coworkers keep commenting on my food

A reader writes:

I don’t really have a problem that needs solving. I just want to ask your opinion about a pet peeve of mine to see if I may be off-base in feeling this way.

It really bothers me when my coworkers comment negatively on whatever I may be eating at the moment. Here are three examples illustrating what I mean:

• I got a hot dog at an office outing and when I brought it back to my table, a co-worker said, “A hot dog? You don’t even know what’s in that!”

• I walked past a co-worker while I was holding a Dunkin Donuts bag and she said, “I hope that isn’t lunch.”

• Just today, I got a bag a chips from the vending machine and on the way back to my office, my boss, similar to the previous instance, said, “I hope that isn’t your lunch.” To which I replied, “Not all of it,” annoyed that I felt like I had to justify eating a bag a chips.

Things like this really grind on me. I even made sure the “coast was clear” before going to the vending machine today particularly because I didn’t want to deal with anyone’s commentary on what I was eating. So much for that. I just find it so rude. I’m an adult and if you don’t approve of what I’m eating, I really think you should keep it to yourself.

I agree with you … but I also think it’s just a weird part of our culture that you can’t do much to change.

The hot dog comment was particularly obnoxious but the other two comments sound like attempts to express lighthearted concern and care for you (in the “don’t work so hard that you don’t eat lunch” vein). I totally agree that it would be better if we all just kept commentary on each other’s food off-limits, but it seems to be really, really hard for people to do.

Anyone have theories on why? It seems deeply ingrained in our culture and I can’t explain it.

{ 477 comments… read them below }

  1. SandrineSmiles (France)

    Sadly, to me it’s either fat-shaming, or meat-shaming, or things like that.

    It doesn’t break me anymore, thank goodness, but that reminds me of a former coworker. I would bring a small bottle of Coke and drink it before we’d start (before 8 AM). It gave me the energye kick I needed to start the day.

    One coworker had taken it upon herself to tell me it wasn’t a good plan. One day, smiling, I turned around, looked at myself, the bottle, her, and went: “I like it, I’ll just keep doing that :D” . We were rather friendly at the time, she rolled her eyes at me but after that every once in a while I’d tease her about my delicious-to-me drink, to emphasize the point that my body, my mouth, my rules :P .

      1. Purr purr purr

        Are you me? Dr Pepper is the bomb. I’m also a wannabe gold digger, although I actually am by profession as a geologist. ;)

        1. the gold digger

          Here is the gold-digging advice I failed to follow:

          Marry a rich orphan.

          If you have to pick just one of these qualities, marry an orphan. Earn your own money. Good luck!

        1. the gold digger

          Bonjour Sandrine – I have been to the Dr Pepper shrine – the bottling plant in Dublin, Texas, where they used to make Dr Pepper with cane sugar. I don’t care what the people at Coke say – there is a huge flavor difference between soda made with cane sugar and soda made with corn sweetener. I look forward to Passover every year because it is the one time in the US you can get decent-tasting Coke. (But Dr Pepper is better!)

    1. Purr purr purr

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. The only time I’ve ever heard someone say that is when they want to shame someone and it’s usually a very passive aggressive way of fat shaming.

      I get people commenting on my food too but I eat a LCHF diet and I’m at the low end of a healthy weight for my height yet I still get comments about how I’m going to have a heart attack or it ‘can’t possibly be healthy.’ I mean, really? I’ve definitely read waaaay more journal articles and books about this lifestyle than they have. People just like being nosy/busybody I guess.

    2. Looby

      “Tell you what, you give up your morning caffeine hit and I’ll give up mine.”

  2. Former Diet Coke Addict

    I wish I knew, but I think it’s a combination of food being generally a social thing (family meals as a way of showing love, restaurants as social venues, food being a major part of celebrations) plus the recent emphasis on food as a an almost religious aspect of life–witness the extreme emphasis in Western society on food, diets, the horribly-named “clean eating” and other ways eating has become a competition as well as a way of showing one’s wealth and social status.

    As much as I wish people would never again ask me what I’m eating (dear God save us all from the person who says “Eww” when confronted with unfamiliar food, because I swear I’m going to just clock them one day), I think food is so generally rooted in our culture as An Object for Discussion that I don’t see any road back. As long as people will make break room conversation about what they’re eating and cooking or what they wish they were eating or who’s on a new diet and what they can and can’t eat and so on, I think people will assume that everyone is up for the same food-centered discussion.

    1. Lemon

      I think the wealth/social status is an especially interesting point. I grew up in a lower/middle-income city in the Midwest, but live in a fairly wealthy easy coast city now, and I feel like I need to be really secretive/embarrassed when I want to eat some kinds of comfort food from home (like hot dogs!). Surely a big part of it is just that wealthy people can afford better quality food, but I think some of it is that it’s seen as low-class to eat cheap junk food.

      1. librarybatgirl

        If you are interested in food and class issues, I highly recommend this article by Chris Offut: http://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazine/item/550-trash-food

        As to the issue at hand, when talking about food I follow one general rule; Don’t yuk on somebody’s yum. I talk about food a lot. It’s kind of an obsession with me and one of the reasons I like to talk about it is because it’s a universal topic. If I find myself in an uncomfortable conversation that is veering into controversial territory (politics, religion, etc…), I find that asking what a person likes to eat or what good food they’ve had recently can detour the conversation in a positive direction and also reminds me of what we have in common instead of focusing on differences.

    2. Mike C.

      I think you’re on to something when you point out that food is a signal for social and wealth status.

      1. Stephanie

        Yeah, look at ordinances trying to ban soda. If it were truly about health, things like Frappuccinos and cold-pressed juices would also be subject to the bans due to their sugar content. But nah, poor people have to be punished for being poor.

        1. Green

          Gonna give an eyeroll here.
          (1) There are lots of wealthy folks’ refrigerators filled with sodas.
          (2) It wasn’t a “soda ban”; it was a soda SIZE ban (and it was overturned in court). The other “soda bans” I’ve seen are from school property or city properties (i.e., whether government should profit off soda or market it to children), not whether it can be sold at the corner store.

          1. Stephanie

            Yeah, you’re right. I spoke too broadly. I guess I just wince when things like that when ordinances are brought up because they seem to disproportionately target low-hanging fruit like giant soda.

            We dd have a soda ban at my high school, which was kind of goofy as the vending machines still sold Fruitopias and juices.

              1. catsAreCool

                “if the government is not paying for my food, the government does not get to tell me what to eat.” This!!!

                I don’t usually drink sodas more than once a week, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a big gulp soda (too much soda), but I found that law offensive.

                1. Jessa

                  Heck if the government IS paying for your food, they still should not get to tell you what to eat. All the garbage going on now regarding recipients of food aid and weird things they’re not allowed to buy (I’m not talking things like you can’t buy prepared food IE you can buy sandwich makings but not a sandwich, which I still think is dumb, but it’s a different kind of limit.)

                  Also I’m not talking WIC simply because that’s handed out as food specific vouchers, for a very specific nutritional need.

                  There’s a state now trying to ban seafood to the point that they’re including tinned tuna. Also condiments like spaghetti sauce (do you know anyone on food aid who has the time to actually stand and make tomato sauce, good ones take hours.) It’s insane the infantilisation of persons on food aid.

              2. Green

                … I’d agree with that if you also say “and if the government is not paying for my healthcare” …

                1. the gold digger

                  Frankly, the only thing things the government gets to tell me is what speed to drive, when to pay my taxes, and not to kill or rob anyone or destroy someone else’s property.

              3. Rose

                But the government pays for your health care when you develop heart disease, diabetes, and a host of cancers.

                1. MegEB

                  There are dozens of factors that influence a person’s likelihood of developing those diseases, including exercise, age, work environment, and plain old genetics. There are plenty of people who have a high sugar diet and don’t develop diabetes, and people who have a perfectly balanced diet who do.

                2. Green

                  ^^ But, yeah, obesity is pretty bad for your health. If you want to make all of your own decisions independent of government (which you still don’t get to do because of FDA, labeling laws, import laws, etc.), then you pay for the privilege.

                3. Lisa

                  Oh my goodness. Research shows more and more now according to my doctor that being overweight has very little to do with it anymore. It is genetics . My uncle who was as healthy as a horse, never smoked, ate right and very athletic had a massive heart attack when he was 42 while playing volleyball. I have friends who are extremely overweight and have absolutely no health concerns at all. My friend who is 126 pounds has terribly high cholesterol and has to take a host of medications to keep it down. I weigh 1 82 pounds my sugar, my cholesterol and blood pressure are perfectly normal.

              4. Amanda

                “if the government is not paying for my food, the government does not get to tell me what to eat.”

                Even if the government IS paying for your food, the government shouldn’t get to tell you what to eat.
                http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/kansas/

                There are some pretty awful, classist laws that reflect that exact sentiment, and that is totally not OK.

                1. Green

                  Some of the laws are awful and paternalistic, but there are good policy objectives and intent stemming from it. It’s not “the government” paying for your food; it’s other taxpayers, and the government (rather than the recipients of food assistance) has an obligation to taxpayers to be good stewards of their funds. Government has the ability to incentivize positive behavior (which is generally acceptable) and create market subsidies that shape food policy (like buying a bunch of crappy meat for schools).

                  I believe that food available to indigent people should be fresh, healthy, and well-rounded. But I (and the vast majority of Americans) are OK with your choices being constrained if it’s our money that’s buying it (and then our money paying the consequences of those decisions).

                2. esra

                  @Green, have you looked at the some of the new foodstamp laws? In Wisconsin: “recipients can purchase most fruits and vegetables, but not potatoes. They can buy cans of mature beans only, and can’t choose anything immature or dried and sold in bulk. They can only purchase juice that is bottled in 48 or 64-ounce plastic containers and is not refrigerated. Recipients can’t buy white or any kind of organic rice. They can’t buy canned soup or spaghetti sauce.”

                  Rice, potatoes, dried beans, and tomato sauce don’t make crappy meals. Many of the new laws I read about in the states just seem needlessly cruel.

          2. Gene

            Thinking back to when a Big Gulp was only something like 44 ounces, I was doing hard labor outside in Phoenix. The combination of cold fluid, caffeine, and sugar is what kept us functioning.

      2. BenAdminGeek

        I’ve always been intrigued by this. Growing up we had very little money. Soda, chips and other foods now considered “low class” were not something we could afford. So for me, going to McDonalds and having soda feels like “now I’ve made it!” Which is terrible logic, but it’s just how it works in my brain.

    3. Sikovit

      I agree with you after some reflection on why people do this. Eating is comfort and a social event. This comment the reader wrote in to “Ask the Manager” really brought back memories. I used to get comments from mostly ladies in the lunchroom about what I was eating, ie: ‘What frozen meal do you have today? Are those good?” or “I don’t know how that can fill you up, but you’re so slim/skinny/thin that is probably why.” or “That looks like a lot of food…and looks fattening, but you can afford it…” OR “I think you need to eat more”. What was really irritating was everyone WATCHING me eat. It was as if they didn’t have any food (they did). If I went out and brought lunch back, they would say, “Oh, a chicken sandwich and fries/or burrito/or whatever. That looks good.”…watches me eat and I end up sharing the fries. OR, get this, a few of us would go out to a restaurant…and everyone is fascinated by my choice of food! I have no idea why! I don’t order anything unusual, but again, they watch me eat it and comment. So ridiculous. Now, there is no lunch room where I work and I go to lunch alone. Yeah!!

  3. denkyem

    I think it’s something about the social element of food. We think of food as a chance to eat and connect together, and so it becomes an easy topic of small-talk and source of conversation.

    I am definitely guilty of commenting on colleagues’ food, but only in a positive way (“that looks delicious! did you make that?”). I think people who make negative comments on others’ food haven’t had people in their life with eating disorders. Having had someone close to me with disordered eating, I always try to remind myself how comments on others’ food or eating habits (particularly negative ones, but positive ones too) might be triggering for some people, and how awful it would be for them to deal with this in the workplace

    In a previous office, I had a young-ish male colleague who had recently become obsessed with shaping his body and “bulking up”, and was always telling the rest of us about his exercise regime and depressing but nutritious meals (snore). I tolerated that, but I just about lost it on him when I overheard him teasing/shaming a young female intern in our office about the calories in her apple juice.

    1. A Bug!

      I also will comment positively on people’s food if I’m otherwise friendly with them. Usually it’s because someone’s food smells really good and I want to know what it is. I’m wondering now if I should stop doing that because I don’t want to make anybody feel self-conscious about what they’re eating.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I do the same–if it looks and smells good, I like to know if it’s something I can make myself. A coworker had a yummy casserole the other day and sent me the recipe.

        I doubt they’d feel weird about it if you said it looked yummy. If I think it looks gross, I keep that to myself. I laugh when people say my Marmite toast looks gross and invite them to try it. One coworker actually did–and he did NOT like it, ha ha ha ha.

        1. A Bug!

          OT, but please look up the video of Hugh Jackman convincing Jimmy Fallon to try Vegemite a second time.

          1. OriginalEmma

            Reminds me of James May and Gordon Ramsey eating hakarl (rotten shark). Guess who couldn’t keep it down? (Hint: It wasn’t Captain Slow).

            1. Ellie H.

              I like how this could have alternately been “vital”! To each his or her own. . . .
              (I’ve never had it, myself)

      2. K.

        I brown-bag it every day (unless there’s a working/pre-planned lunch that I know about) and much of the time my lunch is leftovers. I’m a good cook and proud of my cooking skills so I don’t mind at all if someone says “Smells great! What is it?”

        What I find rude is what the OP is describing – I loathe hot dogs (and I ate breakfast sausage yesterday, so it’s not about only eating healthy food) but if a coworker wants to eat them, it has literally nothing to do with my life, so it wouldn’t occur to me to police her food choices.

        1. A Bug!

          If you were my coworker and you brought leftover breakfast sausage you wouldn’t have to worry about me chiding you for it. You’d have to worry about fighting me to get it back.

          1. K.

            Ha – I ate the sausage for breakfast (had some fruit salad to go with it), at home. Doubt I would eat it at work.

      3. Ellie H.

        For me personally, I hate it when anyone comments on my food, anything at all, even or perhaps especially saying “That looks good” or asking me what it is. (I used to have an eating disorder so that’s part of it.) When I’m eating socially with other people or if some food topic comes up in social conversation, this of course doesn’t apply (e.g. out eating ramen with people yesterday, enthusiastically discussed ramen for the entire meal) but I don’t like when I’m eating in a private way (i.e. lunch at work) and others notice or mention or ask anything about it.

        1. KJR

          Disordered eating person here too…and you stated exactly how I feel. I just don’t want to discuss what I’m eating if I’m at work. It’s not AS bad if it’s complimentary, but since I follow a very specific food plan which helps me stay on the right path, my food sometimes looks unusual, and I just don’t want to talk about what it is and why I’m eating it.

          1. aliascelli

            That’s a good point – complimenting my food because it’s “good for me” in some (insert triggery diet/food reference here) way can be really upsetting, but trying to explain that seems impossible.

      4. INTP

        It doesn’t make me feel self conscious and it isn’t triggering for me (as long as it’s about taste and not nutrition) but I’ll admit I find it annoying to the point that I’ve stopped bringing many foods to work. I cook a lot for myself, and I’ll experiment with different fruits and health foodie things, and when I worked in a chattier office it was like I couldn’t eat anything without having multiple conversations about it. It got exhausting and I would not bring things because I knew coworkers would find them especially interesting. (Like chia pudding which I could never eat without at least one person wanting to know what it was and singing ch-ch-ch-chia at me.) I couldn’t really fault any individual for the benign comments they made but all added up it got so irritating.

        1. Zoe UK

          Same here. I often don’t bring exciting foods to work because I just want to eat my lunch in peace. Even if people are just being nice/interested, I just want to eat my lunch without it being commented on please!

        1. E

          But relative to soda or other drink options, it is healthier. For folks trying to eat better, small changes are good. And having others pick apart these choices makes life harder than necessary.

          1. Rose

            How so? Apple juice has slightly more calories than a coke, and they’re all from sugar. The fiber and vitamins in the apple have been removed. Your body is going to process them the same way.

            I think a lot of people struggle to loose weight because there is so much misinformation about what healthy eating really looks like.

            1. Anonsie

              Apple juice is not devoid of nutritional content, for goodness sake. Eating healthy != eating low calorie. Sugar is not unhealthy. It is not going to hurt you to have some.

              If you’re trying to lose weight then removing simple carbohydrates of most sources is going to be a good idea. But a balanced diet is not always a weight loss diet, and conflating the two is part of why people have so much trouble dealing with dieting psychologically.

    2. PlainJane

      Commenting positively is the key. Food used to be a relatively safe, neutral topic for casual conversation: What’s your favorite? That looks great! Have you tried [new cool restaurant]? Etc. Now it’s becoming a sociopolitical minefield like so many other topics (*sigh*). So while I agree that food is an important part of culture and social interaction, judgmental comments about what people eat is rude. I find a raised eyebrow is usually an adequate response to let people know they’re out of line, but I suppose that would be too subtle for some of the food police.

      1. Zoe UK

        But a lot of people don’t want their food commenting on at all – positive or not.

        I don’t have an eating disorder or anything like that, but I just want to eat and enjoy my lunch in peace. Same as when I’m reading on my lunch and I get asked about that. (Inward sigh.)

        1. crookedfinger

          Oh man, I hate the “what are you reading?” question…especially when it’s someone that I know absolutely doesn’t care what I’m reading and just wants to make conversation to kill time (or annoy me, whatever).

  4. BabyAttorney

    I wonder if OP is over- or under-weight. Particularly when the object of criticism is not “average” sized, people feel like they are “allowed” to make comments as though there is a justifiable “health concern” or something.

    I HATE when people criticze my diet. Its literally so little of any one else’s business that I dont understand why people find it acceptable, sweet, endearing, or appropriate.

