my office is obsessed with dieting and weight

A reader writes:

Recently, one of my coworkers quit after only a few months of employment.  Privately, she told me that a great deal of the reason that she left was that she felt ostracized because of her weight. (We’re both overweight.)  She felt like our boss treated her differently than everyone else because of her appearance, including double standards such as allowing slender coworkers to wear sleeveless tops, but reprimanding her for doing so. Other things have happened too, such as this coworker being present when our boss, an exercise and diet fanatic, said about someone she had met recently, “I’d kill myself if I got that fat!”

Personally, I don’t think the boss means anything by it, so I’ve never taken it personally.  None of this was a particularly big deal to me, until my coworker left.  I was saddened by that, because I felt she was an asset to our company, and I liked her on a personal level.  Since she left, I’ve noticed a ramping up in the office in general of long, loud diet conversations, and a general culture of striving to be thin.  It’s gotten overt enough that one of my coworkers feels compelled to patronizingly congratulate me if she sees me drinking a beverage with no calories.

It’s starting to feel uncomfortable to me here, and I’m wondering if I’m being overly sensitive.  Should I just suck it up and not worry about it if our bullpen-style office is filled half the day with loud conversations about dieting and how many cucumber slices you can eat to keep you full between meals?  Do I need to just grow a thicker skin?  Regard it as negative inspiration to lose weight?  I like my job, and my being fat doesn’t impact my ability to be brilliant at it.  I know my boss adores me.  Is that enough?

Ugh. It’s true that in a national culture that’s obsessed with weight, you can’t expect to never hear it come up at work. But it sounds like your office has gone well beyond the occasional diet-related remark and moved into a level of focus on this that’s distracting–as well as sometimes cruel. You’re there to work; you didn’t sign up for a constant barrage of messages about weight, any more than you did for comments about religion, politics, or dating.

A small amount of all of that is often unavoidable, because we work with other humans, and humans are often annoying. But this sounds like it’s reached the point that it’s reasonable to speak up about it.

So, a few options:

  • You have a good relationship with your boss. Can you privately point out to her that the office has become increasingly preoccupied with discussions about weight, and it’s not the most welcoming environment for people at different weights (as well as people with eating disorders or merely a distaste for this kind of focus on people’s bodies)? Say that you’d like to be able to focus on your work when you’re at work, and the discussions of weight have become so frequent that it’s starting to make you uncomfortable. If she’s a reasonable and empathetic person, she’ll tone down the comments and find a way to direct your co-workers away from such an obsessive focus on the topic (and back to, you know, their work). Or, if she’s not an empathetic person, she won’t. And then you’d have to decide how much this bothers you.
  • If you have a good relationship with others at work, you could privately say something similar to them. If you can get a couple of people to be more sensitive to this, and more aware of how often the topic is coming up, they can likely play a role in stamping out, or at least redirecting, these conversations.
  • And last, that co-worker who congratulated you on drinking a calorie-free beverage? The proper response to that is, “Wow.” And then walking away. Because that person has lost sight of any sense of what’s appropriate to say to others, and there’s no reason you have to play along.

Originally published in 2011.

{ 347 comments… read them below }

        1. Laurel Gray*

          I just came back from Whole Foods where I purchased 2 toffee white chocolate chip macadamia cookies with extra gluten and white sugar. Because you aren’t here, I’ll be eating yours. :)

    1. Spooky*

      Oh man, I remember those from high school. I’ll bring the cotton balls, you bring the syrup and cayenne pepper. Ugh.

        1. AMG*

          Eating. They fill your stomach so you aren’t hungry and your system doesn’t absorb them. Sorry.

        2. Spooky*

          Sorry, but yes. :( Cotton balls are one of two “approved/recommended” ana/mia snacks because it fills you up with fiber and has no calories. The other is a drink made from water (keeps you hydrated,) cayenne pepper (speeds up your metabolism,) and syrup (to keep your blood sugar from plummeting.)

    2. I'm Not Phyllis*

      This was my first thought too. Although I’m overweight, and personally hate comments made about what I’m eating/drinking in general (whether they’re positive or negative), my first thought was that this would be a very unhealthy place for someone struggling with an eating disorder.

      1. super anon*

        or even someone in recovery from an ed. i’ve been “in recovery” from an ED since 2011, but being in that kind of environment would be so incredibly difficult for me. i can easily see myself backsliding into the really unhealthy habits that i had for several years. although my relationship with food and exercise has gotten much better, i still struggle with disordered eating thoughts every day. it’s also one of the reasons why i say i’m still “in recovery”, because i honestly think not falling back into the mindset i was in will be a struggle for the rest of my life.

      2. Not me*

        You’re right. It would be uncomfortable at best. And I mean, even without ED or health issues or anything else making this a harmful place to be, it’s obnoxious. Leave the diet and weight talk to doctors.

  1. Jerzy*

    Coworker: “Good for you for drinking something with no calories!”

    You: “Yeah, I needed something to wash down that bucket of lard I had for lunch.”

    1. Natasha*

      I’d have a really hard time not telling that individual just what she can do with her two cents if, as Big Sean says, “it ain’t goin’ towards the bill.”

  2. TT*

    See, I’d be in the break room every day with a delicious non-diet meal, playing “If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right” on my iphone.

    1. caryatid*

      this is totally my approach. i usually have seconds or thirds of the treats in the office while enjoying it completely guilt free, because i just DGAF.

      if i choose to eat something, you better believe i’m gonna enjoy it!

  3. Ihmmy*

    ugh. My work has a lot of people who talk about weight and diets and exercise, but they aren’t even a third as bad as this (and the little bit that happens here does irk me). I have coworkers who talk about their weight loss surgeries, weight watchers, how far they walked at lunch, berating themselves for having a ‘bad’ lunch (i.e. anything that isn’t salad without dressing) and hearing it is utterly exhausting. I don’t ruddy well care about their diet plans. usually they’re talking to my coworker about it, because I don’t participate… just because I’m rounder than some doesn’t mean I’m trying to lose oodles of weight either.

    1. Steve G*

      ugh hate the berating for having a “bad” lunch. That is when my logical side comes out and I say “if you think its bad why are you having it?”

      I’m not participating in some self-bashing session over lunch.

      1. esra*

        There is a woman at work who, every time we eat out goes: “Ugh, I’m so fat. I hate myself for eating this. I can’t believe I ordered this.” etc etc. No one plays the game, so she just keeps saying the same things the whole time.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          I used to have a coworker who did this. One time when she went on about her weight and meal choice I offered to swap my salad for her meal. She didn’t take me up on it though.

  4. Anony-moose*

    Ugh, I feel so sorry for the letter writer. It can be incredibly hard to be in that environment no matter your weight or what you think about your body. I’m a pretty fit person but am definitely on the curvy side. I also eat really healthy due to stomach problems and because I truly like kale and green smoothies. But I also love me some bourbon, pizza, and definitely just inhaled the most amazing cheese danish in the world. In both my appearance and eating habits I’m horribly unexciting and run of the mill.

    A friend of mine started sounding like the OP’s office. We’d be out to eat and I’d order, say, flatbread. “Ugh, I can’t believe you’re eating that CRAP. Gluten AND meat?” or “of course your allergies are acting up, you keep eating bread!” And on, and on. She would do cleanses, crazy workouts, etc, and just made me feel worse and worse about myself. Eventually I distanced myself from her because no matter what we did or where we went, it was a barrage of “advice” about my “weight” and “eating habits.” It just…sucked.

    1. TL -*

      …gluten and meat?! It’s almost like you’re going for a well-balanced meal of carbs and proteins!
      I personally hate when people talk about my diet at all. I don’t tolerate it well.

      1. NickelandDime*

        My grandmother always taught us it wasn’t polite to comment on what other people were eating and that it’s none of our business. It bothers you because it’s none of their business!

        1. E*

          Exactly. Commenting on my food is over the line because it had nothing to do with how well I do my job!

        2. Shannon*

          Yeah. Unless it’s something like, “Don’t eat the brownies, they’re laced with pot and visine,” or something complimentary, “What is that? It smells awesome,” I stay out of it. There is no win there.

          Though, one time, I was with a friend at KFC and my friend was going on and on about how she didn’t understand how I could eat KFC’s mashed potatoes, they’re horrible, etc. I had heard this same tirade about the same food and just snapped out on her. “I’m eating them because I like them. I hate seafood, but, you don’t hear me complaining every time you order fish. I’ve even gone to seafood restaurants with you.” I went on to graphically describe exactly what I though of seafood. That friend never questioned my eating choices again.

      2. The IT Manager*

        There’s nothing inherently wring with gluten; it’s just some people are gluten intolerant. It’s not like it’s “bad” for you.

        1. Anna*

          There is a ton of misinformation about gluten intolerance. Unless you are actually diagnosed with celiac, you are probably not intolerant. Intolerant isn’t a diagnosis and most people who claim intolerance don’t actually have any issues with gluten.

    2. themmases*

      You bring up a good point that many of the most vocal health-conscious people seem to actually be into a lot of pseudoscience, fad diets, and all-or-nothing, magical thinking.

      That absolutely doesn’t make it OK to speak to people that way– especially when they are at work! But I have found that noticing this makes it easier to nod and smile until I can change the subject and make sure I never give this person an excuse to talk to me about this again, without really affecting my self-esteem.

        1. themmases*

          It’s really a shame more people can’t accept that what works for them is particular to them (and if there are other explanations, that’s also OK!).

          Plenty of people lose weight on unusual diets because it’s easy to cut calories when there are many common foods you can’t eat. Plenty of people “just feel better” on these diets, especially at first, because they often incorporate some common-sense actions like eating more fruits and vegetables or get implemented along with other healthy behaviors that person has also been meaning to do.

          People also discount the placebo effect, or mistakenly think that if something is a placebo then it doesn’t really work. Something that turns out to be a placebo does work, just not through the pathway you originally thought– and probably not for everyone. People who have a safe, reliable way to experience the placebo effect should probably keep doing what they’re doing– they’re basically experiencing better physical well-being by doing something that makes them feel happy or safe. It’s a no-brainer. But not everyone will have the same emotional reaction to (not having a) dinner roll, or a nutritional supplement, or a nice run in the park.

          1. fposte*

            I love the placebo effect so much! Whenever I’m prescribed something new I do everything I can to maximize it.

            I was fascinated to see that placebo responses can vary by nationality, too–the NYT article said that Brazilians have a low placebo effect and Germans a high one, but on the other hand Germans had comparatively little placebo response with a hypertension “medication.”

            1. themmases*

              Yes! Looking back, I probably gave myself nocebo frequently in college by insisting on closely reading the entire package insert before taking anything.

              One of my favorite books about this topic is “From Paralysis to Fatigue” by Edward Shorter, a social historian of medicine. The book was published in 1992, so I don’t know what the current state is of the specific studies he cites. But it is a really interesting look at how culture influences our experiences of medical treatment and illness, and how we attribute health problems.

              In addition to being really cool, in a weird way it improved my life to understand how prevalent psychosomatic symptoms really are. It’s great encouragement when I’m being a bit of a hypochondriac to stop, calm or distract myself, and reassess in a couple of hours when I’m not feeling distressed.

              1. fposte*

                Oh, I’ll have to read that–that sounds totally up my alley! This one’s old now too, but I really liked Elaine Showalter’s Hystories, which was coming from a cultural standpoint at some of the same topics. And she got a huge pushback from people who thought she was accusing them of malingering, when her point was pretty much the opposite–that there are culturally sanctioned ways of manifesting serious distress, and that those are really important.

            2. hermit crab*

              There have even been studies showing that the placebo effect exists in pet dogs! Apparently dogs are so dialed in to their humans’ emotions that they get a sort of vicarious placebo effect when the humans expect that a new veterinary drug will make their dog better. So cool!

          2. Koko*

            My favorite saying is, “The placebo effect is just a name for the body’s remarkable ability to heal itself.”

          3. Eliza Jane*

            My favorite study ever was one where they gave people sugar pills and said, “This is a sugar pill. It’s what we call a placebo, which means there are no active ingredients in it at all. However, people often have positive reactions to placebos. Please take it and report.”

            Even KNOWING it was a placebo, people reported improvements.

