is it weird to eat throughout the day at my desk?

A reader writes:

I am currently trying to put on some weight. I try to eat roughly every 2 hours. I work in a very small office that has a relaxed setting and in my own cubicle. I will get to the office early to prepare a quick breakfast of a banana and a small bowl of oatmeal that I finish before the work clock starts. While I’m preparing my breakfast, I also prepare a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to have sometime before lunch. Lunch is 12-12:30. I typically will eat my sandwich around 10 am (or whenever our meeting with the boss ends) and slowly finish my sandwich while continuing to work. After lunch, I will snack on almonds, peanuts, greek yogurt, and cheese sticks.

One person (who views himself as a superior but isn’t a manager) is giving me a hard time, saying “lunch time is from 12:00 to 12:30.” Is what I am doing a no-no in an office setting? I am in no way stopping my job duties to prepare food or eat.

It depends a little on your office culture — there would be some where this would be frowned upon, but in the majority of offices, it would be totally fine. And statistically speaking, it’s probably fine in yours.

If you were regularly eating particularly smelly foods or constantly chomping away on something crunch, it might not be unreasonable for someone to politely bring it to your attention and see if a compromise could be found. But the stuff you’re eating isn’t loud or smelly, and your coworker seems unduly focused on whether you’re adhering to an appropriate lunch time or not, which is really none of his business.

It would be entirely reasonable to just tell him to butt out, but you might get better results if you allude to there being a reason for what you’re doing (although you don’t need to share that reason, which is none of his business) and ask him why he’s concerned. For instance: “You’ve mentioned that a few times. I’m deliberately eating throughout the day for a reason. Is there some reason I shouldn’t be?” Or: “You’ve mentioned that a few times. How come?”

If his answer is just that lunch is at a specific time, you can respond, “Well, I’m eating throughout the day for a reason, but if it ever causes some specific issue, please let me know.” That last part shows that you’re open to a reasonable discussion if the smell of something you’re eating is making someone ill or if the constant chewing is wigging someone out (although based on what you’re eating, that seems unlikely), but that the general fact of you eating isn’t up for continued debate.

 Note: I tweaked the suggested language above to reflect feedback from commenters.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. Hlyssande*

    Eating multiple small meals is not at all uncommon, so I don’t see why it would be an issue unless your office has a strict rule about eating at desks.

    One of my coworkers does it and it’s never a problem.

    A friend of mine who is hypoglycemic has to eat many small meals through the day or her blood sugar will crash.

    1. Sarahnova*

      This 22-week pregnant lady also gets hungry every couple of hours, and not eating leads to shakiness, tiredness, and nausea.

      If this dude tried that line on me, I’d rip off his head. And eat it.

    2. Tarte*

      I’m confused as to why the discussion goes into the LW’s actual eating habits and needs.

      What jumped out at me is that this coworker views himself as a superior and he was getting into the LW’s business (and even kind of bossing her) about something that is not his business—-doesn’t matter what the actual issue is.

      Getting too much into the eating issue (assuming that it’s an office culture where people can snack at their desks) seems to give credibility to this coworker’s butting in, as if LW owes him an explanation.

      Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced a coworker like this (much worse, actually), who viewed themselves as a superior and did a lot of bossing—-but that seems to be the issue here, and if it wasn’t the eating issue, it would be something else w/this guy, no?

      1. Sarahnova*

        Perfectly true, but I think it’s worth pointing out, especially to those who are irritated by eating coworkers, that there are reasons why someone may have a legitimate need to eat frequently.

        1. Tarte*

          Yeah, I get that.

          I guess his comment about lunch time being a particular time suggested to me that it wasn’t about that.

  2. Robin*

    I agree, it’s not unsual at all. But also agree she should make sure the smells aren’t bothering anyone.

    1. Carrington Barr*

      I had a coworker who was an amateur bodybuilder. In the months before a competion, whenever she was at her desk, she was eating some godawful homemade concoction that would satify her hunger but not greatly affect her caloric intake.

      Cookie-sized protein powder pancakes were OK, but the constant reek of boiled chicken breast and mustard was absolutely, utterly disgusting.

  3. Tina*

    As long as the smells/noise aren’t disturbing anyone and is in her own cubicle, I don’t see what the problem is (assuming there’s no office policy about food at your desk). I wonder if the coworker is worried about rodents or bugs showing up in the office? Cause that’s the only reasonable possibility that comes to mind, and other than that, it’s none of his business when and what you eat.

    I’ve only ever worked at one place that banned people from eating at their desks. It came about because someone at the reception desk made a mess eating/drinking and some clients saw it, so they implemented a company wide policy. Unfortunately they only enforced against people in open spaces – those in offices just went in and shut their doors, even though technically it applied to them too.

    Someone walking by my open desk saw me chewing one day and reminded me I wasn’t supposed to eat at the desk. I pointed out that we *were* allowed to have a candy dish at our desk, so it stood to reason that I could eat the candy!

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      Yes to smells! Please remember that peanuts and peanut butter can be smelly and distracting! Make sure no one in your office has a serious allergy, and even then try to keep those snacks contained and short-lived. I don’t have an allergy, but my boyfriend does, so I never smell it at home and now when I smell it elsewhere it’s really prominent and noticeable, even distracting. Just a heads up.

        1. Tina*

          Yeah, the smell thing is often subjective. Peanut butter doesn’t bother me. But today someone did something in the shared space that involved vinegar, and boy was that potent.

        2. Colette*

          I think it depends on how sensitive you are to it.

          I get sick when I eat peppers (bell peppers included) and I can smell them from several feet away. Before I developed the sensitivity, I didn’t even realize they had a smell.

          1. Anonsie*

            Ahhh this is me and peppers! I can eat them just fine, I just hate them because their smell goes everywhere and their taste seeps into anything else cooked around them or kept near them in a tupperware or anything. It’s like they just leech out in all directions.

            I’ve always assumed this is why I hate them, since people I know who like them say they don’t think they had much of a smell or taste at all.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            +1 to this. Part of the reason I find it distracting when it’s pervasive is that I know if it gets on me, I’ll hear about it when I get home.

        3. TheSnarkyB*

          Well that’s kind of dismissive of you. Maybe you disagree, but yes. The smell of peanut butter is distracting. To me. The person for whom I was speaking.

        4. PK*

          I’m extremely allergic and the smell is extremely nauseating to the point where I will almost throw up.

        5. Liz in a Library*

          It’s a sensitivity thing. I can tell if my husband has eaten peanut butter as soon as we are in the same room. If he comes within a foot or so of me, I might even gag involuntarily.

      1. Canadamber*

        I’ve got a peanut allergy, and fortunately it only seems to be if I ingest something. Smells thankfully don’t bother me, although it’s weird because everyone around me who knows about my allergies (peanuts and tree nuts) always points out when they can smell it, but I have no idea… I think it’s because I generally make an effort to stay away from them, so I’ve never learned what they smell like. :P

    2. danr*

      Yep, my old company tried “No eating at desks” after complaints about mice, but dropped the issue because the worst offenders were the VPs. The second worst was the department that had complained about mice and such. It was pointed out that they created their own problem.

  4. Relosa*

    I eat at my desk – granted I work alone, but all the same – it is better for your metabolism to eat small snacks or meals throughout the day. I get very hangry very quickly if I go more than say, four hours without a snack (usually fruit, berries, and tea).

    As long as it’s being handled respectfully (no noisy chip bags!) and you’re cleaning up after yourself, I don’t see the issue. Particularly if your employer has no hard and fast rule about it. “Lunch” time is break time, not food time. Does coworker walk around with coffee? Goodness.

    Keep nomming!!

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Thanks for that! Oddly, there is some indication that the opposite is true: that there may be metabolism-boosting properties to not eating for long periods (intermittent fasting). But really, everyone should just do what works for them. We all have weird bodies that do weird things for weird reasons, and it’s nice to have so many dietary options. :)

  5. BadPlanning*

    In my office, it would be perfectly fine. People eat at their desks all the time and at random times.

    Some people just like to tease. Is this person teasing? Or do they seem serious? I think sometimes people get stuck on one tidbit they know about knowing you and then ask or comment on it all the time — or it becomes a one sided “inside joke.” Like if you know your coworker does volleyball so when you see them, you find the only thing you have to ask is “How is volleyball going?” It’s not that you’re obsessed with volleyball…you just haven’t figured out anything else to talk about.

    Either way, since it’s annoying, I’d go with Alice. If its possible he’s trying to do small talk and making a joke about lunch time is the best he has, volunteer something else — even it’s just the “Hey, weather” discussion. “I’m eating throughout the day for a reason, and I’d appreciate if you’d stop commenting on it. Wasn’t it great weather last weekend, I went to the park. Did you get out and enjoy the weather.”

    1. BadPlanning*

      Doh. “I’d go with with Alice” — name fail! Hangs head in shame. Was just talking to a coworker named Alice.

      1. snapple*

        I’m guilty of doing this! I’m really bad at making small talk so I always go back to that one thing that I know about a coworker which I realize may be annoying to the other person.

        1. Kai*

          Yeah, I could very easily see that being the culprit. The way it’s written, I doubt this guy means much harm, he’s just kind of a boor.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I have a co-worker who does this. I feel bad for her, because I think she thinks she’s being funny with the thing she keeps bringing up, but doesn’t know that her conversational victim is at the end of her ropes! I’m peacing out of that workplace soon so I don’t really think it’s my place to say anything, but I’m considering doing some kind of behind-the-scene intervention if possible!

  6. alma*

    I’m a little thrown by the insistence that “lunch is from 12 to 12:30.” Is there some kind of scheduling reason for that? Because if not, this guy seems weirdly Bossyboots about the whole thing. (Well – he kind of seems that way anyway – but there might at least be some explanation for it!) Not everybody does well on the “three meals a day” plan.

    The only other potential issues I can think of are noise and smell, but the appropriate thing to do is address that directly rather than insisting on particular lunchtimes.

    1. OhNo*

      Yeah, that part stuck out to me too. Unless every single person in the office takes the exact same lunch time every single day, it seems weird that he would mention that.

      Aside from him being a bossyboots (I love that phrase), I also wonder if he might be trying to lose weight or if he is sensitive about his weight. I have noticed that such people, if they tend towards bossiness anyway, will often stick their nose in other people’s plates. Maybe he gets hungry when he sees the OPeating and that makes it harder for him to stick to his diet?

