my mind, too. I wonder if it’s something she read about (probably in Forbes) and is just trying to use food to make friends. Which is fine, I totally get it. Food makes people happy, especially me!

        2. fposte*

          Yes, I think there are a lot of rewards for her with this behavior, so I think OP will have her best success if she doesn’t interfere with that reinforcement. So opting out but not shutting it all down, and maybe arranging a coffee or lunch to chat?

          1. Ethyl*

            I think when people are being weirdly insistent about stuff like this, a good, if counterintuitive, step can be to offer to spend MORE time with them. It sounds like she’s trying hard to make everyone like her. Maybe if OP acts like she already likes her and offers to do small things with her, she will pull back on the cake rounds.

        3. Karowen*

          While it’s a good point that she’s using it to connect, there is a very large difference between sitting a bowl of candy on your desk and going around and actively interrupting everyone else’s work. I think this is taking the common advice too far.

        4. Lizzy*

          Yes, sharing food can provide bonding opportunities, especially during work. I did a temp at a bank for the second half of last year. It was initially a very awkward situation for me as I was not use to that type of environment, particularly because it was a male-dominant environment and investment banking was out of the realm of expertise (I was just there doing data entry; my background is in development and marketing). I was also the only female on my floor and had absolutely nothing in common with the gentlemen I worked with (I was going to fake sports knowledge).

          A few months in, I started bringing candy to work and it really broke the ice with a few of my co-workers. Suddenly, I was exchanging travel tales with a globe-trotting Private Capital Manager, and discussing the good old days in college with a Loan Officer whom attended the same college I did. It definitely helped alleviate an awkward social situation.

          I sort of do feel for the co-worker in question and can understand what she is trying to do, even she is going a bit overboard.

        5. Sarah*

          There are self-reinforcing behaviors that play into the obseity epidemic. She most likely grew up in a household where affection was expressed and shown through food, so she is trying to make friends this way (and that’s not necessarily bad. She sounds like a nice person.) But she also sounds like an unhealthy one. She needs to have this energy redirected in another place and know that she can make friends without getting her coworkers unhealthy too.

          1. OP*

            She is a really nice person. I’ve tried to create other ways to chat and bond, like “Let’s go shop for makeup” or whatever.

          2. KellyK*

            Wow. It’s really inappropriate to make assumptions about someone’s eating habits, personal life, and family history from one anecdote.

            1. Sarah*

              Actually, studies have been done in sociological and cross cultural fields that back up data like these, so the data reinforces this. You may not like it, but it’s not just ancedotal. This is why programs like “Let’s Move” have been developed to target whole communities INSTEAD of the inividual. Because that’s what doesn’t work.

              1. A Bug!*

                You’re making broad assumptions about a specific person using generalized data, though, and that’s where you’ve gone wrong.

                There is a huge difference between saying, “Some families express affection with food,” and “This woman’s family likely expresses affection with food.”

                1. Sarah*

                  My mistake then, I misworded the phrasing. You’re right, it would have been better to state it like that.

              2. KellyK*

                What A Bug said. You’re making assumptions about the individual that aren’t warranted, and that would be really intrusive if you knew her personally.

                I’m curious what studies, and what numbers/percentages they actually showed.

                1. Jenna G*

                  A landmark one was done in a South Pacific island nation (I’m blanking on the country, sorry, it’s been awhile since school)… in 1995. I’m trying to dig it up for you. Will post here if I can find the link.

    2. Sarah*

      Yeah, if she is serving food to all her coworkers individually, 3 times a day, this works out to an incredible amount of time. Even if it’s a small office, 20 people, at 2 minutes a person, that’s 2 hours a day! How is this happening without interfering with her productivity?

    3. J-nonymous*

      This behavior sounds like that of a Food Pusher. It’s very detrimental behavior to someone who’s trying to change eating habits., but it always seems to fall on the person who’s trying to change to set boundaries around the food pusher’s behavior. It would be interesting to see if in this case someone else calls out the behavior because of excessive socializing/breaks.

      1. Bea W*

        it is on the individual to enforce their own personal boundaries because the only action you can control are your own. That doesn’t mean it’s okay when those boundaries are ignored, but short of tying someone like this to their desk, you can’t stop them from walking around and offering food to everyone personally.

        1. C average*

          Totally agree with you about each person owning his or her own boundaries and being responsible for their enforcement.

          That said, I do think there’s room to make it clear that repeated behaviors, though not technically out of bounds, really aren’t welcome and are in fact personally or professionally detrimental.

          My colleagues have, variously, made it clear to me that they’d rather not be invited out for drinks after work (because he’s Mormon), have me stand too close behind when I’m at her desk (because she gets tense when people are in her space too much), be offered baked goods (because he eats gluten free), be involved in “Downton Abbey”-related conversations (because she’s a season behind), or be subjected to football-related conversations (because they’re dull).

          These requests don’t HAVE to be accommodated, but it’d be boorish to ignore my colleagues’ politely-expressed preferences. And if you’re a boor, you’re gonna get judged for it.

        2. J-nonymous*

          Sure – but what I was referencing is that there are other problems here besides the food pushing going on. The employee in question may be socializing too much (for her own or others’ productivity). Maybe the OP will benefits from an additional, external limit on this behavior because of that. Then again, maybe not.

  4. KellyK*

    I think this really comes down to personal boundaries. She’s constantly asking you to do something that you don’t want to do, so it’s totally reasonable to ask her to please quit asking. *Particularly* since she’s asking repeatedly with the same thing—it’s definitely impolite not to take no for an answer. That doesn’t require her to change how she eats or quit bringing food in, just to leave you out of it.

    1. bearing*

      If she is using it as a way to connect with people, it might be worthwhile — the very first time only — to add to the firmly worded “please don’t offer me snacks,” an assurance that you understand she’s doing it to be kind, that you won’t feel weird or left out if she offers it to other people but not you, etc. etc. etc. But after that, just a firm no.

  5. Just a Reader*

    From a productivity perspective, “a few times a day” is a LOT of interruptions for coworkers. I would approach it from that perspective vs. the LW’s willpower.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      It also seems strange because, what is she doing, planning & staging how she hands out the food? Like, at 9:00 bringing around donuts while keeping the cookies in her desk until after lunch? Is there a late afternoon run to Sams Club to get a giant bag of candy?

  6. Jamie*

    Absolutely you should address the issue of her bringing it to you personally. It’s totally acceptable to ask someone to stop doing something she’s doing to you directly.

    I am of two minds, personally, on asking her to stop bringing it in altogether. On the one hand as Alison said, it sounds excessive. On the other hand, the fact that you and some co-workers have a healthy eating agreement or whatever is no more related to the work place than her offering it to you. And as you noted, it’s not other people’s responsibility to make sure you aren’t tempted.

    I wouldn’t say anything personally, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable policing the behavior of others who are within their rights to do things and that aren’t directed at me specifically.

    I think it sounds excessive (and expensive) but if no one partakes and she has to take home or toss most of it each day she’ll stop doing it. If people do partake, then some enjoy it and while you have every right to police what you eat, you don’t really have the moral right to impose that on others.

    People need to be responsible for their own choices and not try to micromanage what they are exposed to in a shared environment.

    And I know Alison mentioned it, but it bothers me. Her weight is a result of what she eats (in part), not what she brings in for others. They are separate issues and her weight and what she eats is none of your business. The fact that you mentioned it is off putting and I’m not sure why you needed to include that fact. Would you find donuts any less tempting if she were thin?

    1. lachevious*

      Well said!

      Junk food is everywhere – it is up to the individual to control their diet, the shape of ones body is not an appropriate topic to have, especially at work!

      My weight is my business, skinny does not equal healthy.

    2. JAX*

      Yes! I found that part of the letter so angering, because who cares if she’s overweight or obese?

      It feels like a *wink wink* to qualify the letter and get all of us to nod in sympathy. “Oh, it’s an obese woman trying to corrupt the office! That’s a game changer!”

    3. Heather*

      Yes! I personally love to bake but I don’t really crave sweets (except fresh brownies and fresh chocolate chip cookies, yum!) so I would much prefer to bake and then give everything away, instead of eating it myself.

    4. sunny-dee*

      Well, it may not be a separate issue in one sense (and I am very much speculating here) — the obese coworker may be so pushy in trying to get other people to partake in junk food because it lessens how she perceives her own eating habits. Like, “Jane, Susie, and Bill all ate the cupcakes — it won’t hurt me to have one!” My guess is that the times she walks around passing out food correlate to her own snack times, and if she just sat and ate at her own desk 15 times a day, she’d probably feel guilty. But who could feel guilty about handing out cupcakes?

      Again, her weight doesn’t impact the OP’s situation at all, but I think it could be one explanation for her behavior.

        1. Fish Microwaver*

          Yes, I had the thought that by offering food to co-workers she is enabling her own eating behaviour.

      1. MousyNon*

        “Clearly this girl is fat because she snacks all the time. Otherwise, why would she be bringing in all of this food?!?”

        See how judgmental this explanation is when you rephrase it?

      2. Orange Bottle*

        That may or may not be what’s going on…but it’s not really our place to armchair-analyze her, is it? As you said…her weight doesn’t impact the situation. So why are we speculating about her internal psychology? Honestly, her weight is not the OP’s business and it’s definitely not our business.

        1. Anon*

          Yep, I agree. Her psychology is only relevant to the OP when the OP’s thinking about how to ask her to stop with the junk food – and the question is what she’ll be most receptive to, not whether she has an eating disorder or something else that isn’t our business.

    5. Jess*

      OP’s consciousness of her weight may inform what OP feels would be a polite response to her repeated offers. OP may be overly sensitive about appearing judgmental or being inadvertently offensive, but I don’t think it’s an invalid feeling. It can feel really awkward to respond without feeling like you’re coming off as judgmental of others’ eating habits. It may be entirely in your head, but it comes from a genuine desire not to accidentally hurt someone else’s feelings.

      And sometimes it seems like all people hear when you say you’re trying to eat healthier is “I’m trying to lose weight.” (Even if that’s not actually the case.) That may be what OP is dancing around herself- she doesn’t want to talk about how she’s trying to lose weight around someone who is much larger than she is.

      1. OP*

        Jess, that’s exactly how I feel. I think I feel especially careful about what I say around her because it could take on a whole other connotation. Like today, she came up to me and asked what I was eating for lunch. I had brought in a kale & avocado salad (I know! Don’t hate on the kale.) and I actually felt self conscious about saying what it was. Like, “Oh, I brought this really healthy thing in.”

        1. Orange Bottle*

          The best thing you can do is (try to) stop seeing her through the lens of her weight. If she asks what you brought for lunch, tell her the same way you’d tell anyone else! “A kale and avocado salad.” Your self-consciousness is coming from assumptions you are making about her.

          1. KellyK*


            I think you’re letting her weight really color every interaction you’re having with her, and unless she’s an incredibly touchy and easy-to-offend person, that’s not necessary.

            I’m fat too, and believe me, it’s not hard to tell when someone is making digs about your weight or trying to push you to eat the way they think you should “for your own good.” As long as you’re not looking her up and down when you mention your salad, or saying “But I guess you don’t eat too many salads, do you?”, it should be fine.

          2. Ethyl*

            Yeah, I’m fat AND I eat kale. My body, she is not a bunsen burner, and there’s a lot more to it than kale in = thin.

            1. Bea W*

              I’m thin and I eat cupcakes. You wouldn’t see me eating salad very often. I just don’t like it as much as cupcakes.

            2. S*

              Yes, of course you’re right that it’s more complicated than that, but implying that there’s no correlation between what and how much you eat is not only silly, it’s irresponsible – just like implying that there’s no correlation between smoking and lung cancer is irresponsible.

          1. Jamie*

            I have some in the fridge and I’m making it tonight for the first time.

            I’ve used it in soups before, but never straight. I wasn’t excited about it, but this gives me hope. :)

            1. Elysian*

              Ooo! I’ve sauteed it and whatnot (like one might do with spinach) and its a great side. If you’re going to use it in a salad or something, raw, the key (in my humble opinion) is to massage the leaves. I think its supposed to get out some of the bitterness, and I can really taste the difference.

              1. Jamie*

                That’s what I was planning – a saute in a little olive oil, garlic, and finished with a little lemon juice. (saw it on food network and it looked good so I bought a bunch to try.)

                Too bitter to do raw, for me, I’m a delicate dew drop when it comes to that.

            2. OriginalEmma*

              Kale chips! Toss chopped kale in oil and seasoning of choice, pop in oven, be rewarded with crunchy goodness.

              1. Jamie*

                I have heard of those, but thought needed a fryer which I won’t use – will definitely try tonight.

                Made zucchini chips last weekend and I was dubious – but they were fabulous. A tossed in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and baked. The trick is getting them thin enough to be crispy. Put a little parmisian on some for the family, but I hate cheese. Both ways worked.

                1. Paige Turner*

                  Ooh, I’m saving this idea for summer when everyone’s up to their eyeballs with zucchini (I don’t really like it).

                2. Diane*

                  I don’t fry mine. I zap them with Pam, add salt and chili powder, and put them in the toaster oven for 25 minutes at about 275.

                3. vdubs*

                  You can roast them just like you would any other vege (but for less time!). Super easy to make kale chips, and oh so addictive. Just cut up, massage with olive oil and salt, and spread on baking sheet.

            3. Diane*

              I made scalloped potatoes layered with kale. Apparently it was my best dish ever, according to picky boys. So there’s that.

              1. Artemesia*

                I can’t eat onion and so we have learned to substitute kale in a lot of stew like recipes that onion would improve. It has enough punch to work that way. Otherwise a lot of stuff without the onions would be super bland.

        2. J-nonymous*

          The way to approach it then is to set the boundary clearly around your behaviors, aka “please don’t offer me snacks because I’m trying to change my dietary habits.” You’re not saying her food is bad or unhealthy, just that it doesn’t fall within the habits you’re trying to set. If she asks you why, explain whatever you feel comfortable sharing about your health goals. If she doesn’t, you don’t need to share. Keeping the boundary-setting free of “editorializing” keeps you out of that “danger zone”. And if she continues to push food, you treat it like you might a follow up to feedback, “Jane, we discussed this and I asked you not to offer me snacks because they don’t align with the habits I’m trying to establish. Please respect my boundaries.”

        3. Sophia*

          OP please try to stop looking at her for her weight. I know you aren’t meaning to, but this came across pretty strongly in your letter.

          As Alison pointed out, all sorts of different body types have food sharing issues.

          I am pretty morbidly obese and it would make me pretty darned depressed if any of my co-workers thought that my obesity meant I was less polite or less likely to eat a salad. I guarantee I am just like everyone else. I like the same foods. In fact I probably eat salads with avocado twice a week on average.

          My problem is quantity. I LOVE food and I’m a pretty darn good cook so I eat a LOT of (healthy) food. lol

        4. Victoria Nonprofit*

          I’m having a hard time writing a civil response here.

          My emotional reaction is: Damn, that’s crappy. You’re making a lot of unpleasant assumptions about this woman because of her weight. You actually think she’ll be insulted by the very fact of your healthy salad? Yikes.

          My more useful reaction: It sounds like her size makes you uncomfortable – or at the very least, that you’re highly aware of her size and are allowing it to affect the way you interact with her to a problematic extent. Her size does not define her. Please don’t allow it to define your perception of her or your interactions with her.

        5. Kera*

          That’s kind of a weird prism you’re looking at her through – all perceptions of her body, not her person. Blunt-stick analogy – if she were disabled, would you be awkward talking with her about a weekend spent marathon training? Why is that? .

    6. Callie*

      ” They are separate issues and her weight and what she eats is none of your business.”

      Yes. In fact, I’m not sure why the LW thought it necessary to mention the co-worker’s weight at all. This behavior would be equally annoying whether the co-worker was thin or fat, and mentioning her obesity just gave off an “ew, fat people” vibe that makes me, as an overweight person, feel extremely uncomfortable.

      1. Kim*

        Well, I’m overweight too but I did not get this vibe at all from OP. Like it or not, a pushy person who is shoving food in multiple people’s faces several times daily has a problem, and I think it was relevant to the OP in how he/she felt it was appropriate to respond. If a 115 pound, size 2 woman offers me cupcakes every three hours, I am going to feel differently about it than if it’s a 400-pound woman, and here’s why – my father died of obesity-related diabetes complications and I cannot be flippant about bathing suit season with someone who is killing herself slowly. It’s definitely not an “ew, fat people” thing at all.

        Actually, as a supervisor myself I would be appalled if one of my staff went around offering food to anyone, period. I would put an immediate stop to that. That is so creepy and inappropriate.

        1. Lolli*

          Skinny people have diabetics as well. High blood sugar does not always equal overweight so that isn’t a great example.

        2. KellyK*

          You’re making a lot of assumptions regarding body size and behavior here. Like Lolli said, diabetes is not a disease that only fat people get.

          1. S*

            Yes, but it’s incredibly irresponsible to imply that there’s no link between being overweight and diabetes, heart disease, etc. I have relatives who struggle with being obese and the health problems that often come from that, and it breaks my heart – and you probably don’t realize it, but what you’re saying is essentially encouraging people to disregard their health and ignore the innate connection between weight and overall health.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I think it sounds excessive (and expensive) but if no one partakes and she has to take home or toss most of it each day she’ll stop doing it.

      Exactly what I was thinking.

  7. Mike C.*

    “Our company recently hired a very sweet gal who is acutely obese.”

    Why does it matter what she weighs?

      1. Sunflower*

        Eden mentioned this downward and I agree- I think LW included it because LW is worried by saying ‘I’m trying to stick to a healthier diet’ or ‘Our team is actually trying to be healthier’ is going to make the new gal feel insecure or like she should be doing it too or like LW is judging her for size.

        1. Karowen*

          This. I don’t think it was done maliciously in any way, just to help inform the situation of not being able to say “hey, we want to be healthy!” because (as an overweight person myself), the implied connotation I *always* hear when someone says that is “You really need to lose weight. I am judging you so hard right now.”

          1. S*

            I hate to say it, but I think that’s on you if you’re reading that into what people are saying. Obviously if people are actually insulting you then that’s awful and unacceptable, but it’s not everyone’s job to modify their behavior to make everyone else as comfortable as possible – like it’s not the new coworker’s job in this letter to make the OP as comfortable as possible by not bringing in food at all. Lots of people enjoy exercising and/or eating healthy, either as a hobby or just for their health. Just because people talk about their hobbies around you doesn’t mean they’re doing it to insult you. (If you talked about making model airplanes, for example, it would be silly for your coworkers to assume you were judging them for not being as accomplished as you at making model airplanes. Clearly weight is a more loaded issue than model airplanes in our society, but I think the principle is still the same.)

            1. Jamie*

              Yes. To pull from wording I stole from Rana (who, if she were here would credit the site she got it from) people aren’t being thin at you. They aren’t eating healthy at you. Or being smart at you. Or being good at their job at you.

