my coworker keeps pushing junk food on me

A reader writes:

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

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

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

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

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 542 comments… read them below }

  1. DecorativeCacti*

    Food is such a tough issue for everyone. If you are having a hard time with it, in any way, you can’t get away from it! You still have to eat to live!

    It’s such a cultural touchstone that I think sometimes people don’t know how to do anything without food. I’m in the process of losing weight and every time I hit a milestone, my first thought is to celebrate with food. “Yay! I lost 15 pounds! Time for ice cream! Wait. Shit.”

    So try to approach this with understanding and kindness, but also very firmly opt out.

    1. Luna*

      Lol I do the same thing! I’ve been trying (not always successfully) to find other things to reward myself with that aren’t food.

      1. Sally*

        Me, too. Fortunately, new clothes are almost as satisfying as food for me. I go to Goodwill or local charity/thrift stores, so I can get new things in different sizes as I lose weight, but not spend too much.

      2. SansaStark*

        I’m also trying to lose a some weight and finally made myself to commit to a couple of things and now have a list taped to my fridge – new makeup brush for losing 5lbs, a pricey eye cream for 10lbs, etc. Good luck!

        1. TootsNYC*

          I think this is smart! A combination of goal and reward.

          And it might also give a person a chance to identify and cultivate rewards that are unique and personal.

          Like, maybe your reward for losing 5 pounds is an hour in the park watching the sun set, or something. Or you get to read a comic book, or go to the comic book store. Which you might not have realized was rewarding until you sat down and thought about things you enjoy.

      3. DecorativeCacti*

        I’ve been trying to find things that I couldn’t do before because of my weight. There is an indoor skydiving place near me and if you were 260-300, you had to warn them how much you weigh. My next goal is 250 and I’m going indoor skydiving without having to tell them how much I weigh to celebrate! Ziplining is on the list, too. For my first goal, I just bought a really pretty dress a size smaller and called it my victory dress.

        1. Anonymosity*

          I had to google indoor skydiving and I would totally do that. I’d never do the jumping-out-of-a-plane one (though my sister did), but that looks FUN.

          Also, yay for you! \0/

        1. Specialk9*

          Nutritionists now are starting to twig to sugar as the real problem, not fat. Apparently the sugar industry bought off food scientists in the 60s, who went on to create food guidelines at the FDA. Which was coincidentally when the entire nation got obese.

          1. The Friendly Comp Manager*

            +1000, it is amazing how much of a difference sugar makes.

            I went through a stressful time recently. Normally, I do not eat ANY processed or *added* sugar and eat unprocessed fruits, veggies, nuts, and other foods. During a one month time frame, I ate sugar basically daily, and that was the *only change*. My resting heart rate went up by 10 bpm on average compared to when I was not eating sugar (thanks, Fitbit), and I almost instantly gained like 6 lbs. Stopped eating sugar, weight fell off as fast as it came on, and my heart rate went back to normal. Also, my sleep was really crummy during that time, but it has improved since then. It was an unintentional personal experiment!

    1. SoCalHR*

      Not to make it worse for you – but someone brought in gourmet doughnuts today and I couldn’t resist the strawberry shortcake doughnut. Dare I say it was worth the ‘cheat’. :-)

  2. CatCat*

    “No, thank you. I’d actually appreciate it if you didn’t offer me sweets because I’m trying to eat healthy, and I’d rather not have the temptation.”

    I’d actually drop the “because” and everything after it. Maybe she’s not unreasonable, but my experience with food pushers is that they will argue the point. Keep it short and simple as possible.

    The struggle is real, OP. I too hear the Call of Cakethulhu as I have been working on a healthier lifestyle.

    1. Bea*

      Then you open up to the commentary of “live a little!” “don’t deny yourself! Everything in moderation!”

      No. No. No. Bye.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Then you could push back with. “I know where it is if I change my mind.” Back to work.

      2. nep*

        All of which I would meet with dead silence as I continue with my work. Let their silly (sometimes asinine) commentary just hang there in the air.