      Not that that would be an excuse for this behavior, but it might be an explanation for the weird insistence on”proper” meal times.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Even if he’s trying to lose weight, many doctors and weight loss programs recommend eating multiple small meals throughout the day.

        He’d be more successful at whatever he’s trying to accomplish if he focused on himself and not the OP.

    2. Celeste*

      I think that remark probably means that if you’re eating, you’re not to be disturbed, and so you are supposed to limit that time to a lunch period. But yes, it’s over-reaching all the way. “He views himself as a superior”…that says it all.

    3. Celeste*

      I also think he might think your regime is taking too much time in general, from preparing your meals to cleanup. I’m sure you are not going overboard, because these sound like very simple offerings. I just think he is focused on time and is extrapolating in a way that works against you.

    4. mess*

      Yeah. What if you had a meeting until 1pm? Are you not allowed to eat lunch that day? LOL.

  7. The IT Manager*

    I think that guy is nosy and out of line commenting on when you eat at your desk assuming your food is not too smelly, noisy, or messy. I usually eat earlier than noon and would be annoyed if I had to wait until then. Especially since I end up eating at my desk and workingthrough lunch a lot of the time.

    That said, I find the fact that your prepare sandwhiches in your office kitchen and not at home odd. The oatmeal (which I presume is the instant kind, just add water) is not so odd to me. I expect people to prepare food in our shared kitchen by warming it up or adding salad dressing and not much else.

    One thing about it being off to clock is that how is someone to know that you’re in early and haven’t officially started your work day yet or not. which doesn’t mean that they should worry about it or comment about it, but some people do.

    1. All Day Eater Here*

      I eat throughout the day and I’m not trying to gain weight. It’s simply what works best for me. If I had to restrict my food intake to lunchtime, I would be cranky and unproductive.

      I also prepare simple meals in our shared kitchen: make PB&J sandwiches, microwave scrambled eggs, assemble tacos. People will occasionally comment on it, but it’s always in a positive way–asking me what ingredients I’m using, saying how good it looks or how they’d like to stop eating so much takeout for lunch.

      1. No Eggs!*

        Please, please stop with the eggs in the microwave. This is one of the most offensive break room smells I can think of (though fish is a close second!).

          1. All Day Eater Here*

            No one sits anywhere near the break room except me. I’m literally the only person on this side of the floor. I’m also not the only person in the office who microwaves eggs.

        1. Jamie*

          Bacon – which usually I love but is foul in the microwave wafting through the office.

          Also popcorn. I don’t like the smell, but I can deal unless it’s burnt. You burn it so I can smell it in my office – the farthest from the kitchen – and that should be automatic termination.

          What is it with the smell of burnt popcorn that lingers for days? Even the other bad smells dissipate more quickly.

          1. Clerica*

            Anything that burns “dry” (most foods you microwave have at least a little water content) is going to linger because steam can dissipate but smoke gets in the fan. Popcorn’s pretty damn dry. When I’ve burned popcorn in the past, I microwave a little scoop of coffee in a cup of water and that takes care of it–it smells like coffee for a while but that’s better than the alternative.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Nope, sorry, I’m an egg microwaver. And a fish microwaver (not often). MUWAHAHAHA.

          We have a door on the break room that stays shut now, with a little foot thing at the bottom for opening. Someone complained about noise, but I’m sure everyone is happy that whoever burns popcorn a couple of times a week can’t smoke out the rest of us.

    2. All Day Eater Here*

      Whoops! I didn’t mean to reply to you; I meant to reply to the OP. I’m sorry about that!

    3. HigherEd Admin*

      That said, I find the fact that your prepare sandwhiches in your office kitchen and not at home odd.

      We have an office fridge in which some people put prepared meals, and others put the ingredients for their sandwich. Sometimes it’s easier to bring the bread, jelly, and peanut butter to work than to get to work and realize you’ve forgotten your sandwich at home.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Same here – I cycle to work, so carrying pre-prepared food with me every day when there’s a perfectly good fridge at work with enough space for me to stash some basic supplies just doesn’t make any sense. I usually do bring in roasted veggies or something from home most days, because you want that to be freshly made, but I keep things like pumpkin seeds, cheese, and soy sauce at work to add to the veggies each day.

      2. Aunt Vixen*

        Plus jelly soaks into bread. I like PBJ sandwiches, but I hate them when they’re made ahead of time.

          1. Aunt Vixen*


            I feel like that would make an oddly slippery sandwich. But maybe some time I will try it!

      3. Puddin*

        I have been in teams where we share lunch ingredients. Each person brings in enough of one thing for everybody for the week (or longer) – bread, lunch meat, PB, J, condiments, fruit, plates, etc. At times we have each took turns bringing in everything for the week – kind of like buying a round of lunch for everyone for the week. This was a really tight knit team with a high level of trust and rapport. But, yeah, we made food for ourselves nearly everyday for quite some time.

      4. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I bring in on Monday a package of whole-wheat wraps, a bag of baby spinach, and a package of deli turkey or ham; then I assemble a sandwich each day from those ingredients. I keep a little jar of sun-dried tomato pesto and a bottle of Caesar dressing in the fridge as well (and sometimes a few single-serving packets of guacamole) to vary the flavor of my daily wrap with different spreads. We get an hour for lunch, so the time spent quickly assembling a sandwich isn’t noticed by anyone.

    4. Jamie*

      I’m confused why the sandwiches need to be made at work, too. Between making breakfast there and that – it can give the perception that you spend a lot of time and focus on meal preparation – even if it’s before work and time wise it may not be an issue. Unfortunately perception can matter.

      And I have to say this, but I really hope you’re cleaning up after yourself including silverware. Because with 3 kids I couldn’t ban peanut butter in my house, I think that’s a form of child abuse, but the rule in my house is if you eat it you wipe that knife off with a paper towel before it gets wet.

      Because one of the few things that smell worse than PB is wet PB. And it’s weird – kids used to mess with me and I can smell it from the other room or down the hall. Peanut butter is also a breath issue as well.

      As I mentioned I know my adverse reaction to this is higher than the norm – but an aversion to the smell itself is pretty common so it could be a combination of making it there and then eating it all morning. And those are the most portable of sammiches so not sure why they need to be made at work.

      1. Boo*

        I wonder if perhaps OP has a long commute – perhaps too long to be able to leave her lunch sitting in her handbag getting warm and squicky.

        Either way, wherever I’ve worked people have used the office kitchen just as OP has. Provided she cleans up after herself, and isn’t taking extensive time out of her workday to prep food, I don’t see how it matters.

      2. OriginalYup*

        “it can give the perception that you spend a lot of time and focus on meal preparation”

        This is what I was coming here to say. The OP sounds like a reasonable considerate person who’s not treading on any of the smell/sound/mess issues that create tension. So I wondered if it was something about the preparation + eating cycle that getting under the coworkers skin, for right or wrong. I’ve had a couple of coworkers who regularly make these elaborate multi-step meals at work, and I only notice because it’s multiple times a day. With a couple of people, it seems/ed like they’re always in the kitchen doing a bunch of food prep that seems better suited to home. (Gladys, can you stop cubing the strawberries and move your tupperware containers, cutlery, salad dressing, and mini juicer so I can get to the coffee maker before my meeting? Thanks.) The OP’s sandwiches, bananas, and almonds hardly fall into this category, so maybe the coworker just has residual food rage about someone else or some past situation.

        1. Bea W*

          Even if that is the case, it’s still none of her non-manager co-worker’s business. It’s between her and her manager if it causes a performance problem.

          1. OriginalYup*

            Of course it’s none of his business. I’m just expanding on an theory about why something so benign is getting under the coworker’s skin to the point where he’s bugging the OP about it regularly.

      3. Cat*

        Of course the OP should clean up after herself, but it takes like 30 seconds to spread peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich and it keeps it fresher than commuting in with it. But this is bog standard at my workplace, so maybe I’m used to it.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree it shouldn’t matter – she’s not making Beef Wellington in there – I have just found that perceptions matter an inordinate amount even if it’s a total non-issue. It sucks – but it’s common so something of which to be aware.

          In the past I’d get all kind of positive comments about my long hours and how late I stayed (infuriatingly focused on hours and not productivity – but that’s another point.) I had to point out that the person who “left early” actually usually put in more hours than I, but due to X they needed to start super early. I got there hours later, but before the person who thought I was so awesome got in.

          Reality was – this guy worked longer hours than me most of the time and was a really high performer. But tptb only noticed what they saw in front of them – perception was everything and reality had little to do with it.

          It really does suck – but I’ve always kept it in mind.

        2. Bea W*

          I can make and eat a PB & J in about 5 minutes. It’s also really gross soggy after sitting for a few hours if it’s made before hand.

      4. Observer*

        As others mentioned, they are actually not all that portable.

        In any case, if the LW is leaving a mess, then the co-worker should just address that. Her scheduling is none of his business. And, would anyone really find it more acceptable to leave the mess if she ate her sandwich at the “approved”?

      5. Canadamber*

        Also, what if someone has allergies? I would never use shared plates or cups or silverware or anything anyway, nor would I use the sink if there was already something in it, because I am highly allergic to peanuts and most tree nuts and there’s that too. That’s another reason why you can’t just leave stuff laying around in a shared workplace.

    5. hnl123*

      in all the offices I worked in, people prepared food all the time in the shared kitchen, from cutting up veggies for salads, assembling ornate tacos and sandwiches, to just plain mircrowaving food.
      They all cleaned up, cleared out. Never a problem.
      I also eat every few hours at my desk. And get up often to go to the water cooler. Never had anyone say anything negative.

      Only thing bad is burnt popcorn. DO not burn the popcorn.

    6. hayling*

      I personally don’t like sandwiches when they’ve been sitting. I will put together simple sandwiches (egg salad, or PBJ) in the office kitchen. I don’t find that too weird at all.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same here. Everyone at my office does the same thing. They use the tables to cut stuff up, though, if it’s going to be a process. No one uses the tables to actually eat because the ice machine is so loud you can’t hear yourself think.

      2. Anonsie*

        Agreed. Especially since my morning routine means I need to make them the night before for lunch the next day… They are quite unappealing by that point, though I do it anyway. If it’s got meat and cheese then the bread has to sit in the fridge for a day getting soggy on the inside and stale on the outside… Eh. Normally I’m ok with it but sometimes it burns my grits having an old sandwich, so I bring the stuff in for a week and take the first couple minutes of my lunch break putting it together in our little kitchen.

  8. Sascha*

    Sounds like a PTO policeman! Does he ever grumble about when people arrive and leave, or comment on absences?