              If other people’s choices/actions make us feel bad about ours, that’s on us, not them.

              Insults and unsolicited advice in personal areas are offensive – people just living their lives isn’t. If you want to personally offend me you need to put some work into it. You need to mean it, and you need to be deliberate about it, and you need to direct it at me. Otherwise, I’m going to assume you aren’t living your life to make me feel bad about mine. Passive aggressive so rarely lands with me.

            2. Elysian*

              I don’t disagree with “that’s on you” but I think this is a common sentiment regarding food. “I’m trying to eat healthy” or “I’m a vegetarian” or “I’m gluten-intolerant” or “Is it organic?” have all become pretty loaded things to say. I once told a co-worker that I try to only eat meat once a day (in response to her confusion about whether I was a vegetarian or not), and I got a long lecture from her about how I was a “cheater” and a “fake.”

              Food isn’t a simple subject in our society, and I understand the OP’s discomfort with finding a way to address this while being sensitive about how her comments will be taken.

            3. Karowen*

              That’s not really what I said. People talking about their hobbies, people modulating their own food, people bringing in their own food and eating it themselves, I don’t care. And it is ABSOLUTELY on me that I’m reading into it when people mention their own weight, but I think it’s polite to acknowledge that it’s a possibility and to take it into account.

              It’s the same thing as I have really nice, really straight teeth buy my boyfriend’s family (him excepted) has awful teeth. Every once in awhile I’ll make a comment in front of him about how I have one wonky tooth and I hate it – and then I freeze like a deer in headlights going “oh crap, I hope he doesn’t take that the wrong way” even though its his family members that have the issue, not him. Following this logic, if someone was pushing sugary gum on me and they had awful teeth, even if my reason was that I didn’t want to get cavities I’d probably come up with another reason just because I would feel awful saying it.

              And, let’s be honest – because issues of appearance are *so* touchy, comparing it to model airplanes doesn’t even come close. It’s not something that people normally do, it’s not considered an abhorrence in our society, etc.

              To reiterate: I know that it is on me that I am overweight and reading in to what other people say, but that just means that I’m going to think carefully before I speak to avoid saying something that would make me feel bad if I were in their spot. I am NOT asking anyone else to do the same, I am NOT asking my co-workers who obsess about counting calories to stop counting them, I am NOT asking people to not “be thin at me.”

          2. OP*

            Thank you!

            AND, as an aside, no one has picked up on the part of the note which explains that a few of the other folks in the office have been trying to support each other with our weight loss and healthier eating habits.

            I’m 5’8 and 220 pounds.

        2. Jess*

          Agree. Mentioning her weight probably comes from a place of not wanting to respond cavalierly and appear judgmental than of actually judging her for her weight.

        3. MousyNon*

          Right at the bottom of the post OP says she’d wish her “acutely obese” coworker would “keep her unhealthy eating habits to herself”!! That’s a clear judgement, one OP made based solely on what she assumes to be the “cause” of her colleague’s supposed “acute obesity.”

          1. LBK*

            Huh? Are you saying having junk food all the time wouldn’t cause weight gain? I’m very confused by this comment.

            Fat shaming is bad but saying that eating badly causes weight gain is not fat shaming, it’s biology.

            1. MousyNon*

              And what about a colleague bringing in communal food (i.e. the kind of food TYPICALLY brought to parties/groups of people, like cookies, chips, candy, etc) assumes that a) they eat this way all of the time and b) said eating is the cause for THEIR obesity (which, incidentally, can also be caused by a host of underlying medical conditions, not just stuffing ones face with cheese puffs)?

              Of maybe my point is that the eating habits of another person *is none of our business.*

              1. LBK*

                Someone’s eating habits on their own time with no influence on me aren’t my business. Someone trying to push their eating habits on me is 100% my business.

                I read your comment as saying that it’s wrong to assume eating donuts and cupcakes every day is unhealthy. That is nonsense to me. I get that there may be other factors involved. I really do. But eating large amounts of unhealthy food has to be one of them.

                We’re not talking about OP judging a random overweight person and assuming it’s because they eat badly, we’re talking about someone for whom there is empirical evidence that they eat poorly, because OP sees them put unhealthy food in their body consistently.

                1. MousyNon*

                  You should read my comments as saying “how this woman eats is none of your business. The only thing that is your business is her interrupting you to offer you food, which is a behavior that can be corrected by a) telling her no thank you and b) limiting her ability to walk around and pass around food (i.e. establishing an “all communal food in the pantry” rule).

                2. LBK*

                  Who is saying anything about the woman’s eating habits? No one on this page has said the woman should stop eating junk food or even that she should stop bringing it in. If she wants to eat a donut every 5 minutes quietly at her cube, I agree that she is free to do that, and I would frankly be a little jealous that she could do that without feeling bad about it. I love donuts.

                  The entire conversation here has been around how the OP can politely ask the coworker to stop pushing it on her. Focusing so much on the OP’s word choice is completely distracting from the point at hand.

                3. LBK*

                  Sorry, I just realized my comment is contradictory to my comment before. Let me go back and clarify.

                  Here’s what I was confused by: That’s a clear judgement, one OP made based solely on what she assumes to be the “cause” of her colleague’s supposed “acute obesity.”

                  I’m confused why you consider the OP connecting her coworker’s unhealthy eating habits (which, again, she knows exist because she sees them on a daily basis) to her weight to be a judgment of the coworker. Saying someone is overweight isn’t in itself a judgment, at least not as far as I can tell.

            2. KellyK*

              It absolutely depends on the individual. There are people who can eat all the donuts and pizza in sight and stay skinny, and there are people who are still fat after years of eating mostly salads. There is such a thing as a set point, which is the weight your body tries to maintain.

              There’s also confirmation bias at work—if you see a fat person eating pizza, you’re likely to assume they eat pizza every day, because that fits the expected narrative. You could see a thin person eating the same thing and assume it’s a special treat.

              1. Elysian*

                As an aside, I don’t actually know any of these people that can literally “eat all the donuts in sight” on a regular basis and still be skinny. I’ve heard people say they exist, but I’m not convinced that they do. I knew people who could do it, once upon a time, when we were all like… 15… but I think most people grow out of that and find that eventually you really do need portion control. We’re all in that boat together.

                I do agree that different people have different metabolisms, etc, but I honestly don’t know anyone at the “eat literally everything in sight and not gain weight” extreme.

                1. MousyNon*

                  I, on the other hand, have a cousin that is 38 and eats exclusively deep fried foods (she once returned a plate of chicken fingers because they sprinkled parsley on it, I swear). Her cholesterol and blood pressure are through the roof, and she’s a size 2. They exist.

                2. cecilhungry*

                  This is obviously anecdotal, but my dad is 60 and is FINALLY having to deal with weight gain. The man can and does eat whatever the hell he wants and drinks a pretty fair amount of beer (hello, reason for my personal weight gain) and is only just now unable to wear outfits from high school/college. Meanwhile, his siblings all run marathons just to try to keep a manageable weight. So yeah, there are people who can “eat ALL the things” and stay thin.

                3. S*

                  In response to MousyNon – your cousin sounds pretty unhealthy, but the reason people can stay at low weights while eating only deep fried stuff is that they don’t eat very MUCH of it. If your cousin had deep fried chicken fingers for dinner, for example, but all she had the rest of the day was a piece of toast for breakfast and, idk, one mozzarella stick for lunch, she might end up at around 1900 calories for the whole day, which is probably about as much as a size 2 woman would burn – so she’d have zero net calories and stay the same size. (Wild guesses here, but just trying to explain how the numbers work). Or maybe you’ve only seen her on pig-out days, and on other days she eats very little so it all balances out.

                4. Stephanie*

                  They exist. My friend is rail thin and ate at the Cheesecake Factory regularly. He also had a heart attack at age 26, had to have heart surgery, and was on some ungodly amount of meds for a while. He’s ok now.

                  Usually, those rail thin people are naturally thin, but have horrible cholesterol or blood pressure or something. Also, metabolism slows down as you age, so they may deal with weight gain later.

                5. Chinook*

                  My MIL’s family is all skinny regardless of what they eat or do. Eat junk food and they don’t get fat but spend all day working on the ship, fishing and sealing, and still just as skinny. Eat a diet high in salt – n0 blood pressure issues (probably because those who did have that issue were killed off in the early generations of eating salted cod tongue). Work out hours a day and have high protein drinks -still not break 200 lbs despite being over 6ft tall. Genetics play a strong role in some families.

                6. ThinAnon*

                  I can eat anything (and I LOVE food) and not gain a pound. It’s genetics; my whole family is super tall and skinny. I never work out either, which I know is really unhealthy no matter how much I weigh.

                7. Anon scientist*

                  Easy peasy. Fast metabolism + non desk job + always moving = can eat anything. I have a bipolar friend who literally eats fast food twice a day and then eats a full restaurant meal at night. He takes his shirt off and has a ridiculous “skinny man flab” gut, but you’d never know otherwise.

                  I’m slowing down now that I’m 35, but I’m twitchy and my metabolism ramps up something fierce if I’m in the field for a few weeks. It’s really not that unusual.

                8. Dulcinea*

                  I am one of those people. I eat fast food several times a week, often more than once a day, and today I had a bag (full size) of doritos for dinner with jelly beans on the side, I very rarely exercise, and I have maintained a healthy weight (confirmed by my doctor) and wear size 6. People comment on how slim I am. A physical about a year ago with bloodwork showed healthy cholestorol, very low diabetes risk, healthy liver function, low blood pressure. Only thing wrong was vitamin D deficiency. I can’t explain it and I imagine it won’t last forever, but yes, we exist. (Also, eating this way makes me feel awful energy wise even if there haven’t been any real health consequences yet, so I do periodically get my a$$ in gear to eat healthy meals, but I go weeks at a time without doing so).

                9. Bea W*

                  Most people in my family could eat all the donuts in sight and not be overweight. I’m barely 110, 5’5″ and have been since about 9th grade more than 25 years ago. I seriously ate in the course of 3 days 9 pieces of chocolate layer cake, sometimes with ice cream, 3 pieces of pie, and God knows what else. it was Thanksgiving. My only complaint was all that cake in a short period made my bowels unhappy.

                  I try to gain weight, and it just physically impossible. I’m sedentary. I snarfed down most of a whole cake and gained nothing. Brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nephews, parents were the same way. My parents started gaining at my age now, but a lot of us have just remained thin. My brother says he gained when he was drinking a lot of beer every day, but has never had that experience with anything else. We do exist, but I think I’d have to draw the line at Peeps inside donuts. That’s all kinds of wrong no matter what you’re size and metabolism.

                10. Elysian*

                  I mean, I know lots of people who can eat only unhealthy things and stay thin. And I know a bunch of people who can eat a large quantity of food, and still be thin (because they’re active, higher metabolism, whatever). But everyone I know has some kind of portion control (though their stopping point may be higher than mine). If you’re literally eating a whole buffet, or something, you’re going to weigh more at the very least because you now contain several pounds extra of food. If you do that regularly, your body just has to expand to contain all that food. From a practical perspective, I just don’t think it can work (in a very literal sense).

              2. S*

                I agree there’s confirmation bias at work, but the literature about things like set points, etc. is pretty flawed, I think mostly because it relies on self-reporting. Losing weight is about expending more calories than you consume, period. (Some more info –;

                Of course none of this is to say it’s anyone’s place to judge random overweight people – that’s their business and their doctor’s business – but I think there’s a lot of bad information and misconceptions out there about weight loss, which is just really unfortunate for everyone.

                1. MousyNon*

                  Your “calories in/calories out” theory is just as flawed and problematic (link posted below), since calories in/calories out does not address any number of correlative factors re: weight and food processing, e.g. insulin resistance, weak gut flora, hormonal fluctuations, thyroid issues, and on and on and on and on.

                2. S*

                  “The long-recommended advice to eat less and exercise more has done little to curb the inexorable rise in weight.” – yes, because people do not actually do that, as one of the peer-reviewed studies I linked to indicates. Eating less and exercising more is really, really hard. It just is, especially in a culture where unhealthy, calorie-dense food is more easily and cheaply available than healthier food. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that it won’t work if you actually do it (and keep it up, it’s about changing your lifestyle, not just going on a diet for a while). And yes, of course nutrition is important as well – for example, foods higher in protein and/or fiber will make you feel more full in smaller quantities and fewer calories – so, calories and the food they come from are both important.

                  This is getting really off-topic, and I do apologize for that, but I think that this blame-genetics mindset, which in effect denies that people have agency and control over their own bodies and their own health, is deeply harmful on both individual and societal levels.

            3. Ethyl*

              When I was very, very sick, I did indeed eat junk food a lot and never got fat. Bodies aren’t bunsen burners, and biology is hella more complicated than “eat bad stuff, get fat.” A LOT of what people think is “common sense” is actually bad science done by companies that make weight loss products, too, btw.

              1. S*

                Right, because gaining weight is not about eating bad stuff, it’s about eating too MUCH stuff. Eating bad stuff will give you other health problems, because your body needs good nutrition, but you can lose weight eating only Reese’s cups if you still burn more calories than you consume.

                1. S*

                  (And if you were sick, your body was burning a lot more calories than usual because your immune system was in hyperdrive trying to get well.)

                2. TL*

                  I’ve definitely lost weight on super unhealthy diets. One time I ate nothing but rice and dairy (mostly milk and ice cream) for two weeks. Lost twelve pounds (and gained it back after I fixed my stomachache) but it was definitely not a healthy diet.

                  And if I eat only junk food in a day, I eat a lot less than if I was eating regular meals, so again – unhealthy diet but lots of calorie control. It’s when I combine junk food with regular meals that I start racking up the calories :)

                  In my experience people who can “eat whatever they want” tend to eat small portions of junk food and not a lot of anything else.

                3. Cat*

                  S, what you’re missing is that some people’s metabolisms will slow down and burn fewer calories when they eat even marginally less and vice versa.

                4. TL*

                  @Cat: But you still have to burn a certain amount of calories to live.
                  There are some studies showing that, particularly after a certain level of obesity, if you decrease calories enough, your body can go into starvation mode and start conserving energy well before it should – but if you drop the amount of calories you’re eating enough, you will start to lose weight.
                  Whether or not it is healthy for a particular individual to eat few enough calories to lose weight is another story. But starve anyone, and I mean anyone, enough and they will start to lose weight. (Note: I am not advocating starvation as a weight-loss tactic!)

                5. KellyK*

                  Going along with what C said, there’s no way to consciously determine how your body allocates energy. You can’t eat 1200 calories and say, “Okay, body, use all 1200 of those on daily activities, and pull the other 500 I need from my fat stores.” That may happen, or your body may drop your body temperature and slow down other processes so that you only burn 1000 calories—then those other 200 get stored as fat.

                  Yes, if you reduce calories enough, you can lose weight (assuming you don’t have a heart attack first, and assuming that you have the willpower to constantly ignore your hunger signals). But the mechanisms that determine how many calories are “enough” are outside of conscious control.

                6. SJ*

                  @KellyK: I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of biology and energy consumption, as well as an offensive attitude. let me explain. I’m sorry if this comes across as condescending in any way, it is just something that I am very passionate about and has affected me personally, and people I love, and it is very upsetting to see people misinformed and saying things that they probably don’t even know are hurtful

                  1st – “there’s no way to consciously determine how your body allocates energy.” aside from the fact that there ARE ways to do this (i.e. – resistance training with weights will stimulate muscle growth, running long distances will make your body tap into fat reserves for energy and tell your muscles to store more glycogen, etc.), you seem to think that because you can’t will it to be so, your body might just decide to do random things! luckily, our body does not work that way, otherwise our hearts might just “decide” to stop, or our lungs might “decide” that pumping CO2 into the blood stream was a better idea than removing it! normally when the body “decides” to do something that is counter to its normal, basic functions, we see a doctor for treatment.

                  Eating is no different, and human bodies are not a realm outside that of basic thermodynamics. we are not perpetual motion machines. if you gain weight while working at an energy deficit, you should immediately notify biologists, physicists, and put yourself up for a Nobel Prize, because you have just proven wrong the basic laws of thermodynamics which govern our universe.

                  Now, on to the offensive part of what you said. “Yes, if you reduce calories enough, you can lose weight (assuming you don’t have a heart attack first, and assuming that you have the willpower to constantly ignore your hunger signals). ” this is offensive to me on two levels. First, as someone who has actually committed myself to lifestyle changes due to health reasons (my doctor told me at age 21 I had the plaque buildups in my arteries and more than double the level of LDL, or bad cholesterol, that I should have for someone my age, as well as a few other issues), I can agree with you that it is not easy. But, (and this is a very big but), it is not anywhere near on par the level of danger that being overweight or obese is.

                  “assuming you don’t have a heart attack first”? really? I have struggled with my weight to prevent such a thing from happening to me, since I was at risk for it and heart disease is a common condition brought on in part by being overweight. But somehow I am the one who is at risk and hurting myself? maybe if I had an actual eating disorder, like other people I am very close with. they have struggled with their weight and body image in ways that I can only imagine, but to say that anyone who diets is on the same level of them is even more offensive to me. they are people with serious issues that are minimized by society, that are joked about, and you saying that healthy dieting is essentially the same as what they go through really hurts me and others who DO need to lose weight for health reasons and is SO not helping anyone.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                I was reading an old nonfiction book about a children’s hospital and they were talking about a cystic fibrosis patient in particular, and the hospital’s kitchen generally. The author said that there was a lot of junky food on the menu, but because they had kids like the CF kid who were very underweight and for whom eating really kinda sucked, they tried to have things the kids liked and would actually eat. It was more about getting needed calories than anything else. (And the CF kid was so sick it didn’t really matter what the hell he ate; he died at the end of the book anyway.)

                I think the book came out in the 1970s; I don’t know what if any adjustments this particular hospital would have made in the meantime.

                Tl;dr when you’re sick, if chicken nuggets make you feel better and you need the calories, eat them.

        4. anon~*

          Yes. Sunflower gets the OP. I agree with this 100%.

          It’s funny, I saw the point in the comments when people started to turn on the OP.. I almost commented ‘slowly I turn..’

          Why must the OP’s word choice and intentions be scrutinized and attacked? Just answer what the OP (or any OP) is asking!! Or not. Just. Don’t. Respond!

          I’m surprised that it took so long for folks to start talking about productivity – what exactly is this woman’s job that she’s managing to walk around pushing food several times a day? And why is this being allowed? Seems like management is not paying to much attention to what this new employee is doing.

          But back to my original point – to all of you that are claiming that the OP is being judgy .. seems a mirror might be handy before you choose your own words! Jeesh!

    1. The Real Ash*

      The cynical part of me wants to say “So that the OP can get people on her side because it’s OK in our society to treat fat people as ‘bad people’ and judge them”, and the non-cynical part wants to say, “So it’s easier for the OP to possibly explain why the co-workers brings in so much food (which is still really judgey and rude and doesn’t need to be said).”