            1. Koko*

              Reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from a college-years episode of Boy Meets World. There’s a plot line dealing with Cory being a hypochondriac and Topanga getting increasingly impatient with humoring it. Finally he goes to the doctor and gets a prescription and triumphantly comes home waving a pill bottle around saying, “See?? You said there was nothing wrong with me. If there’s nothing wrong with me, then why did the doctor give me these pills??” For a moment she’s concerned, but then she looks at the bottle, rolls her eyes, and says, “Cory, these are placebos.” And Cory angrily snaps back, “I have to take these for the REST OF MY LIFE!!!”

            2. Miss B*

              Even better, when people are given a sugar pill and told that’s what it is, and other people are given a saline injection and told that’s what it is, the group receiving the injections reports substantially more improvements — the theory being that getting a shot is really driving home the feeling that you are being cared for/medically tended to, so your body responds accordingly even more so. It’s fascinating.

              1. Pretend Scientist*

                We do this all the time, to control for that effect. We give “sham” injections, pre-planned as part of the clinical trial protocol, to control for the placebo effect.

              2. Rana*

                I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of the reason for acupuncture’s effectiveness. (I say this as a previous patient who would use it again if it were appropriate for my particular issue.)

                You have someone who pays very close attention to you and how you’re feeling, there’s a visible and tactile treatment, and you’re required to sit or lie still for about an hour while the treatment is happening. Even if the actual science of it was hooey (I don’t feel that it is) those other things are in and of themselves helpful.

                1. blackcat*

                  I’m way late to the party, but I wanted to say that the placebo effect can’t explain all of acupuncture’s effectiveness. It’s been shown to greatly reduce inflammation (and indicators of pain) in lots of different animals. Someone above pointed out that we can sort of transmit the placebo effect to dogs, and while I’d buy that argument for horses (acupuncture is commonly used by large animal vets), I wouldn’t buy it for cattle. Having personally witnessed a stressed, limping cow get totally relaxed and then walk normally after an acupuncture treatment, I’m pretty convinced that there’s much more to it than placebo effect.

                  (And if I were a biologist, I’d love to study it! I find it so baffling that it works!)

                2. Cath in Canada*

                  IIRC, the hypothesis is that the small & fleeting beneficial effect of acupuncture works by the pain of the needle insertions temporarily “distracting” your nervous system, lessening the pre-existing pain of the condition that’s being treated. Kind of like how if someone flushes the toilet, the shower water gets hotter – there’s only so much pain transmission that can happen concurrently in the body, and acute pain trumps chronic pain.

                  They’ve tested a “placebo” – acupuncture needles being inserted in random locations – against the traditional treatment, where the needles are inserted in very precise locations, in people who’d never had a traditional treatment before and didn’t know where the insertion points were supposed to be. They found that both treatments were essentially equally effective – there was a small and temporary benefit, but the insertion site didn’t make a difference. Of course it wasn’t the gold-standard double-blind test, because the people inserting the needles knew if they were following random or traditional placement patterns, and that can affect the outcomes, e.g. if they treat the traditional vs. placebo patients slightly differently, but it was about as well-controlled as it could be for this kind of treatment.

                  (I’m a scientist, but a geneticist, not a neuroscientist or pain specialist)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        This whole discussion reminds me of one particular former coworker, and she fit the bill of being “into a lot of pseudoscience, etc.” so well.

        She would do gluten free on and off, and that was fine, but she was so wishy-washy about everything health-related. Crossfit was The Best. Crossfit caused her permanent injury & she’s never going back. P90x is where it’s at. P90x isn’t intense enough. These massage oils are So Awesome and my migraines are gone. I returned all those massage oils because they burned me. Everything was declared to be a magic bullet until it stopped working for her. : (

        1. Kelly L.*

          I know someone who’s like this, with a rolling series of diets and religions and hobbies. Every single thing she gets into is The Thing, and everybody should be doing it, and everybody who’s not doing it is wrongity wrong, and why aren’t you doing The Thing yet? And then, inevitably, her Thing has other humans involved in it, and some of them turn out to be jerks, and it sours her on the whole thing and she’s on to the next The Thing.

    3. Rebecca*

      I’m sick of this whole gluten is bad thing. If you have a specific disease, yes, you have to not eat gluten or restrict it a lot. Otherwise, it is not poisonous or harmful. It’s just another part of an omnivore’s diet.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. I’m sensitive to tree nuts – eating them will make me really miserable. (Not allergic; won’t kill me.) So of course I do not eat them! But I don’t assume everyone *else* would be better off if they didn’t eat them either, that’s just silly. Most people have no problem with them. (I wish I didn’t, because they’re really handy portable protein, plus they’re otherwise good substitutes for several *other* things I have problems with. Alas.)

              1. Cordelia Naismith*

                That’s how I read it, too. Just because something doesn’t kill you, doesn’t mean you’re not allergic to it.

        1. Soharaz*

          Uggghh that’s how I am with raw almonds. My mouth is so so happy when I eat them, but I know that 30 minutes later my stomach will be cramping and I’ll feel like I am about to die :( I finally stopped, but still give massive jealous sideeye to other people eating them.

      2. Noelle*

        I’ve had a lot of coworkers give up gluten. I don’t really care, but it’s bizarre to me 1) how cultish they get about it (gluten is evil!!!1! bagels must die!!) and 2) how many of them try to pretend it is for health reasons when it obviously isn’t. I don’t want to hear about your gluten sensitivity ad nauseum, only to see you sneaking cookies when you think no one is looking.

          1. Noelle*

            Well the only solution is for EVERYONE to give up gluten and never bring it into the office! I mean, where’s the solidarity here?

            1. schnapps*

              So if you google “How to be gluten intolerant” you’ll get a good laugh – the first hit should be a youtube video. I’ll post the direct link in my next comments (but whenever I post links, it goes into moderation)

              1. Noelle*

                That is hilarious! And the health issues are so accurate, I had a coworker who had migraines and gave up gluten. She kept talking about how much being gluten free helped, but she still got migraines just as often. So….maybe it isn’t the gluten?

                1. Hotstreak*

                  ^^^ If a conversation like this one was taking place in my office, I would find it just as uncomfortable and offensive as the overweight person finds talk of exercise and diet.

                2. schnapps*

                  I think the problem is, a lot of people adopt a gluten free diet because they think it will cure All Their Ills and then it doesn’t, yet they brag about being gluten free because It’s So Good For You and You Should Really Try It Because You’ll Poop Rainbows, Just Like a Unicorn! It’s sad that this has happened, because for people with celiac disease, gluten is a real problem.

                  I know several people with celiac disease, and I have never once heard them bragging about being on a gluten-free diet or how good it is for the average person. It’s just how they live their life and they don’t feel a need to broadcast it to the world.

                3. A Cita*

                  It’s sad that this has happened, because for people with celiac disease, gluten is a real problem.

                  I don’t see how that’s sad. From the celiacs I’ve known, they’ve all universally expressed their appreciation for the gluten-free trend because it has created more options for them. They don’t give a rat’s ass if people are really gluten intolerant or not.

                  Let people enjoy their fads. Whom does it hurt? I’m gluten intolerant, not a fad follower, but I don’t care if people are fad followers.

                4. Rana*

                  It’s sort of a mixed blessing, though, from what I’ve understood from my own gluten-intolerant friends. On the one hand, many more options for foods they can eat; on the other hand, it’s a lot more likely now that when they identify themselves as unable to eat gluten, they get lumped in with people who only think they are (which means it’s more likely that servers in restaurants will serve them food with gluten, figuring that they’re just Being Gluten Intolerant than, you know, actually unable to handle gluten).

              2. Charityb*

                It’s pretty scary that there are servers who, upon hearing that someone in a group has an allergy, will even consider deciding not to believe them and serve them that food energy. I don’t care if it’s gluten, shellfish, whatever. If you’re a server it’s not up to you to evaluate how serious someone’s allergy really is, any more than it’s up to you to decide that someone needs to ‘loosen up’ so you should spike their soda with alcohol.

          2. Koko*

            Yes – as someone with a wheat allergy who never really ate much bread before it was diagnosed, I heartily agree with you. I don’t really care in the slightest about others eating bread products around me, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve suggested someone else try giving up wheat, and in each case it was someone who had come to me specifically for advice about my experience giving up wheat. I stopped eating wheat because a nutritionist diagnosed my allergy, and it wasn’t really that hard because I grew up on corn tortillas and tortilla chips and other corn products as my grain staple, not sandwiches and cookies and cakes made from wheat. I basically just stopped eating complimentary airline cookies and switched to rice pasta and that was the extent of my dietary shift.

            That said, bread is more or less the same as sugar to your body. It’s highly addictive, providing an emotional boost when you eat it and producing cravings and withdrawal when you cut it out. The reason so many folks who used to love bread and gave it up are always trying to “spread the Gospel” of gluten-free to everyone around them is the same reason ex-smokers are the most fanatical about getting others to quit. Because they’re holding themselves back from something they’re addicted to, and being exposed to temptation is frustrating.

            1. fposte*

              Except that’s highly individual, too; if you had cravings, that’s true for you, but I dumped bread without withdrawal when I went on FODMAP. I missed fruit and onions more than anything.

        1. A Cita*

          Well, the sneaking cookies thing is understandable. I’m very gluten sensitive, but not celiac (thank goodness!). It’s the real deal for me–as in have been doubled over in intense pain and rushed to the hospital. Elimination diet found it was gluten. But it’s not celiac. And cutting out gluten completely makes a world of difference. And I may be guilty of singing the praises of gluten-free diets (about myself, never telling anyone else what to eat). However, I can cheat until the cheating catches up and I’m in pain again. So guess what? I cheat. Because treats are life. Treats feel like falling in love. I dream of treats. I don’t want to live in a world without treats. However, I could see someone who didn’t know about my situation making the same assumptions–eye roll–gluten intolerant, huh? Oh really? So why you eating that cookie, huh? But the thing is, we’re all human, our will isn’t made of steel, we backslide. I’m a backslider.

          I don’t like anyone judging anyone’s food choices, in either direction. I don’t eat a lot and I get judged A LOT. But if you knew my medical conditions and that my diet was under doctor orders, you might not judge as much (although you might–I get a lot of disbelief when I do explain). But people shouldn’t have to reveal their health history to eat in peace.

      3. MashaKasha*

        I was at a social gathering recently where this issue came up and someone said, “When I’m eating out, I order extra gluten on everything.” I loved that comment so much. I’m gifting it to you guys for future use because you’re all awesome and I want you to have it.

        1. Rebecca*

          Haha, I have a friend with a gluten “sensitivity” and I always use this when we eat out together. She’ll say, “I’ll have the pizza on gluten-free crust.” And I’ll follow with, “I’ll take her gluten, thanks.”

          1. Koko*

            The local bagel bakery here sells a high-gluten bagel for athletes. (Gluten is the protein part of wheat.)

            Baklava is also totally reliant on the high gluten content in filo dough for its texture, which is why you’ll never find halfway decent gluten-free baklava.

            1. Rebecca*

              I would be all over that! LOL, bagels are my favorite.

              I did not know that about baklava, that explains its deliciousness.

            2. Natalie*

              Fun fact, even regular bagels should be made with a high gluten flour or regular flour with some wheat gluten added. Otherwise the texture suffers.

              The first time I made bagels I found it kind of funny that my local co-op, which are generally bastions of Food Fad nonsense, sold wheat gluten in bulk.

              1. cozy mystery*

                I didn’t know that. AAM responders teach me a lot about a great range of subjects. Cool!

      4. More Cake, Please*

        Ugh yes. I would give just about ANYTHING to sink my teeth into a proper deep dish pizza or cinnamon donut, but I can’t anymore. So I find it very irritating when people abstain from things I’d love to eat just because they read in some pseudoscience blog or book that it’s inflammatory and that cutting it out will help X health condition they have, then drop it a few months later when they aren’t magically cured.

        The latest trend in my office is actually “processed sugars.” The world will pry my sugar from my cold, dead hands.

        1. TL -*

          I went to urgent care recently (for something totally unrelated to my food allergies/stomach problems, thanks) and the doctor spent the whole time lecturing me on my food allergies/stomach problems, starting with “Oh, you’ve got hypthyroid? Have you tried going gluten free?” passing through “As a student, I know your diet just isn’t the best,” – I’m not a student and my diet is actually quite good – and ending on a thrice-repeated probiotic recommendation for a problem she pulled from my medical history which had nothing to do with the reason I was in urgent care.