    1. Rich

      agree with this. If the OP is over/under-weight, it provides insight as to the mental reasoning behind saying such things. It doesn’t make it right, but at least there’s an excuse that maybe these commenters care in some way about the OP, and this is how they express it.

      As far as the hot dog thing is concerned, I can see that comment having a hint of validity… but the same could be said about almost any food that you don’t prepare yourself. Other than that, OP, like the rest of us, is a grown adult and capable of making his/her own decisions about what they eat and when, sans peanut gallery.

      1. M-C

        Actually it works the other way too – people who’ve been led to feel self-hatred about their bodies often shower others with the messages they wish they could follow for themselves. I’ve found that expressing compassion about that as a response can stop that kind of unhealthy exchange..

    2. Lemon

      Meh, I’m thin but not underweight, and I used to get these kinds of comments from roommates (one of the worst parts about having roommates!) and coworkers all the time. Though I agree people might be even more inclined to comment when the person is over/underweight.

      1. manybellsdown

        I used to be super thin, and at one point I was actually afraid to order a salad in restaurants because people would comment. “Ugh no wonder you’re so thin!”

        It was just genetics, actually. I might have a giant steak and potato drowned in butter for dinner, but some days I just wanted a salad.

    3. KarenT

      It’s possible but I think some people just get really high and mighty when it comes to food. I was eating Cheetos the other day and co-worker walking by said, “I hope you know if glows in the dark it’s not real food.” Umm, STFU?

        1. Artemesia

          Besides Cheetos are the perfect self policing food; a serving is ‘eat until you feel nauseated.’ This is easy to do because Cheetos are obviously engineered with some sort of magic dust that not only stains your fingers but compels you to eat them until you feel sick.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale

                Man, those things are AMAZING. I had to stop keeping them in the house.

          1. OriginalEmma

            Cheetos is governed by the Louis C.K. mode of self-policing? “I don’t stop when I’m full. I stop when I hate myself.”

      1. AdAgencyChick

        “OHHHHH! OMG! I thought it was made only from the purest organic free-range never-touched-by-man ingredients! Thank you sooooo much for educating me!”

        (Seriously, what kind of response do people expect?)

        1. KarenT

          That’s actually what I was tempted to respond with :)

          “Well shit. I thought these were basically an apple.”

        2. So Very Anonymous

          “WHO PUT THIS RADIOACTIVE ORANGE DUST ON MY ORGANIC HOME-BAKED CRACKERS!?!?” (puts on tinfoil hat)

    4. OP

      I’m not underweight, but I am on the small side and sometimes the things people say include comments about my size vs. my diet.

    5. mirror

      I’m thin and I always have some sort of Lean Cuisine for lunch at work. One day, my boss jokingly told me I did not need to eat diet food. Okay…guess I’ll go eat junk food every day? Maybe the reason I’m thin is because I dont do that ;)

      I’m actually just thin because I’m lucky in the genetics dept, but it doesnt mean I want to eat junk all the time. Sooo many people make comments about how I must work out all the time, or I’m some huge athlete, etc. It really doesnt bother me that people talk comment about it, but it DOES bother me how people react to my response of “Nope, I just eat what I want.”

      1. Hlyssande

        Lean Cuisines are usually among the cheapest of the microwave meals you can take to work, too (along with Hot Pockets on sale). It’s pretty crappy for the boss to comment on that when they have no idea of the reasons behind why you’re bringing those.

    6. Willow Sunstar

      There is indeed a great deal of prejudice in our society towards anyone not skinny. I make sure myself to only bring healthy food to work and save unhealthy food for at home.

  5. Daenerys

    I think over the past few years food has become like politics or religion — people treat how they eat as a “lifestyle” and choose to view dietary choices as a way of expressing morality.

    It’s stupid, irritating, and wrong (food is not good or bad! as long as it’s edible, it’s food!), but I don’t see it going away any time soon. It’s also incredibly gendered, as I rarely see men in my office getting any comments on what they eat.

    1. the_scientist

      I think this is the key right here: we assign morality and to dietary choices, so people who feel that their diet or lifestyle is better (i.e. more right/moral) believe they are entitled to comment on the less wrong/less moral choices of others. Even the language that we use to describe food and eating is loaded with cues about virtue and morality- certain foods are “good”, while other foods are “bad”; dieting and sticking to your diet is “good” while eating non-prescribed foods is “being bad”.

    2. Valar M.

      Food generally is even more important than religion or politics, in fact a lot of religious rules spring up around food. So it makes sense that we might speak of food in terms of morality. This isn’t something that’s sprung up in the last few years, its just what we consider good/bad/important has changed. We need food to live, and yes, food is very ethnically and regionally specific and often central to the culture, religion, lifeways of people and therefore central to socializing.

      I don’t see it as being gendered in my office,but there is probably an argument out there that in many if not most cultures women have historically been at the center of food production, and even though modernity should have changed that, in many ways it still lingers.

      And yes, I’m aware this is probably more analysis than anyone wanted. Sorry!

    3. Not So NewReader

      ” It’s also incredibly gendered, as I rarely see men in my office getting any comments on what they eat.”

      Is that, in part, due to men being more able to blow off a comment like that? I am just wondering if more men than women give effective responses that stop the dialog.

      1. Daenerys

        That’s an interesting thought. My observations have been that men don’t get or give comments about each other’s food (short of “that cheesesteak looks awesome!”).

        My last company was about 70% female, and now I’m at the exact opposite. It was such a striking difference to me going from lunch being akin to the eating disorder olympics (“do you know how many grams of sugar are in that juice?” “ugh, I really shouldn’t be eating this pizza, but I did do two spin classes this morning” “I’m on day eleven of my cleanse, and I’ve never felt better!”) to… nothing, basically. The only people at my new office who ever seem to comment on what anyone is eating are the women.

        Granted, my sample size is two offices, so my data could be off base :)

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m thinking that men are also less likely to make the comments. The whole thing is in some way more the province of women (which makes sense if you consider society’s weird issues about women’s bodies).

        1. phillist

          This was my first thought, as well. Men’s bodies are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as women’s, so it makes sense that their food choices would also not be subject to the same level of scrutiny.

        2. Green

          Here’s the thing: to make healthy food choices (or, more often, to “lose weight”), you have to spend a LOT of your time thinking about it and engaging in self talk. Women are more likely to feel the pressure to look a certain way, so they’re more likely to do all of these diets, and more likely to think about them. And when you’re thinking about something all the time and mentally talking to yourself about something all of the time, it tends to come out of your mouth.

          70% of us are overweight (including obesity), and 35% of us are obese. It is a public policy issue (although not one that should be changed at the colleague level!) and it is something the majority of us are struggling with and thinking about.

        3. KarenT

          Not in my experience, whatsoever. Perhaps it’s because I live in a city that’s very health focused and I work with quite a few vegans, but men are absolutely as bad as women when it comes to food shaming around here.
          I will say, though, that people seem to react differently to comments made by men and women, like men are making a harmless observation and women are making snarky, mean comments.

        4. Surfdancer

          I work as a Wellness Manager and Health Coach for a major company. I had one man come to me (he’s about 40 pounds overweight) and during our coaching session, he started crying about the teasing and taunting from his male colleagues. He works in a pretty physical job. They tease him when he eats donuts and if he eats too much at lunch. He was traumatized by this. I was really surprised because he’s such a big, masculine guy, but men’s feelings can be delicate too. They can be self-consious about their weight and food choices as well.

          Myself, I get people commenting on how healthy I eat, asking what’s in everything and asking me for recipes. I get tired of it- just want to have lunch. I also have to work long hours, so I often will go into the lunch room and make a smoothie- I get so many rude comments- I’m in and out in less than 5 minutes, but the women in there are so catty. I have to wonder if I were heavy, if they’d be so catty about my making green smoothies.

      3. Jaydee

        I think part of it is that as a society we have a much wider range of “normal” for men than for women. Also, we value men’s bodies more for what they can do, while we value women’s bodies more for what they look like.

        Not that men don’t face body-shaming and judgment of their food and exercise choices. But it just feels like it’s kind of the constant, inescapable buzzing sound in the background for women, while it’s more of a specific, situational thing for men.

        1. Helka

          Just imagine a woman about the same build as Chris Christie going into politics — we’d never hear the end of it.

    4. Katie the Fed

      And I think people assume that if you’re making “bad” food choices, it’s because you don’t know any better so it’s their purpose in life to educate you.

      I know all about nutrition. But I still think hot pockets and bugles are delicious and if I want to eat them occasionally that’s my business.

      1. Kyrielle

        Also, dietary restrictions. I don’t enjoy having my choices criticized, but I find it especially annoying because I do understand that X would be healthy…for most people, but not me. I can eat “standard healthy” and in fact I’m working on doing so more…but not freely, because I need to pick something within my restrictions. Sometimes, if I’m in a bind or didn’t plan, my choice is an “unhealthy” food that won’t aggravate any issues, or a “healthy” food that will, or nothing. If I can afford to delay eating until I get to better food options, great – but I also need to actually take in calories. :P

        1. Zillah

          +100

          I’ve got a lot of food issues. For me, if it’s not immediately clear what’s going into the food and not convenient for me to ask, I’ll go with something that has an ingredients list I can read.

        2. Collarbone High

          Oooooh, yeah. I have Crohn’s and when I’m not in remission, I can’t digest high-fiber foods — so, fruit, vegetables and whole grains are out. I would pay a lot of money to never again argue with someone over why I’m politely turning down the side dishes. “But they’re goooooood for you! You HAVE to eat vegetables or you’ll die!”

          1. Stellanor

            I think in this situation you are absolutely within your rights to lay down a huge amount of TMI about pooping, if that is something that would warm your heart. I’m a big fan of transferring the awkward to its proper home with the person being a busybody, though, so that’s the kind of thing I would do.

            1. LiptonTeaForMe

              I have Ulcerative Colitis and I totally agree. My fricking manager asked once day if they couldn’t just give me a prescription to fix it so I wouldn’t be off so much…

              1. Becky B

                I have UC and Crohn’s is in our family as well. Your manager’s comment is so infuriating. As if we wouldn’t have “fixed” it if we could…

                1. Hlyssande

                  It’s like they think you enjoy having that condition and being miserable if you eat the wrong thing accidentally or something.

                  If there was a prescription to fix UC, Crohn’s, IBS, etc, don’t you think sufferers would take it in a heartbeat?

        3. Ellie H.

          Yes, I have similar issues and have that same frustration – and I really, really don’t want to go into a whole explanation of my particular stomach problems and the long story of it when it comes up. I also am constantly self-conscious because for example, I can eat some wheat but not a lot and not all the time, just a couple times a week, and none at all when my stomach problems are really acting up, so I undoubtedly seem like one of those people who is “gluten free” when she feels like it, which really bothers me. I feel like nobody would take me seriously or would just think I’m being compulsive if I sometimes will eat a slice of pizza and sometimes have to say I can’t eat it (and I don’t want to NEVER eat pizza if I can help it!).

          1. Aloe Vera

            I am the same way due to IBS. If my stomach is acting up, I have to be so careful about what I eat. But then when I am feeling better and have a slice of pizza, folks seem to think I’m a liar about my previous food restrictions.

            1. Charlotte Lucas

              I always liked my grandmother’s explanation for things like that: “Sometimes it… bothers me.” Said right, no one asks for details. (She specifically used it for lemons – the reason why she made limeade and orangeade more than lemonade, both of which are delicious anyway.) She’s also 95 years old and eats at least one cookie a day, so I think that says something about the health-giving properties of cookies.

        4. MsChanandlerBong

          I have stage 3 kidney disease, so I can empathize with anyone dealing with food restrictions. I actually love fruits and vegetables, but part of following a kidney disease diet is limiting your intake of potassium. Tons of healthy foods (tomatoes, oranges, bananas, dairy products, etc.) have high levels of potassium, so I either have to avoid those foods or eat very small servings. I also have to limit my intake of protein, phosphorus, and sodium. It is really hard to find things that are low in both sodium and potassium.

        5. AnonAnalyst

          Yes. I have a couple of chronic health issues, and a side effect of one is low blood pressure. I treat the underlying condition, but at best my blood pressure barely gets into the low end of the normal range. To help with this problem, several doctors over the years, including my current doctor, have told me to eat more sodium since there’s not really anything else that can be done to treat my other issues and get it higher.

          So, on days where I’m really feeling light headed and crappy, I’ve had ONLY a bag of chips or a bag of pretzels for lunch, or sometimes made a fast food run if there was a place nearby. And, frankly, it was the best thing available to me at that time.

          Luckily, my current workplace doesn’t comment much on food choices, unless someone has some particularly tasty-looking leftovers. But in the past when I’ve gotten judgmental comments about eating junk food, I’ll admit to throwing back some snarky comments about eating this food to avoid passing out…

      2. Stellanor

        I went on an embarrassingly long tirade about why Doritos are amazing the other week (short version: a lot of time, money, and brainpower has been dumped into making them pleasant to eat). Junky snack food is popular for a reason! I eat Doritos like two times a year, so when I do choose to indulge I don’t want a lecture.

        I can’t do hot pockets though, I find their texture displeasing. Bugles, however? Amazing, even though I’m pretty sure they consist of nothing but salt and saturated fat.

    5. Felicia

      I think one of the reasons women might get more of these comments is because women are the ones with more pressure on them to look a certain way (specifically be a certain weight). Women also tend to get more comments about what their body looks like, and people tie food to that, because to an extent womens’ bodies are seen as open for public commentary more than men’s bodies are.

    6. Green

      I don’t think you can state flatly that “food ethics” are objectively wrong. It may be rude to express it to others (especially at work and especially while they are eating), but all food isn’t created equal. Some food is made unethically, some food is unhealthy for everyone, some food is unhealthy in excess, etc. I think you should probably stick to bringing up the topic of food with people you’d also talk politics and religion (or other inherently moral but controversial issues). But it’s a little simplistic and ignores the process by which food winds up on your plate to say it’s neither good nor bad. Clothes are arguably neither good nor bad, but if it’s made in a Bangladeshi warehouse with child laborers, locked doors, no ventiliation, etc…

      1. Colette

        Nutritional value (which is what I assume you mean here) is only one component about whether a particular food is good or bad for an individual person at that moment. (Maybe they have health issues and that “unhealthy” food is the only available food that they can eat).

        And even if they could make other, healthier choices, so what? It’s their body that will have to run on less than optimal food.

        1. Green

          Actually, no, was not talking (just) about nutritional value. Was also talking about additives, and ethics of production (i.e., meat, dairy, eggs, corn subsidies, animal cruelty, GMO, IP in food, labeling, worker conditions/worker pay).

          It is indeed other people’s bodies. I said it was rude to express it at work and especially while other people are eating. But with people you can discuss other moral issues with, you should be able to discuss the morality of food, and I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss other people’s views as somehow objectively “wrong” because “food is food.”

          1. Colette

            Those are all really subjective factors, though, and reasonable people can disagree on how to weigh them. Even if there were a definitive ranking of foods, things like health issues and money affect what an individual can or should eat.

            Sure, you can have philosophical discussions about how you weight the various factors with like-minded people and let those discussions influence what you eat or serve others, but that’s about as far as it should go. Eating the way you believe best is completely legitimate – deciding that others are doing it wrong because they make other choices is not.

            1. Green

              I think you’re looking at my comment context-free instead of in response to this comment from Daenerys: “[Viewing dietary choices as a way of expressing morality is] stupid, irritating, and wrong (food is not good or bad! as long as it’s edible, it’s food!), but I don’t see it going away any time soon.”

              I AGREE that one should not have a running commentary with colleagues about the morality of their food choices but instead with their close friends/family/soulmate (whoever the heck it is people feel comfortable talking about controversial or otherwise uncomfortable issues) and then in the boundaries of those relationships.

              The only thing I was disagreeing with was Daenerys’ assessment that it is “stupid” and “wrong” to view food choices as an expression of morality. For many people, it is. And it’s been that way for millenia. But in the same way that I don’t proselytize my secular humanism at work (and expect others not to proselytize their take on religion), we should do the same with food choices. Just didn’t see any reason to poop on people who view the things they buy, eat, how they spend their time, whatever, as somehow linked to their view of morality. Also, Daenerys didn’t seem that OK with the dragon eating the kid. :)

              1. Colette

                I think it’s fine to make food choices based on your morals – but when you view food choices as a moral issue in general (i.e. for other people), it becomes problematic very quickly.

                1. Green

                  I view animal cruelty as a moral issue in general. I think you shouldn’t beat your dog or eat veal. It’s only socially acceptable for me to say one of those things if I see you in the process of doing it (and even then not in some social circles), but that doesn’t change the underlying morality.

              2. Girasol

                I can see how there are real ethical issues with respect to food decisions, but when I think of all the food shaming I’ve ever heard in the workplace, it wasn’t about ethics or even about health in general. It was about weight. It was about women’s weight. A thoughtful discussion about the environmental consequences of growing this or the social iniquities of harvesting that don’t even strike me as food shaming.

                1. Green

                  Ah, you have never been a vegetarian. :) People LOVE to talk about what you’re eating and why you are a vegetarian at lunches and dinners out, which gives you the awkward choice of having to say “Because I think it’s pretty effed up what has to happen to get the food onto your plate” or “blah blah polite personal reason that actually isn’t the reason why I eat what I eat even though you’re the one who brought the topic up.” They are concerned about where you get your protein and whether you get enough of it. People have LOTS to say about your food choices if you adhere to a special diet (same with gluten-free, all organic, whatever).

                  I went from vegetarian to pescetarian at one point, and that led to a near daily questions regarding what I was eating and why I thought that was morally acceptable and something else wasn’t.

                2. Green

                  Oh, and people seem to keep a food diary for you to eat something you have previously said you don’t eat (because people are always asking you whether you eat X or not), trying for a “gotcha!”