    2. Morag*

      I think this is a nice script to begin with but I don’t see it working in real life with people like this as they are usually relentless. Try it once or thrice but ultimately don’t hesitate to progress to barking “No, thank you!” while holding out your arm and hand in front of you (like a school crossing guard stopping traffic). And don’t smile.

    3. Greta Vedder*

      I would change “because I’m trying to eat healthy” to “I’m on a diet.” The D-word makes most people tend to back off.
      Then again, the obese coworker might be offended by the D-word, and take it as an implicit hint that she, too, ought to diet. What do you think?

      1. uranus wars*

        I am really trying to get away from the diet word and stick to “eating healthy”. Diet is so temporary and people tend to not take them seriously and I feel like the word diet open the door even more to commentary like “but you can treat yourself”, “you deserve goodies too”, etc. . Regarding her size, I think as Alison mentions, that it has nothing to do with her behavior. I know folks of all sizes with similar attitudes and pushiness when it comes to food.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          What about “I have some dietary restrictions”? You don’t need to share what those restrictions are, or the fact that they’re self-imposed.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            That could backfire if OP ever decides to partake of the sweets, though, and the sweet-providing coworker sees it (or hears about it).

        2. lulu*

          See, I don’t like telling someone I’m trying to eat healthy, because it sounds so judgmental of the food they are offering me. So I’d rather say I’m on a diet, meaning it’s my choice, without passing judgment on their food.

          1. Cousin Itt*

            Same, to me it’s implying co worker isn’t healthy which she may be offended by. I think the best option is just to say ‘I’ve given them up’. If pressed OP could always say that sugar affects her moods or that she prefers to save sweets for after dinner. Those are personal preferences rather than a judgement on the foods healthiness.

          2. Kate 2*

            But doughnuts and junk food *aren’t* healthy. Admitting reality shouldn’t be hurtful.

            1. Nicole Maria*

              No one food is inherently healthy or unhealthy, though. Saying they’re unhealthy isn’t hurtful, it’s just not exactly correct. People can choose to eat or cut out foods as they desire, but saying “x kind of food is inherently bad for you” is a moral judgment, not one based in nutrition science. That’s why I’m personally kind of put off by the “no thanks, I’m trying to eat healthy” language because, for example, for someone in eating disorder recovery, eating the donut might be “healthier” choice.

              (I know this is not the kind of comment Allison likes to keep on here — so I don’t want to get too much further into this conversation, just know that there are no inherently good or bad foods, unless the food is like, rotten or poisoned.)

              1. June*

                Thank you for writing this. I have several family members who struggle with eating disorders and moral judgments about food is something they find very triggering. Also have a diabetic in the family and sometimes that “bad/unhealthy” food acts as medicine for them.

                1. Nicole Maria*

                  My knowledge comes entirely from my own eating disorder recovery, so I definitely understand about the triggering comments. Hopefully this will become more mainstream knowledge so that people stop finding it acceptable to comment on food and it’s supposed healthiness or lack thereof.

        3. The Friendly Comp Manager*

          “I have to limit my sweets/carbs/whatever it is, but thank you for offering.” Then, you have an out if you ever do eat sweets, and you have the “have to” to imply that it is necessary (which in this case, for you, it is, as a personal choice being true to yourself).

      2. Dorothy Zbornak*

        I agree with dropping “because…”

        I eat a ketogenic diet, and man do people get weird about it. I, personally, don’t have any issues with food pushers because my scripts are very “grey-rock.” Giving any info at all will be giving the more dysfunctional Food Pushers something to grasp onto. As soon as you JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Evade) they’ll try to worm around it. It becomes a negotiation.

        FP: want this [non-keto] snack?
        Me: No, thank you.
        FP: you suuuuure?
        Me: yes.
        FP: c’mon live a little!
        Me: I said no thank you.

        FP (seeing my regular healthy lunches of meat & vegetables): You should have a treat sometime!
        Me: I am eating what I want to eat. (whether or not this is true in the moment, maybe I really want that cake. But big-picture me is eating healthy for the long haul so I don’t *really want* that cake)

        FP (teasing/ trying to get a rise): oops! forgot you weren’t supposed to/don’t eat this
        Me (no rise, perfectly flat): correct. I’m don’t eat that.