    1. JMegan*

      That’s what I thought too.

      My favourite response in that situation is “Thank you for your advice, I will give it the consideration it deserves.”

      From your end, this generally means you’ll give it no consideration at all, and of course he is free to interpret it however he likes!

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        I was once taught this phrase by a mentor, “Thank you for caring enough to share that with me, I promise to weigh it carefully.” Which, of course, means “F-off.” :-)

  9. Angora*

    He’s a busy body. I know it’s hard, but ignore him if possible. Just state that there is a medical reason for the constant eating and that you would appreciate it if he would drop it. You could kindly ask him if he’s got enough work to do, if he’s so busy watching you eat. If you feel the desire to be a bit sarcastic.

    Side note: I lost a lot weight my appendix ruptured years ago, I drank the high calorie Ensure twice a day. It took awhile to put the weight back on. I found it hard to eat a lot all day long.

    1. Steve G*

      He’s not a busy body, sometimes it’s just hard to tell someone they make gross noises or whatever when eating in a quiet office. I HATE when one of my coworkers eats yogurt at the desk. They don’t close their mouth and they lick and move there tongue around alot, it sounds like….something quite lewd I can’t write here, but it totally grosses me out. I’ve said things about “why don’t you eat breakfast at home” (or on the desk, or near the kitchen area, or anywhere else in the world), and they don’t get it. Thank God I have a door now….

      1. Mpls*

        Even quiet foods and quiet chewing will squick me out if it’s in a quiet office. I can feel my cortisol (stress) levels rising and have to put in headphones to drown it out.

      2. Bea W*

        She probably don’t get it because you’re not being even close to direct about it. “Why don’t you eat breakfast at home.” gives zero indication that the eating is bothersome and distracting to you and you would appreciate if she could ate her yogurt somewhere else.

        1. Jessica*

          correct- if I was the yogurt-eater, and you said that to me, I would think you were genuinely curious about my morning routine and I would start telling you about what route I take to work and whether I biked or rode the bus today and what errands I ran on the way, and I would have no idea you were attempting to tell me that it is bothering you.

      3. Angora*

        That sounds disgusting … to bad you can’t tell them they sound like they are having sex when eating their yogurt. LOL.

        Oh gross and more gross.

        1. Fish Microwaver*

          Tell them they soun like they are having sex with a jellyfish. That should groos them out enough to stop it.

      4. Deedee*

        And the scrape, scrape, scrape of the plastic spoon inside the yogurt container trying to get the last speck of yogurt out. Every bleeping day at 10:00 AM. I finally learned that when the cube-mate gets up to get her yogurt out of the fridge it is time for me to get up and take a morning walk. Solved that problem!

        1. Nina*

          Oh, yes. The scrape of the yogurt cup. My coworker was doing that yesterday and my eye actually started twitching. One of the worst sounds ever.

          1. Fish Microwaver*

            I can stand one or 2 scrapes but when they try to get every last drop out, like it’s incredibly expensive and they can’t leave a drop that annoys me. Reminds me of a rather strange former colleague who overshared about her “menopause diet”. It was tiresome hearing what she had given up and what she had added to her diet.

        2. Yep*

          Was coming on to say this. In this case it’d be particularly infuriating because it’s happening multiple times / all day so you couldn’t just take a break. Alison’s advice still holds in this case, though. But I can sympathise with the colleague (though admittedly I’m massively highly strung!)

  10. Big Tom*

    I agree that it’s none of his business, but would add that double-checking with your manager is probably a good idea, just to be sure that you’re not violating any unwritten office norms. Like Alison said, most places it’s fine but you never know.

    If your manager doesn’t care though, I would just ignore the guy.

    1. Crow T. Robot*

      I was going to say the same thing. If you talk to your manager and find out that eating at your desk is indeed just fine, you can then use that to your advantage the next time this guy tries to police your eating. Like so: “I’m aware, and I spoke to [manager] about my needing to eat small meals throughout the day and he/she is OK with it. Thanks for your concern, though.”

  11. some1*

    Slightly OT but I am so relieved no comments have accused the LW of humble-bragging or said something dismissive like, “Wish I needed to gain weight.”

    Been underweight through no action on my part a lot of my life, and this is the only forum online (& most places irl) where I’ve been treated with respect when discussing that.


    1. Tris Prior*


      I’ve gotten “my god, you eat ALL DAY LONG and are still SO SKINNY” from co-workers before. (and, in one case, a company owner.) ugh.

      1. Wendy*

        Well Tris, that’s because you spend all day in Dauntless training! So those calories get burned quickly! :)

    2. Anon*


      I've been underweight from being sick, a genetic condition, an eating disorder, and combinations of the above. Discussions like this usually don't go well. Love AAM.

    3. UKJo*

      Absolutely! (Although I admit to wishing I was like this myself, but that’s my problem!). I did wonder if to co-worker was jealous of the OP’s “being able” to eat throughout the day, for want of a better phrase, and is thus commenting out of jealousy. I do apologise if this comes over wrongly, just a possible interpretation of the silly comments being made at OP. Obviously if that were the reason then they need to bog off and mind their own beeswax.

    4. Laura*

      +1. I spent a good chunk of my life dealing with that too and being told I ought to be grateful….

      …yeah, no, not so grateful for being THAT underweight, no.

      (No longer dealing with it. Now have to watch for the opposite problem. I _am_ grateful for _this_.)

      1. Canadamber*

        Oh man I know!!! Yeah I’m grateful to constantly be sick because I have bad eating (and also sleeping, but that’s irrelevant to this discussion) habits! Sure!

    5. Angora*

      I feel you and all the other individuals that are thin. I was in that category until menopause. I was accused of having an eating disorder a few times by co-workers, etc. They even put me on a diet in the military to put weight on me, I ate all the extra stuff they required me to, and I only gained a few pounds, not 8 – 10 like they wanted.

    6. Canadamber*

      Exactly! I’ve always been underweight (but I skip meals because I forget to eat – yes, I know, I’m bad and I should remember but I’m also extremely picky and I won’t eat if I don’t like the food), and people get sooooo offended when I mention it. Like, uh? Being skinny isn’t a walk in the park, either… Being underweight is as much of a problem as being overweight is, imo. Neither one is good for you to be.

    7. Sara*

      sigh. I used to do that, not sure if I do that now, but my mindset has changed slightly. I’ve been overweight all my life….now the “meat is for the man, bone is for the dog/”real women have curves” stuff annoys me….every woman is a real woman, some women have that ideal body type, and some women don’t.

      On the other hand, maybe because I’ve never been thin so I’ve never had to view this, but do people cast negative attributes to you for being too thin? I’ve heard fat people get called disgusting…lazy….if they’re so overweight, no way they can be good at their jobs or good at any thing else, that sort of stuff. Just curious!

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        It’s a perception that I actively combat in my brain, but I have in the past stereotyped very thin women as being weight-obsessed and felt they were self centered and weird. Which is straight up horrible, I’m just saying that those are some the negative assumptions associated with being underweight. It certainly happens.

  12. Hmm*

    Is it possible this guy is just socially awkward and he’s commenting as an attempt to socialize?
    If not, maybe a simple, “Thank you…. ” would work, e.g.
    “Lunch is from x to y.”
    “Yes, thank you… ” Smile, dismissed, and continue about your business like he’s telling you something you already know.

    1. Name*

      You should only say thank you when you are actually grateful. This is why we get situations like that library display letter with people reading way too much into what others say. Be genuine.

      1. Traveler*

        Yeah. I wouldn’t say thank you. I’d just give him some raised eyebrows or a quizzical look.I know some people will find that passive aggressive (and it probably is) but I’ve found that tactic works better to disengage with people who just seem to be looking for a fight than words ever are.

      2. olives*

        I’m pretty sure the inability to thank people with actual grace and gratefulness, and conversely the inability to take what people say at face value, is much deeper and more emotionally complex than simple overuse of the words “thank you”. If someone finds that this works for them, there’s not really a reason that they shouldn’t say it.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Eh, depending upon the tone one takes, “Thank you” can be pretty clearly read by the recipient as, “You may go now”. Which is how I sometimes deploy it (sparingly and only as needed).

    2. Turtle Candle*

      I’ve had good luck with just a pleasant agreement but nothing else when someone (who isn’t in a position of authority over me) makes a statement that they clearly intend to be taken as implied advice.

      “Lunch is between 12:00 and 12:30.”

      “Turning off email improves productivity.”

      “It’s bad for you to eat a lot of sugar.”
      “So I’ve heard.”

      (Assuming I think it’s true, of course. If lunch is actually not at that time, or whatever, I wouldn’t agree. And assuming I can say so calmly and pleasantly; it doesn’t work if I sound snippy or aggressive.)

      Either they get frustrated and wander off, or they have to bring their advice (“…so you shouldn’t be eating that bag of Skittles”) into the open where I can address it directly (usually by telling them, politely, to MYOB). It’s surprisingly effective.

  13. Adam*

    I am definitely a person who eats the majority of my meals at my desk, and also am of the ‘smaller meals every 3 or so hours’ type diet. I bring my food because it’s cheaper than going out, and I’ve never had anyone comment on it for any reason other than to say “That looks good!” or whatever.

    I have been concerned at times if I make too much noise while eating at my desk, but considering how long I’ve been doing this and never once been talked to about I’m probably fine. This guy is a busy body and if there are no official lunch periods you have to adhere to I would just say that I eat as my diet permits and then ignore him best I could.

  14. Elizabeth*

    As long as it’s not against office policy, he needs to lay off.

    This coming from someone whose teeth are set on edge by the sound of people chewing. Eating at your desk is allowed in my (open-plan) office, so it’s my problem to deal with. Headphones are my friend.

  15. Bea W*

    This is not weird in any office where I’ve worked where people sit and work by themselves in their own cube or office. I think everyone I work with now eats something either mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or both, and we all have different lunch schedules. People may be eating lunch anytime from 11 AM – 2PM. No one gives a crap.

    If it’s just the one guy with the issue, take the cue from everyone else around you that it’s likely not an issue. If it were multiple people acting as if it were weird, that’s a different story, but it seems like it’s just one person who needs to MYOB, or maybe he wishes you would share with him but knows it would be rude to ask. ;-)

    I am like you, thin and trying to gain or at least not lose weight, and the only way I can get enough calories through the day is to eat every couple of hours. I also just can’t go that long without eating something. My blood sugar gets low, and I get cranky.