                  For example, if you don’t eat commercially produced eggs but happen to buy some from a small local farm you’ve visited:
                  “I SEE YOU EATING AN EGG. YOU SAID YOU DON’T EAT EGGS!”
                  “YOU SAID YOU DON’T EAT EGGS BUT THERE IS EGG IN THAT CAKE!” (OK, yeah, sometimes I’m not morally consistent and go with a don’t ask-don’t tell policy. It’s a spectrum and some of us do the best we can and because CAKE.)

    7. Stellanor

      My former work neighbor was obsessed with eating all-organic and “clean” and every time she saw my food took it upon herself to explain why it was bad for me (or to praise me on the days I ate grilled vegetables or quinoa).

      I breathed a sigh of relief when she moved desks… but she was replaced by someone with recently diagnosed severe food intolerances that mean she can’t eat almost any of the stuff I have for lunch. She looks at my lunch, sighs longingly, and says “that looks SO GOOD” almost every day.

      It’s an improvement over the self-appointed food police, but I find myself longing for a world in which no one pays attention to what I’m eating.

  6. Maxwell Edison

    Years ago when I was pregnant, I would have one cup of coffee a day (if I had cut it out entirely, I would have gone insane). This one coworker (whom I barely even knew) would give me the most evil, disapproving glare every time she saw me with my one cup of coffee.

    1. Kat

      You should’ve brought some juice in an empty beer bottle and had a sip in front of her lol. I wonder if her head would have exploded.

      1. manybellsdown

        My little brother refilled an empty beer bottle with water once, and came outside swigging from it. He was about 8 or 9. The looks on our parents’ faces was hilarious.

        1. Maxwell Edison

          Ha! When we were at a classmate’s house, Young Master Edison put some Coke into a brandy snifter and sauntered out to say hi to all the parents, swirling the drink as he did so. I thought it was hilarious but I don’t think some of the other parents found it amusing.

          1. caryatid

            my 10 year old son (often in front of my teetotaller in-laws or other visitors), will pull out a pitcher of juice from the fridge and loudly ask “Does this have alcohol in it?”

    2. phillist

      If women’s bodies are policed, pregnant bodies are doubly so. I have never had as many invasive, slightly- to wholly offensive things said to me as when I was pregnant. It’s like everyone becomes The Great Authority on What You Should Do with Your Body when you’re pregnant.

      1. Anonsie

        A lot has been said about how pregnant women’s bodies are viewed as a community interest, which is why people find it totally ok to tell you what to do or even touch you without asking. It’s spooky.

    3. Something Professional

      Yes! I’m pregnant now, and this infuriates me. My OB said up to two cups of coffee a day is fine. I was drinking out of a Starbucks cup the other day while running errands and a woman who I’d never even seen before walked past me and snarled “I hope that’s decaf.” Why would you think it was okay to comment on a stranger’s choices like that?

  7. R10Tact

    I think it’s the same thought process that makes people think that they know better…you know when you get unsolicited advice on whether or not your haircut suits you. I think in general people feel that if they can see you do it, then they are free to comment on it.
    And I’m in agreement with the “Mother of Dragons” – that it is almost always targeted towards the women. GAH!

  8. Workfromhome

    “I hope that bag of chips isn’t lunch”

    Responses:
    Sadly it is ..it’s all I can afford but hopefully after our salary review next month I’ll be able to afford something more nutritious.

    Sadly it is….it’s all I have time for but if you could hire two people to replace the 3 people that left last month and dumped their work on me I’m sure you and I could start going to the health food restaurant down the street for a nice casual lunch once in a while.

    “A hot dog you don’t know what’s in that”

    Response:You know you are right…let me know where you are taking me for lunch tomorrow. I’m sure you know some places with healthier alternatives. Its so nice of you to be so concerned that you’d pay for my lunch just to make sure I’m healthy.

    Bet the comments stop after these ;-)

    1. Not So NewReader

      “If you do not watch me eat it, it will have no impact on your health and well-being, I promise.”

      “Stop by again tomorrow, I am going to [insert name of place known for real junky food] and I will have [insert food item worse than what you already have today].”

      “Thanks for caring. Hey, why don’t you bring your lunch over and we can see how you are doing as well!”

    2. M-C

      Agree with all of these, but especially if aimed at the boss. A coworker in my opinion should get something more straightforward along the lines of ‘none of your business’, because it isn’t. It’s only the boss who needs to be made to see the link between work conditions and the potential for bad nutrition :-). Most of them will be ashamed and shut up..

      1. Brandy

        Hey, is this a case like the one from last week were we can tell the boss to “shut the F up”????

      2. Charlotte Lucas

        I agree. If I haven’t had a chance to bring lunch, haven’t gotten to our lousy cafeteria before it closed for the day, and don’t have time to run out and pick something up, you better believe everyone hears it if all I’ve gotten for my lunch is a bag of overpriced vending machine chips consumed at 2:30 pm…

    3. Chinook

      “A hot dog you don’t know what’s in that”

      Real-life response: “If I’m lucky, chicken lips and cow fingers – yum!” followed by a big bite and even bigger smile.

      Then again, I grew up with a brother who would make baaing noises when we had lamb chops, so I learned early on not to pay attention to those types of comments.

      1. caryatid

        someone once commented this to me as i was eating (unknownst to them) a veggie hotdog.

        i said “you’re right! these are made of soybean lips and assholes!!!”

    4. Janie

      “A hot dog you don’t know what’s in that”

      Response:You can pry this hot dog from my COLD DEAD HANDS (said in Charlton Heston’s voice).

      I, uh, feel pretty strongly about my right to eat “junk” food.

    5. Jaydee

      “A hot dog you don’t know what’s in that.”

      Later that day…

      “Jarvis, here’s that memo you clearly wanted on the ingredients in the hot dog I had for lunch. For each one, I have identified an alternate conversation starter you can try next time. See, for ‘beef’ I suggested ‘So did you hear that corporate is changing the format for the TPS reports?’ and for ‘sodium nitrate’ I suggested ‘Got any fun plans this weekend?’ I hope this is the information you were looking for.”

    6. DMented Kitty

      “A hot dog you don’t know what’s in that”

      Actually, I do. In fact, I brought the ingredient list right here. [read list of ingredients from the pack] — also, do you know that the water you drink contains dihydrogen monoxide?

  9. Golden Yeti

    At least with the hot dog type comments, I wonder if it has something to do with people assuming other people aren’t “educated,” and wanting to enlighten them.

    When I started a certain job, we didn’t have a microwave because my bosses were those type who are afraid of the radiation from microwaves. I came with soup, not realizing microwaving wasn’t an option. It didn’t seem justifiable to put one small bowl of soup in a pot on a hotplate (and it would take half my lunch hour to heat it), so I wasn’t sure what to do. The bosses were eating at the time, and Big Boss said something like, “If you want us to get a microwave, we can. If you want to get cancer, that’s your business.” That was the last day I took a lunch break in-office.

    Far as the “that’s all you’re eating?” comments, it seems like they want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. I’m not sure how you could reassure them that you are without them taking it as an invitation to pry more, though. (Even if you say, “I have an awesome dinner planned!” they might get curious and want to know what you’re having.) Maybe others will have ideas?

    1. SystemsLady

      Ugh, I get this all the time with Diet Coke/aspartame. I’ve been through that one about a hundred times.

      1. Looby

        I get that too. As a diabetic, I only drink diet drinks. I tell people I would rather deal with the slim chance of developing a brain tumour in 30 years than deal with high blood sugar now.

        1. False dichotomy

          Soda with sugar and sugar with artificial sweetener aren’t your only two choices, though. You could drink water, which would prevent you from having either problem.

            1. Looby

              True, but we aren’t talking about all beverages, we’re talking about diet soda.

              1. False dichotomy

                ? I don’t see that restriction anywhere in your comment (I take it you meant you want to restrict your comment to “soda” not what you literally said “diet soda” given that your initial comment very clearly mentions sugared soda which would go beyond the restriction “diet soda”; even so there is of course club soda which contains neither).

                And even if the restriction *were* there *and* we ignore club soda, how is that a relevant response to the critics who are coming from a perspective of “ack do not ever drink aspartame or artificial sweeteners”? I’ve never met one who advocated sugared drinks as the only alternative to artificially sweetened drinks. The ones I’ve met advocate “drink anything else instead” which of course opens up a very large realm of possibility: water, club soda, black coffee, unsweetened tea, bone broth (all the rage… http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/391302/bone-broth-hip-trend-why/), vegetable broth, etc. So, if one is going to answer the critic – and I am *not* saying it is necessary to answer her/him; as has been established already it is really none of his/her business what food choices you make – but if one is going to answer, one should answer his whole position, otherwise you’ve simply knocked down a straw man.

          1. VintageLydia USA

            Are you seriously posting this in a thread about how inappropriate it is to comment on other’s food choices? Seriously??

            1. False dichotomy

              I wasn’t commenting on the food choices, but on the logic. It’s a false dichotomy to say that one’s only two choices are to drink diet soda or to drink soda with sugar in it. If someone wants to drink diet soda, that’s their choice. But they don’t get to say that it was either that or sugared soda. Simply not true.

          2. Clever Name

            “….I wonder if it has something to do with people assuming other people aren’t “educated,” and wanting to enlighten them.”

            Hmmmmm……

          3. GOG11

            But Looby gets to make that decision because it is his/her body. I think the point is that, from the outside, we have no way of knowing about the circumstances, logic, priorities, etc., other people are operating in and from when making decisions about their food. Due to that, we can’t always make the best decision for someone else about their food. Not only can we not account for things which aren’t our business, we shouldn’t, because we have no right to tell someone else what they get to do with their body.

            1. False dichotomy

              Sure, but where did I say Looby didn’t get to make that decision? I simply pointed out there was a third choice that was available for Looby to choose from in making the decision. I would have done this regardless of the topic. I can’t stand poor logic (such as false dichotomies) whether it’s about food or anything else.

    2. Mike C.

      I do not tolerate people who are that stupid (or conspiratorial) about basic science. How can people be so terribly ignorant about science as to believe that a microwave causes cancer?

      The best part, is that both a microwave and a hot plate give off non ionizing radiation.

      1. Golden Yeti

        Exactly; it’s such a double standard. One of my friends says her pet peeve is people who are afraid of things like wifi and microwaves, but still have no problem using cell phones, computers, radios, fluorescent lighting, etc. As she says, “If you’re going to tell me how bad these things are, I’m not listening to you unless you live in a log cabin with no electricity and you grow/hunt for your own food.”

      2. JoJo

        The original microwaves did leak radiation. They even had warning signs for people with pacemakers to stay away. However, that problem was fixed by the 80’s. I know this because my father actually tested it out with a Geiger counter before he bought a microwave in 1984.

    3. Editrix

      My colleague (admin assistant) threw away our floor’s microwave because she was scared of radiation. We work in a place that does nuclear research. We walk through a monitoring system before we leave each day to check that we are not radioactive. She never realised (she had worked there for 8 years). She thought that isotopes were a kind of animal.

        1. Jessa

          I weep for whoever is responsible for bringing people on board. This should have been clearly explained to her. There is zero excuse for her to not have known this because it was incumbent on management to have had her sign the requisite safety forms. If there was a chance she would have any exposure even a teensy one, she should have been made aware of this. So either she’s a total nut, she signs things without reading, or she’s being deliberately obtuse.

          When my work at a state institution took me into a hospital that had radiology services, I had to wear a monitor tag, I had to sign papers saying I understood what it was for and that I had a personal responsibility to minimise my exposure to the smallest amount necessary to do my job – which in my case since I was clerical personnel, meant NOT walking into any radiation area when the “we’re doing scans/treatment” light was on. EVER. Or if it was necessary, to do so with the proper safety equipment.

          Failure to do that would still get me treated if I got over exposed (workers comp case,) but would get me FIRED at the same time. I would not be allowed back in that facility afterwards.

          1. Editrix

            We have zero contact with radiation, we just go through the common exit with people who do, and the extra monitoring is in addition to all the proper precautions in the labs. My point is just that the scanner at the exit tips you off that there are radioactive sources in the building. Not that that is worrying, but it sure as hell is more deserving of tin foil hat type attention than the microwave.

  10. Turanga Leela

    I think a lot of the time people want to develop a friendly rapport with their coworkers, and food seems like a safe thing to chat or gently tease each other about. The other dynamics people have mentioned, like fat-shaming, are sometimes at play, but not always—your food choices are obvious and public, and many people don’t think of them as personal or too controversial. (Women often have this kind of conversation about clothes, too.) Your eating choices become part of your office identity: there’s the person who always drinks Diet Coke, the person who always brings a healthy lunch, the person who forgets to eat and then hits the vending machine at 3pm, and so on. People notice and they use it to make conversation.

    This kind of food commentary has come up a lot on AAM, and the fact that it bothers so many people is a good sign that it isn’t, in fact, a safe thing to tease coworkers about.

    1. Valar M.

      I agree completely.We know now that a lot of those foods are bad for us and missing meals can be bad for us. It’s a bad habit a lot of us have though, so people want to bond over shared bad habits. It’s such a common part of the culture that I don’t think people realize it could be offensive to people.

      I’d say something if I were you, so people are aware its a peeve for you. Script it first, and run it past someone so you know its not going to come across too harshly, and start using that.

    2. Not So NewReader

      This is good- what do we have to talk about with people who are basically strangers to us but “live with us” for eight hours a day. We talk about the things in front of us- things that seem to held in common- the weather, workplace issues, what we are having for lunch…

      If this were just one person hammering on OP’s food choices every day, I would find that really bothersome. “What is your point, buddy? Back off.” This seems to be several people just saying something in passing. I am not there so I do not know, but it could be possible that this is just idle chatter with nothing behind it.

      We don’t get to pick the ways others express friendliness. I had a hard time with teasing when I first started working. Gosh, I would get so uncomfortable. Finally, it dawned on me that this type of teasing only happens when people like you and they feel comfortable around you. It took me a while to reach this more peaceful place. I started framing it as I could not pick how people expressed their friendliness. This may or may not help you with your situation, OP.

      1. Three Thousand

        Teasing happens among friends and people you trust. People you don’t know who try to “tease” you are insinuating their friendship on you and assuming a relationship that doesn’t exist. They are being too forward socially. It’s like how the same sexual comments about your body are different when made by a partner than by strangers on the street. Just because others feel comfortable around you doesn’t mean you have to feel comfortable around them.

        1. Myrin

          Absolutely agree. Additionally, I might not be able to control how someone expresses their friendliness, but that doesn’t mean I have to actually accept or embrace what they’re doing. It might be possible for some people to react more positively to something they originally minded once they’ve understood the motivation behind that, but I’m more often than not not like that.

      2. Cath in Canada

        Yeah, I have that one person hammering on my food choices. It bothers me more than it would to have multiple people making one comment each (or at least, I imagine so – maybe the grass is just greener!)

        Things this person has said to me include the following:

        (while I was in a phase of having salad, or raw veggies + hummus, most days): “I feel so sorry for you not having a hot lunch every day! In my culture, that’s unthinkable! You should make a hot lunch, not that horrible cold stuff” (um, I am not from your culture, and also it’s summer).

        (when I would occasionally bring and reheat leftovers instead): “oh, I’m so happy for you that you have a hot lunch today! So much better than that horrible cold stuff! You should do that every day!”

        (when I switched to bringing and reheating roast veggies most days – nothing to do with her previous comments, I just fancied a change): “I’m so happy that you took my advice about your lunches! What made you change? Are you on a diet? Is it working?”

        shutupjustshutup.

        1. catsAreCool

          For the cold food, maybe you could say “I love this food!” energetically so the”I’m sorry for you” (what’s this person’s problem?) falls flat.

          For the others, I’m not so sure. Maybe a weak smile and then turn away to do your own thing?

          Bringing a book for lunch might help, if you don’t do that already.

        2. Stellanor

          I’ve told this story before, I think, but I had a coworker whose lunch every day consisted of organic grilled chicken and organic kale. She felt the need to comment negatively on everything I ate and tell me why it was bad for me. After months and months of this and while having a rather bad day, she started in on me and I snapped, “Shut up you eat nothing but kale!”

          This reduced but did not eliminate the comments about my food. It was also not very nice or very appropriate to do at work but I did feel better afterwards…

  11. Ali

    Sometimes I think the obsession on food in our culture has gone too far. I want to try to lose more weight, but sometimes, with being in the middle of a job search, traveling to interviews and handling my freelance work, I don’t always have time to think about making the best choices. I’m trying to get back on track, but I get upset when I see people like the Food Babe and that lady who runs 100 Days of Real Food making incredibly judgy comments about people who eat processed food and don’t put more time into “real food.” There are times I almost feel ashamed of my choices, and snooty folks like this who talk about how perfect their diets are don’t make me feel any better.

    Maybe when I have a job and a real income again, I’ll focus more on eating a more “acceptable” way, but until then, just have some respect .

    1. catsAreCool

      I figure the food experts are probably making a living doing this. If I had 8 hours a day to work on perfect food options, my choices would be better, too. Except I think I’d go crazy after a few weeks of that and have to go back to working with computers again :)

    2. TychaBrahe

      It’s amazing how easy it is to cook nutritious meals not-from-processed-food when your job is blogging and you do it sitting at home all day.

      I could probably spend more productive time in my kitchen if I didn’t have an hour commute each way every day. I could certainly do it if I didn’t spend eight-plus hours a day in the office. I’m sure the time you devote to your projects and your job search is similarly cutting into your chopping-fresh-vegetables time.

    3. Hlyssande

      That, and what about people who work multiple jobs to make ends meet? Where do they find the time to do this?

      It can be a huge luxury to have the time to cook healthy meals from scratch. Sometimes it’s all people can do to have SOME kind of food on the table. If it’s chicken nuggets or nothing, I’ll choose the nuggets any day.

      1. The Strand

        Honestly, I would like to blame Martha Stewart for all of this. Isn’t it hard enough for people to just get through a day of work? Now it has to be perfectly nutritious and perfectly “staged”?

  12. Swedish Tekanna

    This has always puzzled me at work. I am pretty much keep my head down, get on with my work and let the world get on with itself but, sadly, the rest of the work world isn’t always like that.