        FP: Why won’t you eat this?
        Me: Why are you so invested in what I do/don’t eat?

        FP: Don’t you want a [piece of ordinary candy, store-bought cupcake]?
        Me (look disgusted): from [Walmart, local grocery store, non-special bakery]? no thanks.

        And I get it, food is frequently a safe/easy topic to discuss, much like the weather. But if you don’t talk about it, then it just gets easier as people learn to discuss other topics of interest.

        For OP, I’d suggest on the next round/ few rounds simply saying “no thanks, I know where to find the snacks if I get a craving.” If FP persists then make it not-food-related and more firm “Please stop interrupting my work to offer me snacks, I know they’re in the break room if I want any.” If FP has food issues (judging by the “acutely obese/ leaving lots of food in the break room” description), and is a seriously disordered pusher, keeping it completely out of diet talk/ healthy eating talk will be the route of least-perceived judgment.

        1. The Other Katie*

          I’m also on keto diet, and people are really weird about it! They really don’t get it, and I just don’t feel like arguing over whether I’m going to eat your cupcake or not. (Spoiler: I’m not, because getting back into ketosis sucks rocks.)

        2. TootsNYC*

          I really like this:

          Me: I said no thank you.

          It points them right to their rudeness without getting into it too much.

          Like, do they think you don’t know your own mind? It’s really disrespectful. But of course, you don’t want to get into all that.

          But the “I said…” is great, because it’s so short, and it’s not a lecture or accusatory. It’s just a simple statement of fact.
          And yet it comes with the unspoken, “didn’t you hear me the first time?” Without actually saying it.

          1. crookedfinger*

            Haha… I had a petition-pusher try to continue convincing me to sign after I said no thank you to him, so I said even louder “I SAID NO THANK YOU. THAT WAS THE END OF THE CONVERSATION.” It worked remarkably well.

          2. TheotherotherAlison*

            Would it be ok to claim food allergy? I bet the majority of said food has gluten…

        3. Violet*

          My go-to responses are also “No, thank you” followed by a stern “I said no thank you” or “Yes, I’m sure.” Nobody wants another icy round of “I said,” so one occurrence usually stops the behavior forever. I don’t bother giving excuses or explanations, because that seems to grease the revolving door of pushiness.

        4. Formerly Arlington*

          Also on keto. People act like you’re admitting a heroin addiction. It’s weird.

        5. Annie*

          I think this is the approach to go. It’s firm, there is no explaining, and saying you know where it is, is hard to argue. I hope OP takes your advice. Mentioning diet, healthy eating just gives room for negotiation, and does come across as a form of judgement on the food pusher.

          1. Eve_Dallas*

            I do keto too and there are always treats at my office. When ever they are offered I just say I follow a low carb diet and they typically understand. I get more side eye from my family for keto than I do from my coworkers.

      3. AnonymousInfinity*

        I don’t know… My regular coworkers know I can’t have their cookies/bagels/doughnuts/cake/cupcakes/muffins because of Celiac Disease, and it doesn’t stop any of them from continually offering me these items. One of my coworkers who absolutely knows I can’t have gluten brought me a box of bagels as a thank you for a project I knocked out – “oh, one won’t kill you; take the rest to your husband,” she said. Some of my coworkers literally push boxes of this stuff at me in meetings multiple times, even after I say, “I can’t have gluten; no thanks.” After a few more pushes of the box, I’ve even said, “I have Celiac Disease and cannot eat that; no thank you,” and then it came back around and was pushed at me AGAIN.

        Long story short… If my coworkers are typical, then if having an auto-immune disorder doesn’t get through, I have no confidence that “I’m trying to eat healthy” or “I’m on a diet” would sink in. There’s something about communal junk food that blinds people….like, how could you NOT eat THIS?!

        I have no advice for this topic, as it is. I’m ready to go full-on Bethenny Frankel on my coworkers half the time because of food boundaries.

        1. Narise*

          Take one and throw it at them. Next time they offer smile and say ‘Sure I want one I need more ammo.’ See if they want to give you one after that, this falls under the wish I could do this at work category.