      I guess I’m just really cynical today…

      1. sunny-dee*

        Or, like Karowen said, it makes the “I want to be healthy conversation” a lot harder to have without sounding accusatory.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I disagree. If the co-worker was skinny, she could just say, “hey, please knock it off with the treats, we’re trying to eat more healthy around here.” With the co-worker not skinny, that comment will have an underlying criticism of the co-workers weight and food choices. Even if she doesn’t want the ‘bad people’ and judging her vibe, it will be there. So, it is material, and she needs a different method to respond in a non-judgmental way.

        1. MousyNon*

          Or the response could just be: “no thanks, I don’t snack during the day.”

          Simple and easy. Size (or assumptions about other coworker’s health choices) need not apply.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          Exactly. It’s harder to phrase it so it doesn’t come across as “we are trying to eat less junk food (unlike you) because we are trying to be healthy (not like you).”

        3. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

          See, what I hear when I read that is, “Dear AAM: I want my co-worker to stop offering me unhealthy snacks all the time. You’d think I’d just ask her to stop, rite? But there’s a twist: she’s fat! What do I do now???

      3. OP*

        Well, don’t be so cynical. :) I’m overweight myself as are the folks in the office who have teamed up to support each other in getting healthier. We go for walks, try out healthier food options together, etc.

      1. Eden*

        I got the opposite impression, that the LW was trying NOT to come off as judgmental. My take is that LW is more nervous about approaching the co-worker because she doesn’t want the co-worker to think she’s judging her weight while addressing the snacks.

        Maybe I’m out in left field…

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I felt like if a average weight person said “don’t give me snacks” to another average weight person, it’s no big deal. No hidden message.

          The OP may have worried if an average weight person said “don’t give me snacks” to a heavy person, then the implied message is “don’t give me snacks, I don’t want to get as fat as you.” I don’t know what the obese person’s reaction would be, but as an average weight person, I would worry about that.

        2. AAA*

          I think I agree with this too. Initially I thought it might be judgmental–but I think Eden is on to something.
          I am a person who is very conscious about what I put into my body for a whole host of reasons, personal and political, though generally not weight-related reasons. I constantly worry that I am going to come off as judgmental or snobby for refusing unhealthy food when it is pushed on me–especially in front of my more weight/body conscious friends and colleagues (who might happen to be differently shaped than I am). Nobody wants to come off as “holier than thou”.
          I generally just try to say “no thanks” without any comment on the healthiness of the food offered.

          1. KAS*

            One of my family members always advises, “No editorial”–meaning just say “no thank you”–without 14 reasons why not.

            1. Zillah*

              Unfortunately, though, it’s not that simple in this or in many other situations. “No thank you” will certainly get the coworker to stop offering it right then, but it doesn’t communicate the overarching issue – the OP doesn’t want to be offered the snacks any more going forward.

          2. Laura2*

            Yep. And sometimes it’s because other people make it into a big deal and take it as a personal comment on their own eating habits if you refuse food for whatever reason or no reason.

      2. Laura*

        I don’t think the OP was trying to be either of those things. I read it more as the OP was trying to illustrate how *much* junk food the colleague was saturating the workplace with, although they picked a bad descriptor to do so.

        Comments like this make people feel bad for asking questions here.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree that sometimes comments can focus on the trivial and it’s a concern that it would cause people to be reticent to ask questions – but wondering why an irrelevant comment was included doesn’t fall under that umbrella, imo.

          If the OP did mean it because she thought it relevant and might need more delicate handling then comments like these are a heads up to include that information. Because without that it’s just an irrelevant piece of information which casts a judgy light on the situation.

          If she had mentioned the co-worker was blonde, or spoke with an accent, or a certain ethnicity it would be just as irrelevant and people would wonder why it was being included.

          1. Cathi*

            I think there are comparable instances for hair/accent/ethnicity when, like the OP was, one is mentioning it out of concern for sensitivity and not wanting to cause offense. For example:

            “My new coworker, who moved here recently from India, has been going around the office multiple times a day inviting us to do some meditative yoga with her in a conference room.” Being Indian might have nothing to do with her love of yoga, but it might be a cultural thing, OP doesn’t know and doesn’t want to offend the yoga-obsessed coworker by implying that she (she herself, by virtue of cultural/spiritual/whatever intrinsic values) isn’t welcome in the office.

        2. MousyNon*

          If people feel bad that’s unfortunate, but words don’t exist in a vacuum, and inevitably somebody is going to have an opinion on something someone says.

          But to your argument that the OP wasn’t trying to be judgmental or inappropriate, I disagree. OP believes she can extrapolate eating habits from a colleague’s perceived size and their desire to get to know their coworkers by bringing communal food in. I know this because it’s *right there at the bottom of the post, where OP says she’d wish her OP-described-“acutely obese” coworker would “keep her unhealthy eating habits to herself”* and then laments feeling bad about it! That, like I wrote above, is a clear judgement, one OP made based solely on what she assumes to be the ’cause’ of her colleague’s supposed “acute obesity.”

          Whenever my coworkers bring in food for the department, it’s always something easily shareable (like candy, cookies, or chips). Does this mean they have unhealthy eating habits as well? Or maybe it’s only the fat ones?

          The point is that OP isn’t her doctor and shouldn’t be commenting on her coworker’s size or health.

          1. fposte*

            I think we have a bit of an iceberg problem here, because it turns out that it is in fact an ongoing thing for the OP’s co-worker, and it wasn’t explained in detail in the original post. She didn’t extrapolate, she observed.

            1. MousyNon*

              It doesn’t matter if it’s an on-going thing. For goodness sake, her eating habits are her own business! Unless this co-worker explicitly asks OP for her opinion on her personal eating habits or health, it shouldn’t factor in!

              The only thing at issue here is the professional one, i.e. how often the co-worker interrupts the department, and this is easily solved by creating a rule limiting food to the pantry so that people can choose to grab some if they want.

              1. fposte*

                It shouldn’t factor in to what the OP *says* to her, I agree.

                But why can’t it factor in to how she responds to it emotionally, and here? That seems pretty human to me. I’m thinking of the OP whose co-worker thought she was pregnant, for instance, and I think that OP had a similar challenge, in that she was really concerned about this co-worker for a variety of reasons. She was crystal clear that the situation was treated at face value, but the surrounding emotions were valid too.

              2. LBK*

                I still don’t understand how “her eating habits are her own business” has anything to do with this situation. No one has said anything in this entire comment thread about OP asking the coworker to not eat junk food or to not bring it to the office. Bringing in junk food and forcing it on everyone is NOT an eating habit.

          2. Zillah*

            The OP clarified above that Eden’s reading – that she’s nervous about addressing this because she doesn’t want the coworker to think she’s judging her weight rather than the snacks – is correct. Her coworker’s weight is relevant because of that concern.

            Should it be? Maybe not, but the OP is worried about being sensitive, which I don’t think is a terrible thing… and the comment about unhealthy eating seems to be based in the amount of unhealthy food the coworker is bringing in. I’d call what’s described unhealthy no matter what size the person is.

      3. fractal*

        I also read it as being slightly judgmental, but now that I’m seeing other perspectives I guess the OP has good intentions. Of course it didn’t help that s/he kept referring to the coworker as “gal,” which always came across as condescending to me.

    2. LBK*

      Here’s my take on why she mentioned that: in my experience when I’m trying to eat healthier around people who aren’t as diet-conscious, it’s hard to get them to stop offering junk food.
      Things like “C’mon, one donut won’t kill you” and such gets thrown at you. Which is true, but if I eat one that will set off my sweet tooth and then I’ll be shoving chocolate bars in my face when I get home. It’s like being the non-drinker at a party – some people almost take it as a challenge when you decline.

      My office is generally very health conscious, but I have coworkers that like to bake or just like to pick up munchkins for the office on Friday. The difference is since everyone is usually pretty careful about what they eat here, no one bats an eye if you turn down sweets.

      And finally, that’s a pretty clinical term. OP didn’t say “she’s a gross fatty who can’t stop eating” or something.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Many people use “gal” as the female equivalent of “guy.” I don’t want us nitpicking people’s word choices unless they’re truly central to the issue.

        1. fractal*

          Really? I rarely hear anybody use it nowadays unless it’s in jest…wait, nope, not even in jest.

          1. Joey*

            Wow. Glad I don’t ever write it with questions. It’s pretty hard to know which words will offend no one.

            1. Liz in a Library*

              Yeah… Some of our responses (not Mena’s specifically, so I definitely don’t want it to sound like I’m calling you out) are making me sad lately. I feel like we as a group have stopped supporting people who write in for help and are just bullying them instead. There are occasions where calling out problematic language is appropriate (and needed!), but it just seems to happen all the time now, more often than we are offering advice on the actual question at hand…

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, and I’m going to start taking a harder line on it, which will mean having repeat offenders’ comments go to moderation. But I’d really appreciate people not making that necessary.

                I’m pretty pissed about it, frankly, given that I’ve been asking politely for some time now.

                1. Annie O*

                  One of the things I love about this site is that you offer real advice that we can use. It’s less about, “here’s what should be happening in a perfect world,” and more about, “here’s some specific steps you can take to address your problem.”

                  I used to see this same goal expressed in the comments – real advice that readers can use. But lately it seems like we commenters are getting derailed on nit picky details and word choice instead of focusing on the problem and solution! I mean, is it really more important to criticize the OP’s word choice instead of offering pragmatic advice?

                2. Joey*

                  Fwiw, it appears a lot of commenters don’t really have any real advice on the actual issue at hand and are using the nitpickiness as an excuse to participate and feel helpful. I think the intentions are good, they’re just misguided and create rabbit holes.

                3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  This is a particularly disappointing comment section today. The nit picking of the OPs words + wild speculation about what individual words really meant – way out of control.

                4. Aussie Teacher*

                  Alison, maybe you could include a ‘disclaimer’-type comment along with the other fields to fill out when people comment that says something along the lines of “Please treat this forum and the people in it as if you were at a dinner party” etc and include a link to the post where you specifically articulated what you wanted to see in the comments? Lots of people may have (a) missed that post or (b) forgotten and a reminder every time they post may remind them?

            2. De Minimis*

              It’s getting a little tiresome. It’s one thing when it has something to do with the topic of the question, but it seems like every other thread now gets derailed…

            3. Rev.*

              Well, I’m going to apologize in advance; sometimes my idioms/methods of expression are rooted in my upbringing. Where I come from, “gal” has a friendly connotation, as in, “Gal, when was the last time I drank some of your coffee?”

              If I happen to offend with my speech, charge my head, not my heart.

              Now, having said that, some of us dive into the deep end of the sensitivity pool P.D.Q. Why is that?

              Can we simply answer the question, or provide insight to a discussion subset, or just bring a smile to someone’s face?

              1. J.B.*

                Woah, woah, woah! The specific use of the term “gal” can feel quite derogatory. I almost never hear people use it in the same context they use “guy”. Often when I have heard it used it has been to connotate that a female is lower status and it is not usually said in a tone of respect. I mean, would you really say it to or about someone female who is your equal or superior?

                Perhaps the comment should be rephrased as “when you are approaching this coworker, communicate to her as an equal, because if you’re worried about her taking feedback as a comment on her size, ‘gal’ or ‘hon’ won’t sit well either”.

    3. Sarah*

      It matters what she weighs in the form of context. Rephrase it as: “My coworker who has problems with alcohol and often drinks too much on social outings with other coworkers has been pushing alcohol on others when we’re out as a group, but I don’t like to drink.”

      Would you assume that the coworker’s fondness for alcohol had anything with their fondness for pushing it on others? It bears on the issue, which might be why the OP brought it up.

    4. Lanya*

      Thank you, Mike. I would be money that if this food-pushing person were a skinny minnie, this comment would not even have come into play in the OP’s question to AAM.

  8. Celeste*

    Ah, food pushers. You say no thanks, and they hear not today.

    My script would be, It’s really generous of you to bring in treats for the office. I just want to ask you not to offer them to *me* anymore. I’m sticking to a set meal plan, and I have my own snacks that fit into it. Thanks for understanding.

    I would not make up food allergies, I would not question if she has the time for walking around to serve food, and I would so *not* go there about “healthy food”.

    If it really is getting to you that the break room always has this stuff sitting out, I might speak to a supervisor and ask if they could have her cut it down to holidays and Fridays. It’s more of a treat when it’s not sitting out there every day, for those who think of this stuff as desirable.

    Good luck with your fitness goals!

    1. C average*


      I find that telling people I have a specific plan prevents them from repeatedly offering me things I don’t want. It also prevents them from taking my “no thanks” as a personal rejection. It works for lots of things, actually. “It’s great that you’re raising money for [good cause], but I have a charitable giving plan I like to stick to.” “Thanks for inviting me to [expensive thing], but I’m trying to stick to a budget.” “Thanks for the offer, but I have a food plan that works really well for me and I’m sticking to it.”

      Added benefit: Your colleagues view you as a goal-oriented, stick-to-a-plan kind of person. That’s never a bad thing.

    2. anon~*

      This is a great script but the problem is not the food in the break room, it’s the food that is being pushed several times a day when the new co-worker is walking around and interrupting those working. The food is not being offered passively (in the break room), it is being offered aggressively. OP is looking for a way to say no without offending her new coworker.

  9. Diet Coke Addict*

    Can you ask her manager to ask her to focus on working, instead of offering treats 3x daily? Because that does seem to be pretty over-the-top. I wonder if she read something somewhere about bringing treats to a new office in an effort to meet people, etc.

    1. Natalie*

      Unless OP is her manager, I think it’s going to be hard to say “can you focus on working?” without sounding rude.

    2. KellyK*

      I would only do this if you’ve asked her to stop and she hasn’t *and* if it’s causing a problem for you as far as getting your work done. (It’s not her boss’s job to help you stick to your diet, and you really shouldn’t turn it into a productivity problem if it isn’t one.)

    3. Dana*

      Ya, it was in a Forbes article! lol

      Seriously though, I’m all for bringing in something once in a while as a treat, but this is so not the way to create a professional reputation in an office setting.

      It’s like the question a while ago about whether to mention to an employee about dressing more professional – I would really want this treat-bearer’s boss to say something along the lines of “Repeatedly interrupting people to offer treats is unprofessional. Be known for your excellent work, not your supply of cheesy poofs.”

  10. Kristen*

    Could the trips through the office bearing sweets have something to do with her being new? It is definitely over the top to the degree she’s taking it, and I would also hate someone being overly insistent on my snacking; however, she could be trying to get to know people casually, one-on-one and just going about it in a misguided way. Maybe it will die down as she settles in more? Or, maybe you could offer to get some coffee/kale smoothies/whatever option you like with her one day- not that you should HAVE to do this OP, but you say she’s “very sweet” so a quick sit down on your terms might help with the message.

  11. CTO*

    I wonder if this new co-worker is using her food-offering rounds as a way to connect with the rest of the staff. Haven’t we seen that offered as a suggestion here before when people are trying to get to know their coworkers (not the walking around, but having treats at your desk to share)?

    If that isolation or trouble connecting seems to be part of the problem, are there other ways you can help your new colleague feel part of the team? Maybe an occasional group lunch, or just making sure to chat with her once in a while, or anything else that might be able to take the place of her attempts to get to know you via junk food.

  12. Eden*

    I can see why this is noted. It’s because the LW doesn’t want the co-worker to perceive judgment in her request.

    “I’m trying to eat more healthy foods” said to someone who is significantly overweight could trigger feelings of judgment (she hears in her head, “and you should, too,” whether that’s the intent of the requester or not).

    Not saying it’s right, but I can see why it is a concern. No one wants to come off as judge-y, especially when there isn’t any involved.

    1. BostonBaby*

      Yeah I agree with Eden about the reason why OP mentioned her co-worker’s weight. I don’t get judgmental at all from the rest of her letter and from her overall tone she makes it obvious that she knows it is her issue and not the co-workers.

      Coming from a generally overweight family, it happens often enough that my family members assume a judgmental tone that isn’t there if I mention my own attempts to be healthier. As we can see from these comments, people can get very touchy about weight and asking for advice about how to navigate that doesn’t make her a terrible person.

      Also Skinny-Shaming is still shaming. So lets not go there and make assumptions about the OP either.

  13. Jubilance*

    The walking around with treats thing seems like a lot. I get that she may be using it as a way to get to know coworkers, but that would drive me insane.

  14. LizNYC*

    What’s “acutely obese”? The opposite of “obtusely obese”? And if this was an older woman who reminded you of your grandmother, would you be as upset by her body shape?

    This is about boundaries, just like if this coworker was stopping by multiple times per day to “just chat” or like the Coworker of the Year from a few days ago who kept calling the OP a slutty dresser.

    And for your information, even those of us who are obese in any angle form may be trying to lose weight. Those who are without food misdeeds may cast the first buttered roll.

    1. Jamie*

      Okay – bringing geometry into this cracked me up. My hat is off to you!

      And it’s funny because when I read this I immediately thought of my gramma, who was not even obese in the Pythagorean sense, but who would push food at you constantly like it was her job.

      She never worked outside the home, so it was a known hazard of going to Gramma’s or allowing her into yours, but still had she had an office…they would have all been introduced to homemade eclairs and cinnamon rolls so good they’d make you proud to be alive. Daily.

      But yeah – average and skinny people do this, too. Trust me.

    2. Laura*

      Hey, now – let’s not shame the OP. As another commenter pointed out upthread, the OP likely mentioned it because they didn’t want to be approaching an obese colleague who hands out a lot of junk food with “No thanks, *I’m* trying to eat healthy”.

      I think commeters here really need to examine the intent behind an OP’s words before condemning them, not just immediately condemn them for the words alone.

      1. LBK*

        I think commeters here really need to examine the intent behind an OP’s words before condemning them, not just immediately condemn them for the words alone.

        +1, not that people don’t write in with some insulting language sometimes but we don’t need to turn this into Jezebel.

        1. fposte*

          Umpteenthed. I think that’s especially true when it’s a point Alison or anybody else has already made, so what we’re really doing by repeating it is turning up the megaphone at the OP.

        2. Ella*

          I’m fat and found it really hard to read this post for both the language and the content around this woman’s weight. It’s only “turning into Jezebel” if you’re a reader not in the class of people subject to the disparagement.

          1. Liz in a Library*

            I have to seriously disagree with this, as a reader who is both obese and getting worn down by the OP shaming we do around here increasingly often. I absolutely believe that the OP (who has already said that she is, herself, overweight in the comments) only included the reference to her colleague’s weight to show that she is trying to address this in a non-offensive manner.

            I do feel that the comments here have gotten attack-y (and yep, remind me of Jezebel) lately, and I’ve cut my reading because of it. I’m not directing that at you, but just explaining that many of us absolutely feel the way LBK does…

          2. LBK*

            Fair enough – as an average upper middle class white guy I probably don’t feel the sting of a lot of the things people criticize LWs for, particularly in regards to word choice.