    I get “What, eating again?” (even if it is an apple), “That’s a lot of milk in your office/not much milk in that coffee!”, “Why do you take that route to work?” (because it is the easiest and quickest, but no matter), and so on.

    I wish I knew the answer, OP. For some reason, some people attract more of these comments than others.

    1. Judy

      Wait, traffic and commutes are not a safe topic for work discussion? That’s something I’ve always done. Especially with coworkers who live near me at the start of a job, or coworkers who live near the area I’m heading when I’m going somewhere unusual right after work. We are engineers, so usually the answer involves “it takes 23 minutes to go that way if you leave before 5:07, but then until 5:45 its faster to go this way”. Sometimes there are charts.

      1. SherryD

        Well, the commute question is fine, IMO, as long as it’s not overly n0sy. I’m one of the few public transportation users in my office, and I get a lot of, “How long is the bus ride?”, “Do you have to transfer?”, “Is it a long walk to the stop?”, “What time do you get home?”, etc. I get being curious, but at a certain point I wanna say, “Hey guys, this isn’t that interesting.”

        1. SherryD

          I want to add, if I were talking to a fellow bus rider, I’d totally be into sharing details and tips! But I don’t love feeling like I’m someone’s object of curiosity.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      What??? No. I hate it when people comment on snacks like, “Eating AGAIN?” I have a co-worker who works out constantly and is on a very regimented eating plan– she eats small things throughout the day. And she used to apologize for it– for all the food!– until I said to her, “As far as I’m concerned, the only comment about food that’s allowed is, ‘Holy crap, that looks/smells amazing!’ or, perhaps, ‘Where did you get that sandwich?'” One’s eating habits are no one else’s damn business.

  13. MSR

    I have several older colleagues who comment on my food constantly– it’s often in the vein of “I remember when I could eat like that, it doesn’t last!” or other comments that are ostensibly about my diet but also commentary on my weight/age. It’s especially uncomfortable because there’s no socially-appropriate way to acknowledge it (“Yes, it’s nice that I can enjoy french fries and the culturally-valued trait of thinness!”). I wouldn’t care so much if people talked about my lunch choices if that was really all they were talking about, but instead it’s just veiled body-commentary.

    1. OP

      Yes! I get this, too. I’m known in the office for liking desserts. A while ago we were having treats for a co-worker’s birthday. After I went back for seconds, someone said, “You’re going to be as big as a house when your my age!” Ugh.

      1. Hlyssande

        Wow, rude.

        (and some studies have shown that people who are larger as they age actually survive various wasting-type diseases better besides – more bodily stores to call on)

      2. caryatid

        omg.

        you eat your second dessert and do not listen to anyone!! i happily take a second slice of dessert and say “life is short” while everyone watches.

        i really really enjoy watching the food police visibly seethe with envy as i do not care about their policing and eat what i want.

    2. Green

      But really they’re just saying their inner self talk (about themselves) out loud. It’s not about your diet, your weight and your age; it’s actually about their diet, their weight and their age. That may help you view their (objectively irritating) comments with a different perspective and kindness.

      1. Three Thousand

        Exactly. Just substitute, “It’s so unfair that other people get to do things I can’t and enjoy experiences that I won’t let myself have. I’m a really unhappy person. I wish I had gotten more out of my life.”

      2. Anonsie

        As much as I know this is true, it doesn’t make it any less aggravating to know that when I’m trying to work there are people around me who are more concerned with projecting their issues onto me than working with me like a normal person.

  14. Three Thousand

    The chips comment might have been out of concern that the OP wasn’t eating enough, but the one about Dunkin Donuts sounds like a judgment about the healthiness of their food. A sack of doughnuts could be a pretty filling meal.

    I think a lot of people just need to make comments and judgments and compare themselves to other people to feel like they exist in the world. We’re not “allowed” to comment on people’s race or sexual behavior or disabilities or whatever without being criticized, so food is one of the few things left that people feel they can openly make judgments about.

      1. Jessa

        They shouldn’t be commenting like that and also, since they can’t see it how do they know what they’re complaining about?

    1. Not So NewReader

      “so food is one of the few things left that people feel they can openly make judgments about.”

      I think this is a good angle to look at. People do make judgements about clothing, kids, finances and all sorts of things. We see it in the comments here and we see it with the questions people ask here.

      Do the people who make statements about food also make statements on other aspects of a person’s life? Is this part of an over all pattern for some people?

    2. Artemesia

      Find the John Belushi clip from SNL where he is the decathlete promoting little chocolate donuts, breakfast of champions. As I recall, he is smoking in the ‘ad’ as well. I bet it is on youtube and you can send the donut whiner the link.

  15. SystemsLady

    I think the “just world” fallacy that’s ingrained in our brains is the root cause of a lot these things.

    The world is just, so you only get sick if you did something to deserve it (this is not something a lot of people will actually conclude – it’s just something we arguably all internally wish were true) -> you must eat a certain way or avoid certain foods not to get sick (see above) -> what I bought into must be the healthy way (self-justification kicks in here) -> I must save all my friends!

    This is why, when in some cases diet does aid in the progression or treatment of certain diseases, the role of diet in that disease gets warped or hyper-inflated, and people who develop it get a lot of toxic flak and unwanted advice. It’s along the same line, the way I see it. (Type 2…or, really, any kind of diabetes, anyone?)

    Of course, there are other reasons, and why food is an area where it’s particularly hard to quash misinformation and rude comments is a mystery to me. The one that really a head-scratcher for me is why alternatives to things like sugar and salt (in particular, compared to preservatives and other types of flavorings) have been villainized to such a degree that they’re basically ingrained in society as poisons.

    1. Three Thousand

      It might be a “too good to be true” thing. Diet Coke can’t taste that good and have no calories. It must be poison.

      1. SystemsLady

        I’ve also heard it’s a “there must be consequences for your actions” kind of thing. For example, people seem totally fine with the sugar free gummy bears that also give you terrible digestive problems if you eat more than a couple. I’m still not sure why it’s so widespread, though.

        Usually people are more likely to say that Diet Coke tastes like poison than to say it actually is poison, in my experience…and that’s totally valid. It’s an acquired taste. I have a similar opinion on refined stevia, though I have to admit that the raw syrup isn’t that bad.

        1. manybellsdown

          Yeah, I don’t like the taste of diet sodas, but if someone else likes them why would I care? Like when someone says to me “Oh I hate [food that I’m eating]” I’m just like “Great, more for me then!”

        1. Cath in Canada

          I hate the taste of all diet sodas and the artificial flavourings they contain. The aftertaste stays with me for hours, even after brushing my teeth and eating other foods. So no diet products for me, sadly. I do occasionally drink the full-sugar stuff when I get a craving, but I can’t drink pop every day, as much as I’d like to!

    2. Cath in Canada

      Yes. There is soooo much victim blaming around complex diseases, especially things like cancer.

      I think part of it comes from fear – if someone you know is diagnosed, being able to say “well they eat hotdogs and I don’t”, or “well I always did think they weren’t eating enough veggies – not like me!” probably helps.

      The truth is that the link between diet and cancer is incredibly complex and possibly not all that strong, and that you can do everything “right” and still fall victim to a random DNA copying error that has no cause other than that the copying mechanism isn’t perfect. But still, so many diagnoses are accompanied by chatter and speculation about the person’s lifestyle. It sucks.

  16. Hannah

    I agree with the LW that commenting on other people’s food is rude. I didn’t used to be bothered by it, but it has turned into something that I am hyper aware of because of one of my coworkers. This person is a vegetarian and also is just particular about food in general. A few coworkers and I were chatting with her about which foods she did and did not like one day, when I realized she was getting really uncomfortable with the conversation and the fact that the focus was on her and her eating habits. I felt terrible, and since then I have made it a policy never to ask people about their food unless they start the conversation.

    I now cringe when I hear anyone comment on what someone else is eating (even if it’s neutral or positive, rather than flat out negatively commenting on the food). People can have complicated relationships with food because of all kinds of reasons, certainly because of their health or their budgets, both things it would be very rude to comment on directly.

    1. Hazel

      I can empathise with your coworker. As a vegetarian, I hate mentioning the topic because people always Have Opinions and ask a hundred questions and I – I just want to eat my lunch, y’know? Good for you for realising. :)

  17. C Average

    I admit I’ve occasionally ripped a page from the Calvin & Hobbes playbook and said, “Well, you know, I’m just doing whatever it takes to keep my tapeworm happy.” It tends to shut down all commentary.

    1. Katie the Fed

      Ha! Someone asked about my leg scar the other day and I told them I’d gotten caught in a bear trap. I’ve also gone with a somber “shark attack” with a sad face.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I have a huge keloid scar on my neck where I had two moles removed (and then the scar removed, which grew back) and people ask all the time if I had a trach. It’s flattened out over the years, but it’s still noticeable. I usually just look at them solemnly and say “Vampires.”

          1. Stellanor

            A friend of mine has an impressive surgical scar at the base of her neck and tells nosy strangers it’s from a failed beheading.

        2. OriginalEmma

          The surgical scars on my neck are “knife fight” or “vampires” if I’m feeling saucy.

      1. Stephanie

        I live in an area where people seem to get married young (there’s a high LDS percentage and it’s pretty deep suburbia), so I get asked all the time if I’m married. This was a change from DC, where it was totally normal to be 33 with two roommates.

        I’ve been tempted to answer “Are you married?” question with something like
        (a) Sobbing.
        (b) Something cryptic like “I was…until he linguine incident.”
        (c) “Huh?”

        But I’m aware that would be trolling and just opt for a polite “no, I’m not.”

        1. Stellanor

          I had a scar, mercifully now faded, that looked like it was from a suicide attempt on one arm. The true story, which I’m pretty sure most people never believed, is that I lost a fight with an angry cat.

          1. CrazyCatLady

            I’d believe you. I have a matching set on my right arm.
            The owner was delighted to find her cat; the cat was not thrilled about going into the box, even if it meant going home. My arm was between the cat and the box. I still won, but I literally have the scars of victory.

  18. Brett

    It is not even necessarily a morality thing. Some people just really focus on food.
    I like tofu quite a bit. I like to prepare it many different ways and eat it for meals; and I used to bring tofu for lunch.
    But then our program administrator found out I eat tofu and simply became obsessed with it. She didn’t think there was anything particularly good or bad about it, but every time I would bring tofu, she would ask me questions about it:
    “Is that tofu?”
    “Do you really like tofu Brett?”
    “What does that tofu taste like?”
    “What is tofu anyway?”
    “You really do like tofu, don’t you?”
    “So, how do you cook that anyway?”
    etc.

    Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Except she would continue on for easily 10 minutes of my lunch, and then go report all of my answers to all of my co-workers (“Did you know Brett eats tofu for lunch?”). But the real kicker is that, like a scene out of 50 first dates, the very next day she would repeat the entire thing! Same 10 minutes of questioning, same telling all of my co-workers about it. The less the co-workers wanted to listen, the more she wanted to ask me questions.

    I stopped eating tofu for lunch.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I have a friend that is a foodie. He does ask a lot of questions about types of foods and food prep. But you can see he is going to try the idea sometime soon. He will ask about where to get the ingredients and ask about prep. But he has no need to report the conversation to others. Done once, maybe a free pass but someone who does this over and over, ugh.
      You should be able to eat your tofu if you want. Maybe tell her to go google “tofu” and learn that way?

        1. Brett

          If I actually lied to her, even over something so small, and she found out, she wouldn’t talk to me for weeks.
          Hmm, maybe that _is_ a good idea.

    2. Christian Troy

      I usually brought kale salads for lunch because they were easy to assemble and not stinky and so many people asked me over and over about it, like “Are you just eating it like that?” “What do you do to it?” “Is that what kale looks like?”.

    3. Amy

      You should bring in some tofu treat to share and insist they all try it! They seem so curious about it.

  19. AB

    I go through a similar version of this a lot. I don’t eat certain types of foods for religious/cultural reasons and it always seems like there’s one person who needs to make an issue out of it. Usually it’s a series of disbelief that I’ve never had X, Y, or Z and someone takes it as a challenge to get me to cave. Sometimes it usually leads to some pretty ignorant questions about my ethnic origins/citizenship/other cultural practices. There’s nothing like being talked about in the third person when you’re right there!

    As someone who studies how and why people behave, I think its some deep ingrained in group/out group evolutionary stuff. It’s still pretty annoying though when I just want to eat a sandwich and I feel like I’m on display.

    1. catsAreCool

      I don’t get this. Why is this anyone else’s business? Eat what you feel like eating.

      It’s not like smoking, where people nearby get to breathe it, too.

  20. K

    I think your coworkers are making disparaging comments on your lunch to make themselves feel better about their own food choices. A thought along the lines of “My lunch isn’t that bad – at least I’m not eating a hot dog!” (As if a hot dog is bad.)

    I know it’s rude and frustrating, but just remember that it says more about them than you.

  21. Elizabeth the Ginger

    I agree with lots of the commenters above, and also think that part of what’s at play with people commenting on others’ food is that people in our society are socialized to be anxious about our own food choices. At my workplace I don’t hear as much commentary on what other people are eating, thankfully, but I do hear people making lots of comments about themselves and food. Someone leaves coffee cake in the break room? “Oh, I shouldn’t, not at this hour!” “There must be a million calories in this but it’s so good!” “Oh, I wish I could have some but it doesn’t fit in my diet.” “Well, I’m going to the gym today.”

    There are some people who will just eat or not eat the snack, but others also seem to need to justify it to themselves, or tie it into body/weight stuff. When people have that strong an association between food and those topics when it comes to themselves, it’s not surprising that it also comes up when they see other people eating.

    1. Rebecca

      Ugh, that kind of thing drives me up the wall! For some reason, in my old seating arrangement I ended up next to where any extra food/treats was dropped off. So there was a constant stream of people stopping and saying, “Oh, I really shouldn’t eat that. But it looks so good! Well, maybe just a teensy piece…” I really wanted to make one of these signs:

      http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/2011/10/14/optional-candy/

  22. Mostly Lurks

    I’ve seen it happen more in reverse, actually; people expressing concern over meatless meals, for instance.

    Either way, if you don’t have anything nice to say…

    1. Zillah

      Yeah, I’ve gotten so many “rabbit food” and “but what do you eat?!” comments when I mention being a vegetarian.

      1. catsAreCool

        I get the “What do you eat” too since I don’t eat meat. There actually are a lot of foods that aren’t meat. It gets irritating sometimes, especially since I don’t have the best eating habits, so I don’t usually want to talk too much about that :)

      2. Charlotte Lucas

        And the problem is that I try to strike a balance. I don’t bring up my diet unless it does come up (for example, why I don’t want to go out to eat at a restaurant where I know all I can get is an overpriced salad, if that), so there are people who know me for years and don’t necessarily know that I’m a vegetarian. On the other hand, if someone asks thoughtful questions about vegetarianism, I do want to share the information I have, since I’ve been doing this 20+ years, and maybe they have a new vegetarian in the family and have questions/concerns. But there can be a big difference between that and people who are “just asking questions” in a hostile manner.

        Strangely, since I have a live-in boyfriend, people often ask me about our diet at home, because they’re afraid I’m “depriving” him of meat. He’d honestly be more upset if I had some sort of no apples and oranges policy. I think a lack of Mexican food would have been a deal-breaker for him when we first started dating.

        1. Zillah

          Strangely, since I have a live-in boyfriend, people often ask me about our diet at home, because they’re afraid I’m “depriving” him of meat.

          Ughhh, same here, especially since I usually do cook dinner. “But what about meat?!” “If he wants it, he can make it.”

          It’s like I’m a horrible, no-meat-cooking monster.

  23. What a Zoo(logist)

    Disparaging comments about food are terribly obnoxious. I am an average sized person, but I have had several coworkers who liked to comment on my eating habits. I have learned to just respond with a smile and “My food is not up for discussion, thanks” then I switch to another topic of conversation. As long as everything is polite people tend to get the message and move along. Good luck with it OP!

  24. Jean

    I suspect that some of the food criticism is inappropriately expressed concern for a colleague’s well-being. I’m guilty of doing this re clothing choices of my younger neighbors in our apartment building.
    Scene: The elevator.
    Cast: Myself, dressed for winter (coat, hat, scarf, gloves) and a neighbor, dressed for the gym across the street (t-shirt, shorts, athletic socks & shoes).
    Me (doing my best to sound caring, not critical): “Um, are you okay going outside like that?”
    Neighbor: “Yeah, I’m just running to the gym.”
    Me: “Oh, okay. I’ll stop sounding like your mother!”
    I try to keep it light, friendly, and brief. Usually the other person smiles, so either I’m (just barely?) not giving offense or else the other person is good at concealing his/her annoyance.

    Anyway, some of the “food police” may have similarly more-benign-than-malicious. Sometimes it just saves everyone’s nerves if we can assume that people’s awkward comments come from a good intentions.

    Similar lesson with yet another potentially sensitive topic: Years ago I remember telling my dad, in annoyance, that one of my older coworkers asked me how things had gone after I came back to work from a doctor’s appointment . My dad gently disagreed by saying that no, my colleague was actually expressing concern. Because I was unable to recall any sense of nosiness from my coworker, I realized that my dad was right.

    1. Jean

      Arg! Wish that I had put my second paragraph third and vice versa. It’s hard to think on a holiday Monday. FWIW I don’t get paid holidays…and I’m going to go in to the office for a bit anyway (long story, mostly good; perhaps I’ll share it on the next Friday thread) but I still consider today a holiday.

      Usual disclaimer: U.S. holiday (Memorial Day). Also happens to be a Jewish holiday (Shavuos–anniversary of receiving the Torah), if anyone is keeping track. It might be other holidays also of which I’m unaware.

      Usual compliment: Sitting and reading and commenting on AAM is a good thing to do on a holiday morning! Kudos to this community for being so welcoming and thoughtful, and industrial-sized kudos to Alison for creating this particular playground.