    1. Simonthegrey*

      This is kind of me, only heavy…but I need to eat every 3-4 hours or else I start getting cranky and sometimes really shaky.

      1. Canadamber*

        Yep. If I do something strenuous (such as driving for a long time), also, I’ll get super cranky and will freak out over little things. It was kind of funny once because my family took a road trip and I was driving, and I can’t even remember what it was, but I totally blew up over something shortly after we got out of the car, and of course my dad being the way he is screamed back at me (neither of us have that much self control), and so my mom was like, “Let’s get food, everyone…” Afterwards, we realized that the argument was actually really stupid, but it always happens!

  16. Glorified Plumber*

    Without knowing the specifics of your office culture, I see the only issues as smell, mess, and noise.

    Smell/Mess: Of the food itself (don’t microwave fish, ewww), and don’t forget the GARBAGE, the utensils, and the containers… all can linger.

    Noise: Some people eat loud… don’t be one of those. Don’t bring loud food.

    We have a health nut PM who likes his quinoa salad de jour, yogurt something de jour, some other grain thing I still haven’t figured out 2 years later, vinegar flavored tea (that he splashed in his eye once), and other weird stuff basically 24/7…

    It’s not an issue, because: He jokes about it, encourages us to make fun of him about it, and completely cleans up his mess. I show up at his cube, and unless he is eating it actively (which is 50% likely), I see/smell/hear zero evidence of food consumption.

    The snacks you describe don’t sound smelly. It sounds more like your co-worker should just stay in their lane.

    1. Jamie*

      We had a guy once who was big into some fish capsule thing he broke open and blended into some smoothie thing? Every afternoon a couple hours after lunch he’s making some raw vegetable and fish stink smoothie so…sound of the blender and smell so bad when he spilled a little maintenance had to deal with it because the smell wouldn’t come out of the carpet.

      I don’t know what fish oil does but I see it advertized all the time and I really hope for the people taking it there is an orderless version.

      1. Glorified Plumber*

        Fish being consumed in any other fashion beyond directly off the grill/oven/smoker the first time is usually borderline nauseating.

        I am gagging just thinking back to my old engineering office, where this one piper (it’s always a piper) microwaving salmon from the night before.

        No value added.

        1. Angora*

          I’ll never forget a lawyer, in the suite clear across the building years ago heated up fish (something he caught) for lunch. He stunk up the building for approximately 4 – 5 floors below and above. He heated that thing up in the microwave, pissed off all his co-workers than went home. You should have heard their receptionist, she had to deal with the upset clients all afternoon.

          The funny thing was he got food poisoning … he was out for a couple of days afterwards. To all of us it smelt foul, and he still ate it.

      2. iseeshiny*

        Whaaaat? I thought that was why they sold it in pill form – so you don’t have to deal with the smell or the taste if you didn’t like fish enough to have enough in your diet! I don’t even bring tuna sandwiches to work (despite loving tuna sandwiches) because I understand that no one likes the smell (I don’t even like the smell). I can’t imagine deliberately breaking open a capsule of fish oil and inflicting it on my coworkers.

      3. Luxe in Canada*

        Fish oil capsules are probably for omega-3 fatty acids and maybe vitamin D. Happy brain, happy digestive tract. But the miracle of it being in a capsule is that you can swallow the capsule whole and nobody around you has to endure the smell! I don’t eat gelatin so I couldn’t take that kind of pills… my solution is to just eat that kind of supplement at home, where it bothers nobody.

      4. Tasha*

        I took fish oil pills for joint problems when I was younger (I grew quickly and not everything kept up), and the omega 3’s can have a positive effect on mood. I don’t know why he would have to break open the capsule, though. The gel-capsule kind I remember was meant to be swallowed whole, although the pills were on the larger side.

        1. Bea W*

          It sounds like he’s adding it to his smoothie, probably to avoid having to swallow a lot of giant pills. Those things are awful.

          Random fact: I found I can’t take fish oil. It has anti-coagulant properties makes me bruise like crazy.

    2. Traveler*

      In addition to smell/mess/noise I would add time. I’ve had coworkers that eat so much and so often, and are so ritualistic about their various meal times throughout the day that the rest of us had to schedule meetings around it. That’s a bit much. I want to be supportive of you eating the way you want/need but I don’t want my day at work to revolve around your eating schedule. Theres gotta be a happy medium there.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes – I’ve worked with people who do eat pretty much all day and you’d never even know it unless you were staring at them. It’s a non-issue. You don’t hear it, smell it, and it doesn’t affect work.

        Others swear it doesn’t affect work, but it totally does, so this is a huge ymwv depending on the person. And I know when I eat at my desk at lunch – some things are absolutely harder to eat and work at the same time. Something you can pop in your mouth and chew or soup in a cup being sipped is nothing. Salads, soup that requires a spoon – anything silverware intensive or messy is going to interfere with a lot of jobs.

        Which may be okay depending on the job and if you’re measured by performance rather than what you’re doing every minute. But I’ve seen this work really well and really poorly in practice.

    3. Wren*

      I like your handle Glorified Plumber. I sometimes think of my job as “glorified carpenter.”

  17. Name*

    As someone who can’t stand the sound of chewing, saliva or swallowing, please make sure it’s not just the food itself that is being noisy. It can be very disgusting in a way you’re not aware of. It’s easy to harp on this guy but the letter could easily have been from the other perspective (my co-worker won’t stop eating and it’s so gross I can’t concentrate). I’m going to disagree with AAM and say you need to be more considerate of how what you’re doing impacts your surroundings.

    Have you even bothered asking why he doesn’t like it?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I can relate, Name! I couldn’t figure out why these sounds bothered me so much but I recently found out I have a very mild version of misphonia, which I had never even heard of. Now that I know why I want to murder people on the subway who play music too loud through their headphones, I find it easier to calm myself down.

      In addition to not enjoying eating sounds, I also despise seeing people kiss deeply, even if it’s just on tv. I had assumed I just a loser who hates love, but now I know it was the visual and sounds of the lips smacking.

      1. Name*

        It was definitely a big relief to find out I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t stand all that wet smacking, doorknob jangling, snot snorting, etc. that comes with being around other people.

      2. Traveler*

        Yessss. I can’t stand the sound of metal on metal. I had a friend who had lip and tongue rings and every time I ate with them I had to hear that scraping sound over and over and I felt like my sanity was about to snap by the end of it.

      3. Red Librarian*

        This thread is the first time I’ve even heard of misophonia but it *totally* explains the fact that yesterday I nearly snapped at a co-worker while she was eating chips in what I thought was a rather obnoxiously loud fashion.

      4. Simonthegrey*

        You sound just like my best friend/roommate. She eats while watching Netflix with her headphones on because the sound of her OWN chewing bothers her.

    2. alma*

      I’m easily aggravated by similar noises, so I am sympathetic to this. However, if the noise actually is what’s bothering the coworker, I think it is his responsibility to make that clear, rather than giving the OP a hard time about when she’s “supposed” to be eating.

      1. Name*

        I agree that he isn’t thinking about her dietary needs. That’s why I don’t think AAM’s answer to just shut him down without an explanation is a good one. They should talk and try to understand one another’s needs.

        1. Observer*

          I have to disagree. If he really has such an issue, it’s on him to explain that he has a problem, and see if they can work something mutually agreeable out. This is his problem, and making it sound like she is doing something inappropriate at the office is not the way to go.

        2. alma*

          Well, but what I was trying to say is that the coworker is doing himself no favors by lecturing people about problem A when he really wants to resolve problem B. If the noise is his problem (and we don’t know that), he needs to say that instead of leaving it for OP to intuit or making her play guessing games to see what the real problem is.

    3. NylaW*

      Me too! As long as I’m also eating it’s fine, or if there’s enough background noise to compensate, but oh god does it drive me batty!

    4. Relosa*

      Have you even bothered asking why he doesn’t like it?

      As someone who also gets grossed out by mouth-sounds, the busybody is still out of line. It’s not up to the OP to be considerate that a sound of a completely normal daily thing grosses someone out. If something bothers you, it is not appropriate to be passive-aggressive and unclear about it. If that was the case, busybody should just say, “Hey, your chewing sound is something that really bothers me, but I don’t want to stop you eating at your desk. Can we work something out?”

      It is not up to the OP to read busybody’s mind on the issue. Busybody appears to be the only one addressing it; they should be communicative enough to state what the actual problem is.

      1. U.R.*

        It’s a completely normal thing AT LUNCH. It is NOT a completely normal thing for the whole day. There is literally nothing stopping someone from getting up and taking 5 minutes in a break room or outside to eat an apple if they need to snack. When people eat at their desks, they never just eat for 5 minutes. It’s 15-20 minutes of intermittent chewing and crunching and smacking noises, rustling bags. And if you’re eating every 1-2 hours, that’s an unreasonable thing to impose on your coworkers. People managed to eat mostly at meal times, with an odd snack here or there, for decades. This idea that it’s your basic human right to graze non-stop in an environment that’s expressly intended for work is absurd. No one should have to tell you not to spend half of your cumulative workday eating.

        And anyone who thinks it’s a) easy to ask someone to stop making chewing sounds, or b) that the response is usually receptive instead of “No, get over it” has obviously never tried to do it.

    5. Morag*

      I had a co-worker who made quiet little smacking sounds when he ate at his desk that drove me crazy. If he’d done it all day long, well, that would have been more than I could stand.

  18. LibrarianJ*

    Some people can just be very judgmental about food. Even if you’re not disturbing anyone or neglecting your work, it seems to bother some folks because regardless of what you’re eating, they see it as being unhealthy or gross in some way. I tend to eat a lot of snacks throughout the day to keep focused and keep my energy up, and I’ve gotten a lot of commentary from coworkers, usually health-related. I’ve just learned to ignore it the best I can.

    Of course, if your coworker’s issue is this kind of busybody concern with your health/lifestyle, a reference to the medical reason might shut them up immediately. :)

    1. Relosa*

      Oh my god, this.

      I have lost a LOT of weight – 130+ lbs – and that doesn’t mean I eat like a rabbit all the time. Believe me I still like my junk food. I cannot tell you how often people feel the need to comment on what I eat, like it’s their business. Like I’m not allowed to enjoy it now because I was so obese…ten years ago!

      It’s so darn-tootin’ rude.