    4. Mike C.*

      The fun part is that outside of folks with celiac, the whole “gluten sensitivity” thing is pretty much bunk. The original scientist who found it did what good scientists do and investigated it further – further studies showed that it wasn’t real.

      1. Rebecca*

        Exactly. “I feel so much better now that I’m spending insane amounts of money on gluten free food”. OK. As long as you feel better. Sighs.

        1. Mockingjay*

          I find it hilarious that foods that never contained gluten in the first place are now labeled, “Gluten- free!”

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Do you understand how much restraint it takes for me to not make a “gluten free!” label for all of my teapots?

            So. Much.

            It would be hysterical.

          2. bearing*

            This isn’t as meaningless as it sounds. In order to put GF on the label, you’re *supposed* to be able to certify that your food can’t have been contaminated with gluten and isn’t made on equipment that processes gluten.

            Source: my spouse works for a large food company on a GF product line

          3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            I remember when Atkins was new and super-trendy seeing butter in the grocery store labeled “CARB FREE”.

          4. cozy mystery*

            Ulta has a shampoo/soap/bubblebath that is gluten free now. I suppose it is used for those rare times that you want to wash someone’s mouth out with soap.

            1. LiptonForMe*

              Actually if you are one of the folks that is truly allergic to gluten you cannot be around it and you cannot touch it. It is like a peanut allergy, it does not have to be in your mouth to kill you.

          5. MinB*

            My husband has celiac disease and the GF labels on stuff are actually really helpful. Early on in the diagnosis, he was glutened on things like plain nuts – they were processed in a facility with something that had wheat and he was stuck in bed for three days in agony. A clear GF label makes it easier at the grocery store for people who do need to know gluten levels in the parts per million range.

      2. Bostonian*

        There are a lot of people out there who have eliminated gluten from their diets and find it improves how they feel. I’ve always assumed that a good chunk of the effect is due to the fact that in order to eliminate gluten, you have to pay a lot more attention to what you’re eating and you’re more likely to prepare meals at home instead of eating out. It’s not actually the gluten, it’s that avoiding gluten means that you’ve cut out a lot of crappy junk food.

        1. Anony-moose*

          Yep, there have been studies that it’s not just the gluten. It’s the processed food, other factors, and (like you said) you’ve made a radical change to your diet. I find it really interesting but it gets so eclipsed by “gluten is bad!”

          1. fposte*

            There’s also the FODMAP sensitivity thing where the inulin in wheat can be an issue–but the gluten is actually fine.

            1. Steve G*

              +1. I love the FODMAP diet. If you’ve ever had that heavy feeling in your stomach or indigestion…..this fixes it, you just learn to substitute some of the common cheeses and veggies/fruits in your diet for other ones…

              1. TL -*

                ….have you done the FODMAPs diet?! It was the most miserable 6 weeks of my life.

                That being said, it was extremely helpful in figuring out food stuff. Very informative. Would not recommend.

                1. Steve G*

                  I did it strict for about 3 months then got bored because I wanted bread. But it did help “reset” my stomach, so I think it is definitely worth the pain.

                  You can still eat some good stuff during it – cheddar cheese, grilled meat w/ veggies, roasted potatoes, corn bread, corn chips, eggplant or zuchinni parm, tomatoes, feta cheese, stuff peppers, stuffed cabbage, all sorts of meat, limited amounts of hummus, etc………the main issue is that all sorts of convenience food are the exact things you can’t eat. So even though I didn’t feel restricted in what I ate, you’re restricted in take out options, so I cooked ALOT

                2. Soharaz*

                  I just looked at it, you can have my garlic and onions when you pry them from my cold dead fingers.

            2. Soupspoon McGee*

              Yes! My issue isn’t the gluten, but the wheat itself. And thanks to the low-FODMAP elimination phase, I found a whole passel of things that irritate my guts (wheat, apples, watermelon, onions, mushrooms, dairy . . . . ).

            3. GoldfishObituary*

              Yes! I have IBS and the doctor advised low FODMAPS. Makes me wonder how many people who are “gluten-intolerant” are actually IBS/FODMAP sensitive.

        2. Mike C.*

          I do a lot of long term process improvement and it’s shocking how much of the effectiveness comes straight out of paying closer attention to the activity, having a real plan, measuring/monitoring results and so on.

        3. simonthegrey*

          My understanding is that it’s a low FODMAP diet that helps out with IBS and other gut issues.

          1. TL -*

            It can also be just planning, prepping, and actively taking control of your diet. Most people don’t realize how much junk food/fast food/processed food they eat and going gluten-free basically forces you to give up most of that. It takes snacks out of your diet, you end up staying away from a lot of restaurants – your diet generally improves a lot. (or, you know, turns into ice cream every day for dinner, but whatever.)

      3. Koko*

        Actually, the study that was widely heralded in the press as debunking gluten sensitivity didn’t exactly do that. What it did find was that a significant proportion of the subjects had non-gluten wheat sensitivity. Which is really nothing too terribly new – wheat has long been one of the most common allergies in America, which is why food manufacturers have been required to label it on foods, along with eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy, which round out the 6 allergies common enough that the FDA has mandated labeling.

        The only real misconception going on is how many people tried out “gluten-free” because it was trendy and then felt better because they had an undiagnosed WHEAT (but not gluten) allergy. But in all but the most processed of foods, wheat-containing and gluten-containing are virtually identical, so it actually does make sense for these folks to be avoiding gluten. They just might be in for a rude surprise if they try a wheat product with gluten removed and find they still react to it.

        Link to follow.

          1. Anony-moose*

            This study was relieving to me because it meant that when faced with gluten naysayers I could still say “but beer is ok! This was made with barley, not wheat!”

        1. Mike C.*

          Sure, yet the fact remains that lots of folks are self-diagnosing, and that gluten isn’t itself the issue.

        2. TL -*

          There are 8 big allergens that have to be labelled (you forgot shellfish and fish.)

          And actually, wheat allergies are still relatively rare – only about 0.5% of the adult population has them.

          1. Blurgle*

            Nine in Canada – mustard is also counted, being a very common allergen in Punjabi populations.

      4. Artemesia*

        I tend to agree with this except I have a perfectly normal non neurotic relative who is a scientist who discovered when he stopped eating gluten that his stomach problems just stopped. He isn’t diagnosed as celiac but if he eats bread, he has stomach problems. I, myself, cannot eat onions. Raw, I’d like to die, but I am not allergic and they won’t kill me just make me feel awful. I get a headache within half an hour of eating raw onion in anything, even if it is fairly well disguised. Cooked — well I don’t eat onion pieces but if it is in the broth I just suck it up — but they still don’t sit well. I try not to whine about it. But I remember a restaurant in Chicago where I sought out the manager ahead (small place) and asked if he could steer me around dishes fraught with onion as I didn’t want to make a big deal about it at the table. He responded by bringing me a whole onion on a plate when appetizers were arriving; we did think it was funny. I’m sure not everyone would. (he did make sure my food was onion free.)

        I think there are lots of things that don’t rise to the level of allergies that set off serious reactions that still bother some people. I just don’t want to hear about it repeatedly or have to cater to it if it is very complex. I always ask dinner guests if there is anything they can’t eat and am happy to leave out tomatoes or shrimp or whatever. But I think anyone with super complicated dietary needs should just bring their own.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I have a friend who has trouble with onions and eventually discovered she has fructose malabsorption. Do you also have problems with apples, pears, or watermelon? Obviously I’m not qualified to diagnose anyone, but if your symptoms match it might be worth looking into. The diagnostic test is relatively easy.

          1. Steve G*

            I was surprised that onions were such a big no-no on the FODMAP diet. I thought they were “healthy” and didn’t contain much. Didn’t know they were so sugary….

            1. Ad Astra*

              My understanding is that they’re better than most fruits, but worse than most vegetables. And I think they cause more problems for people when they’re raw than when they’re cooked. I had never heard of the condition before I met this person, so I’m mostly repeating what she told me.

              1. Steve G*

                Onions and Garlics were pointed out as the big no-no’s on the diet. Many fruits are no-nos as well, except blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and other low sugar fruits.

          2. fposte*

            Onions actually don’t have much fructose–what they have is fructans, a different short-chain sugar, that people can also have trouble digesting, and that’s the same sugar that’s in wheat. Some fruits, such as watermelons, do have significant amount of fructans, but most fruits are more significant sources of fructose.

            There’s a lot of confusion on FODMAP stuff around right now; Kate Scarlata’s blog is the one my dietician recommended, and the Monash U app (Monash is the place that developed the diet in the first place) is good if pricey. Stanford Medical also has a decent guide sheet, but it doesn’t break up the offending sugars, so you can’t use it as an elimination diet guide.

        2. fposte*

          As noted, there’s a scientific misstep here–feeling better without bread doesn’t automatically implicate gluten as the culprit, so if he’s saying it was based only on that, he needs to tighten up his method :-).

          1. Shell*

            Correlation is not causation.

            I would like to tattoo that on the head of everyone who tells me about the newest chain-letter fad diet, really.

      5. Liza*

        I’ve recently learned that wheat (not gluten, something else in wheat) is bad for me because I have IBS and wheat sets it off. So I’ve been really happy that gluten free food is so popular, it makes it a lot easier to find food I can eat. Totally agreed that it’s not something that benefits the average human, though.

        1. Liza*

          Or, what others said in between the time I loaded the page and the time I wrote the comment: it’s the FODMAPs. :-)

      6. Case of the Mondays*

        Maybe I’m a misdiagnosed Celiac. I was diagnosed w/ Crohn’s but never received true remission until I went gluten free. I do eat some gluten substitutes so my change isn’t just from reducing processed food and carbs. Maybe it is something in wheat or just wheat instead of gluten but the difference is night and day for me. I lost 3 pant sizes without losing a pound. It was all bloat.

        1. Soupspoon McGee*

          I have Crohn’s, but I didn’t lose the bloat and pain until I tried the low-FODMAP diet. I was tested for celiac, but gluten isn’t my problem–wheat is.

      7. Stranger than fiction*

        That or they have a different issue or allergy and just blame it on gluten and the real cause goes undiagnosed

    5. T3k*

      My dad’s 2nd wife (I refuse to refer to her as my stepmother as I was an adult when they met and married) was like this. The 3 of us would get together for a dinner at a restaurant, and I’d order something with brown rice instead of white and she’d be all “ohh, brown rice is said to be healthier for you, good for you!” Got so fed up with these comments, I finally went “I chose it because I like the taste of it, not because it’s healthy for me.” Funny thing is, I’m thin while she’s overweight, which makes it even more weird.

    6. Goliath Gary Willikers*

      Of course she believes gluten is evil and practices cleanses. To wash out all those mysterious, never-specified “toxins” in her body, no doubt.

      Self-righteous, rude, and ill-informed is quite the combination.

      1. TL -*

        Hehehe, every time someone talks to me about the “toxins” in their body, I immediately say “I’m so sorry to hear about your liver failure!”

        1. Anony-moose*

          Hah! I love that. I actually heard scientists mention “toxins” the other day on NPR.

          I’m all about alternative healing, and am actually in yoga teacher training. But I also love science and modern medicine. I’m actually on a sort of quest to find a middle ground for myself when it comes to eating habits, self care, medicine, etc. It’s HARD because no one agrees and 90% of the conversations are just people yelling at each other. I don’t wan to derail this thread so I’ll just say “harumph.”

          1. TL -*

            Eh, a lot of stuff is branded as “alternative” when it’s actually a part of normal medical advice – eat healthy, exercise, reduce your stress levels, stuff like that.

            But I guess a lot of people don’t realize that maybe yoga didn’t change their life so much as they finally took up the general good sense advice of exercising and reducing stress. Whatever works for them.

        2. Ad Astra*

          I’m going to use that! I guess there’s just something seductive about the idea of cleansing and purification. I have a functional liver and kidneys, so my toxin situation is under control.

    7. Not me*

      Food puritanism sucks. As does orthorexia, if that’s what’s up. I really want to be a broken record and keep telling people to go to their doctors for advice, but I’m sure it’s the last thing they want to do.

      1. fposte*

        If somebody told me they’d kill themselves if their body was different, I would definitely consider advising them to see a doctor about that. There’s no version of “health” that includes that.

      2. Anonforthiscomment*

        Doctors aren’t necessarily the cure – I had to really fuss at mine before she stopped saying “diet and exercise, diet and exercise. Fine, if it will shut you up, I’ll palpate your thyroid and… Oh!”