      1. Jean

        Based on the collective reaction from AAM readers I will stop asking my neighbors whether they are really dressed properly for the weather.

    2. Katie the Fed

      I honestly don’t understand why you feel the need to comment at all though. Unless your neighbors are toddlers, it’s reasonable to assume that as adult humans they understand dressing properly for the weather.

      I wonder if you realize how completely frustrating it can be when so many people feel the need to “harmlessly” comment on things. When I was recovering from a really bad injury, it was the unsolicited comments, advice and questions that really drove me crazy.

      1. Three Thousand

        Yeah, if you’re wondering about it at all, I would cut out those comments entirely. If they’re cold, they’ll cover up. If they need to borrow money for a coat, they can ask you.

      2. Chinook

        “I honestly don’t understand why you feel the need to comment at all though. Unless your neighbors are toddlers, it’s reasonable to assume that as adult humans they understand dressing properly for the weather.”

        I will admit to doing commenting like this to strangers, but only when it gets below a certain temperature where body parts can freeze off. Then again, I also live in area with a lot of immigrants who didn’t grow up knowing that body parts can be permanently damaged by cold weather or that you can die from it (and nobody bothered to tell them that when they moved here). On the plus side, I usually only do it once and then drop it but now I have such a reputation that our Philipino priest will laugh and say he forgot when I see him outside without a jacket in -20 (without me saying a word).

        1. Jessa

          Since this is the case, may I suggest you talk to that Priest and have him do a sermon every now and then on “It gets cold here, we’re not used to that, it’s not JUST cold though, it can hurt you/kill you.” He’d know who the newcomers are. Seriously if this keeps happening someone should plan to let that group of immigrants know this.

    3. Amtelope

      Seriously? Clearly your neighbor is okay going outside like that. Or he/she wouldn’t be going outside like that. Adults do not need other adults to tell them how to dress for the weather. They get to decide these things for themselves, and it’s rude, rude, rude to comment. And the fact that your neighbors smile when you make these rude remarks just means they’re trying to be polite themselves. It doesn’t mean you aren’t annoying them.

      1. Three Thousand

        I don’t buy that people think they’re expressing genuine concern with these comments. If they did, they would stop making them when they realized the effect they were having. I think they enjoy the feeling of righteousness and superiority they get from making these comments (I’m such a caring, thoughtful, sensible person! If only these headstrong youngsters would take my advice!) a little too much.

    4. Amy

      So what if they mean well? They are transgressing boundaries and they should know better. If they don’t know better, it’s up to the Politeness Police to let them know.

  25. Blurgle

    I remember the job I was forced to leave because a new manager decided to make restaurant lunches mandatory.

    During my edit interview I had to point out that forcing people to eat in restaurants was not just discriminatory against people whose health issues made eating in restaurants completely impossible, it was also a religious issue in a city where kosher restaurants simply didn’t exist. He said “you could just eat bread”. Um, no: I couldn’t even walk in the door, and I certainly could not eat “just bread”.

    I really wish employers would take food out of the work environment.

    1. Jean

      Ouch. He was rude. Obviously not an AAM reader. Also oblivious re people preferring to bring their lunches for reasons other than religious dietary observances: allergies, intolerances, strong preferences or aversions, dislike of going out in bad weather, desire or necessity to spend one’s earnings in other ways…

      Fantasy revenge: Imagine that this bozo gets invited to a dinner at which the only choices are his first, second, and third least favorite foods. (Each of us can fill in the blanks with our own most-loathed trio. Fried octopus with chocolate sauce, anyone? Or vanilla ice cream with pickle relish?) Since we don’t know this guy, and we can’t really make this happen, it’s not such a terrible fantasy.

    2. Not So NewReader

      Wow. He has so much uninformed thinking going on there that it is hard to even figure out where to start filling him in.

    3. Apollo Warbucks

      Oh dear, that’s so inconsiderate and fairly obnoxious it’s not reasonable to expect you to sit there and eat bread when others enjoy a decent meal.

      Just out of interest what prohibits you from entering the restaurant are Kosher laws that strict? (I hope you don’t mind me asking just I don’t know much about Judaism)

      1. KSM

        There’s a prohibition on doing things that might look to be inappropriate even if you intend to do nothing inappropriate. So you might be going into a non-kosher restaurant (and trust me, if you keep kosher, you know which restaurants are kosher) for a legitimate reason (I’m parched! I’m desperate to pee!), but you should still refrain.

        The prohibition is known as ‘maaris ayin’ (or ‘maris ayin’, googleable either way). There are exceptions, if you live in North America and follow Rav’ Moshe Feinstein, for entering a non-kosher restaurant because of job requirements (or immediate physical need, e.g. to use the washroom)… but it would probably be pushing one’s luck to do it on a daily basis.

        There are other possible issues, but maaris ayin is the major one.

        1. Jessa

          Yep. It was the reason that my grandmother, despite her amazingly great china patterns*, actual sterling flatware, etc., always left the plastic tub of margarine on her table. Because you wanted everyone sitting at that table to know that “Of course not, Shirley would never put butter out with meat. Are you crazy?”

          *I mean seriously 30 bucks a plate place settings for 12, 4 sets – on the other hand my father worked for years for a china company, a very good one, and every Kosher household in our family had four sets of the most amazing stuff he practically got from his bosses off the loading dock nearly gratis. It was a perk of working there, when I was a kid and went to “help” in dad’s office, I got amazing porcelain statues and stuff from his boss.

    4. Steve G

      I’m on a diet that eliminates onions and garlic and restaurants can be very annoying because of this. Onions and garlic are in EVERYTHING. And I feel like the more fancy place I go to, the more they use garlic as the main seasoning. I want to give a newflash to all chefs that you can season foods with other things, using the same two items to flavor everything isn’t really showing much culinary skill

      1. Artemesia

        I can’t eat onions and it is enormously difficult to avoid them in restaurant food. And while I can tolerate some garlic in food, not when they sprinkle that canned chopped garlic all over the top of an otherwise tasty lamp shank or whatever. It really sucks to be a wet blanket too. I have a friend who is allergic to eggplant and it is easy for her to avoid — onions not so much.

        I can’t imagine a boss who ‘requires’ people to eat in restaurants; it isn’t just the food, it is also very expensive.

        1. SadieCatie

          I Agreed. Boss is way off base as far as cost goes, but I would assume they were blissfully allergy-free.
          Lucky enough to have a tomato allergy. Eating out is a struggle, the waiters don’t even believe you sometimes.

        2. LCL

          It’s so hard to avoid onions because they are so ubiquitous they aren’t thought of as ingredients. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been served something loaded with onions that weren’t listed on the menu card, I could open my own onion free restaurant.

          It got worse when pan Asian cooking became a thing here and places started serving Anglo type dishes garnished with raw! Green! Onions! In Asian restaurants I know to politely and quite specifically ask for the dish to be served without green onions on top; I was dumbfounded when I was served an order of Mac and cheese topped with that garbage.

        3. Charlotte Lucas

          FYI – If you can, try to find a restaurant that caters to a Jain clientele (easier in some markets than others). Onions and garlic are forbidden in traditional Jainism.

      2. Three Thousand

        But onions and garlic taste good. Really, really good. And they make food taste really good. So there are reasons to use them.

        1. Libretta

          Yes, but you are not much of a chef if you use the exact same base for every dish. Other foods also taste good.

          1. Steve G

            That is my thought too! Same when I look at food labels. Now they are putting onion and garlic into more and more brands of canned tomatoes. Soon I will be making tomato sauce completely from scratch if I stay on this diet, which I probably will be, since its helping my (mild) health issue.

      3. Libretta

        Same here. It is so ridiculous that garlic needs to be in EVERYTHING. The look on the server’s face when I ask what they recommend…

      4. Kyrielle

        YES. There are any number of things I can’t have (for now, I have hopes for the reintroduction phase!) but onion and garlic are the two that deeply limit me.

        I managed to get a decent salad today that met all my requirements, tho. Mostly because the cafe had you pick what went on your salad, so. :P

      5. Ellie H.

        I know!!! I have the same deal (although after a long time I can eat garlic sometimes though, which is way more important to me than onions) and onions and garlic are in almost every item of prepared or restaurant food. I make a lot of Japanese food with ginger and the green parts of scallions, and I put lemon on basically everything.

      6. Hlyssande

        I have a friend who is deathly allergic to onions and can tolerate some garlic. When I was cooking a dinner that would include him, I went out of my way to make things that had no onion – it was all a bit more bland than I wanted (tbh I’m not that great of a cook as far as experimentation goes), but better safe than sorry!

        I can’t imagine how hard of a time he has going to restaurants to find food – I couldn’t even find a stock that didn’t have onions!

      1. So Very Anonymous

        “Are you going to give us raises, then, too, so that we can afford to do this?? Oooh! Raises!”

  26. Tomato Frog

    Might I suggest you say nothing at all in response? Silence can be very satisfying.

    Also the non-sequitur, as if you didn’t hear them: “I hope that isn’t lunch.” “Hi Cindy! How are you? Have a great day.”

    1. Amy

      Saying nothing gives them permission to say it again. They deserve “F*ck you!” so dial back a couple notches and that’s the appropriate response.

  27. Christian Troy

    The only time I make a comment about someone’s food is if I want to buy it for myself. Other than that, I feel like it’s not really my business nor my interest.

  28. Dysfunction Sucks

    This reminds me of something that recently happened in my office. I never, ever bring in treats liked baked goods or donuts. Others do occasionally but it’s not a regular thing with our team, although there are many teams on my floor that regularly bring in cake, cookies, etc. about once a week.

    I felt like doing something nice for my team, so I brought in a dozen donuts from a local place. I placed the box near my desk and told my coworkers to help themselves if they wanted a donut. Some of the reactions I got were just plain rude (“Why in the world would you bring that? I’m trying to diet!” – said in a serious tone), and several dirty looks. But the funny thing is – I know some of these same people DO eat sweets/drink alcohol every day/smoke cigarettes/other unhealthy habits,etc. , so it’s a bit confusing to me that they had the reactions that they did.

    For the record, I haven’t brought in any kind of treats for almost two years. I work for a healthcare company and some of the employees here can be hyper-obsessed when it comes to food.

    Whatever happened to just saying, “No thanks”? Seriously, I’m done wasting my hard-earned money trying to do something nice for my coworkers.

    As someone who has struggled with eating disorders practically my entire life, I get it – I get that some people have very little self-control. I struggle with it at times. But I’m not the food police and it’s not my job to keep you from putting things in your mouth. And please – don’t make others feel terrible if they choose to a have a donut.

    I apologize for my rant, but this just reaffirmed my decision to look outside of the company for my next job.

    1. Elizabeth West

      That’s incredibly rude. Did anyone at all eat the doughnuts? Or did they just do this and then leave them? Gah! I want to smack them now!

      I solved the doughnut problem for myself by only eating one particular type–the cake one with cinnamon and sugar. They’re smaller, and I’m sentimental about them because my babysitter used to make those for us. If it’s not in the box, I won’t eat any of the others. Everyone knows this and they sometimes save me one. :)

      1. Dysfunction Sucks

        Two people ate donuts. I ended up putting them in our break room and the donuts were gobbled up in about 10 minutes. I like to think that even if my immediate team didn’t appreciate the gesture, I know some of my floor mates probably did.

    2. Valar M.

      We get the opposite pressure in my office. Everyone brings in treats on the regular. I can’t have them. So when offered, I just say “thank you but I can’t.” People start in with the “you should eat a donut, they’re soooo good!” “why haven’t you had a donut?” “aren’t you going to eat one?” “you REALLY should have one. they’re delicious!”

      1. Dysfunction Sucks

        People should accept your response for what it is and not a test to get you to join in treats parade. I eat gluten-free and dairy – free so there are many foods I can’t have.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Agreed–and can’t have is way different than don’t want to. Someone in my meetup is gluten-free because if she eats even the tiniest amount, she gets sick as a dog. We always try to have GF options for her when we have food times, or when we go to a restaurant, we go somewhere with food she can eat.

    3. Cari

      Of course, if you had actually brought those doughnuts all for you, those same co-workers would be angling for some then.

      “why yes, I do plan to demolish this entire double dozen. Sorry, I don’t share food”

    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      So much this. I once brought in treats (hamantaschen, to be specific– fruit-filled cookies for the Jewish holiday of Purim) and heard, “Are there carbs in that?” The tone and timbre this woman used are now legendary. “No thank you” would have been just fine with me.

      Ironically, the team that LOVED every single treat I brought in (I like to make things but I lived alone for years and never wanted to keep stuff in the house) was made up of three incredibly slim, fashionable women who always came back for seconds and thirds. Loved those girls.

    5. K.

      A guy I was dating liked to bake and he would always bake big batches of things – way more than I could eat alone. (Once I donated a batch of something he made to an office bake sale.) So a few times, I’d bring the stuff to work and leave it in the kitchen, and people could eat them or not (they were always, always gone by end of day, as was literally anything that was left in the kitchen). I had two colleagues who were engaged (not to each other) and they griped about having to fit into their wedding dresses, and I said, flatly, “Then don’t eat them.”
      “But they look so good!”
      “… I’m not going to make this decision for you.”

      That usually shut them up.

  29. mel

    Maybe you can try having this conversation with people when they start being obnoxious? Draw it out, real looonngg, be socratic. Make them really regret ever making that comment.

    I mean, if the point is to shame or humiliate you, responding with a quick “yep” and a look of discomfort is exactly what they’re trying to get out of you, so they’ll just keep doing it. They wouldn’t expect to be shamed or humiliated for asking, so surprise them! *evil grin*

  30. Steve G

    Commenting on a hotdog at a picnic is just dumb. Hello, that is what picnics are for! To splurge a bit on stuff like that.

    From me anyway, other sorts of comments come from a place of concern. I definitely worked with a few people who ate out of control portions and asked as nice as I could “hungry today?” I truly think that those few people I’m thinking of didn’t understand/never learned about correct portions/calories/etc. because we’d go out to lunch, and they’d eat like over 2000 calories in one sitting, a pound and a 1/2 + of food. That is not a normal everyday lunch, and after seeing it enough I felt the need the comment, in the short term, you could call me a jerk, but I truly wanted to help in the long term. But it’s not only overeaters that need nudges. I have an overweight relative who never eats that much. At thanksgiving, we throw out their 2/3 full plate. It is frustrating to watch. I’ve always wanted to say something but she is very sensitive. But if a coworker wanted to be a “jerk” and explain that eating so little over time hasn’t helped with her weight at all, and may be causing nutritional deficiencies, etc., I think we’d all be happier. She needs to get that message.

    But despite those, what I consider one-time extreme situations, food policing about particular items is dumb. The current item that keeps coming up is gluten/wheat. I keep hearing already fit/healthy guys at the gym talk about how they need to stop eating carbs. It’s annoying. You don’t need to jump on every food craze bandwagon. If you are already healthy and have no food sensitivity, why make a big deal about cutting out carbs, which are in like everything, let alone police other people with “that has a lot of carbs,” as if carbs are the big bad wolf.

    1. FuzzyFuzz

      I’m honestly pretty appalled at this comment. Concern or not, you don’t know what is going on with these people’s diets outside of the 20 minute or so meal you spend with them. They might have health, emotional, or other issues, and your quip is doing nothing to educate them. Their portions–large or small–are not your business, unless you are their health care professional.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      For what it’s worth, I would be super annoyed if a coworker (or anyone, frankly) said “hungry today?” as a way to “nudge” me into realizing they thought my portion size was too large. That’s really not your place to do! I’m curious about why it feels like you have standing to “nudge” people who aren’t close to you (and really, with people who are close to you, I’d hope you’d have one straightforward conversation if you felt you must and then drop it, since they’re presumably adults).

      1. Steve G

        IDK, it comes from a place to want to help people you are close to (and the coworkers in question were people I was always close to). As per my relative, I really wish there was a polite way to intervene. I know she is unhappy about her weight but from what we see, seems to think if she eats very little, her metabolism will magically pick up, but it never happens…..

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m sure it does come from a place of concern, but please realize that it’s not helpful. You’re not giving her information she doesn’t have; you’re just making her feel bad and possibly coming across as rude!

        2. Amtelope

          So … your overweight relative is eating less so that she can lose weight, but that isn’t happening fast enough for you, so you think that you should somehow “intervene”? WTF. Leave. People. Alone. About. Their. Eating. It is not something you get to control.

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict

      You are not obligated to “help” your coworkers learn about nutrition. If your company is employing them, they’re adults who are capable of making their own choices.

      And similarly, your cousin certainly doesn’t need anyone to “nudge” her on food either. I’d be sensitive too if I knew people were watching what I ate that carefully.

      1. Girasol

        +1 Obesity is in news and magazines and wellness programs. Advice on maintaining healthy weight is everywhere. With 70% of Americans (at least) overweight, it seems fairly clear that all this awareness and advice isn’t helping. I don’t understand why so many people seem to think their personal intervention will be a life-changing revelation. It’s just socially acceptable snark, IMHO.

        1. Steve G

          IDK….it comes from a place to want to help though….but I must admit I felt the same annoyance when I drank socially during a period when I didn’t drink much, after a period of drinking a lot years earlier, and still got the “you shouldn’t drink” talks from various corners. Thank you for the lectures, but I seriously don’t drink that much. It was frustrating………….

          1. Hlyssande

            Intent isn’t magic, though. It doesn’t make your comments magically okay.

            My mother used to do this same thing and I know it comes from a place of love, but it’s incredibly hurtful all the same. It took me sitting down with her and having a very serious talk and boundary-setting session for her to finally stop after years and years of essentially being slapped in the face with comments like that.

          2. stellanor

            It comes from a place of wanting to be helpful, also a very condescending place of assuming that without your input the person would not know better.