            My problem is when people are commenting just for the purpose of tearing apart a LW’s word choice, with nothing else useful to say. What’s the point? Just the righteousness of informing one more person about how the language they use is offensive, often without them even realizing it? I have to wonder if someone who comes here to make that kind of comment does the same thing in their everyday life.

            As a general rule, I think people should treat commenting here as a family dinner or a business meeting. If someone’s choice of words wouldn’t cause you to interrupt either of those events to call someone out, you don’t need to bring it up in the comments, especially if you have nothing else to say related to the topic at hand.

            Alison’s very good at recognizing when word choice or descriptions of a situation could use some correcting and she usually gives polite but firm notes about it in her answers. Piling on about it in the comments is uncalled for.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think people should treat commenting here as a family dinner or a business meeting.

              Totally agreed. I’d actually modify it to “a group of my guests in my living room.” I have trouble believing people would do that in my house, where they were guests.

              1. J.B.*

                But, see discussion about “gal” above, when someone in my living room describes a “gal” at work I have a reeeeaaaally hard time keeping my mouth shut for the sake of peace. Perhaps some of this is very regional, and of course weight is a touchy subject.

      2. Sunflower*

        I agree with this. However, just FYI for everyone, I just googled ‘acutely obese’ because I honestly didn’t know if it was a real thing and while a couple suggested searches came up, nothing indicated it was a real or popular term. I wonder if OP got that term confused with something else? Because I don’t think OP said it to mock the new gal.

        1. Lizzie*

          I think sometimes people use “acute” to mean “extreme” because they’ve heard it in the context of an “acute illness” and misinterpreted what it meant.

          1. Jamie*

            Medically acute means rapid onset with a severe course.

            In lay terms – acute is typically used with severe pain which is brief and limited. Chronic is a medical condition that lasts over a longer period of time, but can also be severe.

            Biliary disease is chronic, a gallbladder attack is acute.

            Acute =/= severe. An acute attack is often severe, but it needs to meet the other criteria as well.

          2. Vraska*

            Searching google for “define acute”, the first definition is:
            1. (of a bad, difficult, or unwelcome situation or phenomenon) present or experienced to a severe or intense degree.
            synonyms: severe, critical, drastic, dire…

            It’s not an incorrect or unusual usage of the term.

      3. Jamie*

        There is no way to examine intent if the intent wasn’t included in the post.

        There is a big difference between condemning people and pointing out an issue. And no one has been condemning her here – no one is calling her names or getting personal. They are saying that her choosing to include that fact came off judgy. If that wasn’t her intent it’s good information for her to have, that a sizable group of people took it that way.

        The line between enough people commenting to understand a general consensus on how different people think and piling on is a very fine one – and no forum will ever hit that perfectly every time.

        And the joke about the angles was funny. Everyone misspeaks (types?) sometimes and people have to have a sense of humor about that. Once here I typed coop instead of coup (as in an stage a…) and yes, there were jokes about my overthrowing chicken regimes. This was playful teasing about word usage.

        I don’t like pile ons when it’s excessive, and I certainly hate to see people being cruel or taking personal shots – but that’s not the same as people pointing out issues with the OP’s stated comments or disagreeing with other commentors.

        I think any OP has the right to expect civility, but not total validation or an echo chamber – which is what happens when any dissenting opinion is policed, even when civilly stated.

        1. fposte*

          I’m with you in not wanting to silence dissent, but I think the sheer volume of comments means that if even 10% of the commenters say just one thing about that line in the post, that’s a heck of a lot of posts hammering on the same point that Alison already made. I think when we write our own response that’s a proportional response in isolation, but we’re not actually posting in isolation, and we can become part of a highly disproportionate response when the momentum starts to ramp up. (“The dose makes the poison,” if you will.)

          So what I’m leaning toward is avoiding repeating Alison or previous commenters in a correction of/disagreement with the OP unless I’m bringing a genuinely new dimension. I’m not sure I’m the best judge of myself on that, but I figure it’s a place to start.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree with this, and I will stop with this because it’s getting too meta for a non-open thread – but I wanted to clarify that this comment of mine was in response to “shaming the OP.” No one shamed her for anything, they took issue with something.

            I should have ignored what felt like loaded language to me – but my tldr point was that piling on is bad, but so is considering dissent or a playful joke about language to be ‘shaming’ and good comment sections are brought down by the second as much, if not more so, that the first.

            1. Laura*

              Alright – “shame” was a bad choice of word. I certainly didn’t intend to use loaded language.

              I picked the word because this comment was another in a lengthening line of comments about the OP’s choice to include the information that the colleague in question was obese (and if you look at timestamp you’ll see I responded early in the thread), instead of addressing the problem the OP wrote in for.

    3. Sarah*

      You sound incredibly defensive. You should reread your post, take a deep breath, and realize this isn’t about you.

      1. OP*

        Yes. Acute as in extreme or severe. I chose that word because it seemed more clinical and less “name calling”.

        Acute is a term used to describe extreme medical conditions. As in “acute depression”.

        1. Del*

          Isn’t acute generally used as an antonym to “chronic” if you’re speaking medically, though?

          1. Jamie*

            That is exactly correct. Acute means sudden onset and there are other criteria medically which need to be met for an ailment to be acute. It’s not just severity.

            Heart disease is chronic, the heart attack is acute. Generally speaking.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I think this is like “shock” and “abortion”–the medical use and the popular use have gotten pretty far apart and will probably never be reunited.

        2. Ethyl*

          So you believe you can judge her health status as extreme and/or severe just by how her body looks? That must be a neat superpower to have!

          1. Zillah*

            That seems really unfair to the OP. She didn’t say “acutely unhealthy.” She said, “acutely obese.” It’s reasonable to say that one can generally tell how obese someone is by how they look.

        3. kem*

          This is just a side note, but medically, acute only means the opposite of “chronic.” (An acute angle is narrow and pointy.) In other words, something of sudden onset or short duration. Because such ailments are also usually severe (acute pancreatitis, acute depression, even acute pain), the terms get conflated.

        4. Stoves*

          You posted that you are 5’8 and 220 pounds, right? No judgment as I am in the same ballpark. I would consider that obese as well to some degree, so why would you feel you are offending her by rejecting her snacks on the basis of her appearance?

          You’ve mentioned before that you just mentioned it so people wouldn’t think you are being judgmental. Let’s be honest. No one else would no she was “acutely obese” if you hadn’t mentioned it in the OP.

          I am going through the same thing as you. I am around the same weight and height and have lost 50 pounds to get there. My coworkers order out all the time and eat unhealthy lunch in front of me. After they have asked me a few times to order out with them I would always say, “no thank you, I brought a lunch from home and am sticking to my healthy diet”. Now they joke that they would ask but they know I do not eat out. Don’t be afraid to say something like, “thank you for the offer but I am trying to be careful and watch what I eat. I really have to be careful because I gain weight easily”. This is about you now and you don’t have to worry about offending her.

          Good luck!

  15. Sunflower*

    This is hard but I agree that mention it a few times when she comes around and if she doesn’t stop, address her privately. This is a time when you should make it about yourself ‘I can’t control myself around this food, ‘It’s a huge temptation for ME’. If you know other people in the office enjoy it, I would add that in to so she doesn’t feel like no one enjoys it. I would not mention anything to her about not bringing it in at all.

    Is your coworker aware that your coworkers are working together to have healthier eating habits? I’m not sure how you could mention it to her without risking offending her or implying she should join. If anyone has any insight on that, feel free to add.

    Also I know how hard this today. Today I was literally panicking in the dunkin donuts drive thru because no one was moving and I knew if I had to sit next to that speaker any longer, I was going to order food I was avoiding.

    1. Jamie*

      Doesn’t that contribute to a culture where our co-workers need to cater to our own issues and preferences.

      I cannot stand the sound of people chewing loudly, it enrages me. I don’t eat in the lunch room, I make sure any lunch meetings I run aren’t catered with loud food, etc. I don’t demand that everyone around me puts a moratorium on loud chips (looking at you in particular, Jimmy Johns) or that they replace the pretzels on the front desk with marshmallows.

      Because that’s my problem, not theirs. And when I’m watching what I eat that’s also my problem – not theirs. I just bridle when at what I see is a slippery slope toward people expecting to be in an environment where they are always comfortable and never annoyed.

      Because if people are going to start catering to my hundreds of personal pet peeves, annoyances, and quirks I will have one angry mob of co-workers.

      1. Sunflower*

        I don’t see this as catering to someone though. Catering to OP would be her saying ‘I can not see this food, please do whatever you can to keep it out of my sight’ Asking someone (with a smile) ‘can you please not stop at my desk and offer me food, I’m on a diet!’ isn’t asking them to make extra accommodations for you- in fact, you’re kind of making new gal’s life easier.

        1. Jamie*

          I misunderstood – I completely agree with asking someone to stop bringing it to her directly. Doesn’t even need a reason – just stop offering me food.

          I read your comment as asking her to stop bringing it in at all because of the OPs personal reasons.

          Sorry for the misunderstanding – I wish I had a delete button. :)

      2. fposte*

        I think it’s more nuanced than just catering, though. This is somebody coming to the OP’s desk specifically to bring her food, and the OP doesn’t want the food. Does it help to think of it is an office-wide coffee service for somebody who doesn’t want coffee, since that’s less laden? There’s no emotional indulgence requested in saying “I actually don’t drink coffee and would rather not be interrupted–can you drop me from the route?”

      3. Del*

        Catering or not is a matter of degree; there are very reasonable requests, sort of reasonable, neutral, unreasonable, and very unreasonable, and all sorts of shades in between.

        I asked one of my cube neighbors recently to stop singing along with the muzak at work, as it’s very distracting. Seems like a pretty reasonable request — it’s nice that he enjoys the music, but singing out loud isn’t really appropriate for an office environment. Asking someone to chew more quietly would be a stickier issue, because chewing is a much more reasonable office activity than singing. The inherent request of “can you please not do that thing that you’re doing?” isn’t loaded until you define “that thing that you’re doing.”

        In this case, “Can you please not interrupt my work multiple times a day to offer me food I don’t want?” is a pretty reasonable request.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, I think that’s a good point. The question of who’s being asked to cater to whom depends pretty heavily on what the action is and what effect it has on each person. Even “Can you chew more quietly?” might be a totally reasonable request to an officemate who’s eating a bag of Doritos while you’re trying to figure out a complicated problem on a tight deadline.

    2. Celeste*

      All she’d have to do is talk to her healthy-eating coworkers and let on that she’d asked the new person not to stop by with the snack cart. If they do the same, it will shorten her rounds.

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      I think addressing her privately isn’t a bad idea, but it should be about taking “No, thank you” for an answer and not about anything else. The fact that this is a fat person offering junk food to a resolved-to-eat-healthier person is fairly beside the point. What we have is a co-worker offering a co-worker something she doesn’t want. She should stop offering when she’s asked to stop offering. End of.

      1. Elysian*

        I don’t think its out of line to consider how to frame the message in a way that will be best-taken by the coworker. It sounded to me like the OP was trying to be sensitive to the fact that that the coworker may have gotten passive-aggressive messages of healthfulness from people in the past. To that end, the context is relevant.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Maybe. I still think the best way to put the kibosh on a co-worker of any size offering food one doesn’t want to be offered is to say “No, thank you” and, if she keeps offering, to talk about taking no for an answer – rather than to talk about food or eating or health habits or anything else. Who cares why my co-worker isn’t eating these yummy treats? She could be diabetic, allergic, keeping kosher, observing Lent, or stoic, or she could have a childhood doughnut-related trauma that makes her quake in her cube when she hears me as if I were bringing around a tray of jack-in-the-boxes (jacks-in-the-box?) whose clowns were going to spring out and haunt her all afternoon. Doesn’t matter. I absolutely do not mean to trivialize anything when I say that this is yet another area of life in which no means no.

          1. fposte*

            I think I’m with you here, because I think this is a way to avoid what’s making the OP uncomfortable about this. I would still avoid a brusque no, but I think it might work better not to make it about the food (unless you’re following CanadianWriter’s clever suggestion of ordering what you want). Make it about the interruption, make it a request to be “dropped off the route,” make a point of socializing with her on non-food occasions–those can all combine to have her skip you without your having to get into any discussion about food itself.

        2. anon~*

          Elysian April 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm

          I don’t think its out of line to consider how to frame the message in a way that will be best-taken by the coworker. It sounded to me like the OP was trying to be sensitive to the fact that that the coworker may have gotten passive-aggressive messages of healthfulness from people in the past. To that end, the context is relevant.

          YES. THIS. I agree with you 100% and thank you for recognizing the issue and responding to that.

      2. Bwmn*

        I really don’t understand why people are associating the OP telling the new coworker “no thank you” a number of times with “please never offer me food”.

        My office has a culture of folks going on coffee runs and including the few people in their department. Saying “no thank you” to “do you want coffee” is not the same as “no thank you, I don’t drink coffee” or “no thank you, since I’m your manager you don’t have to offer to buy me coffee”.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Fair enough. But “no thank you, and please don’t ask again” should mean what it says.

          1. Bwmn*

            I completely agree. If you offer me coffee (or cake), and I say “no thank you” – then that’s not an invite to say “are you sure? not even a little?”

            But if at 10am I offer you a doughnut – that “no thank you” does not then apply to the 1pm cookie and/or 4pm Cheetos. I 100% get how that could be very annoying – but I think that just makes this more important about setting good boundaries and not hoping that people will assume.

        2. fposte*

          I’d agree–people really aren’t good at extrapolating individual noes to a no on the whole thing. Explicitly say no to the whole thing. Otherwise I think there’s a real risk of grumping that the co-worker hasn’t figured this out and is *still* coming around even though you always say no, but she’s still coming around because you haven’t told her not to.

          1. KellyK*

            Yes, absolutely. At least one “global” no thank you is needed before you can assume that the other person won’t take no for an answer. (Unless they’re responding to “No thank you” with “Are you sure?” which is impolite all by itself.)

    4. Bina*

      I don’t think it’s appropriate to be talking about your diet, let alone “temptation”, in the workplace. Either accept the treats, or tell the coworker that the constant offers are distracting and ask her to stop. As a professional adult, you are presumed to have self-control, and don’t want to undermine that presumption.

      There is this common dynamic of food-guilt in workplaces that I find really toxic. Women, especially, are all pressured into going through this ritual of “oh I shouldn’t” “but they’re so good” “maybe just a bit, I took the stairs” at the sight of a cupcake. It makes everyone involved look ridiculous and unprofessional but is super hard to opt out of because it’s a bonding thing, and you end up with people making comments if you just eat a cupcake without going through a ritual of self-flagellation. Don’t perpetuate that.

      1. Anon for this*

        I worked in an office that did this. So annoying! I finally had to conclude that saying the words “I am being so bad” must actually burn about 200 calories. ;)

      2. Sunflower*

        OP here I think is also worried about offending her and making her think she doesn’t want her around period. When you put that spin on it, it makes it less about ‘YOU are distracting me, I want YOU to go away’ and more ‘These TREATS are distracting me, I want the TREATS to disappear’

        However, I think the whole ‘I shouldn’t eat this, I’m so bad’ is very strange. I never saw it as a bonding process- I think it’s more that they’re seeking approval because they don’t approve of it themselves. But then again, when people start talking like that, I just zone them out

      3. Sarah*

        Amen to this. I hate perpetuating stereotypes. I also hate the behavior of the woman in the post (not the OP, her coworker.) What she’s doing is begging for attention when she can be making friends in a more professional way. It needs to stop and maybe the OP should just talk to her manager about asking her to stop- after all, this woman is probably using up a lot of company time going around to everyone 3 times a day with food.

        1. fposte*

          I think “begging for attention” makes it sound more out of the mainstream than it is, though–as various people have mentioned, food always has had a social role, and we often recommend using it that way here as well. She’s just overdoing it.

          1. Sarah*

            Well, think of how much time this coworker must be taking off her actual duties… 3 times a day, to offer food to the entire office. We don’t know the size of the office, but even if it’s small sized… 20 people? Offering food to 60 people a day has got to take you, even if it just takes 2 minutes a person, almost 2 hours.

            That’s why I say begging for attention. This is time consuming.

            1. fposte*

              But the one doesn’t require the other–you can do something that takes a ton of time for all kinds of rewards, not just wanting attention. You can delight in the idea of sharing what you fancy, love providing for people, or enjoy the connection, none of which are particularly dysfunctional, and still want to take time and money to do that. We really don’t have information about her to assign one of the many motives here that she could have, and I hate to assign her a motive that seems particularly ignominious as a default.

              1. Zillah*

                I agree. It sounds to me like she’s trying to connect with her new coworkers, and is just being a little heavy handed about her methods.

                1. Sarah*

                  Trying to connect with her coworkers isn’t a bad thing at all, but the way she’s going about it is the issue. Which is why the OP might want to redirect the conversation. I don’t think we disagree here.

                  I think if this behavior persists over time, other coworkers are likely to notice; or the coworker’s workload will likely suffer.

  16. CanadianWriter*

    I would gently hint that I prefer coffee and then enjoy the three free coffees she brought me each day.

    1. Kiwi*

      You’ll end up with a daily home-baked coffee cake – which you now feel obliged to eat, as you “requested” it. ;-)

  17. Hummingbird*

    It’s one thing if she just brought in a box of Munchkins every day and left them in the break room for anyone to take.

    But I agree with other people when it becomes a time issue. We have seen on this blog plenty of other times in which a company busts on an employee for much time visiting other coworkers or taking too many bathroom breaks. If the manager sees this, I think then that person needs to step in and say something. The lady was hired to do a job, and I do not think it was serving snacks and drinks to the rest of the staff.

    I think the OP is taking it personally because she takes pride in her health. So I understand why she sees it that way although the opening comments of her letter was a little less than PC and relevant. I think though the OP should take it from viewpoint of how its affecting the business of the day rather than her own personal diet. It makes things less sensitive that way.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      While I agree that the coworker might not be using her time most efficiently, it’s not up to the OP to bring that up any more than it would be appropriate for me to criticize a peer coworker for the amount of time he spends wasting time in any other way. Professionally, the OP should just focus on how it affects them: being offered snacks is distracting.

      Or if the woman isn’t getting her work done and it affects the OP’s ability to do their work, that’s also a legitimate complaint – though then it should be addressed with something like “Jane, when you don’t get the teapot reports to me within a day, I can’t get the chocolate technicians the information they need in time” – without going into *why* the delay is happening.

  18. The Real Ash*

    I would just like to say that my office is a snacky office, in that we always have treats. But someone today was super awesome and brought in a veggie platter with light dip and some low-calorie tortilla chips and two kinds of hummus! Maybe try to bring in healthy snacks and share those as a way to control what’s being offered?

    1. fposte*

      I think that’ll work if having access to veggies will keep the OP from accepting the junk food. I don’t think it’ll change the co-worker’s behavior, though–if anything, it validates the “we all bring in a ton of food” message.