        2. Tricksy Hobbit*

          I’m so sorry you are dealing with that my sister has Celiac too, if she eats non-G free food, she will literally be sick for a month! It affects her overall health so much. Maybe you could try to compare it to a peanut allergy.(I know it’s not an allergy, but peanut allergies are more accepted.)

          “Hey, do you realize asking me to eat that bagel (or whatever is like asking a person with a peanut allergy to eat a PB&J sandwich?” or something like that.

        3. MiaRose*

          Oh, that’s horrible! I’m currently on foods with low to no sugar, and I have to control my carbs, because of issues with prediabetes, and I have several family members and friends who have some level of gluten intolerance, including one with a severe case of Celiac disease. There are also allergies lurking around as well, the worst being one friend who is allergic to nuts, not just peanuts, but pretty much all nuts. I just don’t understand how people can be so deaf to someone saying, “I’ll end up in the ER if I eat that” or something similar. It is, unfortunately, fairly typical. I suppose if someone doesn’t have a food-related intolerance or allergy, it’s hard for them to fathom how bad it can be.

        4. ket*

          That really sucks :( I have avoided “wheaty things” for a few years now — probably not celiac, but skipping the bread & pastries sure did solve my IBS. Most people are respectful around my area. Maybe you can up your response? “No thanks — don’t want that fourfold increase in leukemia!” “No thanks — I can’t spend all day on the toilet! Gotta be able to sit through an hour of that meeting tomorrow, you know?”

        5. Recovering Adjunct*

          I say, “oh, no thanks, that would be like eating glass.” That seems to stick in their memory, it’s not a treat for me.

        6. Specialk9*

          I really don’t think your co-workers are typical! Holy cow. What’s their damage?! (And who gives *bagels* as a reward? That’s some targeted bullshort there.)

          1. The Other Katie*

            It’s not untypical, aggravatingly. I’m allergic to chocolate, and I’ve frequently had to fend off pushy offers, “surely a little won’t hurt!” and even outright sabotage (someone mixing choc chips in their oatmeal raisin cookies and not telling me). For me it’s not a deadly allergy, but it’s still unpleasant, and it gets frustrating. For someone with coeliac or a serious allergy it would be far worse.

        7. Incantanto*

          Thats ridiculous. I have the fun combination of one coworker with a nut allergy and one with gluten free and know no baking recipes that encompass both, but I don’t push the wrong one on them! And in meetings if I’ve brought cake I usually try to make options for both, as do all the people who order food. Your coworkers aren’t typical.

        8. March Madness*

          This makes me so mad on your behalf. I know what gluten does to a person with Celiac Disease! I’d be tempted to describe the symptoms if I were in your shoes.

        9. Susie Q*

          You must have the patience of a saint. I would pick up the box and drop in the trash in front of the food pusher.

          I don’t understand why people can’t just take No.

      4. ket*

        I’ve recently started working with some folks examining the fact that dieting is correlated with increased obesity in studies of American adolescents & adults. One thing we’re interested in is why dieting leads to healthy weight and healthy behaviors for some and disordered eating and/or obesity for others. Although I’m new to the study, I’d probably skip the word “diet” and reframe around something more personal/meaningful to me, like how I feel or how it fits into my day. “No thanks! I really crash at 3 pm if I eat donuts now.” “No thanks! I’m pleasantly full!” “No thanks! I’m not hungry.” “No thanks! I want to save room for my lunch — I made this great pesto lasagna….” “No thanks! Gotta save room for happy hour — I’m planning on hitting the brewery and they just opened a great barrel-aged imperial porter. I will need to save room for the poutine to mop that up.”

        1. EmilySpinach*

          I love this framing–not just for pushy coworkers but for rewriting the scripts in my own head! Thanks.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            Me too, in the sense that I want to savor the porter and the poutine.