            I’m fat. Sometimes I make good food decisions. Sometimes I make bad food decisions. Sometimes I make what look like bad food decisions but are actually good food decisions (yes I am eating a 1500 calorie cupcake, yes I ate nothing but vegetables for the last three days to counteract the impact of that cupcake, yes it was worth it). But they’re MY decisions. I actually understand what I’m doing. All that happens when someone gets all judgey on me for eating sweets, or a giant burrito, or some chips, is that I feel crappy, shamed, and judged. And like I need to hide my food. And like the speaker is a jerk.

          3. Tinker

            And those people surely just wanted to help as well, so I don’t quite understand why you were frustrated. I mean, their intent was good, so why would you find their advice unpleasant or unnecessary?

          4. Zillah

            Having a genuine desire to help doesn’t automatically make what you’re saying helpful. I cannot tell you the number of times people have tried to help me with my eating difficulties, and the only time it’s ever been useful is when the person talking had the same/similar issues as me and was talking about what worked for them. Everyone else? Yes, in my years of dealing with this every single day, I have probably thought about all the suggestions you came up with in the few hours total time you’ve spent thinking about it. You (general you) are not so wildly ingenious that you’ve come up with novel solutions to all of my problems.

        2. Stellanor

          Every once in a while I want a shirt that says YES, I KNOW I AM FAT.

          Seriously, it’s not news to me.

          1. Hlyssande

            I have an awesome necklace that just says ‘fat’ in a pretty cursive.

            I need to fix the chain so I can start wearing it everywhere again.

    4. BananaPants

      No, your overweight relative or coworker doesn’t “need” to get your message. Believe me, she knows she’s overweight and I’d bet folding money that she’s well aware of calorie and macronutrient balance. She’s also probably well aware that you and the others are watching what she puts on her plate and what she eats (and apparently judging it). She’s a grownup and she’s allowed to make her own decisions about what she eats, when, and how much. Unless you’re a person’s physician, dietician, or personal trainer there is zero need for you to comment on what someone else is eating. It’s concern trolling in the guise of trying to “help” – it’s not about health, it’s about wanting people to look thin.

      Something that you might not have considered is that often overweight people, especially women, are conscious of not eating fattening foods in public because people judge them for it. Our society puts value and morality judgments on weight; if you’re fat it’s because you’re lazy or eat junk non-stop or whatever. The overweight and obese are expected to perpetually be on a diet to try to lose weight and have a socially-acceptable appearance. There may be rude looks or comments from dining companions or total strangers if s/he dares to order the burger and fries like everyone else rather than a salad with dressing on the side, or to accept and consume normal portions of Thanksgiving dinner.

      1. Stephanie

        The overweight and obese are expected to perpetually be on a diet to try to lose weight and have a socially-acceptable appearance.

        Yeah, same reason (when I was a bit heavier) that I never wanted to wear sweatpants in public.

      2. Katie the Fed

        “Something that you might not have considered is that often overweight people, especially women, are conscious of not eating fattening foods in public because people judge them for it.”

        Yes, unless you’re a 110-pound actress, then you can be all “oh, tee hee! I just LOVE bacon and cheeseburgers!”

        1. a

          Seems like the rule is that you’re supposed to love meat and beer, but you aren’t allowed to gain any weight.

          I think BananaPants was specifically talking about overweight people, though.

        2. Cari

          Being 110lbs doesn’t spare you people’s ridiculous and shitty comments about your food or weight though.
          “you’re so thin! I wish I could eat that. Oh, but your metabolism will slow down when you’re older, then you’ll put on weight”
          “[some concern troll rubbish about cholesterol]”
          “you’re a stick insect/ look anorexic – where are you putting that food??”
          “did you just throw up your meal in the bathroom?” (after legit just going for a pee or something).
          “[some guilt tripping about what you’re eating from someone that is not much bigger than you but has imposed upon themselves a lack of nice foods]”
          “[partner simultaneously laments your lack of curves & padding, and steals your measly share of food]”
          “real women have curves”

          Whatever your size and shape, eat whatever the hell you want. Life is too short to give a damn what anyone else thinks. And if anyone is *rude* enough to comment? You don’t owe them anything, least of all listening to them and being polite in return.

      3. Jaydee

        Exactly. I’m fat. Someone can probably find a negative or backhanded way to comment on anything I eat. Other than me, my doctor, my husband, and two or three of my closest friends, no one – NO ONE – knows enough about my health, my overall diet, and my eating habits to comment on what I eat or don’t eat. If you see me eating a piece of cake, you don’t know whether that’s the first treat I’ve had in two weeks or the third piece of cake I’ve had today. And it’s none of your business.

      4. stellanor

        I’m apparently NEVER supposed to eat unhealthy food because I’m fat.

        I have an epic sweet tooth. I cannot diet successfully while entirely cutting out sweets. I go along fine for a few months and then I lose my shit because I’m sick of never eating any of the foods I really like, and I go on a crazy sweets binge, and then I feel like crap.

        So instead what works for me is to build in the foods I actually like. I have counted calories and if I know I’m going to that one restaurant where the fried chicken is to die for, I eat like a rabbit for the previous two days and then god dammit I eat my delicious fried chicken. I am allowed ONE totally unhealthy breakfast pastry per week because looking forward to Pastry Day keeps me honest the rest of the week. But god forbid anyone see me do those things. Oh the judging.

    5. Tinker

      So, if you thought that these coworkers really did not know the information about calories, portion sizes, etc, how did you think that making vague general comments like “hungry today?” — something that sounds like a casual social statement, if you don’t have the necessary context to realize it is meant as passive-aggressive — was going to rectify their lack of knowledge? I don’t see any communication of relevant information in that statement, or even anything that points them in the direction of relevant information. And since it seems, apparently, that there is no way to learn anything in this world except by way of unsolicited advice from coworkers, this is very unfortunate for those poor people who have never heard of a calorie and now never will.

    6. Amtelope

      Wow. You really think it’s your job to police your coworkers’ serving sizes? Please stop making these comments. It’s not cute, it’s not helpful, and it makes it difficult for people to work with you when they’re left silently fuming about your criticism of how much they eat. It is not up to you what’s “a normal everyday lunch.” It is not up to you what “correct portions/calories” for other people are. These are not things you get to decide for other adults or try to control for them. I am deadly serious — please stop and never do this again.

    7. nona

      Second paragraph: I have a relative who binge-eats and I get the concern. But they know they have a problem and it’s better to leave it to their doctor or family.

    8. Three Thousand

      Comments like “hungry today?” are far more judgmental, passive-aggressive, and obnoxious than simply telling someone they’re eating more than you think they should. If you’re going to intrude into someone’s eating habits, just go ahead and tell them what you really think.

      1. Amtelope

        Or, you know, don’t, because this is work, and keeping some thoughts to ourselves is how we keep from hitting our coworkers over the head with staplers.

        1. A Bug!

          No, no, if you literally must insert yourself into your coworker’s eating habits, definitely just say what you want to say, because that way your coworker will have a much easier time writing off your opinion and/or backing up a complaint to your manager.

    9. Katie the Fed

      This really hit a chord with me so I need to comment, at the risk of piling on.

      I have a thyroid disorder and despite treatment, I am overweight, have a really hard time losing weight, and will probably spend my life counting every calorie I consume and burn. I eat very healthy and watch my portion sizes, but people will still make assumptions about me. Fine, whatever. But I also enjoy a splurge once in a while too – I like a McDonalds breakfast sandwich or a meal out – and people like you would assume I just don’t know any better and feel the need to lecture me. It’s none of your business what I’m putting in my body. Absolutely none. If I want someone’s advice I will ask for it. Otherwise keep your concern trolling to yourself. You’re not helping anyone.

    10. Elizabeth West

      I guaran-freaking-tee that your relative knows she has a problem, Steve G. If you keep commenting on it, all that will happen is that she will stop visiting with you. If she asks for advice, that’s different. Then you gently mention that it’s important to eat regularly and choose nutritious foods in moderate portions, and maybe suggest a visit with a dietician for a meal plan. BUT ONLY IF SHE ASKS YOU.

      You can’t force someone to eat healthily. You can only support their efforts. Lectures are a waste of time.

    11. Valar M.

      “I have an overweight relative who never eats that much. At thanksgiving, we throw out their 2/3 full plate. It is frustrating to watch.”

      Imagine how frustrating it is to be overweight and to have someone watching what you’re eating all the time and judging you for it. I have been, and know many people who are overweight and hate eating around other people for this reason. Now they’re being judged for undereating? They really can’t win.

    12. Katie the Fed

      ” I have an overweight relative who never eats that much. At thanksgiving, we throw out their 2/3 full plate. It is frustrating to watch. I’ve always wanted to say something but she is very sensitive. But if a coworker wanted to be a “jerk” and explain that eating so little over time hasn’t helped with her weight at all, and may be causing nutritional deficiencies, etc., I think we’d all be happier. She needs to get that message.”

      BTW – on this part? You’re assuming that she eats so little beacuse she’s trying to lose weight. She might not actually want to eat more. She might also have a metabolical disorder that’s causing her to be overweight despite eating so little. I’m sure she’s well aware that eating so little hasn’t helped with her weight, but not everyone is actually obsessed with losing weight.

      1. Fat if I do, fat if I don't, so yes, I will have some cake. Thank you.

        Or, maybe she’s filling her plate because if she doesn’t, Nosy Aunt Nellie will say, “But Myrtle dear, it’s a *holiday*; your diet can wait till tomorrow.” And she’s not eating it all because she knows if she does, Paleo Cousin Percy will be loudly whispering to Healthy Uncle Harry, “Did you read the article about the stuffing and green bean casserole fad diet? Yeah, me neither, but I guess Myrtle did.”

        Damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t, she fills her plate to placate Aunt Nellie but picks at it to avoid the snide comments from Cousin Percy. But then Steve helps clear the table, and it’s an inconvenience to him to have to scrape all that wasted food into the garbage, all the while looking at poor, sweet Myrtle who hasn’t hardly lost a pound. If she just weren’t so darn sensitive about her weight, he would help her see that she’s doing it all wrong.

      2. AnnieNonymous

        Your second paragraph raises an interesting point. One of the strongest tropes in overall American culture is ZOMG DELICIOUS THANKSGIVING FOOD. There’s a lot of pressure to gorge yourself on turkey, potatoes, and other savory foods even if you don’t really like them. It’s a rough time of year for vegetarians and people who simply have different preferences, especially if they have pushy relatives, and especially if those relatives aren’t even good cooks. Thanksgiving eating habits are indicative of NOTHING and shouldn’t have been one of the examples given here.

    13. Annonymouse

      If you did that at my work, I would go right to the owner and make a stink about it.

      That is beyond inappropriate and it’s the type of nonsense that will break down a team. I already have enough issues with petty little squabbles at work. The least thing I need is someone trying to make people feel like shit because they don’t have enough sense to keep their mouths shut about something that is none of their business.

    14. Cari

      “hungry today?”

      ” yes, I’m starving. We finally have enough money for food this month and I’m sick of eating cereal, noodles and bread & butter, and nothing at all. Why do you ask?”

    15. Amy

      I would have had it out with you in a public way, and if that didn’t stop you I’d sue you for creating a hostile environment

    16. Student

      Introspection time: Do you do this to men and women equally, or do you only give women crap about how much they are eating?

      The thing that makes me so angry about this when I’m on the receiving end is how everyone acts like they’re helping me, because I’m a woman so it’s obviously Very Important that I stay thin for society’s viewing enjoyment. Why do you think your co-workers need to be thin? I can understand managing your own health – that’s your responsibility to yourself. Do you encourage them to go exercise regularly? To get regular check-ups? Those are things with a much more profound impact on health than weight. No, you encourage them to eat less, because you don’t care about their health, you care about their thinness, their attractiveness.

    17. Cath in Canada

      Are you throwing out 2/3 of your relative’s Thanksgiving food because someone else is serving it, and giving her three times as much as she actually wants to eat?

      Maybe let everyone serve themselves in future, so they can eat what and how much they want to eat without judgement?

  31. Stephanie

    As a Not Thin Person, I’ve gotten comments like this as concern trolling, ostensibly about my “health.” Of course, if it were about my health, people would be telling me to get regular checkups and have an exercise routine. But it’s not. It’s about looking thin.

    1. Amy

      The Food Nazi who bothered me was also concerned about my “health” due to my weight. Of course she didn’t know my glucose & blood pressure were normal and my cholesterol was low. She didn’t consider that at the time I was exercising regularly in martial arts and could have beat her to a pulp in a fist fight. This workplace was in a city that prohibited weight-related discrimination, and if she hadn’t responded to my LOUD response to one. last. time. you. effing. bitch. I would have sued her

  32. Not So NewReader

    I can’t find the comment above but I thought I read that one poster started thinking inward about the situation. I did, too, at one point. I really hated to cook. To me cooking was just another chore in a long list of chores. I had a coworker that would ask at least four days of the week, “What’s for dinner tonight?” Oh, just get out of my head, please. It’s a chore to figure out what I am having, never mind figure out what you are having.
    Drove me nuts. She hit a hot button. WHY? I started thinking about that. I realized that I needed to do something different, myself. I started revamping how I was handling meals. I streamlined some things and reorganized my kitchen. I got my husband more involved in meal decisions and that really helped. I found that I was worried about waste so I made more of an effort to use up leftovers. It was not just a “what is for dinner tonight?” question, but a question that touched many tangent areas.
    Sometimes a comment or question is not the main issue but it is adjacent to things that are an issue. In my case, I had to look at many things, not just one to figure out why this person was annoying me so with the “what is for dinner?” question.

    OP, sometimes we can change what we are doing a little bit so that the comments are more likely to roll off our backs. And the changes may have very little to do with food and more to do with various aspects of our lives. I am saying this because there is a likelihood that people will not stop commenting on your food. If you can find a way to reframe it in your mind, that might be helpful to you.

  33. Merry and Bright

    Know these comments of old. Yet, as if by magic, you can put a tin of chocolates on an office table and by the end of the day the tin will be empty… and the health food advisers will take part.

    1. Elizabeth West

      This is true. You put food out and it’s gone. I bought a crapload of British cheddar from Aldi (special buy) before my last trip, and then I realized I would never eat it all before I left. So I cut up a bunch of it along with a white wine salami and some fancy crackers and olives and put it on the break room table.

      They absolutely inhaled it. All that was left were three olives and some crumbs!

  34. Melpo

    I worked in a school in which the students made a rule for themselves:
    “Don’t Yuck My Yum”

    It became a motto among the faculty as well and resulted in much more pleasant mealtime conversation. (And, in case you hadn’t realized it, at boarding school, you eat with your colleagues EVERY MEAL).

    1. Jennifer

      That needs to get mandated in workplaces, clearly.

      Any time someone comments on me eating, I just start going on about how much of a pig I am and yes, I will have that second piece of cake and go first in line instead of hedging about it. Screw ’em.

  35. AdjunctGal

    As a foodie, I honestly like it when people ask about my food. I do try not to ask others unless it just naturally comes up as part of discussion, like Oh, that smells fantastic! Or whatever.

    I was in a position where I lost a chunk of weight, so naturally people were curious. It did get old after awhile, but I tried to not let it bother me.

  36. OP

    Thank you, everyone, for sharing your thoughts and opinions on this. It’s very interesting to speculate about why people feel so comfortable doing this and I’m happy to learn I’m not the only one who doesn’t think it’s right.

    1. Amy

      It’s absolutely wrong! It’s even worse than making snide remarks about someone’s wardrobe choice of the day. Unless something is stinking up a common area, it’s nobody’s business what you’re eating.

  37. Lemon

    I also wonder if it doesn’t have to do with jealousy or projection of some sort. Maybe the person making the comments would love to be eating what you’re eating, but they believe they shouldn’t for some reason (diet, weight, guilt, whatever), so instead they try to shame you or make you feel bad in a misguided attempt to make themselves feel better. (And it’s probably subconscious, not a conscious decision to try to make you feel bad.) This definitely happens in many other contexts (like bullying) so I think it’s likely to be behind at least some of the food commentary.

    1. Cari

      It’s definitely either that, or they’re incredibly self-absorbed and think anyone else gives a crap about their unsolicited opinions on food they’re not eating.

    2. Amy

      In my experience, they have a superiority complex and think they’re doing you a favor by shaming your food choice. Food Nazis tend to be smug and feel like they know better than others. The one who used to plague me wanted to live to be 100. I told her I don’t want to live past 85 at the most. (Though living to be 100 and going to her funeral would have a certain Schadenfreude for me)

  38. So Very Anonymous

    In this vein, I’ve also encountered a fair amount of what I think of as “restaurant-shaming,” where people talk not just about food but which restaurants they’ve been to or want to go to. I have a colleague here who I’ve never been able to have a conversation about anything else with; there’s a city we both lived in at different times, and her opener with me was something like, “Oh, don’t you miss Restaurant X?” I really can’t afford to eat out much, and I also just don’t enjoy the experience unless I’m with friends (eating alone at a restaurant = no fun PLUS it costs money), but this person and others I’ve encountered who do this seem to expect that I’m out trying every local restaurant on my own because That’s What Adults Do. They always seem to have mental lists, which is fine for them, but is really of ZERO interest to me and makes conversations boring for me when people start comparing notes/lists. When I move to a new place, I’m looking for coffee shops and bookstores, so, hey, tell me about those, but I’ve come to really dread the Restaurant Conversation.

    Even more uncomfortable when I’m expected to be able to make restaurant recommendations. Last year a foodie friend came to my city for a conference and wanted to meet for dinner. I was happy to see him but anxious because I knew he’d likely want recommendations, and I also make a lot less than he does. When I finally confessed to this, he said, “Oh, I already have recommendations, and anyway, I don’t really care, the point is to hang out with YOU.”

    I had a boss who would literally get angry with me if I didn’t act on allllllllll of their restaurant recommendations–took it personally when I didn’t jump right on that and report back on how, yes, indeed, Restaurant XYZ WAS awesome. To me there’s a weird class angle to this (not everyone can afford to try out restaurants just to try them out) but not being able to participate in these conversations always makes me feel like I’m sitting (or should) be at the kids’ table.