    2. Bryan*

      I’m also in a snacky office (junk food), and somebody brought in veggies once. It was awesome. Everybody loved it and I think (no evidence to support) more people ate it than when there are left over desserts.

  19. Lizzie*

    It seems like there’s a cultural mismatch to some extent too. This doesn’t sound like an office that bonds by gorging on donuts (since many people are trying to support each other in healthy lifestyles), and someone who sees that as a main way to socialize in the office isn’t going to fit in well. Would it be unreasonable to say “A lot of us at this office really try to avoid junk food. I wonder if maybe we could keep the treats in the break room to a minimum.”? In my office, this would be considered obnoxious cluttering of counter space and no one would appreciate it- an occasional thing of cookies is fine, but this sounds really over the top for us (and most places.)

    1. Jen*

      To me, that remark would be very obnoxious. It’s a common break room, the healthy eaters don’t own it.

      Full disclosure: I don’t have a break room at work, but my desk and drawer are always brimming with junk food. I would glare very hard at someone who tried to police what I ate at my own desk.

        1. fposte*

          I think Jen moved from point A to point B, but I’m with her on point A–it’s not appropriate to request fewer treats in communal space like the break room unless you’re the boss.

      1. Lizzie*

        I’m not suggesting she can’t eat what she wants, either at her desk or at the break room. I’m just suggesting that cluttering up the break room with that much junk food when it’s not office culture is a reasonable issue.

      2. Del*

        Honestly, I agree that it comes off as obnoxious — mainly because the “we” in it is very obviously transparent as a substitute for “you” and it feels very condescending used in that way.

  20. LV*

    The main issue aside, my first thought was that it must get pretty expensive to frequently bring such large amounts of food to the office, even if you’re shopping at a wholesale place like Sam’s Club or Costco.

    I think she’s doing this because she’s a recent hire and is trying to win over her new coworkers. It’s not the most appropriate tactic for work, but I can see the reasoning for it. I predict that this junk food delivery service will taper off and hopefully die down once she gets over the new-girl insecurity. (Or once she realizes how much it’s denting her wallet to keep everyone in donuts and cheese puffs!)

    1. Sunflower*

      She could also be someone who loves trying Pintrest stuff. My mind went there when I saw the doughnuts with Peeps in them because they scream of a Pintrest project IMO.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        Sadly, this is something that Dunkin Donuts actually makes and sells (for Easter).

      2. cv*

        Some Dunkin Donuts locations had doughnuts with Peeps in them for Easter this year. Because what a frosted doughnut needs is more sugar.

  21. Just a Reader*

    This makes me glad that we have a coffee shop in the building. Nobody ever brings snacks to share.

  22. Celeste*

    OP, if you agree that the coworker is trying to connect with people, would you be willing to connect with her without the food? Just to ask her about herself, where she’s from, what she likes to do on weekends, etc.? Maybe have lunch with her once in a while? For some people it’s much harder to be a new hire. Time will fix it, but in the meantime maybe she just wants to feel like she belongs.

    1. OP*

      We’ve been going to lunch about once a week since I posted this. She’s a really sweet and kind lady.

      1. fposte*

        Excellent. That gives you a great alternative path to connection that should make your request easier for her to hear if she’s really personally invested in the treat provision.

        1. Ethyl*

          Yes, you could even say something like “no thank you, but I can’t wait to catch up at lunch on Wednesday!”

  23. Poohbear McGriddles*

    Could it be that she doesn’t feel validated in eating the junk food unless others are partaking as well? Or maybe she associated food with socialization. People have all different kinds of relationships with food. How often do we celebrate with a special dinner, or cake, or even a bottle of wine? There isn’t a huge demand for birthday carrot sticks or 5K’s.

  24. BadPlanning*

    Launching off the idea that the sweets are an attempt to connect, maybe, in addition to saying No Thanks, offer non-junk food interaction. Stop by and see if she wants to go for a walk (this is common at my work place, people take a 10-15 walk break either around the building or outside — but may not be right for all offices) or pick up a coffee (just a coffee), etc.

    It could be that since OP and coworkers are not eating sweets, the New Coworker finds herself with a lot of extra snacks and is ramping up the “here, have some” campaign. Maybe she was used to bring this many snacks in her prior workplace and they got snarfed up — but she hasn’t adjusted to the new workplace treat consumption.

    When I bring in snacks (which is around 2-3 times a year), sometimes towards the end of the day if said snacks are not gone, I will make 1 round to my immediate coworkers and see if they want another one — mostly just not to have too many extras to bring home again. (Although, after this letter, I think I’ll stop making the “last call for cookies” round). So I get the general mentality.

    1. Sarah*

      Yup to this. We had a morbidly obese (the clinical term) coworker at my former workplace. Everyone else was super healthy and in a work culture where they were often doing marathons.

      This coworker and I became friends and I got to know her back story; a homelife of abuse (sexual and physical, very sad) and no emotional support from anyone in her family. She said she started overeating as a way to just support herself emotionally, really.

      She and I would go to the local salad place for lunch a few times and then we would join our manager sometimes after lunch for a brief 15 minute walk. She wasn’t healthy enough to do much more than the 15 minute walk but she was trying! She was very conscious of how she was perceived around food as a result as many obese people are. And many of them self-isolate as a result. So if you can make that connection and just ask her if she’d like to walk with you or something like that, it might mean a lot to her.

      Of course not everyone is like my former coworker but I suspect some are and maybe your coworker is using the food as defense.

  25. Stephanie*

    Doughnuts with Peeps in the middle

    These exist? Wow. The thought of these is making my teeth hurt.

    1. Del*

      Dunkin’s has been selling them this year! I kind of boggled when I saw them, it seems so over the top and unnecessary.

    2. Adam*

      Sometimes I feel like the only person around who thinks Peeps are crazy gross, and I can down a box of cookies like nobodies business.

      1. Stephanie*

        They’re disgusting. Their only acceptable use is for the Washington Post’s diorama contest, in my opinion.

        1. Jamie*

          I had always like you both so much, and now – Adam and Stephanie – you are dead to me.

          You can insult my family, burn down my house, but slagging off Peeps? You’ve just gone too far.

            1. Stephanie*

              There’s a coffee shop nearby that was featured on Cupcake Wars. Their cupcakes are good, but they put glitter on the frosting. I just have to not think too hard about the concept of food-grade glitter when I get one.

          1. TL*

            My mom always put them in our Easter baskets. Nobody ate them (because we apparently don’t like them, all 4 of us) but the one year she left them out we threw a gigantic fuss.

            I don’t really know what that says about us, though.

      2. Nina*

        Nope. I love candy, chocolate, and junk food of all kinds, but Peeps are some of the nastiest things I’ve ever eaten. I tried them numerous times as a kid every Easter and finally just gave up.

    3. Interviewer*

      Last weekend, hubby headed out to pick up some donuts for our Sunday morning treat, and my 4-year old daughter said, “But not the Peep donut! It was yucky.”

  26. AdGal*

    My coworker constantly preaches “healthy eating” and gets annoyed if there aren’t enough healthy choices for team meals and be very vocal about their displeasure. Meanwhile, the coworker will constantly bring in sugary baked goods and fried treats into work. It’s downright annoying, especially after hearing them complain the day before. Thankfully, she isn’t agressive about pawning her homemade treats on to the staff.

    1. Bwmn*

      My office ran their own (volunteer opt in) version of ‘the biggest loser’ while continuing to also offer team meeting doughnuts, presidents days cookies, perpetual birthday cake etc. etc. So I think having discord about healthy living and available snacks is really common for many people.

      1. De Minimis*

        We have a similar deal at my work….and we’re actually a healthcare facility so it looks even worse. We’ve had a fitness competition the last couple of years, but most departments also have various celebrations usually at least once every month or two that involve unhealthy food.

        The worst is probably the yearly “health fair,” where the various vendors [usually insurance plans and programs] that have lots of candy, cookies, and so on at their booths. The worst was probably one for a local diabetes program where they had all this candy, but then would offer blood sugar tests.

        I get that people have to live in the real world and they need to manage temptations if they want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but given that we’re a medical clinic that serves a user population that has staggering prevalence of diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, etc., I find it really offputting.

    2. Stephanie*

      Ok, clean eating evangelists can be just as annoying. I mean, I like kale too, but constantly talking about kale chips and quinoa is irritating.

      1. Sunflower*

        This. I mean I’m not sure what her definition of healthy is- she could be extreme or not- but if you’re getting stuff from a hotel or getting it catered, the options are really limited beyond ‘salad’

        1. AdGal*

          We’re a health-oriented company and we always make sure there is a good variety of options for everyone. There are several people who are on diets in our group and none of them have complained about the food – just this particular coworker. Actually, we had one coworker who is really into clean eating and they opted to bring their own meal, which was totally fine.

          It’s just annoying to hear the coworker say time after time, “We need more healthy options besides salad and grilled chicken!” and then the next day bring in homemade cookies and pigs in a blanket. But I’ve learned to laugh about it. :)

          1. Sunflower*

            Ugh I’d feel the same way. A big problem in hotels and restaurants is that people are demanding healthy meals but then they put them on the menu and no one orders it!!

            1. AdGal*

              Exactly! It makes me think of that burger McDonald’s briefly had on its menu – the one where they used lettuce instead of a bun. It was in response to the low-carb craze.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, God, that hasn’t hit out here yet. Maybe it’ll fly over our heads and never land, because that sounds horrible–it makes me instantly want to champion “dirty eating.”

          1. Mints*

            Haha I’m suddenly reminded of a chocolate cake I saw in a kids cook book that was decorated with crushed chocolate cookies meant to look like dirt. Dirty in two ways!

                1. Rayner*

                  Serve at a bachelorette party, and it’ll be dirty in four ways by the time they’ve finished taking crack me up intagram pics on smartphones :P

        2. Stephanie*

          Thing is, I’m generally a pretty healthy eater and am the type to make my own breakfast bars and such. And I work out regularly. It’s more the conspicuous display and preachiness that drive me bonkers.

          It just elicits a giant eye roll from me to see someone post a chicken breast and some steamed asparagus or a bicep curl video like she did something revolutionary. I just ha to start hiding those people.

          Also, wtf is Shakeology?


          1. AdGal*

            Shakeology is a company that produces meal-replacement shakes that are *supposedly* chock full of vitamins and nutrients. An acquaintence of mine was a Shakeology rep, so I thought about purchasing some. They’re pretty pricey (IMO), so I declined.

            1. Adam*

              Homemade shakes FTW. My current favorite concoction is some milk, vanilla protein powder, some natural peanut butter, a dab of raw honey, some dry oats, and a handful of blueberries. YUM! And decently filling too.

              There’s also this spinach shake recipe I’ve been meaning to try…

              I’m actually not much of a health nut. I just try to eat reasonably well and get hungry a lot…

              1. Jamie*

                One of my sons has been doing the home made shake thing, very similar to this.

                Have you tried it with almond milk? There is a coconut almond milk out there that’s out of this world – they also have regular and vanilla.

                It’s the only thing I’ve had stolen out of the office fridge so I don’t bring it anymore – too expensive to share with thieves.

                Now if only he’s rinse out the blender when done, because those dried raw oats are no fun when degunking the blades.

                1. Adam*

                  I’ve been curious about the non-dairy milks but haven’t really tried mostly for price factors. But I probably will just to see the taste. They’re great for after workouts.

                2. Del*

                  Oh, I love coconut almond milk! It’s become my new favorite thing, I dislike the smell of cow milk and have so much trouble getting myself to drink it, but I will happily chug coco-almond milk all day long.

          2. Nina*

            My brother is a Shakeology nut. The smell alone…it’s like chocolate scented sludge. Given all the vitamins they contain, he swears it’s worth it. Ew. Give me a real fruit smoothie any day.

        3. Tinker*

          Yeah, lifestyle choices and all, but that “clean eating” thing creeps me right the hell out. I figure, okay, I stepped off the whole merry-go-round of being tempted and giving in and being bad and all that BS, I’m sure as heck not going to step back on it.

      2. littlemoose*

        Yeah, I have a facebook friend who’s been posting about her healthy eating, replete with a bunch of hashtags, multiple times per day, and it’s driving me crazy. It makes me want to eat the most processed thing I can find out of spite.

        1. Jen RO*

          Every time someone posts about the evils of hamburgers and fries I get a sudden urge for McDonalds. (Most of the time, I indulge it! And I don’t feel an ounce of shame either.)

          1. Dulcinea*

            Remember the book “Fast Food Nation”? All about the disgusting truths behind how McDonalds. Wendy’s, etc., are made? And also written with a great deal of detail about the oils, salt, and fake flavored sauces? It got a lot of publicity, I think it was a best seller. Well at the time it came out, I hadn’t eaten a fast food meal in YEARS (because I was too broke to eat out and if I was going to eat out I was going to make it worth it by saving up to go to a nice restaurant). But reading that book which had cold hard facts and data that should have turned any sensible person off eating fast food made me want to eat it more than ever!

            1. Liz*

              I had the same problem! Luckily, I’m in Australia, where regulations around meat processing are a lot stricter — at least, that’s what I told myself as I nibbled those nuggets.

        2. Eden*

          Anything too preachy makes me mulish. Lecture me about the evils of my diet and I *will* eat a Krispy Kreme in front of you.

        3. LBK*

          UGH, the hashtag spam is probably the worst part of it, IMO. #healthy #fit #fitlife #healthyliving #diet #summer #beachbody #fit2014 #cleaneating #veggies #kale #vegetables #cooking #dinner #selfie #meal #lovethis #sogood

          Barf. I blocked a good friend on Facebook because every post included a minimum of 10 hashtags about how wonderful and healthy he was.

            1. cecilhungry*

              I will never, ever be able to read “nailedit” as anything other than “nail edit” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN

        4. Adam*

          I’ve got a friend like that. Full vegan. Love her to death but if she were to pick stuff out of my grocery cart all I’d have left was dish soap and toilet paper, and most people think I eat pretty healthy.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          I have the same friend, and I’m wondering if she didn’t join a cult or something. (She has digestive issues, but the posts border on propaganda sometimes.)

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Wait, is it the same coworker complaining about the healthfulness of team meals *and* bringing in sugary snacks? That does sound annoying!

      I’d personally be far more annoyed by the complaining than the snacks, though. (And similarly if she were complaining about the lack of sugary fried options at team meals and then bringing in celery sticks!) I love it when there are snacks in our break room, but it’s pretty rare.

      1. AdGal*

        You are correct – the coworker complains about the healthfulness of the team meals and then turns around and brings in baked/fried goods from home. Ugh.

        1. KerryOwl*

          Well, I have to admit, I love baking . . . but then there are all these delicious, buttery cookies in my kitchen! Better to bring them in and let my coworkers polish them off.

  27. Alex*

    This reminds me of a relative of mine – they push food on people not because they want an excuse to socialize, but because there is a psychological element of it validating their own poor eating habits when others partake as well. Sort of like, you’ll feel less judged eating a donut if a bunch of other people are also eating donuts.

    Obviously we have no idea if that is what is happening here, but I thought I’d point it out in case the advice about trying to satisfy her percieved social need while thwarting her food pushing is unsuccessful.

    1. OP*

      ” validating their own poor eating habits when others partake as well. Sort of like, you’ll feel less judged eating a donut if a bunch of other people are also eating donuts.”

      EXACTLY. I spend a lot of time around her, she’s a lovely lady, and I really do think this is what’s at the root. What’s very sad is that she wants to get pregnant but can’t because of her weight. I just want to hug her. Sweet gal. She wants something very badly but is entrenched in a nearly impossible to break habit that’s keeping her from getting it.

      1. Alex*

        Isn’t that wierd how the human brain works? I don’t understand it – you can want something so bad with every fiber of your being, but still can’t make yourself do it sometimes.

        In that case, I’d say just be firm. There are a ton of good scripts suggested here. She might be hurt by firm resistance, but only momentarily.

        1. fposte*

          The problem with the brain is that it’s a loose confederation rather than a tightly knit team. I’m currently just trying to reconfigure sitting postures, and the nice rational part of my brain that says “You’re not supposed to do that” plays in one ear while the other part says in the other ear “This is what’s comfortable, and the problems are from something else.”

          It’s particularly bad when the comfort brain can get immediate gratification–that one’s hard to maneuver past, and that’s why breaking habits is so tough.

          1. jmkenrick*

            The problem with the brain is that it’s a loose confederation rather than a tightly knit team.

            I love that. I’m picturing a 1st grade AYSO soccer team trying to run all my decision making.

            1. Mallory*

              I was hearing “confederacy of dunces” in the phrase “loose confederation”, but maybe that’s just how my own brain works ;-)

    2. TychaBrahe*

      I’m obese myself, and this is why I did it, when I did it.

      Because if I buy one of those gallon size things of Goldfish and take it home, there’s no question about who ate it when it’s empty at the end of the week. But if I take it to work, where other people could conceivably eat it, then when it’s gone by the end of the week I may not have eaten all of it. And if I can convince other people to have some, then I *know*.

      It’s taken a lot of work on my relationship with food (although staying on a low-carb diet plan has helped enormously) to start to get a handle on my weight. I was proud of myself for weeks when there were leftover pastries in the breakroom after an important guest was here, and I looked at a chocolate croissant and decided I’d rather not eat it.

  28. DC*

    I have had thin coworkers who are bakers and bring in stuff ALL the time, mostly because they want it out of their house so they don’t eat it all. Whatever your coworkers’ reasons are for bringing this in, just say, “I’m watching what I eat and trying to avoid eating too much junk food, and I love junk food, so please help me out by not tempting me. Don’t even offer it to me. Thank you.” If she continues to do so, every time she comes around, be polite but remind her, “Hey I was serious! Please don’t offer those to me. I’m trying to hold on to my willpower.”

  29. mango284*

    In the first semester of my grad program a fellow student was constantly pushing her baked goods on people. It became a running joke that no one ever saw her without some sweet treat in her hands. I think it was partly an attempt to make friends but she also just loved to bake (this makes a little more sense to me–trying to get people to eat the food you personally made… pushing a bag of store-bought cheese puffs on people is a bit stranger). Anyway, once things got busier in the program she had less time to bake and the treats slowed down greatly. If this co-worker is still fairly new there’s a chance this may all die down eventually… like people said, it must get expensive buying all that food everyday.

  30. AnotherAlison*

    Other than the multiple daily interruptions, this coworker actually sounds great.

    Our office was a food desert for about 6 months, with no snack machines. I try to eat healthy meals and not keep snacks at home (and when I do, the boys devour them asap), so the occassional work snack is where I get my junk food fix. I’m also not going to be greedy when someone else brings the food, so I would have one cookie instead of six. It would be a great thing. . .