      On the other hand, if I do make a comment of “Oh, man, I can’t wait to get back to the gym! I haven’t been eating well and I’m getting out of shape” I get lambasted because “Relosa, be quiet, you’re so skinny! Seriously, I’d kill to be in your spot blah blah blah…”

      Ugh. It’s just rude. Never, ever comment on someone’s body unless they ask for input. Even my friends can get under my nerves about it – yes I am very proud of my accomplishments and I am in much better shape and I feel great but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have insecurities or fears or don’t need to keep an eye on my health as is.

        1. Susan*

          Does he still have a hand? Because if somebody poked my stomach, they would lose the hand pretty quickly.

          1. Tina*

            What did you do/say to him? Cause other than a few select people, if a coworker poked my stomach, my response would not be pretty.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I am so impressed by your accomplishment. It couldn’t have been easy to lose that weight.

  19. Lynne*

    I love this site and the advice from Alison and have learned a lot about how to be direct from the site/Alison. But I have to say that today’s “script” if you will comes off as perhaps too direct/borderline rude if said to someone you’re normally friendly with. I have noticed this with some other posts as well. I understand that the “lunch is at 12-12:30” commenter was being rude in the first place, but I would appreciate direct but still kind scripts too.

    Slightly indirect works often too, without coming off as rude. I recently had weight loss surgery and my weight change has been fast and exceptionally noticeable. For a variety of reasons do not want to discuss my surgery with folks at work. When I am complimented and then asked what I am doing I’ve been going with “Oh, lots of things. It’s nice to take walks at lunch. What have you been up to recently?” or some other answer that segues into talking about that other person. Has worked 100% of the time, and I get these comments probably 5-10x a day.

    In a nutshell – just a request to consider offering scripts that come off a little less rude. Maybe it’s me, but if I said what was suggested verbatim to someone, I’d be read as a total b*tch. That’s sexist, but it’s also true.

    1. OhNo*

      I don’t think Alison’s scripts are rude so much as they are very direct. Some people, especially depending on where you live (the south and the midwest in particular), view directness as rudeness. In this case, and in many others, a lot of the delivery depends on tone, facial expression, and body language.

      I think you can always adapt the scripts to suit your preferences, of course, but imagine someone you are friendly with saying these things with a smile, a joking or slightly self-deprecating tone, and relaxed body language. Then the delivery isn’t rude at all.

      (Plus if you go indirect, you always run the risk of people not understanding what you want from them, which is a pain.)

      1. Lynne*

        Of course, you can always adapt to suit yourself. But if we could come up with it ourselves, we wouldn’t need Alison! :)

        I actually can’t think of a way that saying what she suggests here wouldn’t sound incredibly rude to me. But I agree obviously that varies significantly by region and even by office. However, if someone straight up asked me to stop asking them about something I’d be very offended. That said, I generally don’t behave in such a way as to have anyone feel the need to…

        1. Elizabeth*

          I’d say that if he made the comment one time and never again, but it sounds like it’s something said repeatedly, at least the way I’m reading it.

          The first time or two, I’d probably laugh it off with something like, “Maybe for most people; I’m a grazer, though!” or, like Alison says, something along the lines “I have my reasons!” or “There’s a method to my madness.” (again, said in a light/friendly way).

          Anything beyond that, I’d start getting annoyed and probably say civilly, “Not for me. Is there a reason you keep commenting on this?” Because this could bring up legitimate issues brought up on this thread–perhaps there is a policy in place that doesn’t allow food at desks, maybe unbeknownst to the LW, his her food is louder/smellier (or the eating longer in duration or more constant) than he/she thinks.

          1. Tina*

            A new coworker made several comments, on different occasions, about my sweet tooth and candy habits, how my dentist must love me, etc etc. The first couple of times, I joked it off. But one day in an attempt to change the topic, I said “I assume that’s not what you came in my office to talk to me about?” That seems to have cued him in that I don’t want to discuss it with him. Or maybe he’s just on hiatus for the moment.

        2. Tina*

          May I ask why you’d be offended if someone directly asked you to stop asking them about something of a personal nature? I could see if you were the boss and a direct report did that a bout a task or deliverable, but if someone asked you to stop asking about their food habits? It seems like an entirely reasonable request to me, assuming their not swearing or yelling at you, and behaving in a calm and polite way.

          1. Lynne*

            I think that starting with something that direct sounds curt and dismissive. That may just be the way I was brought up but it’s not how I do things. That said, if trying to change the topic or what have you did not work, or if it was a repeated issue, then by all means, direct is the only thing that’s going to work with that person.

            I especially like when Alison suggests things like “I am getting the sense that you have a problem with X, can we talk about what’s going on there?” I think that’s a great way to get right at the issue without being rude. I’m not sure how else to explain it other than saying “stop doing that” to someone you work with comes off as short/rude to me. Obviously this particular coworker was being rude in the way s/he was going about it, but I don’t think that requires a similar response.

    2. Colette*

      Personally, I’d just agree or make a joke.

      “lunch time is from 12:00 to 12:30.”
      “Feels like noon.”
      “If it’s not noon, it should be.”

      If the coworker pushed it, though, the next step would definitely be to ask him to stop.

      1. Penny*

        “Oh, this isn’t actually my lunch, it’s my mid-morning snack.”

        Whenever I used to eat a snack around 10:30 or 11, my coworkers used to comment, “You’re eating your lunch so early!” Why does everything have to be labeled Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner? I just eat when my body tells me it needs to eat.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You know, I wrote this a week ago and when I read it over just now, I actually had the same reaction as you — that it felt harsh. I just updated the wording advice in the post.

      1. OhNo*

        I like the revised phrasing, it’s very neutral. Out of curiosity, if the coworker does not have specific complaints about the food, but rather just really wants to enforce strict meal times, do you have any recommendations for how to address it?

        (I ask because I had a coworker like this in the past, and never quite figured out how to respond. Luckily I didn’t work there long.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think then you’d inquire about why. If their reason makes no sense to you, you’d explain why you think it’s fine. If they keep pushing, at that point I’d touch base with your manager to make sure they’re not going to blindside you by agreeing with the coworker — and then, assuming they assure you that’s not the case, then you can comfortable tell the coworker, “Thanks, but Jane and I are on the same page about this, and it’s fine.”

      2. Dana*

        Should “deliberating” be “deliberately” in the revised wording, or am I missing something?

    4. Mike C.*

      I feel the exact opposite. We need to stop being so passive when others are treating us poorly. There is nothing rude about directly saying “stop what you’re doing, it’s rude, it’s none of your business and I’d appreciate it if you kept your comments to yourself”.

      Why do you feel there’s a need to be indirect, and why do you consider being direct rude?

      1. Mephyle*

        I’m with you there, but I’ve come to learn that there are a lot of cultures and subcultures where being direct is rude by definition. I find that if one hasn’t grown up with it as a belief but only learned it later, it’s impossible to internalize, one can only understand it as a data point.

  20. Jamie*

    It shouldn’t be an issue if you aren’t bothering others, but – and I may be the lone dissenter here – but when I read this the first thing that came into my mind was that if someone was eating peanut butter slowly all morning I’d have to have my desk moved or lose my mind.

    Unchecked that could make me consider looking elsewhere.

    I’m probably on the touchy end of the spectrum on this, but I’m not the only one in my office who finds peanut butter one of the most disgusting smells on the planet. I could deal if someone was eating lunch as I’d use that time to go to the ladies room, get coffee, whatever…but nursing a PB&J sandwich all morning and prolonging the smell? I couldn’t deal with that.

    How close to you does he sit? Nuts in the afternoon – not only the smell of peanuts but the crunching? If he’s close enough to hear and smell this I can definitely see this being an issue.

    It’s not only the noise of people eating – it’s people eating really slowly and prolonging it. You can deal with anything for a few minutes but if you know you will listen to crunching every few minutes for a whole afternoon…it sounds petty but it’s like the people who write in because their co-worker won’t stop coughing or the one who sniffles all the time – it’s viscerally annoying to have to hear people making noise with their bodily functions all day long.

    For me it’s not about the eating – I wouldn’t care if people chowed down all day on silent and odorless foods – but foods that smell and crunch – and you’ve got both – that’s an imposition to those around you to make it an all day event.

    1. Episkey*

      I have never even noticed PB&J having a smell — too funny how different people can have totally opposite reactions.

      1. Relosa*

        It definitely does have a scent. PB&J is one of my favorite things in the world but I have to go to town on that sandwich first thing or the scent will bother me too. I think it’s that the oil gets warm and it can start separating a little bit.

        1. Episkey*

          Maybe I’m just always eating my PB related foods quickly, because, you know, they’re delicious lol.

          I also think a lot of smells just don’t bother me the same way other people on this blog seem to be bothered. Someone up-thread mentioned microwaving eggs as extremely offensive and that’s never bothered me either. Honestly, I’d never been aware of what I consider normal noises/smells bothering people SO MUCH until I started reading this blog.

          1. Jamie*

            Tbf – most people don’t go around telling people irl about the annoying stuff they are doing.

            I guarantee you people here know more about what grosses some commenters out than the people we work with irl.

            Slurpy guy who glugs water so he sounds like he’s drowning. I don’t tell him he triggers my gag reflex – I just come back later when he’s not drinking.

            For people with misophonia or anything on the high sensitivity scale we tend to know this about ourselves and so seek confirmation that it’s something that would bother normal people before making a complaint, if we do. And we’ve figured out ways to avoid exposure without making a major fuss about it.

            If I was bothered enough that I had to say something I’d totally own that it was my own weird quirk and I know it’s my own problem – but I can’t deal so lets figure out a solution. But I’d have to be really bothered to the point where it was affecting my quality of work life.

            It is true though, that there is a big variation in what bothers people and how bothered they get. It’s funny for me, that since misophonia runs in families (and some studies show it tied to sensory integration issues with I can tell you IME hell yes on that one) so I grew up thinking everyone was hypersensitive and ragy to the same sounds…just like I thought eveyrone was super particular about the toes of their socks because if you can feel the bump of thread you can’t concentrate on anything else all day.

            Once I went to school I realized that the world was full of people far more relaxed and unbothered than my gene pool.

            But since these are really common workplace annoyances the internet has served a huge purpose in allowing people to see what tends to be universally irritating expressly because people don’t say this stuff to people’s faces in real life.

            How many office whistlers thing they are adding to a cheerful atmosphere having no idea that a significant segments of their workmates would pay serious money to have them silenced permanently …if it wasn’t a felony. I like to think these people see it on the internet and stop – without having to be confronted face to face.