    1. catsAreCool

      Odd that people care so much about what other people eat. When I move to a new area, I pay attention to places that serve reasonably priced food that I want to eat. I usually know where the sandwich shops are, for example. I usually avoid the super expensive places.

  39. Heather

    I think it’s worse now with the whole #eatclean #noadditives #nochemicals movement that’s going on. Really people need to shut up about what others eat. It’s getting ridiculous.

    1. nep

      Say more. Do you encounter people getting on their high horse about others’ food choices? That is just so out of line. Food evangelists suck. It’s one thing to answer questions if someone asks about healthier food choices, but unsolicited commentary about what other adults are eating? Give me a break.

      1. Carrie

        I find this odd and irritating, too- someone brought donuts into the break room the other day and I took one. A co-worker of mine said “are you sure you want to have a heart attack”? I mean, wow….

        1. Myrin

          Hopefully your coworker doesn’t go through life thinking eating one doughnut will give them an instand heart attack!

        2. Brightwanderer

          There’s a great British English response to this sort of comment: a blank look and “You what, mate?”

        3. A Bug!

          Yeah, it’s just, like, come on, think about it just a little bit before you butt into my eating habits. Yes, yes, of course! I had no idea I was fat and out of shape and also that doughnuts are full of refined sugars and flours and fats. Finally, someone who is kind enough and observant enough and smart enough to tell me to eat less and eat better, rescuing me from certain doom! Somehow I missed all that mass media that’s literally designed to tell me I’m fat and unhealthy and unattractive, so I’m so grateful you’ve stepped in to make sure I got the message.

          Horse puckeys.

          1. nep

            I get your point, of course.
            But I don’t think promotion of health is automatically ‘fat-shaming’ or discriminatory or branding people unattractive. Advocating healthy eating and exercise in and of itself does not automatically do those other things. It is important that people (particularly at a young age — that’s where it all starts) be educated about healthy eating — especially when so many chronic and costly illnesses are linked to consumption and lifestyle.

            1. nep

              (And by ‘advocating’ and ‘promoting’, of course I don’t mean in the form of making inane comments like the ones discussed in this thread. I mean public service messages and education in schools and the like that convey information about the importance of getting the proper nutrients, etc.)

              1. catsAreCool

                What bothers me about some of this food stuff is that what is and isn’t good for people seems to change every so often.

                But as long as they’re really, really sure this time what’s good for people (I agree that too much sugar isn’t good)…, then public service announcements, sure. Not co-workers.

            2. A Bug!

              There are many ways to promote health. Offering unsolicited advice to an acquaintance is an inappropriate way to do this because it requires making all the assumptions I sarcastically touched on in my earlier comment.

              “Many people who make unhealthy food choices do it because they don’t know how to make better ones; I observe my coworker making unhealthy food choices, therefore maybe she doesn’t know how to make better ones” is okay logic. But when you extrapolate to “…so I will tell her in case she doesn’t know,” that’s where you cross a line, because it’s none of your business.

              I know, it’s hard to watch a person make choices that appear to you to be unwise or harmful. The urge to help them any way you can is really tempting! The possibility that maybe they really don’t know just pulls at your heart because “what if?” But when it comes to commenting on someone else’s food choices? Clamp it down, because there’s just too great a risk of your well-intentioned comment being really hurtful.

              1. nep

                For the record, indeed I made that distinction — education in public settings can be appropriate and very useful — Not co-worker commentary.

        4. K.

          A very cheery “Yep!” with a big smile would work well in response to that comment, I think.

    2. Marcela

      Oh, GOD. I become crazy with the “chemicals” thing. Once I wrote to a supermarket, where there was a sign stating they made bread without chemicals, to ask them how the hell was that possible, considering that everything is made of chemicals, or did they skip the class in school where they were told about the periodic table of elements? A month later, the sign read “no preservatives”. Can’t people use substance or at least add toxic to “chemical”? GRRRR.

      1. Charlotte Lucas

        So… there was no salt in their bread? How’d they control the rising action of the yeast?

  40. Chickaletta

    I’ve noticed that companies all have their own “food culture”. Some are more strict than others… at my previous employer, which was in the natural supplements biz, most employees were overly health conscious: no sugar, no gluten, no processed foods and so on. Even if you weren’t so strict yourself, it was helpful not to flaunt it. Our receptionist was the most lax of all, woe to her. There were a couple particularly aggressive coworkers who would make snide comments about her cokes and fast food choices. It made for a really unpleasant place to work. But they were doing it just out of sheer bitchiness, they didn’t really care about her health, they just cared about how much better they thought they were than her. They also loved a good argument, so standing up for yourself was a sure fire way to start a battle. So, when I wanted a coke or hamburger for lunch I made sure to eat off-site and finish before I came in. Save everyone the grief so we could focus on work.

    But all places have “norms” about food–level of healthy, brown-bag or eat out, sit in the break room or desks or off-site, if snacks are common or frowned upon… It’s just like any other work-place norm, like topics of conversation, dress, work habits, and attitudes.

    I guess the OP needs to decide the spirit in which the comments are being made. Are her coworkers trying to convey a workplace norm, or are they just being jerks? React accordingly.

    1. Dysfunction Sucks

      I work in a similar environment to your former company. It just seems really sad to me that we feel like we have to “edit” our food choices at work. No judgement here – I do the same thing and can’t wait to work somewhere else where this isn’t the culture.

  41. nep

    None of their business. Period.
    I eat very clean. I regularly see co-workers eating heavily processed foods — just really unhealthy items. It would never, ever even occur to me to comment on what they’re eating. It’s none of my business whatsoever.
    It’s really lame and rude on the part of your co-workers — particularly things like the hot dog comment. You’re an adult; you are choosing to eat what you eat. Nobody’s business but your own. (I can see what Alison said — perhaps some of it is in the more caring vein — have you got only enough time for a bag of chips for lunch? — but even that, I’d say save the remarks, people.)

  42. veggiewhatnow

    Two things I was wondering about were answered up-thread: age difference and gender. This kind of thing used to happen to me a lot— it was *so* annoying! I felt like, “If I’m old enough to work, I’m old enough to make my own food choices”.

    Now, I mostly just get side-eyed for my mash-up of vegetarian/allergies/attempts at occasional healthy eating. At least it’s (usually) no longer maternalistic, but it’s no less annoying…

  43. Jade

    It doesn’t matter if you’re eating ‘healthy’ or ‘non-healthy’. I’ve had people comment on my ‘very healthy’ lunches – “Are you eating that because you want to or is someone making you?” and since I hate drawing attention to myself I didn’t like that. My lunches were very much out of the norm and I didn’t want people noticing or commenting. And someone usually would.

    1. Heather

      There’s no winning! If you eat unhealthy someone comments on it; if you eat healthy someone comments on it. “Making you eat that?” really?

  44. Chloe

    I’m vegan and this fact about me has gotten around to some of my other coworkers. I happen to like talking about food but one coworker in particular always has something to say about my food. He always comments on the smoothies I drink and offer me unsolicited “advice” about how I should eat my bananas. If it’s not him wrinkling his nose to my green drink or making a negative comment about how gross my smoothie looks, he’s offering his personal anecdotes about healthy eating and how he distrusts fake meat because it has preservatives. I try to be lighthearted about it and not take it personally or get offended, but it is annoying to have to feel defensive about what you eat everyday. SUPER aggravating

    1. Green

      People always accuse vegetarians and vegans of being super proselytizing about their food choices and talking about it all-the-time, but in my experience it’s just because they have to defend their diet all-the-time because OTHER people feel free to comment on it. (And in work scenarios, most vegans and vegetarians give a soft “Oh, I’m doing it for health, blah blah blah” answer instead of saying “Because the thing you’re eating makes you complicit in the years-long abuse of sentient beings.”)

      1. nep

        Vegan here. Don’t owe anyone an explanation / defense.
        (Funny — mention you’re vegan and suddenly everyone’s got a degree in nutrition. Ugh.)
        As for wrinkling one’s nose at the green drink or the like — I just pity people like that for such a lack of refinement.
        Live and let eat, people.

        1. Natasha

          I like to shoot back with, “where do you get your fiber/Vitamin C/antioxidants?”

          But seriously, I’m a vegan too, and I just got a job working out of my home. I only have to leave my house to see clients. THIS is one of the main reasons I am so happy about it. NO ONE IS COMMENTING ON MY FOOD ANYMORE.

      2. Zillah

        I once had people tell me that I was “the good kind of vegetarian,” because when asked I said I just didn’t like meat (which was true at the time – now I still don’t like meat and it creeps me out to think about eating animals). Apparently, people who do it for moral reasons are “the bad kind of vegetarian,” whether or not they’re proselytizing.

    2. Ambee

      Ditto. I’ve worked in places where I tried to hide my vegetarianism for as long as possible because I didn’t want the comments. Once people find out you don’t eat meat it can be relentless with the questioning and the “preemptive defensiveness.” Once a coworker deliberately came to find me to tell me she bought steak for dinner, “GUESS I’M A HORRIBLE PERSON HUH??” Lady, I don’t care what you eat! I didn’t ask what you bought for dinner!

      Fortunately I work in a cool place now where nobody cares what I, or anyone else, eats. /rant over

    3. Annonymouse

      I accidentally hired two vegans (at an upscale deli, basically). They didn’t disclose it in their interviews and I don’t really give a shit about diets unless you’re going to use it as an excuse for why you can’t slice roast beef (for example).

      I love talking to them about their diets because I used to be vegan, so I give them all sorts of product ideas, store ideas, websites, coupon sites, etc., haha! One of our vegans moved onto another place, but I always try to pull our remaining one aside and give her a heads up on whether item X is spicy, to push Y and recommend Z with it. Believe it or not, we’ve got a pretty decent staff right now as far as dietary choices go. (A former chef was a complete child about providing veg*n options [as well as a laundry list of inappropriate behaviors], but he’s been gone since well before these two girls started.) Both of the girls were a little shy about bringing up veganism at first, but the first time I found out, I’d talk their ears off about it. I probably drove them crazy, but I was glad to have something (kinda) in common with new hires.

      (And, in my experience, it’s always been omnis who were much bigger assholes about diets than any veg*ns I’ve ever known. I couldn’t care less if my friends ate meat in front of me, but I had one in particular who would throw temper tantrums if I wanted to eat at one of the few vegan restaurants in town and would regularly threaten to put meat or dairy in my food. Luckily, her girlfriend broke up with her back in 2008, and I told her girlfriend that she got custody of me in the divorce and not vice versa. LOL)

    4. Cari

      Oh man, gross looking smoothies usually taste the best <3 "what's that? You think it looks like horseshit? Oh well, all the more for me~! " :D

    5. catsAreCool

      Chloe,

      I wonder if it would work to act like his attitude made you think that he’s interested in becoming a vegan, so whenever he comments on what you’re eating, you can swamp him with facts and opinions about what you’re eating – maybe that will drive him away?

  45. TL17

    Not a work tale; a hot dog tale.

    I was once at a bbq. There were lots of really good food options, including hot dogs. The hostess held up the dogs and buns at one point and exclaimed that somehow she bought the magic combination and got exact numbers of dogs and buns. Much laughter.

    A couple showed up with their 4 year old child. Child wanted some lunch. Parent1 goes off with child to fix a plate. When they return with a hot dog, Parent2 shrieks in horror that child is eating a hot dog, because toxins and poison and blah blah blah. Child, hearing this, abandons the hot dog and instead eats the bun. Then child eats another bun (thus disrupting the exact number coincidence that caused the earlier jubilation). Parent2 then says (within earshot of the hostess), “I suppose the white bread trash is better than the horror show that is that hot dog.”

    tldr – hot dog shaming is best when a) teaching children bad manners and b) in front of the nice host who invited you for a party.

    1. Cristina in England

      I would say that bad manners is a much greater societal danger than preservatives.

  46. Cristina in England

    I have to say that I am SO HAPPY to be in a country across an ocean from the American habit of openly commenting on an acquaintance’s food intake/procreation choices/bodies. Of course we’re not immune over here, it’s just more muted. My British ex-father in law, when we were out to dinner, once looked at my dessert and said “you’ll need to go to the gym tomorrow to work that off” and the worst part is that his daughter (my ex-SIL) is obese, and he used to talk derisively about how fat the Americans were when they went to Vegas on vacation. It is just disgusting, the elitist, judgemental nature of it.

    In my office jobs (US and UK) I have usually gotten comments about how virtuous I must be because I pack lunches with vegetables in them, which is ridiculous. A vegetable is not moral or immoral, it is a vegetable. My husband has some vestiges of a religious upbringing wherein he always says “would it be wrong to have another piece of chocolate?” or “oh no, it would be wrong to have another piece of cake”. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just chocolate. This is seriously my greatest pet peeve, moralizing about food.

    Here’s a theory: moralizing about food has taken the place of religion in modern America. We don’t know what to believe in as a society, so we cling to faddish diet advice instead and must believe our way is the Only True Path to righteousness to avoid looking into the existential void.

    1. Sam P

      Thank you for this perspective. Arson is wrong. Child abuse is wrong. Embezzlement is wrong. Chocolate cake is just dessert.

    2. Anonsie

      And there is really good evidence that the moralizing of food and the anxiety around is actually why so many Americans have issues with weight and diet.

  47. AnnieNonymous

    The OP’s anecdotes all center around fast, ready-to-eat foods, which (at least in the working world) are largely the domain of single people who don’t have cause to cook large balanced meals every night and therefore don’t have leftovers the next day. That’s the trend I’ve seen: women who have decent home-cooked meals for lunch are usually eating last night’s leftovers, which don’t exist if you don’t at least live with a partner. When someone insults a bag of chips while eating her tupperware of reheated stir-fry, it’s hard not to read it as an overall judgment of the other person for not having her life together in all of the conventional ways.

    1. jag

      If you don’t have a partner you can’t cook healthy or make enough food for leftovers?

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      I’m honestly confused by this comment. Do you really think leftovers don’t exist unless one has a partner? I lived alone for most of my adult life, and I always cooked, as did (do) many of my friends. I never bought a frozen meal. I had waaaaay more leftovers when I was single. I mean, if we want to make odd lifestyle assumptions here, I know many more people with families who buy ready-made/frozen meals because they’re faster and easier and thus more convenient when one has kids’ activities to take care of at home and less time to cook or prepare lunch.

      1. the gold digger

        Yeah, super confused, too. I have been single for most of my adult life, but I have always cooked for myself and prepared meals to take for lunch.

        1. I am way too cheap to go out to lunch every day
        2. I cook better than the places I can afford to eat for lunch
        3. Eating out is a social activity (for me) and the last thing I want to do in the middle of the work day is to be around people
        4. I go to the gym at lunch.

    3. So Very Anonymous

      This comment reminds me of when I stopped reading O Magazine years ago… there was an article all about how single people shouldn’t be “afraid” of farmers’ markets. Because, you know, single people don’t want or need to eat fresh fruits/vegetables or cook real meals for themselves– no, we’re doomed, DOOMED to lives of convenience foods because we have nooooo oooooone to cook for. Same for the articles reassuring me that yes, it really is OK to treat yourself (!) by cooking a REAL meal when there’s only you to feed. Since I’d never thought otherwise, that advice always seemed to be more about making sure I knew I was supposed to feel pathetic and in need of that kind of advice.

      1. So Very Anonymous

        Oops, I meant to say “noooo ooooone ELSE” to cook for, because cooking for myself is still cooking for someone. :)

      2. TychaBrahe

        Personally, as a perpetually single person, I cook a lot less now then I did when I was living with roommates who were happy to share meals with me. It just isn’t worth the effort to cook a single portion, and if I cook a lot, I end up eating the leftovers for days. Leftovers are nice for lunch the next day. Maybe they’re even nice for dinner the next day. But for lunch and dinner the day after that? It’s actually rather amazing how long a roasted chicken will last one person.

        I tend to pour bagged salad on a plate and garnish with a handful of pre-chopped vegetables. For protein, I buy precooked chicken or steak strips. If I alternate that with a frozen dinner and a dinner out, I don’t get bored of what I’m eating and I don’t have to wash pots and pans when I’m done eating.

    4. Single Won't Mingle

      LOL

      So many things wrong with this comment, I don’t know where to start!

    5. nep

      Single. Have lived alone all my adult life. Never bring fast food or packaged foods to eat at work.

    6. Amtelope

      You can’t have leftovers if you don’t live with a partner? How does that work, in your head?

    7. K.

      … What? I’m single, I cook balanced meals most nights, and I never eat fast food for lunch, ever. Never have. I even shop at farmer’s markets and am doing a farm share with – gasp! – other single friends. I have leftovers for lunch a lot because if a recipe serves four, it’s easy to cut it in half and have two servings – one is for dinner, the other is for lunch the next day. Or I’ll make the whole thing and freeze the leftovers, and take them to work when I get around to it.

      Also, being married/coupled doesn’t necessarily mean you have your life together. Just sayin’.

  48. ReadingRachael

    I hate food commentary. I live in a small city in the mountain west, where hunting and meat is a way of life, and eat mostly vegetarian simply because I don’t like most meat and it’s super expensive. I don’t mind the “that smells good! what is it?” But I hate the “oh gross!” when I tell them it’s lentils or tofu. I’ve started telling people when I’m asked about it that all my food is a special treat, whether it’s tofu stirfry and brown rice, or carrot sticks, or a bag of chips. It’s sort of true, I love food and enjoy cooking interesting, delicious things, but mostly I like watching them squirm as they try to stop themselves from telling me that my treat is disgusting.

    1. ReadingRachael

      Also, I wanted to clarify that I’m not judging the OP’s choices at all. I love the occasional hot dog, especially slightly charred, and while I cook a lot, I also bake a lot of buttery, sugary goodies that I then eat in mass quantities.

      I just hate ALL good judgement.