  31. Ruffingit*

    I don’t think the food is even the issue here, it’s really about basic respect. Pushing ANYTHING on people repeatedly is rather irritating whether that is food or religion or politics or whatever. Politely asking her to stop is absolutely acceptable.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I agree. I read this whole thing as a pushing issue, primarily. It just happens to be food. Yes, there is a whole psychology to that. But, dang, no thank you means no thank you. It does not mean push harder.
      To me it seems odd that this person is nice and yet so pushy. But the same rules of thumb apply, no matter what a pushy person is pushing or how nice they are.
      First you start with the no thank yous. Second you explain- no thank you, really not interested, please stop asking. Third time- Please, I have asked you to stop asking me and I really mean it.
      I shudder to think about being asked a fourth time….

      I think OP is trying to be more sensitive to her coworker’s perspective than the coworker is trying to be sensitive to OPs perspective. That is a two way street. I agree with OP that she needs a new set of words/sentences because so far the ones she uses are not working well.

  32. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    Side comment: I used to work at place that was the one who brought in the junk food, and then would sometimes try to shove it on people so it “wasn’t left around.”

    Every time there was a big meeting of the whole company they’d order in piles of cakes and cookies and other sweets, and then there’d be people running around with plates full saying, “Take them, take it home, just take it” etc.

    When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I emailed the person who ordered the food for the meetings and said, “How about switching to something more healthy? How about some fruit and vegetable platters?” I was told, “I see your point, but everyone loves the sweets. We”ll try both!”

    Next meeting they had half platters of sweets and half fruit and vegetable platters. By the end of the meeting, all of the fruit and vegetable trays were bare, with the sweets barely touched.

    After that, it was more like 90% fruits and vegetables and 10% sweets.

    1. Adam*

      There’s definitely a psychological/social pressure to food, in every setting. Most people don’t want to be seen as the one pigging out on junk food, regardless of what their personal health or body type is. So if the OP can find away to make more healthy alternatives readily available the barrage of junk food may start to dwindle.

      1. Lucy*

        Totally- I read that keeping your candy in a coworker’s drawer and having to get up and ask that person for a piece is a good deterrent to snacking in the workplace- you’re much less likely to approach your colleague to ask for some M&Ms than to dig in at your own desk!

  33. OP*

    The point I made about the weight is that it’s obviously an issue at play with the diet she promotes at work. Acting like someone who eats cupcakes and doughnuts all day has nothing to do with obesity isn’t terribly honest. I have literally never in my life seen someone spend so much effort and time devoted to junk food. Eating it, promoting it, passing it around…

    I do sincerely believe that she is coming from a place of good intention. But it’s so glaring that it comes off more like an alcoholic who doesn’t want to drink alone.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the alcohol thing is an interesting parallel, which takes it out of the emotionally and socially laden realm of body shape issues.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, there are plenty of overweight people who do indeed have food addiction problems (as in they use food the same way people use drugs or alcohol, to deal with stress or emotional issues). I’m not saying this is the OP’s coworker’s problem, but it is a possibility.

    2. LizNYC*

      And just like an alcoholic whose reasons for drinking are often not rooted in deeper problems, she might be dealing with the stress of a new job by eating. Or with depression by eating. Or with a chronic illness by eating. She certainly doesn’t need you judging her habits.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. And I think it should be mentioned that not all overweight people are addicted to food, nor are all food addicts overweight, though they may coincide in her case.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But she’s showing up to push those habits on others multiple times a day. If you take the highly-charged weight issue out of this and make it something like alcohol, doesn’t it change things a little bit?

        I would totally agree that the coworker shouldn’t be judged for what she’s quietly eating on her own. But when you aggressively try to make it a major focal point of the office, it’s not crazy that people have their own thoughts about that.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I agree with this too–and I think the pushing it is the part to be addressed in the office, for just this reason.

          1. Adam*

            Agreed. The coworker’s personal diet is her business and no one else’s. But when she effectively makes it everyone else’s business by turning the office into Willy Wonka’s factory and constantly interrupting others with food they don’t want it’s time to set a few boundaries.

        2. MousyNon*

          No, I don’t think alcohol changes anything about it. Unless a colleague’s alcoholism has a direct impact on their performance or the department overall, the alcoholism shouldn’t come into play at all, because it’s none of our business. And even if it DOES have an impact on their performance or the department, what should be addressed are the behaviors themselves, not any armchair-diagnoses on the part of co-workers.

          OP’s coworker is interrupting colleagues, and THAT’S the behavior to address here. Not her weight, not the food she’s bringing it, not speculating on why she’s bringing it or on whether they’re indicative of her overall eating habits.

          1. fposte*

            But I think there’s a huge difference between what you address in the workplace and what you think about a behavior of a human person that you care about. I think I do get to wish that friends and relatives stopped drinking and took care of themselves better, and to think about my own interactions with them with those concerns in mind.

            I think that in the effort to push back against inappropriate interventionist tendencies we can end up suggesting a separatism that isn’t culturally or emotionally viable and that ultimately is harmful in its own right. My friends get to give a damn about my struggles and have opinions about them, and while I don’t want them unsolicitedly telling me what to do, I’m actually okay with them being involved enough with me to want good things for and from me.

            1. MousyNon*

              You’re conflating friends/family with co-workers and the workplace, which is where I find your argument problematic. Co-workers do not have access to the kind of information one would need to make reasonably accurate judgments or assumptions about a colleague’s health. Who would? A spouse. A close sibling. Their doctor.

              The OP can think however she pleases, but she should keep those thoughts to herself. And if she chooses to share them (like in a popular web-blog), she should accept that sharing thoughts that people may find troubling will beget appropriate responses.

              1. fposte*

                Sure, posting anything publicly means that you’re going to get a public response–that’s the nature of the deal.

                But I feel like there’s a vulnerability connected to writing in openly that means people are entitled to a certain benefit of the doubt, and I think we generally give it to them. We didn’t tell the OP who was worried about her alcoholic boss that it wasn’t any of her business and that she shouldn’t even have brought up alcoholism to us, let alone to him.

                And in this case the OP, who is somebody with her own food concerns, talked about those concerns in the context of a co-worker. While I understand we may disagree on that, I don’t think it’s out of line for those concerns to exist or to be related. For all the “this is none of your business,” I’m wondering if people who are bothered would have minded less if the OP had included *more* information rather than less.

      3. fposte*

        Well, hang on. The OP is friendly with this woman, not bugging her about her eating. Surely she gets to think what she wants to herself? I think “judging” has gotten a bad rap generally, frankly, as it makes it sound like even private considerations of other people are unacceptable, and I don’t think that’s true or valid. And I think if you have a co-worker who’s self-medicating via alcohol, you do indeed get to judge that as a bad and harmful plan–why is this different?

        1. OP*

          I would sub out “judging” with “genuinely concerned”. She’s a very sweet gal. Very smart. Just like anyone in my life who I see wanting something that they’re holding themselves back from getting, I wish there was something I could do to help. But this is SUCH a sticky subject. There’s nothing to do but try to be a good friend and be positive. Not even literally encouraging, because I worry that would come across as judgmental.

          1. fposte*

            I was kind of moving on from you to the general topic of judging and you got caught along the way–sorry about that, and thank you for clarifying your position.

          2. Del*

            The thing is that people who are heavy are very used to people using “but I just want to help you” as a vehicle for “so now I’m going to tell you in detail how all your choices are bad ones, because it’s somehow my business.”

            Her life is her own. You can speak to what she’s pushing on you, and have every right to! But beyond that, unless she explicitly invites you in by asking for recommendations or advice, it’s better to leave well enough alone.

            1. OP*

              “but I just want to help you” as a vehicle for “so now I’m going to tell you in detail how all your choices are bad ones, because it’s somehow my business.”

              EXACTLY. Completely outside of the food pushing thing, I do feel that since I do enjoy hanging out with her (we’ve gotten to be friends since I originally sent this note in) that I don’t have any place making any comment about what she eats. My idea in general is that we’re all flawed. I hope people are kind enough to accept me as I am, warts and all. I would never in a million years start offering up ideas for how she could eat better. That would be so hurtful.

              1. Del*

                It’s a really difficult thing, yeah. If she gets to be a good enough friend that she talks about these issues with you, then offering up suggestions is totally a good thing, but as with a lot of other very delicate issues, if you’re not asked for input, it’s better not to give it.

              2. Meg Murry*

                Noe that you’ve become friendly with your coworker, could you politely suggest she stop bringing in so much junk food as “we all appreciate the snacks, but this has to be getting [expensive if they are mostly store bought or time consuming if they are mostly homemade] for you. You are always welcome to stop in to my office/cube to say hello, you don’t need yo bring a treat every time.”

                Also, ad a side note – if several of your coworkers have taken up healthier eating and/or trying to lose weight, you could find out if your office could start a Weight Watchers at Work group. My last office had it, and it was super convenient to be able to do the meetings at lunchtime.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            The thing is, unless she ASKS for your advice or help, you can’t really give it to her. It’s hard, I know. She sounds nice and it has to be frustrating for her as well.

        2. Adam*

          Right. We ALL have judgments about certain things. No one can completely turn off their brain and prevent themselves from having a negative thought about someone or something they’ve experienced.

          It’s ok to have judgments. It means you’re a human with a living brain that’s formulating your own thoughts and feelings about things.

          It’s only when said judgments leave your brain by way of your mouth or your actions in an unfair manner against another person that it’s a problem.

        3. Tiff*

          I totally agree, fposte. I’m human. And I’m judging. To pretend otherwise is to not be honest with yourself, especially when you’re judging people for…..well, judging people.

          1. fposte*

            And I think that most of the time we’re judging behavior rather than people anyway. I have friends who are in relationships with people I don’t think are good enough for them, who don’t go to the doctor when I think they should, who don’t get regular sleep and are then tired. I love my friends anyway, and I’m sure they have aspects of my behavior that they similarly think it would make sense to change, and they’re probably right. My concern with “judging” as pejorative is that either it’s being defined in a non-standard way or it’s set up so there’s no obvious alternative but universal, undifferentiated acceptance.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, judging gets to be a catch-all for everything.
              I guess any time we express an opinion we are making a judgement about something (or someone). I say look at the context and look at the intent. (The intent is the tricky part because how can we be fully assured of anyone’s intent? Very difficult. Court cases have been won and lost over this exact point.)

              There is no doubt in my mind that OP wants to be polite yet set a boundary. Her friend has an activity that sits in direct opposition to OPs goal. This is similar to other questions we have had on this forum “How do I say NO, get my point across and yet still be nice, all at the same time?”
              Yeah, that is almost an art form to pull that off.

          2. Eden*

            I hate the term ‘judgmental,’ because it assumes the negative. I wish people would remember that positive judgments are judgments, too–they aren’t more accurate because they’re ‘nicer.’

            1. fposte*

              Exactly. It’s kind of like “discrimination”–it’s actually good to judge and discriminate. It’s just that the term gets most used in its bad incarnations.

            2. jmkenrick*

              I think when people say ‘judgmental’ though, what they really mean are people who are very stubborn about holding on to their first impressions, regardless of what evidence may come along to contradict that.

              It’s not referring to the sort of daily snap “judgements” everyone has to make to get by.

              1. fposte*

                I guess to me it gets a little slippery–people seem to use “judge” to mean “look down on,” and, as in this case, I don’t think that’s an accurate connotation. You can consider somebody’s behavior and see how it’s problematic without looking down on them, and most of us do that a lot with people we know, and they do it back to us, because we’re all imperfect and it’s no secret from those who know us. I understand that we’re talking here about an issue that does have a broad and horrible practice of condescension attached to it, but I don’t think the OP was condescending. So either the OP wasn’t to me judging by the popular use of the term, or she was, but in a way that I don’t see as a problem–she was assessing and considering.

                1. jmkenrick*

                  I agree with you, so I guess it’s just a case of semantics. I feel like terms like “judgmental” and “peer pressure” and “prejudiced” are words that we’ve adapted to describe what happens when the mental shortcuts that we use to operate backfire and steer us wrong.

                  I’m not sure if I’m expressing myself well, but for example it seems that the same social pressure that causes us to be polite to waiters, and NOT tell our neighbor that her new dress is hideous, and NOT casually ask our boss if we can try a sip of his latte – is also the same social pressure that sometimes causes us to bully, or engage in drug use, or leave our favorite new dress at home because we know people will think it’s weird. And our word for when that social pressure goes wrong, and causes us to behave worse is “peer pressure.”

                  Similarly, it’s not exactly prejudiced of me to assume the girl wearing the green Starbucks apron is probably the barista, but *technically* it is a pre-judgment I’m making based off of her clothes. But it’s good to have a term for when people assume the black guy at the party is probably the waiter, and we’ve decided that word is prejudiced.

                  No one can really claim to not make judgements, unless they walk into a Starbucks and ask each individual person if they’re the employee before ordering from the woman behind the register. But I think there are people who hold too fast to their judgements and ignore any contradictory evidence, and it’s helpful to have a word that describes this behavior.

                2. jmkenrick*

                  *To clarify, I absolutely think that when people act like all forms of “judgment” are bad and only bad people make judgements, they are being idiotic. I just think that the problem is not necessarily with that one word.

                3. fposte*

                  Yeah, this reminds me a little bit of the “partner” discussion in the earlier thread, in that we don’t have firm terms for all of this. I think “judgmental” is generally agreed on as an excessive behavior, and that one works fine for me. In my experience, though, “judging” has been popularly diluted into a condemnation that doesn’t differentiate legitimate assessments and considerations of other people from constantly being judgmental, so I think it’s losing its utility.

      4. LBK*

        I don’t see anyone here judging the coworker for her weight, only for her pushing food on OP. I don’t see how stating someone is overweight is a judgment on them.

    3. Adam*

      Indeed. And how many of us are reared in cultures/traditions where food in itself is an event rather than fuel for the body? There are heaps of explanations we can posit in regards to her behavior.

      Just remember that you are not responsible for how she feels or her diet. Saying “Thank you, but I’m trying to limit sweets in my diet” is a perfectly reasonable and straightforward statement to make. How she chooses to interpret that is on her.

            1. LBK*

              …I’ll be honest, I would eat the hell out of that. It’s actually making me hungry to think about.

              1. Mallory*

                At least a Peep in an onion ring has the salty/sweet contrast thing going on, not the sweet-on-sweet toothache of a Peep in a doughnut. I’d rather just have a doughnut with a side of onion rings and bacon though — hold the Peeps.

    4. Bwmn*

      If you suspect that there’s a much greater food issue at play here than just trying to bond with new coworkers – then I’d really emphasize saying no thank you in a way that talks about yourself and trying to introduce some levity. I would also perhaps avoid words like “sweets” or “junk food” and saying something along the lines of how you’re trying to avoid extra snacking or snacks between meals (whatever most honestly applies).

        1. fposte*

          Snacks tend to make me sleepy, so they don’t do my work any favors. If you’re looking for something other than a health-slanted conversation, feel free to use that one.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Or be super-specific about what you’re doing. “I’m avoiding sugar,” “I’m avoiding processed food,” “I’m trying to limit my snacks to vegetables,” etc. There’s no value judgment in those statements the way there is in the phrase “junk food.”

        Good luck, OP!

    5. Recovered Bulimic*

      Kudos to you OP for being compassionate about the situation and understanding that there are emotional issues at play. Other than drawing your own boundaries and being professionally supportive, there isn’t much you can do unless she asks. I have a similar person in my department and I have just said “no thank you, not ever” with a smile since the beginning.

      Food addiction can be so challenging to overcome because we have to learn to live with (rather than without) our drug of choice. It’s a slippery slope. Perhaps she can join your department in some healthier habits as time goes on. Good luck!

    6. Kiwi*

      OP, this is exactly how I read your problem, too. The alcoholic who needs drinking buddies to make their own alcoholism seem less raging.

      It’s just like when co-workers/friend are heading out for junk food and ask if anyone else wants some. Part of it is that it feels less “naughty” and personally irresponsible if everyone else is eating it (or drinking it) too.

  34. Omne*

    A Peep in the middle of a donut?

    That’s just wrong…. not to mention that just thinking about it is making my teeth hurt.

  35. Who Are You?*

    Putting aside the “acutely obese” comment for a moment, there are some people who have issues with food that goes beyond what they put into their own mouths. My sister is an example of this. She is, as was described above in a comment, a food pusher. She gets some weird high out of watching people eat things she’s either made or purchased for others. Seriously. She sees a therapist for this. Her favorite time of year are centered around holidays where she can cook copious amounts of food for friends and family and then stand around all day asking “What did you think of my (insert food item here)? She even gets jealous when other people get more compliments on their dishes. She’s always brought food into work. It’s how she socializes. It’s sad, it’s not healthy, and for some people it can be off putting.
    I suggest sticking to Alison’s advice and saying a polite yet firm “No thank you” Another thought is to ask what your other healthy snack intended co-workers are saying to this woman. Perhaps if more of you started framing your refusals as “No thanks, I’ve brought in my own snacks from home that are part of my meal plan” she might realize that bringing in the treats aren’t a great idea since so many of you aren’t eating them.

    1. Kelly L.*

      My (tiny) aunt is a food pusher. There are a lot of goodies she can’t eat much of for medical reasons, so she “eats” them vicariously through others.

    2. mango284*

      Not saying this is the case with your sister, but food pushing is pretty common in people with eating disorders, particularly anorexia. When the body is starving, the mind automatically becomes preoccupied with food. Cooking, baking, or being in some way involved with food is a way to calm the food obsessions without having to eat the food yourself. This is why so many people with eating disorders go into careers involving food (e.g. nutritionist, dietician, chef). Also for some, getting other people eat the foods they themselves may be afraid to eat can be a way to feel even “stronger” in that it confirms they have the willpower not to eat those foods. Messed up? Sure, but fairly common… /end rant

      1. mango284*

        Also not judging people with eating disorders who may do this as I’ve been guilty of doing it myself back when I struggled more with these issues… often they don’t even realize they’re doing it or that it’s viewed as annoying/offensive to other people.

      2. Who Are You?*

        My sister is most definitely not anorexic. She’s morbidly obese. She’s got a compulsion with food to the point that she’s already talking about the next meal while eating the current one. For a long while people assumed she was heavy because of hormones but she had gastric bypass and gained it all back. 12 years later she was diagnosed as having an obsession with food. It’s more than compulsive eating… she is obsessed with food. Talks about it, surfs the internet for hours looking at pictures and recipes of food, eats it (though she has been working hard at losing weight so this one she’s been controlling better) and, of course, pushing it on people. I’m not judging people with eating disorders whether they lean toward weight gain or weight loss. I can see it in my sister that she’s not happy and doesn’t like that she does this. It’s one of the reasons she sees a therapist. My point was that the OP may want to look at her coworker from all angles. Sometimes food pushers are people who have issues with food, regardless of their size.

  36. Kinrowan*

    I also wonder if it’s about connection; she’s new also, maybe where she worked before everyone brought treats?

    Anyway, I am mixed about using the word “healthy” because I’ve seen many arguments about what healthy really is and it is often understood as “my way is healthy and yours is not”. What I have been successful with is “I am not eating x for now” or some variation of that. “I have decided not to eat donuts at this time”, “I am not into cheese balls at work”, “I find I feel better if I don’t eat wheat”. This to me keeps the focus on facts that cannot be disputed, it is clear that it is your decision and has nothing to do with the asker, and it does not lead to a the other person wondering if there was a judgement on their wish to eat said food.