            1. Vee*

              “just like I thought eveyrone was super particular about the toes of their socks because if you can feel the bump of thread you can’t concentrate on anything else all day”

              Early in our mother-daughter relationship, my young step daughter freaked out on me because I put her socks on right-side out. She only wore socks inside out so she couldn’t feel “worms” against her toes. I never even realized that socks had a toe-seam-bump!

              1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                I don’t care about most noises at all, but the toe seam thing does make me crazy. I don’t put my socks on inside-out (that just seems downright offensive for reasons I can’t put into sensical words) but I do have to have my socks lined up just perfectly on my feet!

            2. Natasha*

              What an insightful comment. I relate so much to this. For example, I remember as a kid I wasn’t allowed to color with markers at home or my dad would lose his temper (almost violently).

              “How many office whistlers thing they are adding to a cheerful atmosphere having no idea that a significant segments of their workmates would pay serious money to have them silenced permanently …if it wasn’t a felony.” Every time some obnoxiously cheerful extrovert whistles at work, my stress levels soar so high that I contemplate whether I can sue them for my inevitable, impending stroke.

        2. Jamie*

          Now I’m curious as to the physics behind this. Because opening a fresh jar of peanut butter and the smell doesn’t bother me – even an opened jar I was able to make the kids sandwiches when they were small no problem.

          But once the sandwiches sit out for even a few minutes and it’s intolerable – and wet, forever it. There is something to how it changes when warmer.

          1. Sarah*

            Apparently peanut butter particles aerosolize when they get warm. I’m not sure how it happens. I just happen to know because an acquaintance of mine was told by an employee at a hotel breakfast buffet that she couldn’t mix peanut butter into the oatmeal because the employee had a peanut allergy and apparently if the peanut butter gets warm the particles get into the air, whereas the little packets alone or on room temperature items pose no threat.

            (I’m not sure why she was working at a hotel breakfast buffet if she couldn’t be exposed to warm peanut butter, but if the hotel would rather her boss around the customers that are trying to put it on toast or in oatmeal than give her a different job, I guess that’s their prerogative.)

            1. CC*

              Not trying to nitpick but clarify:

              All things which have a smell by definition have some chemical which floats through the air, because our noses can only sense those chemicals which are in the air we breathe. (These chemicals are called volatile.)

              One of the properties of matter is that anything which can vaporize will, on being warmed, vaporize more. So, anything which has a smell will smell more strongly when you heat it.

              An aerosol is a microscopic particle or droplet, not a single free-floating volatile molecule. Probably the person who told you peanut butter aerosolized didn’t know the correct term.

      2. Sarah*

        Peanut butter doesn’t particularly bother me, but it definitely has an intense smell. My grandmother can smell it from several rooms away, and I’m not far behind her. Granted, we have strong senses of smell, but we don’t smell most things from so far away (unless of course they’re being cooked or at least are microwaved and hot).

    2. bearing*

      yeah… I do have to say that nursing your food all morning would bug me if I sat near you and could smell it or hear you chew and swallow. And it might be hard for me to articulate exactly why. I think I just have a time limit on my ability to put up with bothersome little noises. Before I could control my environment a little bit better, I dealt with it by leaving the premises; by eating at the same time most other people were eating; or by using headphones. But that might be hard to do if I sit next to you and it takes you 2 hours to eat a sandwich. So, that is the only part of it that might fall outside of “normal” — because it will read as “my coworker never stops eating in his cubicle” instead of “my coworker takes frequent small meals” — frequent small meals should still work out to the same exposure to the eating sounds as one bigger meal that takes longer to eat.

    3. Cat*

      I feel this, but I think that’s the kind of thing that, because it doesn’t bother 90% of people (or whatever), it’s on the bothered party to work out with the co-worker. It’s not something that’s so commonly annoying that the co-worker should just assume it drives their co-workers crazy; instead, it’s something that the people involved need to figure out a solution to if and when it arises.

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      You would lose your $hit at my office. We have giant tubs of peanut butter in the office kitchen. People take plastic spoonfuls of it and then head back to their desk licking/slurping the peanut butter spoon the whole way. Some like to make the spoonful of peanut butter last as a 10 minute snack. I also enjoy the peanut butter but watching other people eat it can be gross.

      1. Ellie H*

        I love peanut butter, am a slow eater and eat in all sorts of disgusting ways when nobody is looking (with my hands, etc.) but that sounds completely revolting to me.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          I love peanut butter way more than I should, and I would not be able to deal with someone licking a spoonful of peanut butter for ten minutes, in the office, no way no how. Even thinking about it is putting me off peanut butter.

      2. Luxe in Canada*

        I do that at home, but I couldn’t eat out of the same spoon-tub. It doesn’t matter how much I trust you not to double dip, I’m still going to be so paranoid that somebody has used a dirty spoon to go for seconds… Ugh. It would ruin it for me, even though my own peanut butter and nutella hardly ever make it onto bread at home.

      3. Eden*

        I would just DIE, or KILL someone. Your office sounds like my version of hell (the room that isn’t DMV-themed). I like PB but hate the smell of it immediately when I’m done eating (a quality it seems to share with Chinese takeout).

      4. Ellie H*

        I heard this thing about how getting saliva into peanut butter (from double dipping) breaks it down into goo and even if it is semi apocryphal, it sounded so repulsive to me that I have never eaten peanut butter directly out of the jar since. Not that I really did it before, but I would not in a million years do it now. I’m getting that gag reaction in the back of my throat just thinking about it.

    5. Observer*

      First of all, nut and peanuts, and especially peanut butter, smell TOTALLY different.

      Beyond that, if the problem is the smell or sound, then it’s on him to clarify that he is having an issue with the smell or sound, not try to pretend that there is a scheduling issue, or that it’s his place to supervise her schedule.

      By the way, plenty of nuts are not noisy to eat, if they have been shelled ahead of time. Raw almonds fit into that category. As for yogurt and cheese stick, give me break – neither are terrbily smelly or noisy.

      1. fposte*

        Unless you’re swallowing your raw almonds whole, they’re still pretty darn noisy. Anything crunchy is noisy. (Not that I think they should be forbidden–just pointing out that chewing noise is definitely still noise.)

        1. Kayza*

          Raw almonds are actually not really crunchy. So we’re talking about normal chewing here. And, she’s in a cubicle, which does cut the sound. None of the other foods the LW is eating are remotely “crunchy” or loud. So, unless the LW is eating in a very unusual manner, it’s a real stretch to assume that she’s making so much noise that everyone would be having a problem with it. (Unless this is an office where the expectation is that everything will be hushes as a stereotypical library with a cranky librarian.)

    6. ZoeUK*

      ‘For me it’s not about the eating – I wouldn’t care if people chowed down all day on silent and odorless foods – but foods that smell and crunch – and you’ve got both – that’s an imposition to those around you to make it an all day event.’

      Yes this. I share an office with my boss and he eats all day long. I don’t mind this in theory but it’s mostly fruit so if I’m not listening to him crunching apples and slurping at oranges/soft fruit then I’m having to smell the over ripe banana skins. It drives me crazy!

  21. Camellia*

    I’m assuming that you already know that you are allowed to eat at your desk (because otherwise means there is a different issue) so if it was me, I would give him a big smile and say, “Yeah, I heard that somewhere!” Then the next time he said it, I would raise my eyebrows and say, “Yeeeaaaahhh” slowly with a semi-questioning uptick at the end.

    Then the third time I would give him a weirdly puzzled look and say, “Why do you keep saying that?” in a tone that implied I thought I might have to get out my trank gun. Then, no matter what he replied, I would just keep a I-think-you-must-be-crazy look on my face and go Oooooookaaaayyy. Then after that he gets one up-and-down of the eyebrows and no verbal response at all.

    In other words, I would give no explanation at all, since that offers a chance for him to debate/contradict, and just use ward-off gestures toward him.

  22. Lisa*

    I am in the same boat. Weight just comes off me if I skip a meal. I am too skinny, and can’t afford any weight loss. I’ve tried eating constantly, but it backfired as it become a chore. So I try the high calorie everything when choosing meals.

  23. SerfinUSA*

    I have a coworker who eats often during the day due to a diabetes issue. I’m fine with that, obviously, but OMG the eating noises!! Might be an age/cultural/gender thing, but listening to him eat apples with open mouth is nightmare inducing.
    Luckily we had a major re-org and my work space is away from everyone else now.

    Most of my coworkers eat at their desks at random times throughout the day. No one cares. People will comment if something looks/smells particularly tasty, but that’s it.

    Hopefully OP will use one of the clever retorts to shut down the officious commentary, because having self-determination over food intake definitely helps attitude and productivity.

    1. Kai*

      Oh yeah. People eating apples in public…I just can’t.

      In one of my writing workshops in college, the professor had us do a silent 5-minute writing exercise, and she sat and ate an apple while we worked. In that otherwise silent room, it was excruciating.

      1. Celeste*

        It’s not so bad if they are pre-cut apple slices. They can be bitten and chewed quietly. I prefer them and need to get a cutter to keep at work.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I skip the apples because it can be really quiet in here. They crunch too much, even the slices. I’ll just eat a nice quiet banana (and throw the peel away) or a clementine or some berries with mango.

  24. The Other Dawn*

    I see no issue with eating many times throughout the day at your desk. As long as it’s not super noisy, messy, or smelly, who cares? In terms of prep time, as long you’re not spending an inordinate amount of time on food prep while on the clock, it’s no big deal.

  25. Jake*

    If this is a client facing role that is in plain view of potential visitors, does the answer change?

    1. Traveler*

      Good point. I would think it would. It can look really sloppy if you don’t have your own cubicle to do this in like OP does.

    2. Jamie*

      I would think so – every office in which I’ve ever worked has had a prohibition about eating at reception.

      1. Chinook*

        “I would think so – every office in which I’ve ever worked has had a prohibition about eating at reception.”

        Which sucks when you are the receptionist who can’t leave the front desk unattended. Luckily, I had a friend who would snag me a piece of company birthday cake (which I, of course, placed the order for) and hide it out of view so I can eat it on my coffee break.

        Please note: fastest way to make friends with a receptionist is to ensure that a prime peice of any goody is kept aside for her so that she doesn’t get stuck with crumbs and resentment.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I sometimes missed out on stuff at Exjob because everyone practically ran to the break room to get it and by the time I was able to go in, there was nothing left. :(

        2. Clerica*

          Definitely true–we constantly have food events at work and I noticed the receptionist never got to go until the good stuff was gone, so I would offer to watch the desk so she could go eat. I was actually being a little selfish because I really just didn’t want to be at the event if it meant milling around looking lost, but now she thinks I walk on water.