  49. Nelly

    What about when people pick things up to look at them? I have fruit on my desk at the moment and someone’s come along to pick up a mandarin to give it a squeeze this morning. I’ve also had someone pick up a bottle of fruit juice – by the drink hole, whatever that’s called – to sniff it. I said ‘I hope your hands are clean!’ and made a scene of cleaning it with hand disinfectant, but that’s something I’ve found a lot. Being in a library space, co-workers and patrons will come up and just start handling anything on the desk. My entire desk is public property, despite signs saying otherwise. I’ve had people rummage through my bag, too, looking for snacks, and they are so surprised when I kick them out.

    Boundaries – they do not exist.

  50. Cari

    Negative comments about the quality and taste of your food (“ew, that looks gross” for example), pet peeve of mine also. Would probably respond with a “f- off” personally. They made it rude first. Or you could do sommat weird like the Jenna Marbles Face :-D that will throw them. Ooh, or make a really big point of enjoying that food you’re eating.

  51. Amy

    I had a Food Nazi at work who would lecture me on cholesterol. Finally as I was headed into the office with an egg sandwich… and I was hungry and my filter wasn’t working… I yelled at her that she’s not my doctor and it’s none of her business what I eat. Despite being fat (she’s never been an ounce overweight) I have low cholesterol because cholesterol comes from genes not from eggs!

    Give that Food Nazi a talking-to because it’s none of her business what anyone else eats!

  52. CAndy

    I’ve always believed that the indicator of who a person is isn’t the food they eat, but how they choose to eat it.

  53. Cassie

    I’ve had people comment on my food before. Sometimes it’s coworkers (male and female), sometimes it’s my bosses (male professors). I hate it. I feel like I’m being judged for my choices (which is probably accurate) but I’m a grown-up and I’ll eat what I want, when I want, thank you very much.

    It really annoys me when a work friend says “ugh!” to my potato chips and then proceeds to eat some. And raids my stash when I’m not around. And she told other people “oh, I don’t eat chips and cookies” and I said “wait, what?!” and she was forced to clarify that with “I mean, I don’t buy chips and cookies”.

  54. Lady Bug

    My obnoxious response to someone butting in to my food choices would be to have some serious food sex, ie “Omigod this hot dog is soooooooooooo good. Oh, it is the best hot dog ever. Mmmmmmmmm, it’s amazing. Oh yeah! Mmmm, I can’t even put into words how goooooooooood this is.” Maybe not the first time the person butts in, but definitely to a repeat offender.

  55. The Other Dawn

    I never got comments when I was obese. Now that I’ve had gastric bypass and lost 138 pounds, the comments I get are usually about my portion size. I haven’t gotten many, but occasionally someone will say, “that’s all you’re eating?? Aren’t you going to be hungry?” It’s taken me a long time to not be embarrassed by it. Now I just say right out that I had weight loss surgery. I don’t bother saying I have a small appetite. I’m just not into covering it up. It’s easier to put it all out there.

    1. nep

      Even that kind of comment — I just don’t get it. How can people think it’s OK to say that to a fellow adult?

      1. The Other Dawn

        I think people believe that commenting on someone’s body, weight, food, etc. is OK because they’re not commenting on race, sex, religion, etc. It’s still considered acceptable to judge someone on appearance, or how their habits affect their appearance.

        People also think it’s acceptable to say I “took the easy way out.” But whatever. Even though I haven’t had any of the issues some post-ops have, it’s still not “easy.”

        1. nep

          More reminders of the importance and beauty of not giving a flying f* what other people think / say.

          1. The Other Dawn

            Yup, I’m at that stage and age. I don’t give a f* anymore. I did what I had to do for my health and well-being. It’s a tool, just like Weight Watchers is.

  56. Ellen N.

    My husband is a teacher who only gets 20 minutes for lunch. I cook every night and we bring leftovers to work for lunch. My husband now eats his lunch in his car because he had to field so many questions about what he was eating that he went hungry. It’s something to think about when you ask people about their lunches; they may not have time to answer your questions, eat lunch and do whatever personal errands need to be taken care of.

    1. Lynn Whitehat

      I eat in my car a lot because I got So. Tired. of the freaking Food Police. Whole lotta salads.

      1. Lauren

        I can relate to that… I am thinking of eating in my car, but then I can easily see someone tracking me down in the parking lot, in order to comment on what I am eating. Yes, it is THAT bad where I work.

  57. everything counts in large

    Alas, I’m late to the party. I guess I’d just like to mention that, in my experience, it’s like there are people out there who make it a point to watch what you’re eating. And how you’re eating it. And what you’re wearing. And etc. It’s not limited to food.

    Maybe it’s just me and my ADHD, but unless there are special circumstances – dining at a fancy restaurant, say – I don’t really pay attention to what other people are doing with their food.

    But there are people in the world who – it seems to me – consider it standard operating procedure to encounter another person, observe them for anything “unusual” or “improper”, and then make some comment about it. Maybe this is simply the “J” in someone’s Meyers-Briggs type? I dunno.

    For various reasons of happenstance, I don’t have to deal with this kind of thing much anymore (working from home, less F2F interaction, plus some people are afraid of me until they get to know me) but whenever it happens, I’m not typically insulted so much as just gob-stopped that someone actually took the time to observe me dunking my French fries in tartar sauce and had to make some comment about it.

    Oh, and re hot dogs and sausage and stuff: when I was in grade school we were taught how awesome it was that Native Americans would use *every bit* of a buffalo that they killed. I think hot dogs are similarly awesome in that we’re being ultra efficient and using every bit of the animal.

  58. Lauren

    I had debated about asking this very same question. People I work with ALWAYS comment on what I’m eating. Someone will stand outside my office and loudly announce “I SMELL STEAK AND ONIONS”, before poking their head inside to verify their accuracy!!! Meantime, I will be nibbling on a plain cheese sandwich while trying to work. I often get takeout at lunch and eat it in my office, but not before shutting the door to my office. At least two people will bust in my office to see what I am eating. I’ve tried eating in the employee breakdown, but still get comments about what I am eating, i.e. the smells, whether it looks tasty or not, etc. Please keep in mind, I eat normal lunches like sandwiches, takeout salads and the occasional microwave meal. I have NEVER commented on what anyone else eats and am baffled as to why people care so much as to go out of their way to see me eat and make comments.

    1. The Other Dawn

      I think the comments you mention are more likely attempts at office small talk. Food is often an ice breaker, or a way to bond, or just something to occupy time when we don’t feel like editing documents and such. But, I agree, it can be annoying when it happens all the time.

  59. Going out for lunch

    I’m just wondering… is it considered strange to eat outside of the office everyday for lunch?

    1. The Other Dawn

      I don’t think it’s strange. I think some people do, though. I’ve heard people comment about others in my office that “it must be nice to be able to afford to eat out everyday,” and “can you imagine how much John is spending on eating out?? It’s so much cheaper to bring his own lunch.”

      1. Going out for lunch

        Thanks! I guess I should’ve clarified- bringing the lunch, but taking it out of the office to eat. I like peace and quiet and some fresh air. It also usually gives me time to do errands/browsing/brain breaks.

        1. The Other Dawn

          Ah, I see. Nope, I don’t think that’s strange. I always eat at my desk rather than the cafeteria. I like to putz around in my office: surfing the ‘net, reading, playing Candy Crush, or whatever else I feel like doing.

  60. CAinUK

    I have been trying to put my finger on exactly what it is that annoys me so much about these food comments. Yes, they are judge-y, but the overtly judge-y comments (“you’re eating THAT?”) would just illicit a “Yeah. Sorry, did I ASK your opinion?” response and we’d be done.

    But I think what bugs me about the “concerned” comments on portion size/hot-dog eating/knowledge of what I’m putting in my body is: I’m. Not. An. Idiot.

    It’s so, so patronizing. These comments assume I’m some child who doesn’t understand how food works. But I am, in fact, an adult in a workplace and not someone for you to “help”.

    And it cuts the other way: people who blame folks for bringing in a snack to the office because THEY are watching what THEY eat (as the poster above notes, when she brought in doughnuts and got attitude because people were on diets). Again: I’m not your parent, don’t treat me like one and ask me to police your ADULT choices. Just say “no thanks” like a normal person.

    1. BethRA

      imo, even if you: Were. An. Idiot?

      Still not their business. Still patronizing. And not likely to be effective, even assuming someone could use advice.

  61. BethRA

    It’s not just food, either. I’m always astounded at how many people are experts on how everyone else should: raise their kids, train their dogs…

    1. Catherine in Canada

      And in an overlapping “raise their kids” AND “police their eating”, the behaviour that really turns my crank is teachers who comment, shame and CONFISCATE children’s food.
      A few years ago my daughter’s family was in serious financial trouble; they ended up having to declare bankruptcy. She has a diploma in hospitality management and knows how to plan a day or week’s nutrition, thank-you-very-much.
      It’s hard enough coming up with nutritious economical filling lunches with the peanut ban (no argument about the necessity of it…) but then teachers started confiscating her home-made oatmeal raisin cookies because they “weren’t a healthy snack” or shaming the kids for home-made mac and cheese because it had too many carbs!
      My grandson is gluten intolerant, gluten-free bread is prohibitively expensive and the teacher’s self-righteous policing of his lunches often left him with nothing to eat. (Daughter doesn’t send fruit to school, she prefers to SEE him eat it to make sure that he DOES.) Protesting to the teacher and principal does no good – they “are acting in the child’s best interests”. It’s an on-going battle.
      There may well be cases where some education/ intervention is needed in a child’s lunches, but if they’re going to do that, they should provide the lunch they want the kids to eat, not ban the lunches they don’t want and leave a kid with nothing to eat.

      1. BethRA

        They certainly shouldn’t be embarrassing the kids in public or taking away their food!

        ugh, I’m so sorry your daughter’s family had to deal with that.

      2. Katie the Fed

        Holy crap. I would go ballistic if a school/teacher tried to pull that. I have enough food issues myself (thanks, Mom!), and I really want to avoid my future kids thinking of food in terms of bad, good, etc. Kids don’t need food issues, they just need lunch.

  62. Student

    I get this all the time, and I also find it hugely obnoxious and presumptuous (and often sexist – my male co-workers at my job never get crap about their lunch from near-strangers).

    The way to shut those people up it to own your food completely. Offer some to the complainer – it either makes them complicit in your “food crime” or it makes them skitter off. It’s been very effective for me. Say everything with a huge smile.

    Coworker -“I hope that isn’t your lunch.” Me – “Absolutely, and it is delicious. Would you like a chip?”

    Coworker – “How can you eat junkfood for lunch?!” Me – “It’ tastes great! Would you like to try a piece?”

    Coworker – “You’ll get fat if you keep on eating like that.” Me – “I’ll be fat and happy, then. Care for a bite?”

    Coworker – “How can you eat stuff with so many artificial chemicals/colors/etc.?” Me – “I’m from [insert home city here], and I was raised to only eat food with at least one unpronounceable chemical in it.”

    1. nep

      I get how this might shut people down. For me, though, some valuable breath wasted. My approach would likely be ignore. Completely.

    2. Anonsie

      I’ve found this to be extremely effective as well. I’ve worked several places where there were people who were very involved with trying to lose weight and often needled people for eating things that they’d had to cut out. There was a lot of body issue projecting going on, and just wholesale not buying into it totally got them off my back. Just enjoying the hell out of whatever they were trying to poke at me for without an ounce of the guilt they were trying to put in there.

      “Oh my goddd are you going to eat that WHOLE thing?”
      “Hell yes I am, I’m hungry!”

      “Anonsie are you seriously eating that giant fritter as a snack? It’s as big as you are.”
      “Oh yeah, and it’s really good. I love fritters!”

      “I could never eat like that. That’ll catch up to you, you just wait.”
      “I doubt it.” *gigantic bite*

  63. Sunshine Brite

    Oh man this hits home. Someone who’s been thin/muscular/currently obese with ED NOS and PCOS. I partially left my last job due to this. The way the timing was structured everyone always at lunch on site together daily. Lots of runners, etc. One had had his own weight loss. One admittedly had self body shaming problems from her mother. So many comments even if they were directed inwards – ugh, I can’t believe I’m eating this cake, they feed the residents too many carbs, etc. – I took them to heart. I was diagnosed with neither of those things at that point and despite maintaining a pretty similar diet/exercise pattern as always I wasn’t seeing any results like I had before. The self-messages towards the end of my work there were pretty bad to myself and I just found myself wanting to eat alone and wishing to participate in eating disordered behaviors in a frequency that I hadn’t done for a few years. I don’t think anyone ever truly knew.

  64. Miriam

    I’d follow Miss Manners on this. The next time someone tells you how many carbs are in your bag of potato chips, comments on the contents of your hot dog, or asks why you are eating only a salad for lunch, ask, “Want some?”

    As for why people do this–and why it doesn’t have the taboo level of, say, asking about someone’s current bank balance–I don’t know.

  65. Anonymous Librarian

    I was in a group that met each week, and had snacks/dinner at the group meeting about every 2 months. A couple of members were in what passed for ‘society’ in our city, and had the obsession with thinness, clothes, the right address, etc. which accompanied that ‘status.’ A few people came late to a dinner meeting. The hostess that night had something for a main dish that would be spoilt if we cut into it. There were some other snacks and sweets and she said we should help ourselves. I got some cake. It looked delicious. One of the latecomer society ladies said to me after she came in, “That’s an interesting order to eat your food in” with the emphasis on ‘interesting’ meaning ‘bad.’ I simply answered “that’s an interesting comment to make about someone else’s food choices.”

    1. Cath in Canada

      My parents are weirdly obsessed with the order in which people eat things! They still talk about someone they saw in a hotel a couple of years ago who ate his cereal after his eggs and bacon. The horror!

      1. Charlotte Lucas

        My maternal great grandfather used to eat his dessert first. My mother always considered this to show very good judgement on his part. (My great grandmother was known for her baking skills, and why risk not having enough room?)

  66. Middle Name Jane

    I have co-workers who do this. You can’t win. I’m overweight. I bring my lunch to work most days. Most of the time it’s reasonably healthy food–a thin sandwich on whole grain bread, non-fat Greek yogurt, baby carrots, fruit, etc. Sometimes I treat myself to a cheeseburger from our cafe or macaroni and cheese brought from home. If I’m spotted eating “healthy” food, I don’t want people to assume I’m “trying to lose weight.” If I’m making the choice to eat junk food that day, then I feel like people are judging me for that too.

    I just don’t get why people are obsessed with things like this. I would never dream of making a comment about someone else’s food. It’s not my business. I wish people would extend me the same courtesy.

  67. Elizabeth

    One of my friends would get comments like that. She brought chips back from the vending machine and a coworker said, “I see you trying to hide those chips,” as though my friend should be ashamed of eating them. My friend looked at her and said. “I’m proud of my chips and I’m going to enjoy them.”

  68. Kerry Bee

    I’m glad I found this article and thread, as this is a REAL peeve of mine. I am 5 months pregnant, and during the first 15 weeks I struggled terribly with sickness. The only thing that seemed to curb it slightly, was ensuring I didnt get hungry, and eating quite bland, stodgy foods. So, I was often in the canteen at work making myself some toast, crumpets, porridge, often at unusual times of day (porridge at 11am) – that’s when the comments started “isn’t it too late for breakfast?” “I hope that’s not all you’re having for lunch!” “Crumpets AGAIN?!” – I didn’t want all and sundry knowing about the pregnancy but in the end I snapped and declared that I was pregnant and felt like crap. That shut them up temporarily. Then I went through a stage where I brought soup to work with my regularly, as I was struggling financially to save up for a family car for the new arrival. Cue people commenting that “all I ever eat is soup”
    Now things are better, and I bring a variety of bagels, jacket potatoes, sandwiches, pasta (and yes sometimes soup) to work with me….but despite the variety, people comment on the soup every single time. If I get a sandwich from the shop, people comment “you won’t eat all that!”- If I have a salad they say I “must be being healthy for the baby” UGGHHHHHH it’s just SO ANNOYING! I just want to eat my dinner in peace without running commentary!!! I’ve even taken to taking my lunch later i the day when the canteen is emptier to try and avoud it.

  69. Brooke

    I’m a little glad I’m not the only one who finds it offensive when people make comments on what I’m eating..

    For me, personally, I don’t like people commenting on my food regardless of whether its negative or positive. Quite honestly, its none of their business what I eat.

    Unfortunately, at work, you meet all kinds of people and some who seem to think this is OK. Perhaps it is because it’s their way of starting small talk or them just trying to create ‘friendly’ banter. It could also be that they don’t mind when people comment on their food, so they believe that others would be fine with it.

    I’ve had two different people ask me ‘are you not eating?’ and had one person offer me food as if I couldn’t feed myself. I understand that their intention isn’t to try to offend me but it can come across as that.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone comments on how healthy my food looks and proceeds with ‘are you on a diet?’. The reason I dislike this comment is because I don’t believe in diets, I believe in a healthy lifestyle. And if you eat bad food, they also make you feel guilty about it. I just find it uncomfortable and don’t feel the need to validate my decision on what I eat.

    I’ve only ever had these comments from females.

    I usually like to keep to myself, so I guess that may be a reason why I don’t like people staring at my food.

  70. Kristy

    It’s so annoying when this happens, I don’t know why people can’t just mind their own business. I’ve taken to either hiding my food under fake paperwork on my desk, or eating in my car. My problem is I get shamed for eating healthy! This awful loud-ass woman always brings junk food & then screeches out “Oh SHE won’t eat it. SHE only eats healthy food. Our food is not good enough for HER!” Then proceeds to cackle like a crazy witch.

    I try to mind my own business, and never comment on anybody’s food. The only thing I can’t stand is when people endlessly complain about their weight…ask for advice on the rights foods to eat…and then proceed to stuff their faces with junk food. I could really care less what anyone is eating, BUT when they whine every single day about being fat, then come in slurping on milk shakes and chowing down on a fistful of french fries, it just makes me wonder what’s wrong with their brains! However, even at that point, I don’t just start saying rude things to them about it, I just keep my mouth shut!

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