    1. littlemoose*

      I like Peeps and I like donuts, but I cannot imagine consuming them simultaneously.
      Also, I dig your username!

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          You just made what I originally thought was disgusting into something absolutely appealing!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        My husband brought one home and my 9 year old ate it. Reports were that it was delish.

  37. Tiff*

    Well, it’s not her job to keep me from gaining weight and it’s not my job to keep her feelings from getting hurt when I tell her I’m watching my figure.

    I don’t like pushy people (even though I’m one of them, ha) – if I tell you “no” and you keep asking I can keep my words polite but my face…goodness my face. My face says, “why yes, I AM judging you.”

    But I also can’t stand the other side of the Overly Aggressive Food People coin: the “you’re gonna eat THAT!?!” person. The one who grabs the wrapper from the cookies you’re eating and begins reading the ingredients and calories – loudly. Or even worse, looks up the dietary information if it’s not readily available. The one who gives you a blow by blow of all the negative impacts on your body as you eat your chocolate-chunky goodness in an attempt to ruin your enjoyment of a small snack.

    Actually, after typing all that – I think I’ll stick with Ms. NewSnackums.

    1. KellyK*

      Oh, my gosh, yes! It’s sad that the “this food is so bad and sinful” script is such a standard bonding thing that when you don’t want to participate, *you’re* the weird one.

    2. TL*

      People do that?!
      I mean, I’ve got a huge out – a ton of food allergies mean my diet is really restricted and whenever people comment on unhealthy foods, they get the “My diet is restricted enough, so if I can eat it and I want to, I do.” spiel.
      I also tend to own my diet; had a coke, a gluten-free brownie, and potato chips for lunch today and when someone asked me if *that* was my lunch, I was just like, “Yup. This is not a healthy-eating week.”
      But I can’t imagine anyone other than a really, really, really good friend actually picking up a wrapper and reading nutritional info back to me.

          1. fposte*

            Even with unhealthy food, my workplace generally just comments enviously. We seem to be blessedly free of the ingredient-proclaiming mania.

    3. C average*

      People at my work tend to be interested in what I’m eating because I run a lot and am perceived as fit. (OK, by most people’s standards I *am* fit.) They often express surprise that I’m eating stuff that’s not particularly nutritious, like microwaveable burritos and PB&J sandwiches and energy bars and other stuff I refer to as “carbage.” I tell them, “I was blessed with a high energy level and the constitution of a junkyard dog. Seems like a shame to waste that, yeah?” or even just, “Hey, gotta keep the tapeworm happy.”

    4. Callie*

      “I could never eat that, I never let anything cross my lips that is not organic-vegan-glutenfree-clean because it’s so terrible, how could you eat that? I would rather die than eat that! Did you use real butter? and white flour? you could offer me crack and that would be healthier!”

      Yeah. It often goes like that. I brought home-baked cookies *once* to my new workplace. Never again. You would think I had brought a flaming bag of radioactive dog poop.

      Just say “no, thanks.”

    5. mel*

      OMG I’ve lived with someone like that and she insisted on using shortening instead of butter, which I found terribly ironic.

      Yeah, I eat “treats” more often than I should (ie: daily) but they are still “treats”. Meaning something you should eat very sparingly and for the purpose of pleasure. Destroying pleasurable food by stuffing it with whole wheat flour (cardboard pies! bah!) tends to defeat the point.

      Hmm… sorry, went off on a tangent there.

  38. OriginalEmma*

    I have no helpful advice except that my first job out of school was as a receptionist where my coworker regularly offered me junk food. Finally she looks to me and says something to the effect of “You know, it’s starting to hurt my feelings that you always reject my offers” and I snapped “because you’re always offering me junk!!!” Not the best way to handle it, so I advise the broken record ‘no thank you, i appreciate it, if i want some i’ll come ask’ approach before you behave inappropriately like I did.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        I should say that I also did the “no, thanks but thanks for asking” bit whenever she asked. But as others here have more smartly noted, “no thanks” doesn’t necessarily mean “and please don’t ever ask me again.” Which was probably why my coworker would always offer, because she was a sweet person. It was my fault for not being more clear or just not letting it get to me.

        1. TL*

          I think a qualified no, like, “No thanks, I’ve got a pretty small sweet tooth.” or “No thanks, I’m not into snacking” or “No thanks, I actually like to stick to a pretty strict eating schedule or I get an upset stomach” would go a long way to making it seem like she will never say yes.

        2. Kiwi*

          Emma, your colleague wasn’t sweet. They were a boundary pusher who were more concerned about their own wants (seeing you eating their food) than your needs (eating food that you wanted and that was good for you).

          You could have worded it better, but her manipulation needed to be firmly shot down.

  39. Red Librarian*

    Okay, as someone who used to weigh 311 lbs and now weighs 230 and also sometimes brings food in, my anecdotal evidence suggests there are a few things that could potentially be going on:

    1) Your co-worker is using the food as a bonding technique. Depending on her level of self-esteem, she may not feel comfortable just talking to new people and sees the food as a way to open a door. (What can I say, it worked for me when I came to a second location and felt completely out of my element.)

    2) Your co-worker is hoping for “partners in crime,” so to speak, to enable her own bad eating habits. She feels less guilty if others are doing it as well.

    3) the OP didn’t mention if all of the sweets were store bought or if some were homemade, but I love love love to bake. But I also love love love to eat and have been known to eat a ridiculous amount of my homemade goods in one sitting. As such, I can’t really have them in my house so when I’m in the mood to bake I make a point to bring them into work. (But I just leave them in the back room and get the empty container at the end of the day.)

    4) When the OP says “No, thank you,” the coworker hears “Not at this time” and continues to ask to be polite or is looking for an opening to bond with the OP.

    As for how to address it, keep in mind that it’s entirely possible the co-worker is completely comfortable in her skin and with her weight and would not take any offense or sub-meaning to being told the OP is trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle or doesn’t snack during the day, etc. I would also take Alison’s advice to start bringing in alternatives, like fruit or veggies to also have on hand so if the co-worker is using food as a bonding thing then the OP and her friends have a way to make it work.

    1. Totally Normal Person*

      Based on my own experiences in a variety of office settings, I’ve always found the workplace obsessions about what other people are eating to be a mild form of workplace bullying. I eat reasonably healthy (though I still eat pizza and cheeseburgers) but I do not eat sweets of any kind. I also do not comment on what others eat, nor make a display of eating healthy, and I simply refuse sweets in a polite, but direct manner. Nonetheless, this has been a major source of angst for many coworkers over the years. According to many coworkers, present and former, I only eat “rabbit food”, or I am a vegan, or I am “always dieting”. None of which could be further from the truth. As Red Librarian suggested above, I have felt over the years that for many people, my polite refusal to eat the same garbage they do is a direct personal attack on their own eating habits (which they apparently feel bad about). In turn, these people apparently feel a need to openly attack what I am eating so as to, presumably, feel better about what they are eating. This is the textbook definition of a bully, someone who has to make someone else feel bad so they can feel better about themselves. Again, let me reiterate, I would never and have never said anything to any coworker about what they are eating (no matter how repulsive I may find it), because I hate it when it is done to me.

      OP, you do not have to eat anything you don’t want to just to appease someone else in your office, or even just to “be polite”. Actual politeness includes backing off the first time someone says “no, thank you”. You also do not have to walk on eggshells in the way you respond to someone because of the way they might perceive it. A simple “no, thank you” should suffice.

  40. MousyNon*

    The only thing at issue here is that OP’s coworker is interrupting colleague’s 3 times a day. That would annoy the heck out of me, and her supervisor can easily correct that by implementing a rule that any food that’s brought in for the department be left in the pantry (or wherever), and anyone who donates can send a single email in the morning with an FYI that people can swing by and grab/nosh if they’d like. If she feels she needs a rational, pest control is a simple and believable one. Walking around with treats is just asking for a trail of critters.

    That’s it!

    As for the co-worker “pushing food” at people, the response to that is “no thanks, I don’t snack during the day” or “no thanks, I don’t eat sweets” (and no, you don’t have to hide that you don’t eat sweets because you’re afraid to making someone feel bad–that’s a personal preference).

  41. Mena*

    “Sweet gal?” Is this how I should reference a colleague in the workplace? I’m unsure if this is sexist or somehow age-related.

      1. Friendly*

        I studied Sociology and to call a group of women “guys” can be problematic. We would have entire lectures about word choices. I totally understand what you mean by not being nitpicky about the gal. I’m just saying in some pov’s that is considered sexist, to call ladies “guys”.

        As a manager if the room is full of women I always address them as ladies and when I send group emails I address them as everyone, not guys.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m referring to “guy” used for a man. But I’ve repeatedly asked for the language nitpicking to stop, and I’d like to see that respected.

    1. Callie30*

      Mena – It’s probably just a cultural term. Like ‘y’all’ in the mid-west or other phrases. I wouldn’t read much into that word choice.

  42. Robin*

    A million years ago, back when I was just starting out in the work world, the ED where I worked was struggling semi-publicly with weight issues. I and a few other staff would sometimes bring in cookies, etc., and I don’t think my 22-year-old self was very sensitive to her issues. Eventually, she issued a blanket no-unhealthy-snacks-in-the-break-room edict, while my supervisor quietly told me that I could still bring stuff in, just share it quietly with other staff, not the ED. But doesn’t sound like OP’s in the position to make any edicts.

  43. Andi*

    I’d like to point also that Allison pretty much did the same thing as the OP by stating that her weight is connected to her unhealthy eating habits. Good advice though, just wanted to point that out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. If you eat massive amounts of unhealthy food and you are overweight, there is a likely a connection between the two. That’s not a judgment or a shaming; it’s a simple statement of biological fact.

      1. CA Anon*

        The problem with that statement is people conflate it with “if you’re fat, it’s because you’re probably eating massive amounts of unhealthy food.”

        There are plenty of people who are fat who exercise and eat moderately, but are fat because of genetics. They may not even be unhealthy. Those people are told to cut back on calories or exercise (as if they’re not doing it already) because we conflate junk food with weight. Junk food can cause weight gain (which after hearing what’s going on with the OP’s coworker might be true), but weight gain is not always caused by junk food.

        The thing is, people who are fat know that junk food can cause weight gain. Bringing it up helps nobody and actually hurts people who’re fat for other reasons by reinforcing the fat=junk food stereotype.

        If we stop commenting on others’ perceived habits, maybe we can erase some of the stigma that exists for those with fat bodies. The more we comment on those whose habits we think we know, the more we reinforce the stereotype that fat people are lazy gluttons.

        By deliberately choosing not to comment on others’ eating habits, we help undo some harmful stereotypes and give people the safe space they need to make changes on their own (if they actually need to). Shaming people into losing weight doesn’t work, so there’s nothing to be gained and lots to lose by commenting on it.

        1. fposte*

          “There are plenty of people who are fat who exercise and eat moderately, but are fat because of genetics.”

          I don’t think that’s technically true as far as the cause–it’s very unusual for people to be simply become overweight in a way that isn’t related to consumption and activity. However, I agree with where I think you’re going, which is that being overweight *now* doesn’t mean anything about your current intake or activity, that there are overweight people who eat and exercise the same as or more than low BMI folks, and that some people tend to wrongly assume that eating maintenance would make somebody overweight go back to a normal weight.

          1. CA Anon*

            You’d be surprised at how important hormones and metabolism (both of which are tied to genetics) are to determining someone’s weight. I put on 30+ lbs when I started a hormonal birth control, then lost it again when I switched to a different one. Nothing in my lifestyle changed except the medication. They’re also just now realizing how important things like gut bacteria are to how we process sugar, which effects things like weight gain and diabetes.

            People aren’t chemical reactions: calories in, calories out isn’t sufficient to describe how we gain or lose weight. There’s just too many other things going on to reduce it down that far. This may not be true of every case, but it’s true of enough of them that we should stop assuming that an individual’s weight is inextricably linked to what they’re eating. We’re making assumptions about their bodies that we couldn’t possibly know.

            Even if we think we know what’s causing an individual’s weight, making those assumptions and commenting on it even once reinforces that hurtful behavior with everyone else.

            1. fposte*

              I’m not a backer of the “calories in, calories out” theory either, but don’t think there’s an either/or here, and we’re still not talking genetics. The way in which microbiome changes and endocrine changes can affect burn rates doesn’t mean that intake and use become irrelevant–it just means that what used to be maintenance intake became excessive or insufficient in that situation. Nobody’s burnproof; nobody stays fat in a true survival situation regardless of their genes or hormones, because everybody is burning the hell out of their intake and their reserves when demand really steps up.

              I’m not for a moment making this about “will power” or inappropriately isolated fingerpointing like that either; there are a pile of contributors to weight gain and another pile on top of them for the difficulty of weight loss, and another pile of question marks because there’s a lot that’s still not known about all this. However, there is a really, really close correlation between what people put in their mouths, how much they move around in a day, and whether they’re adding on fat or not that holds true even in the face of individual outliers.

              Of course nobody should comment to other people about those other people’s burn rates and body shapes (absent mutual consent, anyway). But that’s not what the OP did or anybody else suggested she do. She’s not assuming; she’s described somebody who *does* seriously overeat and the reasons why it concerns her and is relevant to her own issues here in a way that seems plausible and considerate to me.

              1. CA Anon*

                The problem is that having these sorts of discussions about the OP’s coworker reinforces people’s tendencies to talk about others’ weight and eating habits. If it’s ok to do here, then they’re more likely to do it out in the real world to people whose issues may not be so easy to diagnose.

                Making the OP’s coworker’s body the focus of our conversations is inappropriate. She didn’t consent to having her weight talked about by complete strangers on the internet. She’d probably horrified and deeply ashamed if she knew the things that were being said about her.

                The core issue that the OP is having–frequent interruptions and not wanting to be rude–do not require a conversation about her coworker’s weight. The same issue could come up with a thin coworker also.

                We’re not helping anyone by talking about her weight–all we’re doing is indulging in fat shaming. By participating in it or allowing it to go on, we’re just reinforcing the terrible assumptions that people make about fat people.

                It doesn’t matter that the OP’s coworker is fat. It doesn’t matter why the OP’s coworker is fat. All that matters is that the OP was worried about being awkward and rude by not accepting food from a coworker.

                All I’m asking is that we all stop making judgments about the OP’s coworker’s body–OP included. It’s none of our business.

                1. Kim*

                  No one’s making judgments about the coworker’s body. Anyone with working vision can see that a person is morbidly obese. It’s an observation that was relevant to the OP’s hesitation about how to respond. None of this “it’s none of our business” is even relevant to the question!

                2. CA Anon*


                  The OP was making some pretty clear judgments about her coworker’s body. The OP’s hesitation to respond shouldn’t have anything to do with her coworker’s weight–if it does, then she’s engaging in fat shaming/bias and that should be called out.

                  Her body is none of our business. She might be visibly obese, but that tells us nothing about her history or health. Being fat is not the same thing as being unhealthy and even if it were, it’s still the coworker’s private medical info, which we have no business discussing.

                  I’m calling out fat shaming and bias when I see it because I’m hoping that it’ll force some commenters to stop and think about the assumptions they make about weight and fat bodies. Most of all, I’m hoping that it’ll mean that fewer fat people are subjected to snide and unhelpful comments that people make out of faux-concern.

                3. C*

                  I think it’s a bit OTT to require consent to talk about strangers in an anonymous forum. If I see someone doing strange on the street, do I have to ask their consent to tell my friend about them?

                4. CA Anon*


                  The problem is that publicly commenting on others’ bodies builds a culture where judgments about beauty, weight, and perceived health are all acceptable topics of conversation. This hurts people because it reinforces the negative body images most of us share.

                  By saying “no, this isn’t an appropriate discussion” we’re reinforcing the idea that no body is worthy of derision. We’re helping to build a society where eating disorders and self mutilation become rarer and rarer.

                  Don’t comment on others’ weight. If you see a fat person on the street and you want to tell a friend? Don’t. It hurts our society as a whole when we participate in those conversations.

                5. Beebee the Big*

                  Fooey on fat pride, I say! I’m obese and I’m not even remotely proud of it.

                  Shame is annoying at best and horribly upsetting at the very worst, but there’s a difference between being big boned and not being able to fit through your door or potentially dropping dead at any second from a heart attack. I wish we could find a happy medium rather than telling people, girls especially, “yes, you are beautiful just the way you are. And you’ll make a gorgeous corpse in the next day or so too.” I love my friends and family for telling me when they’re concerned for my health because it means they care. And as for malicious strangers, well everyone faces a few of those in life. They’re called bullies, and telling them to just shut up never has and never will work. We need to build healthy habits and self esteem in tandem, because otherwise it just seems like a dangerous level of self denial masquerading as confidence

      2. Andi*

        Sorry. I didn’t mean you were shaming her. Just stating that you told the OP not to make that connection.

  44. POF*

    The offering of food is the problem.

    As a manager, I would call in the employee and gently tell her that it is fine to bring in treats, but that she should leave them in the break room with a note such as help yourself. I would not allow her to be walking around serving food daily.

    I would also evaluate if I had done enough to integrate the new employee.

    To the OP – have you or your colleagues reached to this new person at all. She may be feeling awkward – so maybe an invite to lunch / coffee is in order. ( Maybe you did and I can’t remember … duh …. sorry ).
    I had an employee who was bringing in cake and leaving it on her desk and then being interrupted all day serving it and chatting. I had to make a policy that all shared snacks belong in the kitchen.
    As someone who recently lost 50 lbs – this would drive me crazy.

  45. C average*

    “No, thanks. I have a specific food plan that really works for me, and I’d prefer to stick to it.”

    Repeat as needed.

    If that doesn’t get the point across, mention casually that you saw a mouse in the break room.

    (There actually WAS at least one mouse in our break room and, as a result, we’re not supposed to bring food and leave it out where it can attract critters. I was frankly grateful to see the smorgasbord close. There are–or were–a lot of treat-bringers in the office, and all the junk food was a constant test of my willpower.)

  46. Ellie H.*

    This is another aside about snack philosophy, but it’s interesting how different people are in approach to snacks. If faced with snack temptation I tend to disavow all snacks, healthy or no. I think it’s a lot better to just not have snacks at work than to try to switch to healthy snacks. It’s definitely fun to bring in treats once in a very great while for a special occasion but I like having work be work, not a food source. To me it’s the difference between being a moderator or abstainer:

  47. Can't eat at desk*

    OK, usually I post under a different name, but I want to be anonymous for this.

    I began working for a private business a couple of months ago, and the owners don’t want people eating at their desks. We can have tea or coffee or water and maybe the occasional piece of candy, but pretty much all food consumption has to take place in the kitchen or off premises. I found this really disconcerting, but now I really, really like this policy and I recommend it, even though it took several weeks of (gradually declining) snacking on almond M&Ms to get used to it.