    8. Ad Astra*

      Ugh. My MIL, who I generally get along with pretty well, is always bothering me and my husband about the way we eat. Neither of us is at the weight we’d like to be, but we actually do try to eat with our goals in mind. My husband is a competitive powerlifter and I have PCOS with insulin resistance, so we eat a lot of meat and our diet is relatively high in fat — on purpose.

      She is convinced that we would both be “healthier” (which absolutely means skinnier in this case) if we bought reduced-fat dairy products and diet sodas and all kinds of other sugary/carby nightmares that are pumped full of chemicals but technically low in calories. Sometimes I’m not sure if her comments bother me more because they’re unsolicited and vaguely critical, or if what’s really bugging me is that she’s so wrong about what we should be eating.

      1. Artemesia*

        Nah. It is the nagging. I think you need to have one conversation in which you say ‘lilly, I love you but I never ever ever ever want to hear another word about what we eat.’ Worked for a different nag from my mother who never ever ever let anything go.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yes! Thank you! My MIL has six children, so I think her reliance on pasta and rice comes from a habit of feeding big crowds. The reduced-fat dairy is, I assume, a product of the ’80s obsession with dietary fat.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      The only comments I ever make about anybody else’s lunch is, “Ooooh, that looks/smells fantastic!” Because everybody has a better lunch than me, usually. I don’t cook much and tend to throw random stuff in my lunch bag on the way out the door.

  5. caryatid*

    i wish people would mind their own business about others’ appearances. i find these kind of discussions really tedious and unprofessional.

    1. JM*


      My co-worker comments on her food choices and mine on a daily basis. She criticizes herself for eating, or credits herself for not eating. She criticizes my unhealthy choices and then criticizes my healthy choices…because I guess they make her feel guilty?

      I recently started exercising at lunch and she criticized that, because I guess it made her feel guilty, and then she started walking herself, and now compares the amount of time we both spend exercising.

      The highlight of my month was when she analyzed various parts of her body that she wants to slim down, but said she would like her butt to stay the same size because her husband likes a big butt. I almost died.

      Thankfully, I have earbuds and only hear about half of what she says.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, can we please put this up there with religion and politics as things not to discuss at work? (a few people quietly amongst yourselves, fine) but no evangelizing in the office

  6. Kvaren*

    “It’s gotten overt enough that one of my coworkers feels compelled to patronizingly congratulate me if she sees me drinking a beverage with no calories.”

    That is some SERIOUS B.S. right there and I have no idea how I would react to that myself. Probably too violently.

    This is a very toxic workplace.

    1. Shannon*

      Yeah. I was hard pressed to imagine a response that didn’t involve throwing the drink at the offending coworker.

  7. Stephanie*

    Ragen Chastain posted a great response to food policing just the other day on her blog Dances with Fat: “You have stereotypes about fat people, you monitored my behavior because I’m a fat person, and you are congratulating me on rising above your stereotypes. That’s not a compliment – it’s creepy and it’s rude and what other people eat is not your business.”

    1. Ad Astra*

      I wish more people understood how many years of hard work it took for me to be able to eat food in public and openly talk about food/eating because I was terrified that people would be disgusted by the idea of a fat person admitting that she eats. Short of understanding that, though, people could just mind their own business.

      1. Nom d' Pixel*

        Yes. So much this. Plus, because of all the pressure about food and weight, eating became an act of rebellion that I would do alone. Instead of dietary pressure making me lose weight, it made me gain 60 lbs. When I was losing that weight, I wouldn’t talk about it, I just started making changes. People would get offended because I didn’t talk to them about what I was eating or I would say things like, “I am just watching my portions and eating less junk food”. Apparently, I wasn’t allowed to lose weight without making a spectacle out of it or being on some crazy fad diet.

        1. Anony-moose*

          How dare you be pragmatic and healthy?

          My mom has lost over 150lbs in the last 10 years which is amazing for her – she was incapacitated by her weight, and it was taking a toll on her physical and mental health. So those lifestyle changes were important to her. But now she’s just a bit overweight and become obsessed with her figure. At one point she was on a diet that had her eating nothing but 6 apples a day, alternated with other less insane days of eating. Of course she was lightheaded and nearly passed out. NOT GOOD.

          I’m glad you could make healthy changes without succumbing to people’s criticism!

        2. OhNo*

          It’s funny how people who notice that you’ve lost weight will criticize your methods, especially when they’re the practical ones that virtually every health professional recommends. I’ve lost about 40 pounds in the past year, which I’m very proud of myself for, but the number of times I’ve been criticized for citing “diet and exercise” as my method is ridiculous!

          (The worst was some friend-of-a-friend who spent half an hour lecturing me on how you shouldn’t diet you should just eat whatever you want and then exercise more to compensate. Finally I snapped and said, “I’m paraplegic. I would have to exercise for hours to burn the same amount of calories that you do in twenty minutes, so shut up.”)

        3. Ad Astra*

          Eating became an act of rebellion that I would do alone.

          Yes! That line really resonates with me. Obviously restricting myself to ridiculously low calorie counts wasn’t a healthy habit, but it never did as much damage to my health as rebellious eating did. My “eff you” binges made me feel like I was in control the same way my insane restrictions did, but they were more fun. The bingeing only stopped when I was able to reduce/ignore my anxiety about being judged for eating.

          Now instead of “Eff you, I’ll eat this if I want to,” my mindset is “Your opinion about my food is irrelevant so I’m going to keep making the best choice for me.”

      2. Anonymoose*

        I am 26 and I still loathe eating in front of people. I will go outside and eat alone in my car rather than at my desk or in the lunchroom.

    2. Chris*

      Ragen Chastain is also a compulsive liar who doles out pseudoscience and dangerous medical advice. She recently told a woman to ignore her doctor’s advice about weight loss even if it meant going blind.

      1. LadyTL*

        A hate site about a woman is not exactly an unbiased source of information. Also in the very facebook post they quoted from her she does not tell the woman to ignore her doctor, she says to ask for more information and other treatments.

        1. Chris*

          Why is a blog that collects information about someone who is spreading misinformation considered a “hate site”? The posts I linked are not full of biased information, they’re statements of fact about things Ragen has done, backed up by numerous sources.

          Ragen is a college dropout, but calls herself a “trained researcher” and an expert on obesity who can denies almost all mainstream research. The National Eye Institute lists weight loss as the primary treatment for the condition. Ragen told the women that weight loss won’t help her condition, that it’s generally impossible to lose weight, and that it will probably make things worse. She advised her to ask for the same treatment as a “thin person” for a condition that overwhelmingly affects obese women. Those treatment options are extremely invasive things like brain surgery to insert shunts, and eye surgery to decompress the optic nerve. Ragen is so obsessed with the idea that weight loss is impossible and can’t improve health that she would rather have a person go blind than support any intentional weight loss.

          1. LadyTL*

            I read over that site. Whoever is writing it is basically cyber stalking Ragen to write posts about how awful they think she is. It is not a reputable source of information for anything.

            People can be free to feel however they want about Ragen and she is no worse then people like say Dr. Oz or Jamie Oliver or Oprah. No one’s life looks good under a microscope.

            1. Chris*

              The blog exists because Ragen refuses to engage any of her critics, and only participates in carefully controlled discussions where she can delete anything remotely critical of her or her ideas. She is spreading misinformation about health and obesity for her own financial gain (being a fat blogger is her profession) and making incredibly over the top and demonstrably false claims about her own achievements and experiences to bolster her reputation. Then her blog gets linked on places like here as a legitimate resource. I love reading this blog and it’s frustrating seeing her fool people with superficial credibility.

              Ragen is a public figure, and every Dances with Facts blog contains numerous sources. Even if you consider it “cyber stalking” you can look at the sources yourself and make up your own mind. If it’s now considered “hate” to debunk a fraud then the situation with the obesity crisis is truly dire.

              Jamie Oliver isn’t telling people it’s healthy to be obese and that weight loss is impossible while making up wild stories about himself. Oprah isn’t pretending she is going to compete in an IRONMAN in October when she can’t stop her bike without falling off or run a single mile after 18 months of “training”. Dr. Oz is a fraud and absolutely deserves to be debunked just like Ragen. You can see excellent examples of this on “hate” sites like Science-Based Medicine.


              We’re really veering off topic here, but everyone deserves the opportunity to be informed about public figures and people they are taking receiving major health advice from. Ragen is not a credible source because she is a compulsive liar and scammer.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I have no idea what the story is with any of this, but I want to ask that we move on (in part because it’s gotten off topic and in part because I’d hate to be hosting an unfair/untrue attack on someone, and I don’t know enough about this to assess that).

          2. Wanna-Alp*

            You asked “Why is a blog that collects information about someone who is spreading misinformation considered a “hate site”?”

            Because it is directed personally at Ragen rather than taking the position of civil discussion of the issues. Your comments here are also directed personally at Ragen (e.g. the “compulsive liar” description).

          3. B5SnowDog*

            “The National Eye Institute lists weight loss as the primary treatment for the condition.”

            No, it states that it is one of many treatments for the condition. It goes on to state that “[f]or many people, weight loss can be difficult to achieve and maintain”, which is luckily why there are more options that just the shunt surgery you mentioned or optic nerve defenestration. My neurologist has me on daily medication, for example, which has been successful in reducing the swelling in my optic nerve.

  8. voyager1*

    Seen the flip side of this kind of conversation too. Either can’t fault the reader or the person who left.

    1. Noelle*

      Flip side, as in offices who negatively comment on peoples’ positive food choices? I have a couple coworkers who do that. I’m in my twenties and a normal weight, but I just found out I have high cholesterol so I’ve been watching what I eat. It’s shocking how many people think your lunch is their business. “You’re only having a salad?” “You’re not going to have one of the donuts Gladys brought???”

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Yup. My healthy choices rack up a wealth of comments.

        And I have had some *very* harsh things said to me when I have skipped treats and goodies.

        1. Rebecca*

          Yes! You can’t win. I eat pretty healthy (mostly vegetarian) and am a distance runner. To hear my coworkers talk sometimes, you’d think I was a walking skeleton.

          Plus I really hate hearing someone berate themselves for indulging in a treat if they want one. Every time there is a treat, people have to say, “Oh, I really shouldn’t be eating this. I’ll have to just have a salad for dinner.” Jeez louise, just eat the dang cookie if you want it, don’t eat it if you don’t.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I worked with a nutritionist when I was losing weight and one of the best things she taught me was that indulging is conscious choice and to say positive things (that weren’t deserve/reward based) to myself when deciding to have a treat.

            My boyfriend laughs out loud every time I say, “I’m going to enjoy the F&#$ out of this brownie.”

        2. Noelle*

          Have you noticed that being naturally thin is accepted as a positive trait, but being thin because of choices is not? I gain weight really easily, and I have some health issues. So yeah, I can stay in a normal weight range *if* I try, but boy is it hard and treats do not fit into the equation.

          1. Rebecca*

            Oh, totally. Like I said above, I run (and do yoga and strength train), so I think of my food as fuel for my workouts. I eat healthy so I can do the things I enjoy doing, not for vanity reasons. And I enjoy the occasional cookie or craft beer because everything in moderation.

            I have a good friend who has had to take on a mostly vegan diet due to severe intestinal issues. People are super judgmental about it. He will literally end up in the hospital if he eats meat or cheese, but some people feel the need to lecture him about how “man was meant to eat meat.”

      2. Ezri*

        I have high cholesterol as well. But because I’m young and thin I get incredulous responses when I tell people I’m watching what I eat. It’s like people think the only reason you diet is to lose weight or avoid gaining weight, which is bogus.

        I’m underweight with high cholesterol / triglycerides, like my Dad. My husband is overweight and perfectly healthy, like his parents. So I’m on a diet and husband eats donuts for dinner. Outward appearance is no indicator of health, and everybody’s body responds differently to diet. It’s nacho business. :)

        1. Noelle*

          It is very annoying! It sounds like we’re in a similar boat: My father is a normal weight and extremely active, but he had to have a quadruple bypass in his 50s because of completely hereditary cholesterol and heart issues. Unfortunately, I have the same issues. :( I love cheese danishes, but I also love having functioning arteries.

          1. Anx*

            Heart disease runs rampant in my family and I’ve only had 1 cholesterol test in my life. Most physicians won’t run one on me.