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      I think as long as it’s nothing too messy there’s nothing wrong with eating at your desk. I had one temp job where the owner/boss wouldn’t allow eating at the front desk, so I had to sneak my food because I couldn’t go from breakfast to lunch without something in between.

  26. I love food!*

    I totally eat at my desk throughout the day. I have a high metabolism so I’m always hungry. In fact, one of the delivery guys made a comment one time that he’s never seen me not eating :)

  27. steve g*

    I hate when people come to work then make and eat breakfast – listening to chewing and then having dirty dishes in the sink. It’s like….just come to work ten minutes later. u rnt actually getting work done walking back and forth to the kitchenette

    1. Episkey*

      I often make breakfast at work because I’m not hungry enough before work — it’s too early. Although I know it’s not great for the environment, I do use paper bowls and plastic spoons so I just throw them away after I eat precisely because of the dirty dishes issue.

      I make oatmeal almost every morning. I didn’t think it had any smell associated with it because I buy the plain kind (not instant packets with flavoring), but I add a spoonful of PB to it and now reading Jamie’s comments above, I’m not so sure anymore!

    2. C Average*

      I work out before work and prefer to eat after my workout. It’s way handier to do breakfast at work. Many of my colleagues do the same.

    3. anonness*

      If only it was as simple as ‘coming to work 10 mins later’… breakfast would be 10m to make, another 10m to eat. Either waking up 20m early or leaving 20m late makes for an extremely cranky worker, and 20m means adding 40m onto traffic.

  28. Lynne*

    I also eat at my desk all day long and have never even considered it would bother someone (other than noisy/smelly/messy items of course). Other people do things at their desks which are far more distracting but are normal things to do (run a fan, receive phone calls from their kids, hold conference calls on speaker, cough, type loudly, etc) so I’ve always just learned to deal with it. Worst case scenario, I put on some earbuds and dive into a big project. As long as people are generally behaving respectfully towards each other I don’t see an issue.

    I imagine the coworker is just nosy/trying to make a joke about the obvious different behavior of the OP vs. everyone else and failing at it. I think a lighthearted brushoff of something like “yep I eat then too! I am pretty hungry these days. Do you want some veggies to munch on?” or what have you would do the trick. If they push it then I’d say a more direct approach would be in order.

    1. bearing*

      “Other people do things at their desks which are far more distracting but are normal things to do”

      Well, to be fair, “distracting” is in the eye of the beholder. I would much rather listen to a fan than to someone chewing a sandwich, even a fairly quiet sandwich. YMMV.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I want to strangle people to take conference calls on speakerphone in an open office.

      That is all.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        The colleague whose cube adjoins mine types so hard he shakes the desk. It is very distracting.

      2. Clerica*

        How about when you’re in a small store (or a big one during a quiet time) trying to read package labeling and you can hear someone four aisles away on their Bluetooth?

        Then they come into your aisle and stand behind you because ofc they have to look at the spackle you’re comparing and just. Keep. Talking.

        It doesn’t matter where you are, no one wants to hear your conversation.

  29. aebhel*

    I eat at my desk–I’m nursing, and if I stuck to lunchtime only I’d be ravenous and shaky by 11:30–and nobody’s ever had a problem with it. I share an office with two other people, fwiw.

  30. Bend & Snap*

    You could say, “Why are you so interested in my eating habits?” and see what he comes back with.

    I’m diabetic and I eat like you do every day and actually make PB&Js at my desk. It’s not an issue. I can multitask.

    (Typing with my mouth full of yogurt as we speak)

  31. soitgoes*

    I only see this mattering if employees clock out for breaks/lunch/cigarettes/etc. On a practical level it doesn’t matter, but I can understand how coworkers could resent that the OP isn’t clocking out and stepping away from his desk whenever it’s time for a snack. Some companies nickel-and-dime their employees about these things; if you don’t have both hands free, you’re not “working.” It doesn’t sound like the management cares, but if the coworker keeps talking about it, the OP should be prepared to have a discussion about clocking out.

  32. Addiez*

    The only thing that stuck out to me was eating slowly at your desk may be more noticeable?

  33. LizNYC*

    The only issue I can see this coworker having is when you’re eating, he may not feel like he can disturb you to ask questions, invite you to a meeting, etc. (Which I’m assuming is not the case.) Also keeping in mind where you store your sandwich while you slowly eat it could be important here. At my office, everyone eats here all the time, every day (the candy dishes alone can’t be counted on one hand). But, especially when we have visitors, I make sure that my dirty dishes or half-eaten sandwich are the farthest away from sight, since it would be pretty gross to come across if I’m pulled away into a meeting or step out to use the restroom.

  34. Anoncat*

    First of all, why would you want everyone taking their lunch break at the same time? Wouldn’t there be a line for the microwave? My only guess is so this makes scheduling lunch outing easier, or makes it easier to schedule around when people have lunch. But it’s a dumb policy, people usually need a little more flexibility than that.

    Either way, I figured that “lunch time” just refers to when people can take a lunch break, not when people are allowed to eat. This makes sense in some jobs, but not in an office setting. Maybe LW’s co-worker thinks LW is taking a break to eat. Which is unfair since many people eat while they work. It does impair productivity a little, but so does hunger!

    Also, I generally find it rude when people make comments on when their friends, family, co-workers, strangers, etc. eat, or what they eat, or how much they eat. Especially if someone’s struggled with weight in the past, it can be a sensitive and personal topic, and while not everyone gets touchy about it, it’s probably best to just lay off other people’s eating habits.

  35. Stephanie*

    It could be the food prep that’s making you stick out.

    When I had sinus issues (which was frequently due to residing in a house with giant radiators), I used to chop up ginger in the office kitchen and let it steep in boiling water (it would make me sneeze and clear out my sinuses). This prompted comments from my boss (“My grandmother in Vietnam used to do that. You must have a high spice tolerance.”) and the big boss (“You’re sick again?”). I was tempted to say to the latter, “Wellll, if you gave us any sick leave I could stay home and sleep.”

    1. UrbanGardener*

      Ha! I was at my desk one day and suddenly smelled ginger in the air. I turned around and my office mate was peeling some and about to drop it into her tea.

      Shoot, I not only snack at work, I signed up for a healthy snack food delivery service (Graze) and my snacks come in the mail to work!

  36. JW*

    I eat at my desk throughout the day as well. I’ve been guilt tripped about not going out to lunch with others, but the reality is, I don’t want to! I much prefer eating lunch and snacks that I bring instead of going to BBQ, fried chicken, or Chinese places that my coworker(s) frequent. When I do go, I feel weighted down and disgusting!

  37. Christy*

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this: One person (who views himself as a superior but isn’t a manager) is giving me a hard time, saying “lunch time is from 12:00 to 12:30.”

    Methinks he’s the office busybody, and he would find something else to complain about if you weren’t a snacker.

  38. Anonylicious*

    “[L]unch time is from 12:00 to 12:30.”

    “Yes, and this is a snack, not lunch.”

  39. Counselor*

    You are entitled to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. I would bring this up to your actual aupervisor. The nerve of some people.

  40. holly*

    i would definitely find out more about your office’s policies on food at the desk, but it seems like if there was a written policy, this guy would have told you already. so i would then find out more from him about exactly what his issue is.

  41. TL17*

    I work with a crunchy food offender. She likes to make a bowl of cereal, and then stand in my office doorway and chat while she eats it. I have no idea what kind of cereal she buys, but it sounds like she’s eating a bowl of rocks. I don’t know how she isn’t deaf from eating it, quite honestly. That said, if she ate it at her own desk, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t bother anyone.

    1. holly*

      i work with a smelly food offender. maybe not everyone is offended, but a lot of the offending foods kind of smell to me like BO or a mix of BO and food :( there might be multiple offenders in my area since i don’t actually know who has the smelly food.

      1. holly*

        and i mean in our cubicle area, not in the staff lounge. food smells in there are totally fair.

  42. Peep!*

    I’m the worst — I have some form of misophonia (slurping, sniffing, chewing, weird high pitched noises irritate me, etc)…. but I can’t stop chewing ice. I know it’s an iron deficiency thing, but I just love ice. Especially crushed ice! My mom HATES when I chew it, and I’m sure my friends hate it but they’ve never said anything. I always tried to crunch my iced coffee ice before everyone arrived at work so nobody would be tempted to murder me before lunch. ;)

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      Quite apart from the potential noise issue of your chewing ice – please be sure you’re not damaging your teeth. Crushed ice is probably not the end of the world but biting ice cubes can be extra not good, depending on your dental situation.


  43. hayling*

    Why are people in offices SO OBSESSED with their coworkers’ eating habits?

    I was once in the kitchen scooping some vegan “egg” salad (it’s really good!) from a package on to toast. A (rude, disliked, and soon after this fired) coworker came in to ask me a work-related question, then said “Ugh, what is that, space food?” I look at him dead in the eye and said “Didn’t your mother teach you not to comment on other people’s food?”

    That is, however, the only time I can recall that I’ve had a snappy response to rudeness!

    1. Kai*

      I can so relate to this, having grown up with a health-nut mother who would send us to school with tofu and brown rice and 100% organic juice boxes. The kids could be ruthless. Even the ones who were just mildly curious got to be too much.

      Still, you’d think by adulthood people would know better!

      1. Clerica*

        My mother used to buy potato bread instead of just, idk, whole wheat because it was supposedly healthier? Three problems. A, it was too wide for a sandwich bag so I’d end up with a smashed sandwich, B it was too dry and thick so I could barely taste the sandwich part, and C every single day someone had to say “Ewww, why is your bread yellow?

        This is why when my friend wanted to be Martha Stewart and make some “healthy” artisan snack for her kid to share in the cafeteria on her birthday, I was like, no, you go buy two dozen princess/monster cupcakes at the grocery store like everyone else. This is not the hill you want to die on when it comes to your kids “not being afraid to be different.”

  44. robin*

    I am a nursing mom and have to drink water and eat constantly in order to keep up my supply for pumping during the work day! I would never be able to make it from my breakfast at 7 am to lunch at noon without a snack. Some people probably think I am crazy for all of my snacks and the constant liter of water in my hand, but it’s a necessity for me.