    The place is clean. The keyboards are clean. There isn’t a desk with a lot of empty cans and food debris stacking up. Some of this is a function of daily janitorial service (can’t remember the last time I worked in a place that got wastebaskets dumped every day and probably more), but a lot of it is because people aren’t shedding food everywhere.

    There are no slurping, crunching, or bag-pulling-open noises.

    The kitchen is large, with a lot of seating and a television, plus a soda machine, two refrigerators, and a candy-chips vending machine. All food waste has to be thrown out in the kitchen, other than the occasional candy-bar wrapper. Often there’s food to share on the counter, and the business does have lots of events for employees involving food, including some wine and beer tastings. So — the owners are not puritanical about food.

    I am snacking a lot less, and I can see the results. When I’m hungry, I go eat my lunch. I’ve added more fruit to what I carry in to work, so if I need something when I’m getting drowsy, I go peel an orange or something in the kitchen. I haven’t had to answer the phone once with my mouth sort-of half-full because I’m choking down something fast.

    Everybody here seems to get lunch — either in house or by going out. I don’t see a lot of people working through lunch — in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone try to work through lunch. I do see people eating quickly in the kitchen, but they eat their yogurt or whatever and then go back to work.

    Normally I’m not in favor of a one-size-fits-all office rule just for things that are annoying. But in my office, treats are available — occasionally promoted by one mass email from the persons who are allowed to do mass emails — but I don’t feel I need to eat because of the smell of my neighbor’s snacks and I don’t get tempted to eat. A rule keeping food in the break room or kitchen now seems to be pretty fair.

    1. Sandrine (France)*

      I wish we could do this at my job. There is a “no eating” rule… except there is no lunch break, either. So a decent meal at lunch is out of the question. Out by 6 AM, back home by about 6 PM (thanks commute arrrgh) … without the snacks, boom, I do (and have!) pass out.

      And now I see myself dreaming about having a lunch break again…

      1. Linguist curmudgeon*

        You’d need explicit permission to go eat a snack every hour or so, and you’d need a real kitchen, like the one described here – a big noisy awful cafeteria wouldn’t cut it.

        But given those things, this could be good.

        I wish my office had a kitchen!

  48. Anon for this*

    I joined Food Addicts Anonymous 7 years ago. I was slightly overweight (maybe 20-25 lbs?), and just felt like my moods and general health would be better controlled if I abstained from certain foods (sugar, flour & wheat for my specific program). It has worked wonders for me, and the weight loss was an added bonus. The reason I’m chiming in is that as you can well imagine, living this way really puts me in the minority. And I am offered food that I choose not to eat all.the.time. A simple “no thanks” has served me well. Very rarely do I offer up any explanation because really, it’s no one’s business. Most of my co-workers all know the situation, so have pretty much stopped asking (they got me flowers for my birthday instead of cake!). Every once in a great while someone will press for more info, and I will usually explain my situation in more detail…no judgement towards anyone, and I’ve yet to have someone express that they feel like I’m pushing my lifestyle on them. If anything, I just hear a “I wish I could do that!” and they move on. It actually hasn’t been that big of a deal. OP, just stand firm, and hopefully a simple “no thank you” will suffice for you too. And best of luck to you in your endeavor to eat healthier!

  49. Deb*

    If the coworker is using treats as a bonding technique, then turning down her offerings will leave her unsatisfied and she will only return again with other treats in another attempt to bond. Maybe after turning down her treats you could satisfy her bonding attempt by engaging in conversation (“No thanks, I had a big lunch, looks good though, did you bake that yourself?”). Once you’ve entered the friend zone, she will not feel rude or guilty about excluding you from the next round of offerings.

  50. NEP*

    You could use all this as a way to refine/strengthen your own self-control. It seems to me you don’t need any special way of phrasing anything. Just, “No.” (Or “No, thank you”, if you wish.) Just no, and get on with work. It’s not your problem that she insists, keeps offering, etc — it’s hers.

  51. Kat A.*

    Shouldn’t this woman be at her desk working?

    How much time does she spend every day walking around offering food as if she were a caterer serving at a party?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah. I was wondering how many people work in this place and how long it takes her to get all the way around. Is she getting her own work done? Not really any of our business or OPs but I would not want any boss of mine seeing me walk around three times a day with a food tray.

  52. Anon 1*

    I love sweets but don’t really like eating treats at work because I like to enjoy my sweets and generally work isn’t a place I want to sit a leisurely eat a piece of cake. At my last job I had a co-worker who would bring in home made treats, but it was hard to refuse because there were only 4 of us in the department I worked in. That meant I would politely take a treat and then throw it away when I left the office.

    I felt bad throwing the treats away, but it was pretty clear my co-worker thought bringing in treats was something a good administrative support person does. Every time we scheduled a meeting she would ask what kind of snacks we wanted. I would tell her that wasn’t necessary but clearly somewhere down the line someone in her professional past had reaffirmed this behavior.

    I realize AAM felt it was best to back off, and I don’t disagree. If the co-worker wants to spend the money and time that’s her choice, but maybe the next time your co-worker offers food you could say “thanks for sharing, but don’t feel like you have to feed all of us.” It may be that the OP’s co-worker is a junk food junkie, but it also may be the OP’s co-worker thinks that bringing in food is part of being a good employee.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “it also may be the OP’s co-worker thinks that bringing in food is part of being a good employee.”

      Interestingly, I rarely see men in offices do this

      1. Cupcake Party*

        At my first professional job, I brought in baked goods a couple of times because I wanted to be social, get to know my coworkers, and generally be seen as a nice, sweet (no pun intended) person. I also put a candy jar in my office as well, to encourage people to stop by and chat.

        I read a book later on (I can’t remember which one) that suggested that it probably wasn’t a good idea, especially for younger women new to the working world.

        So…I stopped bringing baked goods and candy into work, unless it was for a party or some special occasion. (Even then, I usually just opted to bring napkins, utensils or something else.)

        Plus, the candy was costing me a fortune and people were going into my office on a daily basis, grabbing handfuls without so much as saying, “Hello.” That was kind of annoying, too.

      2. virago*

        You’re right — though I think my workplace is the exception that proves the rule. We’re full of foodies & creative types of both genders. I can think of one guy who brought in a rhubarb crumble, another who shared Christmas treats he and his kids had made (chocolate-covered Ritz crackers — so wrong but yet so right), and a third who was testing his recipe for chocolate-caramel turtles and brought the results of his experiments tq the office.

      3. Adam*

        I have on occasion since I can bake (though I prefer to cook), but I think every time I’ve done so it’s been under the guise of “I had a party this weekend but we only ate half this pie I made. Here, GET RID OF IT!”

  53. Callie30*

    OP – If I were in your position, I’d probably say something like – ‘I’m not a pastry/cookie person, but thank you for offering. I’m more of a fruit person when it comes to snacks.’ Maybe this or something similar would be a gentle hint to not offer you the sweets going forward. She doesn’t need to know more. Or if you don’t mind saying a simple ‘No thank you’, then Anon for This also has a good point.

    I also agree with Alison regarding bringing fruit and other healthier snacks into the office.

  54. NEP*

    My co-workers know I don’t eat cake, cookies — anything along those lines. It’s not a ‘rejection’ or personal affront if someone brings in a treat and I don’t partake. Seems to me there should not be so much importance attached to accepting treats as some measure of politeness.

  55. Lou*

    If I see a tray of unhealthy junk in the breakroom, I throw it all away. I realize this makes me a bit of a jerk. But otherwise I will eat all the cupcakes.

  56. Ruffingit*

    It’s not quite the same thing the OP is saying, but I did have a co-worker once who threw parties a lot and would bring in the leftover meat platters, veggie trays and so on. It was a small office so there was no way we could eat all the food and most of us didn’t really want any anyway. We all usually brought in our own stuff. The co-worker would be very pushy about telling us the food was in the frig and “why aren’t you eating it??” It was really annoying. So I get somewhat where the OP is coming from here with the food pusher. Enough with your heroin cupcakes lady!!

  57. TL*

    OP, you can also say that you have a sensitive stomach/are prone to stomachaches and you try to stick to a fairly regimented eating routine (eating at the same time and not a terribly varied diet) if that applies to how you already eat.

    As long as you don’t make a big fuss about it, I think it’s a fair white lie. Nobody’s going to “catch you out” if you vary for a special occasion (after all, it’s just a stomachache), but she’ll also probably sympathetically leave you to your own snacks.

    1. Coach Cupcake*

      There’s no reason to lie, even a “white lie”, though. The OP can just be honest and direct. It sounds like they are overthinking this somewhat, where a simple “no thank you, and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t offer me snacks” is all that is needed.

  58. Marisa*

    I made it through about halfway, and I didn’t see this mentioned, but apologies if it has since been –

    I think the OP should simply e-mail the co-worker and say something along the lines of, “It is very generous of you to bring snacks into the office. I am trying to stick to a meal plan, so if you wouldn’t mind passing by my desk with the snacks, I’d appreciate it.”

    No judgement, and nothing that could be taken as snarky.

  59. Katie the Fed*

    OK, coming at this late, but am I the only one concerned about mice? Maybe I work in an especially mouse-ridden place, but if she’s leaving a buffet of treats in the break room at all times, that’s just an invitation for mice and other creatures to come.

    We have a crazy mouse problem where I work :(

    1. KellyK*

      Here it would be ants rather than mice, but yeah, food left out all day can definitely be a pest issue.

    2. Sasha LeTour*

      Nope. In NYC, you are urged to avoid leaving food and trash out everywhere. Now, the MTA is starting this pilot program to rid the train stations of trash cans. We have major pest issues here: rats, mice, ants, roaches, the works.

  60. Katie the Fed*

    OK, I’ve read through most of the comments and I’m probably too late, but yeah, weight is just SUCH a sensitive issue. OP – I totally get where you’re coming from. It’s really, really hard to lose weight. I went to try on wedding dresses last weekend and left in tears because I’m nowhere near where I want to be weight wise.

    OP, you seem like a decent and compassionate person and I think you’re taking some needless flak here because it’s such a sensitive issue for so many people.

    Here’s my suggestion: set up a rotating schedule for treats. We do this in my office. Tuesday Treats. People who want to participate sign up and two people each week bring in the treats. Only those who sign up can participate. It’s a lot of fun and people like it – they try to outdo each other. For those who want to watch what they eat – they don’t participate. It works well.

    1. CA Anon*

      I wore a nontraditional wedding dress because I couldn’t stand how I looked when I went dress shopping. I ended up in a green wrap dress that flattered my figure better than anything white every could have. I used white flowers in my hair and bouquet to complement the dress and make it more wedding-y.

      (Bonus: I got 3 awesome, pricey dresses for that weekend for less than I would’ve spent on a low-end, off-the-wrack wedding dress. And I can still wear them for special occasions!)

  61. Cupcake Party*

    I’m very late to the party, but here’s how I finally stopped eating sweets at work:

    People in my office bring them in pretty regularly. I used to eat most of them to be polite and because, honestly, I’m pretty powerless when it comes to cake. One day, a team member brought in some homemade cupcakes for the office. My boss took one and started eating it…only to find a hair in hers. Another team member found a hair in his cupcake as well. Someone tipped me off before I had one (thank goodness), but from that point on, I made it a point never to eat sweets (or really any food that’s prepared at home) brought in by my coworkers. And no one has ever called me out on it or asked questions.

  62. Lisa*

    I’d stay away from labeling her food. Don’t say “No thank you, I’m trying to eat healthy” – that just labels her food as not healthy. Same with “I try not to eat junk food” – you’ve just called her food junk food. Don’t say “I don’t eat sweets” because tomorrow it could be chips.

    Why not just stick with a plain “No thank you”? You don’t owe anyone an explanation or rationalization of your own eating habits or attempts at curbing the snack habit.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Concur. I feel like with pushy people who don’t respect boundaries, giving a reason invites them to argue with it. If you just say “no, thank you” and leave it at that there’s no further room for discussion.

      1. KellyK*

        A couple things. First, there’s an implicit association of food that’s defined as unhealthy with moral badness or dirtiness. People talk about high-calorie food as “sinful” or “junk” or talk about “clean” eating.

        Secondly, it’s the dose that makes the poison, so to speak. There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about a cupcake or a bag of chips here and there as part of an overall balanced and varied diet. But a lot of the time, people talk about chips or cookies as if they were actually laced with arsenic.

        Third, what’s healthy for varies a lot based on individual people and individual circumstances. Labeling foods as universally “bad” helps contribute to a culture of shame and judgment about food in general. (My personal example of this is one time I had a stomach bug and couldn’t keep anything down. I found it actually emotionally difficult to drink ginger ale and eat pretzels because “OMG, empty calories!!” despite the fact that that was the best choice at the time, and when I did manage to eat them, I felt slightly better.)

        Not that whether the OP responds to her coworker’s requests with “No thanks, I have my own snacks.” or “No thanks, I’m trying to cut down on junk food” makes a huge difference, but the way we talk about food overall as a culture affects people’s relationship with it—and frequently not in a good way.

        1. CA Anon*


          No food is inherently bad. Let’s divorce shame and judgement from our eating choices and our discussions about weight.

  63. Savvy Working Gal*

    I have a co-worker who used to bring in food almost every day. At the time, everyone else in my office was either on a strict diet or didn’t like sweets and I would end up eating almost the entire plate of whatever she brought in- I have zero will-power especially when under stress and this was during the great recession. I started gaining weight. Finally, one day after seeing her plop two bags heaping full of bagels onto the lunch room table, I asked her to please stop. I told her I was the only one eating her treats. She adamantly disagreed with me saying everyone enjoyed her snacks. I told her I wouldn’t eat any of them and let’s see how many are left at the end of the day. At the end of the day, she marched out of the office carrying her two bags of bagels and didn’t bring in another treat for at least a year. Now, she brings food in only occasionally. Luckily for me, the snacking habits in my office have changed and by the time my will power gives out there usually aren’t any snacks left.

  64. Adiposehysteria*

    Trying to figure out what the person’s weight has to do with this. Skinny people do the same exact food pushing.

  65. Lily in NYC*

    I admit I’m grumpy today, but seriously, how hard is it to just TALK to the coworker and tell her you are trying to eat healthy and to please stop offering junk food to you?

  66. mel*

    Part of me wonders if she’s also just trying to get rid of the temptation by making other people eat it instead of her.

    Unrelated rant:

    I tend to end up in the position of snack giver as well. I work in the food industry and have some very snacky managers who assign the task of “make me yummy food!” to me on a regular basis!

    All of my coworkers are simultaneously pleased and frustrated because, like me, none of us have any self control. It’s not unusual to receive a few “I really hate you, I’m trying to diet” comments from time to time, and it’s hardly fair. I’m literally just doing my job at this point.

    /unrelated rant

  67. Sasha LeTour*

    I understand this problem. I had a heroin addiction for a while, and in recovery, I replaced it with caffeine. (The heroin maintenance meds are also EXTREMELY soporific, so it was partly a matter of survival, staying awake at work, etc.)

    The problem is, left unchecked, I will drink a pot of coffee. I don’t even LIKE the taste of coffee, so I doctor it with cream and sugar. And obviously, subsisting on caffeine, cream and sugar is not healthy. But I live in NYC, where everyone wants to offer you coffee, or go on a coffee break ALL THE TIME.

    So I’ve started being firm with co-workers. “Thanks, Mike, but I’m trying to watch my caffeine – as I can’t drink coffee after noon or it keeps me up.” When they beg me to join them on coffee runs or help finish the pot in the kitchen or breakroom, I repeat that phrase. A couple have been hurt, thinking I was snubbing them and not just the coffee, but my actions over the course of the month proved that no, it was just the coffee (specifically, the caffeine) I was rejecting.

  68. No Sharing Food*

    For years I worked in offices where there were daily donuts, cakes, pop and junk food of unimaginable proportions in the break room. Even the strongest willpower is often not enough to overcome the urge to take half a donut, which usually leads to 5 or 6 more “half-donuts.” I put on 20 pounds during that time of my life.

    When I started my company, I wanted something different so I made a rule to combat this problem: You are not allowed to share junk food with others in the office. Everyone who works for me learns about this during the interview process and it’s never been an issue. Several employees have attributed this rule to being one of the key reasons they were able to reach their fitness goals.

    Over the years, we’ve had to make enhancements to avoid loopholes. My employees can bring whatever food they want for themselves individually, no restrictions there. However, they cannot offer to share with others. If someone is actively eating something that another person wants, that other person can ask permission to have some and that’s fine too. However, if someone is not actively eating something, it needs to be put away, not inviting others to ask to have the leftovers. To ensure compliance, the quarterly bonus is forfeited for anyone who violates this rule. Interestingly, no one has ever violated the rule!

    I wish more offices had a policy like this because obesity is a serious problem.

  69. Siandra*

    I agree that eating habits aren’t the only factor to a person’s weight, but I disagree that it’s definitely coming from a good place in her heart. I once had a roommate (both of us are hefty gals btw, but she was shorter so weighed less but didn’t carry it as well) who always had junk food around, would push it at me, and even several times would say to me after the gym, “do you want to go get ice cream?”

    My point is that some people are really insecure, and think that if everyone else is eating junk, then they shouldn’t feel/look so bad eating it either. This doesn’t necessarily come from a bad place (although in my roommate’s case, it turned out that way. She was manipulative, two-faced, and clearly trying to keep her fat friend fat so that I would feel less confident and at the same time make her feel better about herself) but it might be another factor in the equation, especially if the habit is frequent and she is persistent with everybody. Maybe this factor isn’t one that’s worth asking her about, if you aren’t very close to her on any level, and besides, it’s not your job to try to “fix” anything about her anyway. Just something to consider.

    I can’t know the full story because I don’t work there, but that’s my experience and two cents.

    1. Angelica*

      I Agree. Some, not all, use the food as a weapon to cause harm to another. It’s gross and just disgusting that there are people out there who purposely try to undermine that way.

  70. Angelica*

    Myself and two other coworkers decided to help each other lose weight. One of the coworkers goes out of her way to bring in foods for me and leaving it on my desk, pushing sweets, etc. I usually say, “no thank you” then I have to say it two more times. Then it got to the point where I thought telling her that I was borderline diabetic (which I am) might help her to understand. Then I finally spoke to her seriously and said “I just can’t, could you please not feed me anymore?”. She tried giving me pizza, saying “awe come on, you know you want it.”. That was today. So, I decided, that when I am offered food from her or any one who can’t take No for an answer, I will just say “Yes! I’ll take it!”, then I’ll take the food with a smile and then walk over to the trash can and throw it away. Done. It was mine, it was given to me and I could do as I please with it. I know she does not have a lot of money, but if she is spending it to try to sabotage me and gives the food to me, she is going to have to learn and understand the consequence. So, now I have a solution that can’t be argued. I will follow up with what happens if she does it again tomorrow or next week, etc. Take Care and Don’t Give In!!!!

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