            My levels are actually pretty good, but I’m so worried about my heart health down the line. Those worries have been dismissed by every doctor because I’m young and a size 4.

            1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

              FYI – every blood bank I’ve donated with in the past five years (and I’ve moved around the country quite a bit in that time) will run a free cholesterol screening. It’s not as precise as what you’d get in the doctor’s office because you’re obviously not fasting beforehand and it’s not broken down by type, but it’s good to get a ballpark estimate.

          2. Rana*

            Yup, similar here. Naturally thin, with hereditary high cholesterol, and the LDL’s not one that responds well to diet or exercise. (Tris and HDL’s are good, though.) So it’s statins for me, which confounds people who are used to thinking of thin as inherently healthy.

  9. Chocolate lover*

    These things would make me feel really uncomfortable, too. I started a new job last year, and one of my new male coworkers started making a habit of commenting on my candy/chocolate eating habits when he came to my office, because I always had some on my desk. Things like how my dentist must love me because I must have a bunch of cavities, etc. (he never actually said anything weight related, but I wasn’t sure if he knew that would be crossing the line, or he just hadn’t gotten to that point yet.) After doing this several times, as well as making some obnoxious (and unnecessary) commentary on my clothing a few times, I looked at him one day and said “I assume that’s not what you came in here to talk to me about?” He must have taken the hint, because he stopped doing it.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        I was pleasantly surprised that my comment stopped him. I spent some time after still thinking how I was going to address it the next time he said something, and turned out I never had to, cause he stopped! I was so relieved.

    1. nicolefromqueens*

      I’d tell him he’d be visiting the dentist next time he made a comment about my weight!

      1. Jennifer*

        I think I’d come out with “Yes, I’m a giant fat moo-cow and I don’t CARE. Anything else you feel like sharing?”

    2. More Cake, Please*

      What a jerk. I eat tons of chocolate and sugary things, and yet I’ve never had a cavity. And I know people who do everything right (brush, floss, avoid sugar) and have tons of cavities. Sugar definitely has an effect, but I think there’s a significant genetic factor.

      1. Ezri*

        Absolutely. I can skip the dentist for years and never develop cavities, but if my husband doesn’t go every six months he ends up with a face full of them. My Dad’s side of the family has really good teeth.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          if my husband doesn’t go every six months he ends up with a face full of them

          Oh hell, me too. I couldn’t go regularly for six years and ended up losing a tooth and having to get a huge amount of work. Yes, I HAVE A GAP JUST LIKE YER HOOTENANNY COUSIN (you can’t see it).

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        My sisters get SO MANY CAVITIES. My theory is that because they’re twins (and my mom didn’t know until the oldest was born and was only 3 lbs 5 oz; it was the early 80s and ultrasounds weren’t routine like they are now) that they had to share the available nutrients, which means their teeth are terrible.

  10. Ad Astra*

    This environment sounds pretty extreme and it would absolutely drive me to find a job somewhere else. I sometimes see this things happening in my own office and it bothers me a lot, but this sounds much more frequent and it’s harder to assume good intent here.

  11. Rebecca*

    “Other things have happened too, such as this coworker being present when our boss, an exercise and diet fanatic, said about someone she had met recently, “I’d kill myself if I got that fat!””

    Well, I hope your boss never has an injury or illness that interferes with her exercise and diet routine. I’m sorry you have to deal with this person. Wow.

    1. OhNo*

      I get what you’re saying, but some of the assumptions behind your comment are problematic.

      Just because you are injured or ill doesn’t mean you can’t diet or exercise. Just because you are injured or ill doesn’t mean you can’t maintain or lose weight. Disability, age, physical fitness, injury, and illness don’t necessarily prevent you from exercising or dieting. They often make it harder, but that doesn’t mean that being injured or ill will automatically make you fat.

      Also, gaining weight should not be portrayed as a punishment – not even for jerks like the OP’s boss.

      1. Abyssal*

        On the other hand (speaking as someone who gained significant weight due to disability) I think it can be helpful to point out the disability-leading-to-weight side of the equation, simply because “oh, you must be disabled because of your fat” is such a common presumption, and it’s frustrating as hell for me and for other disabled and larger people I know.

      2. Broke Law Student*

        I don’t think Rebecca was in any way suggesting either of the things you say. I think the implication, which I very much agree with, is that even someone who is quite fit can have something happen in their life that causes them to be less fit. It can even be something that can cause weight gain. I certainly don’t think that’s a punishment, and hope you don’t either. I also hope that the boss, if something did happen that led her to gain weight, wouldn’t kill herself if she did so!

    2. Perspective 1 vs. Perspective 2*

      Might it be a mis-match of communication styles?

      Some people are socialized to always phrase their concerns as questions; sometimes to the point where they phrase things as rhetorical questions when statements would probably work better.

      The reverse is also true. Some people have been socialized for “statement and challenge” rather than question and answer; they say something that may or may not be right, and then wait for someone to challenge or agree with them. (Internet culture often encourages this communication style; there are even old jokes about it:

      Under that communication style, “I’d kill myself if I got that fat!” is a way of saying, “I wonder why they are that fat? Are they OK? (I wouldn’t be.)”

      1. Abyssal*

        That does not make it even a little okay, and those people should rethink casually endorsing suicide as a response to difficulties in life.

  12. OfficePrincess*

    Wow. And I thought it was bad the other day when one of the guys was going on and on about how he needs to gain weight and that it’s so hard “for people my size it’s just as hard to gain as it is for people your size to lose weight”.

    OP your office is so far removed from normal at this point, I don’t know if it can be salvaged. There have to be some other people who are uncomfortable with it, right? Maybe you all can support each other in changing the subject.

  13. W.*

    I hate this too, I’m a thin person and have no interest in dieting or eating a particular way or going to the gym, but at my last job people had lengthy boring conversations about this in front of me and then would criticize how small I was (weirdly came from someone who I would consider roughly my size.) Really they just came across as kill-joys with body-issues which I didn’t share so they wanted me to feel bad about it?…
    No one was over-weight in the office but there seemed to be some competition about who could be abstaining from whatever this week and ramping up their gym appointments. None of which seemed necessary… Whereas I generally ate whatever sweets were presented to me – but also had a light breakfast and lunch. I’m sure I annoyed people by being ‘petite’ but I never said anything about it – and would never comment on a co-workers diet/size unless they’d expressed a desire to cut down and or joked about something with me (even then it feels uncomfortable.) – Which wouldn’t have happened in that office anyway because they made me feel so weird and uncomfortable about my size. (Although they would comment on what I ate – either saying it was too little or too unhealthy/too much (GRR.)

    Anyway so sorry that happened to you OP, that’s really condescending about the calories in the drinks thing. I would say they have body issue problems and they all seem to be reinforcing them, and you not seeming to have issues with your body means they need to deflect this crap onto you. Although it now sounds like they’re making you feel like crap. Alison’s advice is good but I wonder if you can imput random other things for co-workers to compete against each other about – like fantasy football tournaments, or some similar innocuous competition that might take their minds off this rubbish. Also if it doesn’t change please leave this environment, don’t make insensitive people tear down your confidence to make themselves feel better.

    1. T3k*

      My last workplace was like yours except it was the opposite: everyone but me was big and I was the tiny person. 2 of the girls would often make fat jokes about themselves and it left me in a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” situation. If I laughed (they were pretty funny), it could be condescending, and if I said nothing, then I came off as annoyed by it. I pretty much became the butt of a joke when it came to weight, like one time the boss was saying I should take the trash out everyday or something because I sat nearest the door (by just a few feet). The guy behind me was like “…so… you want the one person in the office who probably doesn’t need the exercise, to go up and down the stairs to take the trash out, everyday?”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Do you get the “where do you put it all?” comments when you’re eating? That gets so old

        1. Ad Astra*

          There have been a few situations where I literally wondered how my coworker (a man who was maybe on the smaller side of average, but not rail thin) fit so much food in his body at one time. He would come back from baseball games describing how he had two brats, an Italian sausage, a plate of nachos, a box of popcorn, and five beers in the course of a few hours. How?

          But yeah, “Where do you put it?” is so rude.

        2. PoorDecisions101*

          Or “It’ll catch up with you when you’re over 30.”

          To all those people – I’m still the same size, over 30 and eat all the same junk I always have.

          I’m also the sort of person who reacts to the comment by wanting to eat a cheesecake in front of them to get a rise.

  14. Sunshine Brite*

    Sounds like a perk I found after I left my old job. I hadn’t realized how often I’d gotten sucked into the self depreciation, assigning good/bad value to food, and generally starting to starve myself again. Tons of compliments and down about 20 needed pounds but my self esteem had taken a sizable hit.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      One thing that seemed to help was remembering that everyone involved was as insecure as I was. I asked one one time as she was berating herself for having a treat (thin, regular exercise, no health issues known) why she couldn’t have a treat that day and you could tell she’s never been able to allow herself without guilt.

  15. Stephanie*

    As someone who works in trucking, I’m both fascinated and horrified (mostly horrified) by this. It’s the exact opposite problem at my workplace.

  16. Colorado*

    OP: First I want to say, don’t think you are being overly sensitive. If you feel this way, it is the way you feel, don’t fool yourself into thinking your thoughts/feelings are invalid. Secondly, can we please take diet, body image, workout schedules, fat, skinny, short, tall out of the workplace! Managers, supervisors, peers, subordinates everywhere in the work place, stop! Just stop this behavior. It is very damaging and you have no idea about the repercussions (eating disorders, illness, personal issues, people second guessing if they are being too sensitive to asshat comments on what they are drinking..). I am sick and tired of people feeling they can push their agenda or make comments about people based on diet and physical appearances (okay, rant done). I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Please talk with your manager if possible and follow Alison’s advice. One last thing, “wow” is a perfectly appropriate response to ridiculous comments.

  17. BRR*

    For many of the situations mentioned here (and many places), a “wow” would work wonders.

    I also love asking people why. Some people might be oblivious to a wow but realize what they said after needing to explain it.

    Boss: I’d kill myself if I got that fat
    Me: Why?

    Coworker: Congratulations on drinking a beverage with 0 calories
    Me: Why?
    Coworker: Because it’s better for you.
    Me: So why did you specifically congratulate me?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I like these. Just pure puzzlement at what would be possessing somebody to randomly spout such folly.

    2. K.*

      I think Miss Manners says you should furrow your brow and ask “Why do you want to know?” in response to invasive personal questions. If they respond “I just do!” you’re supposed to keep asking “Why?” in a tone of voice that indicates legit confusion. I’ve found that it works well when staving off questions about my marital status.

  18. Jady*

    I think the self-restraint everyone here has is amazing.

    Within a few days I would have snapped at whomever was making those comments. There’d be no passive-aggressive remarks or asking the boss to tone it down. It would be “What the hell is your problem, can you mind your own d-mn business?” and then the second time it would be a nasty conference call with that person’s boss and HR.

    I have no patience for such juvenile shallow behavior. I got my fill of that when I was a teenager. I think an abrupt, blunt, and rude response is entirely called for and maybe even necessary.

    1. periwinkle*

      That is one of the lovely perks I’ve found to getting older. No more feeling like I have to be nice to rude people. However, my RBF must have gotten more powerful as the years passed because people aren’t often rude to me in person. (come to think of it, the photo on my badge looks more than a little like Grumpy Cat)

      1. Jady*

        I think a lot of that is presented in aura and familiarity with a person. You can generally look at someone and tell how much B.S. they will tolerate. And if not, if you let people walk on you, then why is it a shocker that it keeps happening?

        IMO these people are being verbally abusive! Tolerance and niceness is wayyyyyyyyy off my own radar here.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’m getting to where I just walk away. I have other choices; no need to waste my time with people like that.

        Sometimes, though, if you need to deal with the person and you can get away with it (i.e., other people are listening, etc.), it’s fun to get nicer and more polite with each passing moment. Then they look even worse and makes them SIMPLY FURIOUS. >:)

        1. Jady*

          I used to be in the ‘roll your eyes and walk away’ category too. But I stopped going that route. I don’t blame others, job security is pretty important and people would rather maintain the status quo and just live their lives. I’ve been there.

          I’m fortunate enough now that I could lose my job and be alright until I got another one. So that combined with years and years of being the teased one and having to deal with the jerks in the world has shot my tolerance down to zero.