  45. Mena*

    If it isn’t noisy or smelly why would anyone care? Someone might be diabetic or hypoglycemic, making it a medical necessity. I like Alison’s suggested responses – geez, not anyone’s business (you’re getting your work done)

  46. Raine*

    Ugh. I had a coworker in the neighboring cube who ate literally all day long at the desk, starting with a big breakfast of eggs bacon etc and going nonstop with snacks in loud crinkly potato chip like bags and chomping and slurping and smacking her lips and crunchy apples and straw sucking and then finally it was time for her to start on lunch. Also at the desk. It was insane. No, truly. It was insanely inappropriate and distracting.. sorry. We even have a massive kitchen and several places to dine both there and outside and nope. She insisted on never leaving her desk. I can’t be sure she actually ever did any work she was so focused on eating as her job.

  47. RJ*

    The repeated comments from the coworker reminding the OP about standard lunch hours sound passive-aggressive. If the OP feels needled by the coworker about the food, the OP would be helped by being direct with this person in a friendly, straightforward manner. Specifically asking them ( in a calm, pleasant manner, without being defensive or hostile) why they keep bringing it up is a good place to start the conversation.

    Americans are quite different from other cultures in that our food industry and marketing has tried to convince us that it’s now socially acceptable to eat anywhere, anytime, anyplace, constantly throughout the day. Seeing, hearing, and smelling food outside of established mealtimes is distracting at best (even if the OP claims that nobody can smell/hear the food, it still could pose a distraction). Even if the complaining coworker is American, they could still have a cultural issue with seeing/hearing/smelling food outside of established meal breaks, or see an incompatibility of office work with constant eating throughout the day.

    Commenters have mentioned the smell/sound issue; hypoglycemia; and the perceived poor work ethic by snacking throughout the day at the desk. Another possible reason for the complaint could be that someone in the office could find the behavior triggering — you don’t know if the OP’s coworker(s) have a/an eating disorder(s). Sometimes people with eating disorders find it upsetting to be constantly around food. Although the OP feels entitled to eat throughout the day, others could be seriously affected by the OP’s behavior.

    This is off-topic, but if the OP can’t maintain their weight class without constantly eating low-fat items all day long, then maybe they should consider working with a registered dietician to look at their overall diet, nutrient levels, and especially their macros (macronutrients) and food choices. I mention going to an RD specifically because anybody can call themselves a nutritionist.

    1. A Teacher*

      Exercise Science degree, Masters in Kinesiology, and a licensed athletic trainer: from day one in schooling we are educated to encourage people to eat small meals throughout the day. She can work with a RD–great suggestion, but can almost guarantee that small meals will still be encouraged.

    2. Sarahnova*

      Um, the hell?

      Practically all cultures have numerous kinds of between-meal “snacks” as part of their cuisine and history. People snack everywhere. I’m also not an American, and snacking at one’s desk is totally normal in many countries.

      There are also numerous valid and health-related reasons to eat between meals, including pregnancy, nursing, diabetes, or simply having a high metabolism, as some people do. If anything, the idea of “three squares” is poorly adapted to what we now know about how the body functions.

      I would feel genuinely sympathetic to any coworker with an ED who struggled with coworkers eating around them, but that would ultimately be their issue to manage, not the coworkers’. Plus, from what I know from people with EDs, being around people with healthy eating habits and relationships with food is actually beneficial. Having a coworker who refused to eat when hungry, or who punctuated their consumption of lunch with comments on how “fat” or “bad” they are, would be more triggering, as far as I know.

    3. Clerica*

      Aside from the OP’s nutritionist probably encouraging the meals as someone already pointed out…why does the OP have to see someone to “fix” her but the triggered person doesn’t?

    4. Ellie H*

      I actually agree with some of these points (I’m not crazy about “food creep” into various other arenas of life – when I was a kid my mom would often tell me that the seatbelts of foreign-made cars in America have a shorter safety lifespan than in their home country, because Americans eat in their cars and spill food which damages the seatbelt) but the idea that you should not have food around too much because it can be triggering to those with eating disorders is ridiculous, and I myself have a tenuously recovered eating disorder history. It’s the same with misophonia as others have mentioned – while it is really unfortunate that some people are more affected by these things, the fact is that the average reasonable person would probably not be, so it’s not practical/necessary to organize your life around the assumption that someone might be.

    5. justkeepswimming*

      Er, it might be someone recovering from an eating disorder who wants to/has to eat multiple meals or snacks at their desk? That isn’t just a one way street. It could also be triggering to ASK someone why they are eating so much.

  48. Sarah*

    Regarding the peanut butter smell, I do think it would be preferable for the OP to prepare their sandwich at home and eat it more quickly. Even if eating at your desk is totally fine in the culture, it’s only polite to do what you can (without majorly inconveniencing yourself) to minimize the smells and noises your coworkers are exposed to. Someone may hate the smell of specific foods but be too polite to raise an issue about it, or may be experiencing some sort of hormonal fluctuation/pre-migraine period/whatever that makes all smells overwhelmingly intense. Since it’s not difficult to make a PBJ at home and eat it within a reasonable period of time (or at least cut it into squares and put away what you aren’t eating in a locked baggie), you could be giving off the impression that you do not care at all about bugging your coworkers with smell.

    TL;DR I have no issue with desk eating but I also think it’s okay for your coworkers to expect everyone to do it in the least disruptive way possible and can understand why they might be annoyed at an employee who is not making that effort AND eating all day long.

  49. SBL*

    There is a small but strong subgroup of people that LOATHE bananas so if you don’t mind, put those peels in a zip loc bag before you through them out. Thanks!!

    1. fposte*

      I think anything fragrant should go into kitchen garbage rather than office garbage. Nobody wants to smell somebody else’s garbage while they’re trying to work. If there’s no kitchen garbage, all of it should be bagged up. (Kitchen garbage is fair for open tossing, though.)

      1. Nina*

        Yeah, I throw stuff away in the kitchen trash can or the one in the hall. I had a Caesar salad the other day, and the dressing has a very strong smell, so I threw the container away in the kitchen. I didn’t want that hanging around my desk, much less near the other cubicles.

      2. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

        I – and my office – are very chill about smells & sounds, but this touches on what I personally can’t stand: people discarding smelly food waste in my office trash. Please, bring your snack to my office & eat while we talk. But PLEASE, take your orange and banana peels, your empty baba ganoujh container and your egg salad sandwich wrapper with you when you leave!

    2. LCL*

      I was waiting for someone to post this. Bananas stink! I can’t stand the smell. When I was working out of a vehicle and training people, I had to ask a couple people not to eat bananas in the car.

  50. Cassie*

    I hate hate hate listening to people eat – thankfully, our cubicles buffer out those sounds (even though they are fairly open). The worst offender is the guy (who sits in an office) who seems to deliberately take a bite of his sandwich before talking. I don’t get why he can’t be courteous enough to wait until after his conversation before eating. Or at least swallow before answering.

    I snack at my desk and sometimes eat lunch at my desk as well. No one cares, although people will comment from time to time on what I am eating. I think they are just bored, not sure what to talk about, etc, but I do feel a little bit like they are judging me.

  51. anon*

    Seems everyone is missing the boat here. If you are an hourly employee who is performing work, you must be paid. Some companies provide unpaid lunch hours, thus they don’t like you to eat at your desk to make sure you don’t answer the phone or perform “work” which would require them to pay you extra.

    1. Kayza*

      That’s for her boss to handle, not another employee. And, it doesn’t sound like she’s working through lunch hour, either.

  52. C Average*

    This is for all you PB&J lovers.

    I’ve found the best way to eat PB&J at work. I keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and peanut butter and jam (not jelly–I like my berries in bigger chunks) in the fridge. We have a toaster, and I toast the bread and THEN apply the peanut butter and jelly.

    It is so good.

    One day I was making this for lunch in our kitchen and our notoriously prickly director wandered in, took a sniff, and began waxing nostalgic about PB&J. I offered to make him one, too, and he was about to take me up on it when he remembered he had a lunch meeting.

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      That’s how my husband likes his PB&J sandwiches as well, but we do make it at home and then pack it for him to take to work. Not as good as fresh, but it’s still tasty.

  53. Stacy M*

    Well, I have a coworker who comes in (not before her shift-around 10am) to eat her breakfast of a few containers of yogurt, a sandwich, and random hand food. She makes a ton of chewing/mouth noises. She scrapes the yogurt containers repeatedly trying to get every last bit of food out of it. It’s incredibly distracting. She is also not able to work when doing all this preparation, and her hands are tied up so she can’t type. She will also eat candy bars and other snacks before lunch. For lunch she leaves the office to go buy food, then comes back when the lunch break is over and eats it all. It’s also loud and distracting. Then every hour or so after she eats more snacks. It aggravates me as a coworker because of the smells and sounds. I can’t focus when I have to constantly hear someone eating. Additionally, she is not being productive when she is eating–it takes time to prepare, clean up, and eat the food, which takes you away from your work. So, depending on the situation, it can be inappropriate to constantly eat at your desk at work.

  54. Misophonia1*

    If your coworker is commenting then you are probably a noisy eater. I’m being driven mad by a woman who rustles and chomps all day long and (just like stacy m). I also find it pretty strange that you are making sandwiches at work and eating your oatmeal at work too. Why not have the oatmeal at home, make your sandwich at home too, then eat it quickly when you do eat it so as to minimise the suffering for other people? Almonds and peanuts are also noisy food- how about a protein shake?

  55. Charlotte*

    I think it would be fine so long as 1) you’re not making a mess, 2) you’re not constantly eating smelly food for your different snacks, etc. 3) you are not a loud eater. I say this as I am currently suffering this from the coworker on the other side of the cubicle wall from me. . I have to be honest, I have been fantasizing about chucking the tape dispenser upside his head. He literally eats 5-6 times a day and it’s not just small snacks. I’ve seen him eat a large container of meat and rice, have a salad, then soup…you get the idea. This person will eat cereal or oatmeal in the morning but will eat it out of a glass bowl with a metal spoon and continue to BEAT the living daylights out of the sides of the bowl so loud it can loudly be heard at the front of the office. He then scrapes for every last bit for over a minute. He also chews with his mouth open so all slurps, smacks, and crunches can be “enjoyed” by everyone. I’ve tried using earplugs and can still ear every gory sound through them. He also chops up veggies at his desk leaving debris all over the floor, his desk, and his chair, which he hasn’t allowed the cleaning people to vacuum. He brings in the most disgusting smelling food you can imagine. It is nothing for him to have a stew or a curry bubbling away in a small crockpot on his desk. PLEASE for the love of God, don’t be THAT guy.

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