            -Newly keto and struggling

        2. Nicole Maria*

          This is definitely not on-topic per AAM, but I’m so interested in your study! I know that dieting/intentional weight loss correlates to weight gain and disordered eating in the long run for many (most?) people. I have to admit I had to hold my tongue and not comment something to that effect in response to all the “I’m on xyz diet” comments up above. (To be clear, I wouldn’t actually do that, but sometimes it’s tempting.)

          I’m lucky to be in a workplace where most people are just “normal” around food. Sometimes there are “treats”, and some people eat them, and some people don’t, and it’s not an issue. Nobody pushes treats, and conversely very few people talk about dieting and weight loss. I wonder if it has to do with working in a mental health clinic… everyone I work with is a therapist and many have treated clients with eating disorders and eating issues.

          1. aebhel*

            I think part of the problem is the degree to which ‘diet’ functions as a blanket term for everything from borderline anorexia to cutting back on the ice cream and donuts, and nobody really seems to agree on what it means. I mean, I’ve met people cheerfully touting <1000 calorie/day diets while I'm like, '…that…sounds like starvation?'

      5. Formerly Arlington*

        Agree, and if you’re not obviously overweight, it can derail into a conversation about how you can afford a few pounds or even suspicions that you have an eating disorder. Would keep it a simple no thanks and not give her extra attention about her baking.

  3. Jubilance*

    I think where this veers into inappropriate is the coworker actually walking around with a plate of food and pushing it on people. That’s not the same as setting up a box of donuts in the break room and letting everyone know the treats are there.

    1. Gene Parmesan*

      I agree with this. Setting out treats in the break room is friendly and hospitable, while walking around handing them out insistently is more pushy.

      OP, you do have my sympathy, and I like Alison’s advice. I’m the same way, where I eat healthily if junk food isn’t available, but I overeat if it’s right there. I blame our office candy dish for a 10-15 lb weight gain after starting my current job (which I’ve mostly lost now).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, based on the top line description I come down on other people not needing to manage your environment so you will never see tempting food. But if the food leaves the designated food spot and keeps wandering around and climbing into your cube, that’s getting well out of normal.

        I feel sorry for the food offerer, as I strongly suspect this is her attempt to connect with her new coworkers. If one’s first attempt at these things is shot down, it’s hard to regroup and come back with an “It must have been the medium, not the message” new round of attempted friend making. (Similar to team building events, and whether you are offering beer to teetotalers or social connection to people who don’t want a social connection.)

        1. ket*

          That’s a great point. Is there something the LW can think of that would substitute for the food?

          1. Logan*

            Or a type of food. I brought cookies to a meeting and noticed a few people declined. Next meeting I also brought veggie sticks and everyone was happy. Maybe “I appreciate the thoughtfulness but I only snack on during work”

        2. Mad Baggins*

          Definitely this. I wanted to “buy” some goodwill with coworkers at a different office, and brought
          objectively delicious chocolate snack
          chewy gummy fruit snack
          paper cranes/origami paper

          That way they could take whichever level of food/not food they wanted. Maybe when the coworker comes around, OP can say, “Oh, no thanks, I’m not into sweets/snacks. But how are you liking things here so far?” That way she’s shutting down the method of connection, not the person.

    2. Say What, now?*

      Yes! Just tell them that it’s there if you think it will be missed otherwise, but you don’t need to bring it to anyone. They aren’t 2 and they can feed themselves if they’re hungry.

    3. Melissa*

      I agree. In my office, the culture is that you can bring in things to share with coworkers and make it know that you have it, but it stays in your office/workspace. If people want whatever it is, they have to come to you. This generally works out well for everyone.

      One of the bosses who likes to supply treats every few weeks but doesn’t want a lot of people bouncing in and out of their office, sets up a little table outside their office on treat day.

    4. smoke tree*

      Since she is new to the office, I suspect it’s her way of connecting with new coworkers. It might help in similar situations to find something else to chat about to take the pressure off.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Eh, I’m not sure.

      The frequency of the walk-abouts is concern, if it’s genuinely multiple times a day. But occasionally cruising through the cubes offering cookies you made is a kindness and will be experienced as pleasant-to-neutral by nearly everyone.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        This is how it’s done in my office. Folks will make the rounds to “their people” (their team, or best work buddies, or whatever) with their meeting leftovers or new recipe, then leave it in the kitchenette.