          Generally, I’ve found you can shut people up pretty quickly when you’re louder than they are. Sure, they might not like you, but they are just as much in that camp of having to maintain the status-quo and protect their own job too. Are we really going to walk down to their manager and explain that I snapped at her for calling Mary a pig? Not going to happen. The very worst case is I say “I’m sorry for using foul language, that was not appropriate.” Whether or not I used bad language is just dependent on my shock value of the situation.

          They do it cause they’ve always done it and always get away with it. As soon as that line is drawn, it’s drawn in stone. (In my experience!)

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes and I would also ask the coworker who left to either write into HR about the discrimination she felt or give permission to Op to bring it up when she goes in to speak with boss and Hr

      1. fposte*

        Remember that in most of the US it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against somebody for being overweight.

        1. Jady*

          Sure….. but she’s already hired and working at this job.

          The laws DO prevent against harassment, which given that these are her coworkers just as much as her superiors seems a pretty easy avenue to pursue.

          But that’s just assuming it even gets to that point. Most sane companies aren’t going to tolerate this nonsense regardless of whether it’s legal or not. You can lose a lot of good employees with this kind of treatment.

          I myself am not even overweight but I would be disgusted observing this, and if it was tolerated I’d be looking for my next job as well.

          1. fposte*

            There’s no illegal harassment happening here. This isn’t related to any legally protected characteristic. They are legally allowed to harass her for eating kale or not eating kale.

            I agree that most decent organizations don’t want this to happen, but outside of Michigan, which does have an explicit protection for weight, there’s nothing illegal in this and it would hurt an employee’s point to act as if there were.

            1. Jady*

              Federally, sure. On the state level, not necessarily true.

              Santa Cruz, CA (July 1992), defines unlawful discrimination as “differential treatment as a result of that person’s race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, sex gender, sexual orientation, height, weight, or physical characteristic”.

              District of Columbia, Human Rights Law Subchapter II, Sec. 1-2512, outlaws discrimination in employment based upon “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, physical handicap, matriculation, or political affiliation”. (D.C. Code Ann. 1-2501 (1987 & Supp. 1993).

              San Francisco, CA (June, 2000) passed a law specifically outlawing discrimination against people based on their weight

              And just from a fast google – Carlifornia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island have all had state-level court cases won in defense of the overweight. You’d have to check your local laws.

              BUT that aside, you’re still talking about workplace discrimination. I’m also referring to general life person-to-person harassment.

              And even then, just because you might not win doesn’t mean you still can’t take the company to court and make a massive press field day of it. To the company, that’s scarier than the threat of law suits to begin with.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, there are definitely smaller places that have made such laws; Michigan is just the biggest one so I used it as an example. But the findings I’m seeing beyond that are all under the ADA rather than on weight per se.

                And outside of the law, there isn’t any bad thing called workplace discrimination. I think you’re wanting the concept of discrimination to have meaning outside the law that it doesn’t have–you’re not only free but often required to discriminate in the workplace, because you’re always choosing some people over others. And the legal standard for harassment outside of civil rights violations is much higher than the kind of unpleasant workplace that’s being described, so it’s really not going to rise to that. Sure, the OP or anybody else is free to bring suit, but lawyers aren’t going to take a case on contingency just to make a stink, so it’ll be on the OP to pony up to keep the meter running for thousands of dollars.

                I agree with you that this is crappy behavior and that the workplace shouldn’t tolerate it. I think, though, you’re overstating the degree to which law is likely to be relevant to changing the situation as described.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Sure and I didn’t mean it in that context just that she had felt so horribly treated due to her weight

      2. cozy mystery*

        But sometimes people just want to have things in their rear view mirror instead of dragging things out and rehashing them out again and again. I read that the woman who was raped by Roman Polanski doesn’t want it in the news anymore because it brings it all back to her. If the employee who left didn’t bring it up to management then she might feel the same way, moving on with her life is the way she chooses to deal with it.

  19. Bwmn*

    Specifically regarding the OP’s question about having a thicker skin or not – I just want to say that it’s ok to have differing thoughts about this over time.

    My old boss was that a super invasive no boundaries screamer – and this affected different people at different times. While weight wasn’t her issue, dating/marriage definitely was. For some, it was immediately intolerable. Others, it’d be fine for a while but overtime would build up and just get worse and worse. For me it was up and down and could fluctuate from not a problem to soul sucking misery.

    So I just want to emphasize that just because it was immediately intolerable for the previous employee doesn’t mean that the OP couldn’t have a very different experience. Also while it’s really bad now, doesn’t mean that the OP on her own might not have different reactions to it over time. I don’t think the OP needs a thicker skin – if this is a problem, this is problem. But different people handle different dysfunctions better or worse at different times. And that’s completely ok.

  20. Allison*

    Ugh, I would hate to work around people bugging me about my diet and exercise. I don’t even like hearing about other people’s diet and exercise routines; people talk about them at work, but it’s only annoying if it’s like “I know I shouldn’t eat this” or “I’m gonna try to be good and have a salad” or “I couldn’t get to the gym yesterday, I’m so mad at myself.” I wish people weren’t so hard on themselves, even if you’re trying to be healthy there’s nothing wrong with you if you occasionally skip the gym or get a burger instead of a salad, as long as your general habits are moving in the right direction.

    But yeah, any time someone makes a comment about my diet, or my perceived exercise habits, or my caffeine intake, I get mad. Unless you’ve done a thorough workup of how I spend my evenings and what I eat throughout the week, you don’t get to comment on my love of pizza or my lack of gym membership. Mind your OWN biscuits.

    1. Bostonian*

      I hate those comments, too, partly because they lead to the “You’re so lucky you don’t have to worry about your weight/watch what you eat/skip the doughnuts that someone brought in” comments, which are a landmine. You never know when someone has an eating disorder or a health condition or other issue that means that they are not in a good place around food and weight.

      1. Allison*

        Sometimes I wonder if those comments are genuine jealousy or a really passive-aggressive, judgey way of saying that someone really ought to be more careful about what they eat.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Eating disorder aside, people have NO IDEA whether you have to worry or watch what you eat. My SSIL started in about how lucky I was to have my ‘great legs’ on vacay this summer. I was so annoyed. These legs magically appear, you know. My response was “all you have to do run 10 hrs a week and you could have them too.” I’m in a fine place around food; I’m not in a fine place around people not acknowledging my work.

        1. Agnes*

          Actually, no. I could and have run 10 hrs a week, and ended up with more muscular, still chunky, still cellulite legs. (Seriously, the guy on the food truck comments on it! “You must be Russian! Or East German! Look at those huge calves!”) There’s a lot of genetics to people’s body shape.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I consider leg muscle a good thing. I don’t prefer, or have, stick thin legs (I have big quads, calves not so much). But, I have a running club friend with very thick ankles so I know what you mean — some things can’t be changed by exercise (or even diet and exercise!). In this particular case, my SSIL lives an extreme sedentary lifestyle, and I got the impression that she assumed she was just as active as everyone else and ate about the same as everyone else, but she had the bad luck of becoming obese while I lived the same lifestyle and had the good fortune of being fit & shapely. My genes are probably better than hers, but I’d appreciate some credit!

        2. Sammy*

          I understand you not wanting your hard work discounted, but there are classist implications to having the time and resources to run for ten hours every week.

          I felt the same way when I was planning a very expensive trip and people kept saying how lucky I was to get to go on this trip. I kept thinking, “I didn’t win it in a contest, you could go on a similar trip if you were willing to spend the money.” But then someone pointed out that I WAS lucky to be so circumstanced as to have both free time and available money. That’s when I started saying, and feeling, “I feel lucky to be able to go.”

          1. AnotherAlison*

            People on here will argue about anything! The issue wasn’t even over having 10 hrs to run, which could make it classist, it was being privileged to have nice legs by genetics alone. (My SSIL doesn’t really know me. I see her once every ~5-10 years. She doesn’t know how I spend my time or my workout routine.) It wasn’t, “Must be nice to have so much time to run a lot and have nice legs.” It was more, “Must be nice to be born with great legs.” My comment was directed at her getting off her bum and doing something, because that’s what I have to do. She is a middle class SAHM with 1 teenage kid. Who has more time? Not me. I’m a working mom of 2 who carves out running time at 5 am. Do I expect a working single mom of 3 in public housing with no safe park/gym access to find 10 hrs a week? No, but I probably wouldn’t get into this whole damn conversation with them either!

            1. Saurs*

              She is a middle class SAHM with 1 teenage kid. Who has more time?

              These are classist remarks containing the unexamined assumption that what may well apply to your SSIL applies to every SAHM. They don’t.

              1. Kat M*

                And she might also know her SSIL and know things that those of us on this board can’t know. Who knows, maybe her SSIL is the type of person who constantly complains that she doesn’t have time, but never prioritizes? Yes, there’s privilege, but there are also people who complain, complain, complain nonstop, who could change something about their lives if they would choose to.

                Also, who knows, maybe SSIL is actually doing better than AnotherAlison or had an easier life? Would it be fair to call her remarks classist?

                The privilege debates can be enlightening but on the Internet, they can be very unproductive….

                1. Saurs*

                  And she might also know her SSIL and know things that those of us on this board can’t know.

                  Well, precisely. But the rhetorical question of “who has more time” on their hands than “a” middle-class SAHM with a teenaged son is an unimaginative, classist generalization. The commenter has a problem with their SSIL and their procrastination, level of energy, and weight; there’s no need to imply every SAHM could prioritize exactly the way AnotherAlison would like if only they got off their bum.

                  I don’t really care if “privilege debates” exhaust people on the interwebs. Pointing out classism is not wounding anyone. Being told to tolerate splash damage in the name of getting along on this blog is equally irritating.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The issue is that this isn’t the place for privilege debates. That’s not what this site is about, and when I judge that they’ve become derailing, I will ask for them to stop, and I’d like that to be respected.

              2. Larold*

                What? That doesn’t make any sense. She is talking about a specific person who is middle-class, has a teenaged kid, and doesn’t work. She isn’t saying anything about SAHMs as a whole.

                1. AJS*

                  And here I sit, not knowing what a SSIL is. Sexy sister-in-law? Silent sister-in-law? Swedish sister-in-law? Something else entirely not involving sisters or the law? Help!

        3. Natasha*

          Agreed. People like to comment on how I can eat what I want and I want to invite them to regularly lift the heavy weights I do. “How much do you squat and deadlift?” I want to ask.

      3. Case of the Mondays*

        Someone actually once said to me “I wish I had Crohn’s disease so I could be as skinny as you” and luckily five other people who heard it all instantly shamed her so I had no need to respond. It just makes me so sad for our society that we value thinness over health.

        1. Alison Read*

          Holy Cow! No kidding. After being overweight my whole life Crohn’s kicked in and my weight has plummeted. At one point I was kept alive by hooking up to an IV 12 hrs/night for 5 months. My own mother had the gall to say, “But you look good now.”

          I was amazed at how my size was now open for discussion with people that didn’t even know the previous, larger me. Somehow it’s okay to say, “Look how skinny you are!” while grabbing your wrist and lifting your arm up!!!! Like you’re a specimen to be examined.

          In retrospect I realize the subtle shaming I was constantly subjected to, and tolerated because society has programmed us that big is bad. My doctors would be elated if I had a good “reserve” to tide me over when/if the wasting starts again.

        2. INFJ*

          Yep. In college, I heard one girl respond to the possibility that 0 calorie sweetners/sugar substitutes may be carcinogenic with: “I’d rather have cancer than be fat.”

          Wow. Just wow.

        3. Beaker*

          Wow. My sister has Crohn’s and I’m pretty sure she would slap them. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled about losing weight when they take out part of her intestine..

        4. esra*


          I’ve got that multiple times. Like yes, this gross, painful bowel disease is totes worth it for smaller jeans.

      4. Anx*

        I’d try to watch what I ate at some places because I didn’t want to load up on food just because it was free and then have a sugar rush when I was extra broke. I felt like I wasn’t in the place to turn down cheap or free food.

        But those days were so awkward because so many other people would comment on how thin I was (I’m not that thin) and how lucky and while I don’t lose that much weight when I’m broke, I do lose some. It sort of hurt to think they envied not being able to eat as much as a wanted.

      5. Ad Astra*

        My pet peeve is when a thin person mentions working out or eats a salad at lunch and people show concern like, “Honey, why are you working out/eating a salad when you already look gorgeous?” Um, naturally thin people need exercise and vegetables too, silly.

    2. caryatid*

      i haaaaaaate it when other people try to justify their food choices to me.

      often times when this happens, i just shrug and say “i’m not the food police!”

      once, when i was grocery shopping with a friend, they made a comment about not liking to be judged on the content of their cart. are there people that really judge others’ groceries??

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Um…I have had comments made to me in the grocery store about my cart.

        I keep a pretty strict “clean diet” and choose to use my free day to eat out on Saturdays. I have had strangers make comments about my cart, some to my face and others loud enough for me to hear, like the woman in line behind me who stage-whispered, “I’d kill myself if all I ate like that.”

        The worst was while babysitting my Godson (and when I learned never take a toddler to Target) the woman in line behind me who watched every item I put on the conveyor belt and then told me I was “a horrible mother because I was depriving my child of snacks” AND THEN PROCEEDED TO OPEN A SNICKERS BAR AND GIVE IT TO MY GODSON!!!

        1. Artemesia*


          To the stage whisperer, I would have immediately stage whispered back ‘apparently you have chosen to kill yourself with the crap loaded in your cart.’ and to snicker police — ‘he is diabetic, I consider what you did an assault.’

          There are few people including people who feed their kids chicken nuggets and cheese doodles who would not consider handing a candy bar to a stranger’s toddler to be wildly out of line.

          Both entirely inappropriate but the world might be a better place if occasionally people met this sort of nonsense aggressively.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            For the stage whisperer I just turned and smiled, with a long glance at the items in their cart.

            With the snickers, I was just in complete and utter shock. I was also trying to figure out how I could get it away from my godson without him having a total meltdown in the store as I stammered that I wasn’t his mother. Thankfully the clerk told me I didn’t have to pay for the candy bar.

            Judging from my BFF’s reaction when I relayed the story and she watched her child come down from a sugar high, this woman was really, really lucky she didn’t pull this stunt with his actual mom.

        2. Nom d' Pixel*

          OMG! I can’t imagine just deciding that someone else’s child needed junk food and just giving it to them. I would be so angry.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I just kept thinking she had to be completely out of her gourd to think this was appropriate.

          2. Rana*

            Me too! Not to mention that nuts are a choking hazard at that age! And what if he had a peanut allergy? WTF, lady, WTF.

            (And I’m a parent who has no problem letting my little one have an occasional sweet treat. But you just don’t give random food to random little kids.)

        3. Chocolate lover*

          A friend of mine got a “stage whisper” about how lazy mothers are these days, that they have to buy packaged, sliced apples instead of just cutting the apples themselves. You know what? Besides being none of your business to begin with, she has 4 young children, the packages are easy to pack for lunches, and she had a life-threatening illness that had all sorts of repercussions that aren’t visible, including mobility and fatigue issues. So get over yourself and mind your business.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            Ugh…even if she just simply didn’t like cutting apples (I have a thing about cutting pineapple) it is no one’s business.

          2. Career Counselorette*

            Oh my God. Seriously, oh my God. When I encounter people like that I’m just like, “You know what? Can you just disappear? Can you just cease to exist?”

        4. neverjaunty*

          I had people try that ALL THE TIME. It was ridiculous. “Would your little one like some candy?” “Oh, that’s very kind, but no thank you” and then they’d flip out. One guy tried to tell me that he lost custody of his kids and he was just trying to be nice to my kids because it made him feel better. Geez, no.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I admit to having some judgmental thoughts about the food in people’s carts, but only if I notice a clear theme like “junk food junk food junk food!” or “Stuff that says ‘diet’ but is actually not very good for you.” But even then, I would never say anything to someone.

      3. Cath in Canada*

        A variation of this happened to me last week, when I was unloading my basket at the checkout in my local grocery store (which is called No Frills and, like the neighbourhood, is not fancy). The woman behind me said to her husband (loudly) “oh, look, she’s buying all the fancy stuff that we can’t afford”. I turned round and looked at her inquisitively and she said, to me, “y’know, feta and olives”. I didn’t know what else to say so I said “oh, this’ll make four dinners and three lunches” (which it did, but I wish I hadn’t felt the need to defend my “extravagant” spending on non-brand-name food).

        And then when I got home my neighbour asked me how many plums we got off our tree this year. When I said that we’d called the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project people this year because we can never eat all our fruit, and they stripped the tree for us and donated the fruit to a local women’s shelter, she said “remember the years when you gave some plums to me?”. Seriously, she was trying to guilt me for making a donation to the women’s shelter. So when she said “your pears look good this year, when will they be ready?” I just said “don’t know, gotta run” and went inside to eat my shameful feta and olive pasta salad.

        Some people!

        1. Nea*

          Wow. The lady in line wasn’t even complaining that you took the last of something, but that you could afford it? Wow. Just wow.

          (The woman trying to get your fruit is plain rude, but the woman in line is shockingly rude and nonsensical.)

      4. Chocolate lover*

        Yes. An aquaintenance spent years on a social crusade for a particular cause, and boycotted products that they made. She would criticize people who bought t hose products all the time. One time while at the grocery store, she said she wanted to go up to the person and point it out, and I basically told her to mind her own business. We got into an argument in the dairy aisle lol.

        There was also a bag boy one time who looked at one of my food items I was buying and went “oh that looks so disgusting!” I just looked at him.

  21. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    In my former job, I would bring a half liter bottle of Coca Cola every morning. We were in a call center, open space office.

    Let’s note that I’m around 275 pounds at the time. There was a coworker who was small than I am, but she didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin, and she felt like she needed to lose weight to feel better. To each their own, I didn’t discuss weight with people that much anyway. Because I’m more than the extra pounds, ha.

    Anyway, this coworker would look at me with disapproving eyes when she’d see me with my bottle. Well sure I drank it at 7:30AM but oh well. Most of the time, my response was this:

    – Ahhhh, you know how much I care! *gulps soda down* *gets up and does a dance, wiggling butt and tummy and being an idiot*

    After two or three times, coworker stopped saying anything, and I’d just stick my tongue out. Yes, it was that kind of office, but that just goes to show how much I like comments on what I drink or eat :P.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I like this. : )

      I drink Diet Coke. Like, 2 cans/day. Nothing crazy. No one says to me directly, “Oh, you shouldn’t drink that,” but I hear a lot of work conversations of, “I gave up pop [diet and/or regular] and I feel so much better. There are sooo maaany chemicals in it.” Blah blah blah. I’m not that worried about it, for many reasons, and the evangelism really bugs me. Like, wow, you used to drink a 2L per day, but now you haven’t had pop in 2 weeks and suddenly you are Dr. Oz.

      1. simonthegrey*

        And Dr. Oz isn’t even a good source. :)

        I will admit I feel better having given up soda, but that’s because I realized that my 4-5 pepsi a day habit was causing horrendous heartburn. Now, if I drink a pepsi or coke, I know I will pay for it later. Sometimes it’s worth it anyway, but I drink a lot of ice tea (unsweetened fruit flavors) or water. It did nothing for my weight, or skin, or any of the other mystical properties of cutting soda, but it sure helped the gastric reflux.

        1. Ezri*

          I’m into moderation. Sure, cutting Mountain Dew out of my life would probably have beneficial effects… but I really, really like Mountain Dew. Recently I cut the amount I drink in half to reduce my sugar intake (one every other day instead of one a day). It helps, and honestly I feel like I enjoy it more now that I don’t binge it. But it’s none of my business of someone else drinks more than that.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I was a diet coke addict…like if I didn’t have one by 11am I would get severe headaches.

          If people ask, I explain what giving up soda did for me. But I *would never* comment on someone else’s soda!

          1. AnotherAlison*

            What’s weird is it seems to have no effect on me. I can go a couple days without drinking it and nothing. I can drink 4/day instead of 1-2 and nothing. I would *like* it to do something. My parents gave it up because the aspartame made their joints ache. I have some inflammation/autoimmune things myself (ocular rosacea, for one, dx’d by a real doctor), but cutting caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and/or sugar does nothing. I really wanted this to work and have tried a very restrictive diet for myself and my son w/ ADHD, and it didn’t make a difference. Even had the FODMAPs testing done for my son. He didn’t show any food sensitivities, other than to a couple weird things he doesn’t eat (salmon and something else), and the autism-certified naturopath was like, “Oh well try eliminating these anyway.” I mean, that’s great if it works for you, but after a month it didn’t work for him and it was a huge PITA for a working mom, so we went back on the pop tarts and fruit snacks. The food police can suck it. (Sorry to get so ranty! Nothing to do with you. I’m happy your headaches are gone!)

          2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            I frigging adore Diet Coke. Loved it. I still do love it. But the caffeine was starting to really bother me, so when I quit it wasn’t for the sake of “chemicals” (yum, all the things in the universe!), but for the caffeine–I quit drinking coffee and tea at the same time. I manage OK without it–but dear God, I love it. And the only comment I ever make on other people’s pop is “Looks good!” [Or actually, sounds good, because I love the sound of cracking open a cold pop can]

      2. Ad Astra*

        I do get annoyed that so many people think Diet Coke is a healthier choice than, say, regular Coke, because it’s really not. It’s just a different kind of unhealthy. But I very much respect your right to drink Diet Coke or anything else you like without a lecture. I try to only say something if the person is really emphasizing the health benefits of Diet Coke, and even then, only if I think they might actually care to be corrected. Some people truly think it’s healthier, and other people know it’s sorta bad for you but are using “healthy” as a term to mean “has fewer calories.”

        1. Artemesia*

          My rule is that I don’t eat and drink things that my monkey ancestors didn’t eat and drink (well wine). So no diet anything or things sweetened with weird chemicals. My other rule is that I don’t comment on other people’s diet cokes and how unhealthy they are and how they actually contribute to obesity — because, who needs to hear that? I even stock the disgusting stuff for one of my kids because he drinks it; he told me he developed a taste for it because all the girls he dated drank it and he got in the habit of stocking it in his refrigerator.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            You mean it’s your rule not to comment, other than to come here and say it’s “disgusting stuff?” ; )

        2. AnotherAlison*

          That’s really not always true, though. If you are diabetic, Diet Coke IS healthier than regular Coke. Heck, if your drinking water is contaminated, Diet Coke is a healthier choice. I’m trying to imagine the situation where someone is saying Diet Coke has health benefits and they would want to be corrected. . .I mean, it could be important if it’s a 15 year old kid who is saying it, but your average peer, probably not.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Those are good points that speak to the idea that what’s right for one person could be the totally wrong thing for another person. My understanding is that artificial sweeteners still mess with people’s blood sugar, so I would think Diet Coke isn’t an awesome choice for a diabetic, but it’s certainly better than regular Coke. Other than being annoying on internet forums, I tend to avoid commenting about people’s food choices unless they’re asking for my opinion.

            1. A Manager*

              My spouse, my parents and my uncle all have diabetes and while some people with diabetes aren’t able to use artificial sweeteners because it can still raise their blood sugar, that isn’t the case for all people with diabetes. None of the people I know with diabetes have the issue of artificial sweeteners raising their blood sugar but I have heard of people that do have that problem. That is what glucose meters are for! People with diabetes are all different with regards to what will raise their blood sugar and how much it takes to raise it. You have to test after you try something for the first time to see how it affects you, personally.

          2. bkanon*

            My father’s diabetic, but I’m pretty sure PepsiCo would go bankrupt without him. He WILL NOT give up soda, so diet versions are healthier for him. He switched to Pepsi Max. I followed suit and now I can’t drink regular because the taste is all wrong!

  22. Bostonian*

    This reminds me of a summer internship I did a couple of years ago. The place was super into wellness stuff – there were chipper signs in the staircase, there was a CSA pickup spot in the building, etc. There was some sort of competition going on about exercise and weight loss that a few members of my department were participating in, complete with a chart on the wall for people to record their exercise and weekly weigh-ins. The competition was totally optional, but it created an environment that was way too focused on what everyone was eating and how much they were exercising. I was pregnant but didn’t announce it for the first few weeks of the internship, and pregnant women are exposed to enough scrutiny for their dietary choices and precisely how much weight they gain that the added emphasis was pretty unhelpful.

  23. nicolefromqueens*

    Some possible juvenile solutions:

    – spike their drinks with sugar.
    – tell them you’re now on a weight loss plan. vomit on their desks.

    1. E*

      -Invent an allergy to “diet” food. Silly, but they’re already being ridiculous. (I know, fake allergies are not something to joke about, but in this case it’s trying to get the point across to those who have no business commenting on what you eat)

      1. danr*

        No need to invent one. I’m intolerant to aspartame, with extreme consequences if I have more than a tiny bit. Sucralose is okay, so I stick with that for my coffee and hot tea, but I make sure not to have a lot during a day.

    2. anon killjoy*

      Although I see you’re very frustrated and probably being sarcastic, I feel obligated to note that adulterating other people’s food is just not cool, period. I know a thin Type 1 diabetic who was served regular rather than diet soda at restaurants a couple times–she’s since switched to ordering only water, it’s safer–because she “looked like she could use the calories.” You don’t know whether someone could have a bad reaction to something you put in their food, whereas even the most offensive comments won’t land you in the hospital.

      (I’m more sensitive to this than usual because earlier this week, I was given some jerky that I was told was all-natural by a person who knew I was allergic to the preservative it actually contained. I broke out in half-dollar-sized hives right before giving a presentation in front of a few hundred people. Just don’t mess with someone else’s ability to make informed food choices, please. It’s a trust thing.)

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, this. To quote Captain Awkward, there’s a name for people who sneak things into your food to mess with you, and that name is “poisoner”.

      2. Another killjoy*

        I have a relative with a sulfite sensitivity who reacts to sugar depending on its source (cane sugar? fine. beet sugar? naturally occurring sulfites, NOPE). She’s had surprise reactions to candy, peanut butter, and drinks. It’s not incredibly dangerous but it looks, and apparently feels, like a combination of mild asthma and having been slapped in the face.

        Messing with people’s food is a funny idea in theory sometimes, but really not a great thing to actually do.

  24. The Other Dawn*

    I’ve had weight loss surgery and it really used to annoy me when people at OldJob would comment on my tiny meals. I realize they were probably just making small talk (they didn’t know I had surgery; I was new at the time), but it embarrassed me. “That’s it?!?!”, “That’s all you’re eating??”, “Aren’t you starving??” I would then say I had weight loss surgery and it generally turned into a good discussion. People seemed to be genuinely interested in hearing about the process and the lifestyle afterwards. Now that I’m over a year and half out, I don’t get comments anymore; I can eat as much as someone with a small appetite so it doesn’t look “abnormal” anymore.

  25. Alleyne Smith*

    Someone commenting on something as personal as your food/beverage choices is crossing a very clear and bright line into unquestionably inappropriate workplace behavior. Same for anyone who discusses your exercise practices without your instigation. The constant diet talk in the workplace is creating an atmosphere in which this inappropriate behavior seems normal and is fomented. This is a problem.

    If it’s really everyone else but the letter writer, plus the boss, it’s probably time to start looking for a new job because it’s only going to get worse. Diet obsessed people don’t change quickly or easily.

  26. TFS*

    My office is full of weight- and appearance-obsessed people as well, and the boss is the ringleader. No one has ever tried to make me feel bad about my appearance (I’m a little overweight and not into fancy shoes and styled hair), but it’s awful hearing it all the time. Even though I think they’re mostly self-interested and don’t think about me much, it’s hard not to wonder how they see me if they’re that critical of themselves. If I asked the boss to tone it down, she might agree but would almost certainly try to achieve that by telling everyone to stop talking about these things because it makes TFS uncomfortable. Ugh.

  27. Beth*

    Hey Alison, just FYI I would very much like to read this article, but apparently I have to sign up (which, ugh) and when I click to try to do so, the link doesn’t work. Halp?

  28. Biff*

    You know, I do wonder if this is a misguided attempt to lower health-care premiums? I worked for a smaller company and they attempted to switch health-care plans but our office in general was so unhealthy we didn’t qualify for lower rates. One guy kinda got on people about it, and while he shut up about it pretty quickly, I can imagine that getting out of a control in a different office.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Somewhat off-topic, but my company has had an official corporate wellness program for 5+ years for this reason, and they really ratcheted it up this year. Then, a company-wide memo last month basically said, good job guys, everyone’s really doing well, but you’ve all complained that this is too much, so next year you don’t have to do all this. Basically, next year, it goes back to only the insurance physical where this year it was the physical plus a bunch of verified activities to earn a million points. I wonder if there will be a global shift on getting corporate out of its employees’ personal biz, or if it’s just us.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Come on now. Scolding an overweight employee for wearing a tank top is not about healthy eating or exercise. There’s giving the benefit of the doubt and then there’s just plain ridiculous.

  29. Nom d' Pixel*

    Ugh. I just really hate this garbage. I am overweight, but still the same weight I was in high school, which was 25 years ago. At the same, I am very active and do endurance sports. Sometimes people who don’t know me well will see me running during lunch or overhear me comment about swimming after work and make some condescending “good for you” remark. Or worse, some nonrunner will compliment my form like I should be flattered that they don’t think I “run like a girl”. Grrr. I have finished in the top 10 of 2 of the 3 triathlons I have done this year, but someone who thinks walking a mile is a big deal gets condescending because they see someone who is overweight exercising .

    MYOB. I do not need someone’s condescending “encouragement” to exercise. And I sure as hell don’t need someone policing my diet. My body and my health are no one else’s business.


    1. Folklorist*

      THANK YOU!!! I’ve always been overweight, but I’ve always been active. I swim and dance and cycle and spin poi and occasionally kickbox. It pisses me off to no end when I’m easily riding my bike up a small hill that I ride every day, and assholes in a car drive by and yell “encouraging” things. “YEAH! YOU GO! DON’T GIVE UP! YOU CAN DO IT!”

      Eff off. It’s not that hard, and if you think it is, maybe you should get on a bike yourself. I am strong and awesome and don’t need your encouragement to fit into whatever box you want me in.

  30. penelope pitstop*

    I think I have a Skinner-response anytime I see a ‘wow-and-walk-away,’ appear as part of an answer. Automatic Cheshire grin.

  31. Outlook Power User*

    I’m from Long Island, NY – I’m a bit more direct about things
    “Why would you have any interest in what I am drinking?
    “Water is so healthy for you”
    “Then go drink some, I’m busy.”

    “I’d kill myself if I got that fat!”
    “I MIGHT kill myself if I got that rude”

    “I’m happy with my weight – is it a problem for you? Why?”

    Don’t grow a thicker skin, grow some cajones

  32. Outlook Power User*

    “grow some cajones”=love who and how you are – I am over weight too, I just don’t put up with rudeness from others. Their criticism of you is a far worse reflection on them than it is of you. “I can lose weight but I think you will always be a pompous ass.”

    If it comes up again “Whats it to ya?” repeatedly until they get the message.

  33. Bluebirds Fly*

    I can’t read the article even after logging in and searching for it. When I chose the article, it just went back to the create an account or sign in page.

  34. gnarlington*

    This sounds like my office! I have a coworker who is obsessed with all things organic and will completely balk and call you out if you even have a sip of a soda (or eat anything that doesn’t taste like dirt). Or she’ll come by with something organic that you should be eating instead. It’s so annoying. And now *everyone* in the office is on a health kick! Those who are overweight are trying to lose weight, and I can’t get a coworker to stop asking me (and me only, specifically—I’m overweight) to go to the gym with him.

      1. Kelly L.*

        No one is obligated to work out with their co-workers. Heck, we had a post just the other day about a work relationship that went sour in part because a boss wanted to be way too enmeshed with her employee, including going to the gym together all the time. Not everyone wants that kind of relationship with work people.

        And, of course, no one is obligated to work out in any case.

        (And besides, this isn’t a genuinely friendly invitation. It’s a hint. I was idly thumbing through a Weight Watchers magazine some time ago, and there was an article about how not to act around people larger than oneself. It specifically mentioned the “come on, let’s work out togeeeeettttthhheeerr” thing as really transparent and recommended against using it. We’re not stupid.)

        1. gnarlington*

          Precisely. It’s so transparent, and not at all friendly in any way. Be concerned with your work, not my size.

      2. Lizzie*

        Because I don’t want to.

        I’d feel that way about if even if I didn’t work out regularly, but seeing as I do, my gym time is my “me” time. Away from my co-workers, my partner, and everybody else. I want to put my earphones in, blow off the steam from my day (of which there is always a considerable amount), and not give a damn about making small talk with my co-worker or listening to his “helpful” (read: ridiculous and likely misinformed) hints about my fitness plan. I don’t want or need a workout buddy, much less somebody I see five days a week, often for twelve hours a day.

        And I shouldn’t have to pretend that I do.

      3. Nea*

        More than one reason.
        1) No one is obligated to socialize with co-workers outside of office time.
        2) Gyms cost money
        3) Gyms require certain clothing
        4) Depending on the equipment provided and the number of people trying to use that equipment, there is no guarantee that the gym will provide the workout a person wants
        5) Time at a gym takes away time at home to get certain chores done

        I’ve never seen the point of paying for a gym membership when I can be at home for free taking 100% of the time on my preferred machine wearing whatever (or NOT wearing whatever) I please while my laundry is in the wash and my dinner is in the oven.

      4. Not me*

        -Already a member of a different gym, happily going there
        -Already following a routine that doesn’t include this
        -Would rather work out with someone else or alone
        -Not exercising right now for whatever reason. Health issues?
        -Don’t wanna

        I exercise outside and really hate gyms tbhhh.

      5. gnarlington*

        Haha thank you all for advocating on my behalf. Indeed my answer is: because I don’t want to.

  35. F.*

    When others around me start shaming someone about their appearance, I simply say that I am far more concerned about what is in their heart and mind than what they look like.

  36. Perspective 1 vs. Perspective 2*

    It sounds like a difference in perspective.

    Does a person who has a “three martini lunch” every day have a drinking problem, or are they merely a heavy drinker? Since we seem to be circling around Asian business practices, the business dinner that involves amounts of alcohol not seen in the West since the 80s are still somewhat common, and a person might reasonably argue that their drinking under those circumstances is purely professional. Some would consider that a perfectly reasonable explanation, while others would see someone with a problem making excuses for themselves. If there was someone working at your company who was such a heavy drinker, would you investigate further, or “mind your own business?” Depends on the company culture, but at a lot of companies there would be further probing.

    In the same vein, if you see someone who is quite overweight, are they a binge eater with a problem, or merely a “big eater”? Some would see a perfectly reasonable explanation, while others would see someone with a problem making excuses for themselves. It sounds like at this company “big eaters” are looked at the same way that “heavy drinkers” would be at other companies.

    1. Anonymoose*

      Someone who is quite overweight might be overweight for reasons completely unrelated to their eating habits, you realize.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This, plus, the reason a company would be concerned about drinking is because alcohol alters one’s mental state, and with a “three martini lunch” the employee is likely returning to work drunk and making decisions/handling equipment/etc. in that state. If someone (fat or thin) has a large lunch, they are still competent to do their job afterward. Unless maybe that job is underwear model.

  37. Perspective 1 vs. Perspective 2*

    Naturally. If someone is stopped for apparent public intoxication and they claim, “I hardly drink at all — I’ve just had one drink!” they may be telling the truth, depending on their body weight, the medications they are taking, various health conditions, and their overall alcohol tolerance. Of course, that doesn’t make it unreasonable for someone to investigate further.

    1. Saurs*

      Investigation is not needed because being overweight is not illegal (drink-driving, for example, is) and work colleagues are not private detectives in the mystery that is your personal business. Eating a meal at a business dinner does not require scrutiny nor does it need to be explained. This is not a good analogy.

  38. Broke Law Student*

    For stuff about myself, I always just say “do you mind not making comments about my [body/diet/food] around me?” if someone is insulting fat people, I say “do you mind not making comments about other people’s bodies around me?” even people who love the diet/body talk generally back off in my experience, although it’s harder if someone is talking about themselves.

  39. mel*


    I never know exactly what to say when people comment on food choices and I get unreasonably “closed off” when I think someone is going to comment or even curiously question what I’m eating. It’s probably leftover from my teen years when my step-parent would scold me anytime I was caught with food they didn’t officially ration off to me. Sorry for being a little squinty, coworkers!

    But not sorry if you go on to tell me how my piece of white bread is going to “kill” me. I don’t know what it is about white bread, because it seems to be the only food item that literally “KILLS” people.

  40. KaseyJ*

    Aww I really was interested to see your answer to this question, however the website you get directed to forces you to sign up in order to read it. Major bummer.

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