        1. Flinty*

          Yeah, if it really is multiple times per day (!) and she won’t stop when asked, I think the OP might even have standing to say something to their manager like “It’s so nice that Twinkina brings in all these treats but having her offer them to me multiple times a day is very distracting, and hasn’t stopped, though I’ve asked her several times. Is that something you think you could address with her?”

      2. Greta Vedder*

        And she isn’t even bringing food she made herself: she’s bringing Peeps-filled donuts and Cheetos.

      3. uranus wars*

        I think the key difference in your office and OPs situation come to do “occasionally” vs “a few times throughout the day”.

      4. nonymous*

        Yeah, I’m on site only 2 – 3x/year, so I make it a point to stop by the different sections of staff that I work with regularly (they’re in different parts of the building!), and bring some kind of candy that is from my home area. I do try to find things that are reasonably portioned and sanitary, i.e. individually wrapped chocolates.

      5. Birch*

        I still don’t think this is OK. There are a ton of reasons someone might not want your food and might not want to spend the social capital to refuse when it’s right in front of them. As others have said, maybe they really want it but are trying to eat healthier. Maybe there’s a specific reason they just don’t want to get into, like the food bringer is actually a terrible baker or uses Splenda and you just don’t like Splenda, etc. Just leave the food in one place, make an announcement, and let people work.

    6. MrsCHX*

      THIS. If they were in the kitchen/break area people would take them as they please. AND the coworker could see that (possibly), there’s not a ton of interest in her treats and dial it back.

      At any rate, passing it around the office puts people on the spot and many will take something just to be nice or not get into a back and forth. Someone needs to say something.

    7. TootsNYC*

      At that, I might ask my manager to forbid this practice, on grounds of disruption, etc.

      I’ve been fortunate to have had managers that I could have spoken to candidly about this, including the “it makes it hard for me to stay on my diet, and I worry about hurting her feelings if I’m too firm,” and they’d have said to her, quietly, “Don’t do this anymore–leave them in the break room, and people can get them there. Don’t interrupt people, and don’t put them on the spot.”

    8. Birch*

      Yes. Can we all just agree not to ever do this? Seriously, just make ONE announcement that there is something in the break room and trust that grown-a** adults will be able to go get it themselves if they want it. I’ve had candy thrown at me after insisting that I do not want any. What is up with people forcing their food choices on others?! Plus, how much time is this coworker wasting walking around distracting people? So annoying on so many levels!

  4. San Diego*

    This is frustrating. I have a coworker who frequently brings in baked goods and tries to get us to eat them, while also bragging that she herself didn’t eat any. So she gets to act superior, health-wise, while also subtly gifting us for not accepting her generosity. People are so weird.

    1. nep*

      When I was living through anorexia, one of my favourite things to do was prepare food for people. There is something in the act of handling, preparing, and giving away food that somehow fills part of the gaping void from starving oneself. I am not saying San Diego’s coworker has an eating disorder–Just to note that in some cases it might not simply be someone being ‘so weird.’ There might be underlying issues.

      1. SoCalHR*

        Or simply that their “love language” is in preparing and giving out food or “taking care” of others. OP’s coworker could have 100% pure motives, just misdirected.

        1. Amber T*

          I love love love baking, but I don’t want to keep a ton of brownies/cookies/whatever in my house, but I’ll end up eating them all. So they end up being brought to the office most of the time, cuz they’ll mostly get eaten there (or if they get tossed, I at least pretend they were eaten and enjoyed).

          1. Nye*

            Agreed – I love to bake, but there’s only so much cake my partner and I can (or should!) eat. I bring baked goods in to my building and leave them in the lobby with a note saying what’s in them, and that they’re up for grabs. This works extremely well, especially since we are fairly academic and grad students are notoriously attracted to free food. The only people I’ll specifically offer treats to are a couple folks who’ve gone out of their way to tell me how much they enjoy them. (And then, it’s more of a “right of first refusal” thing rather than pushing, I hope!)

            Repeatedly going around to coworkers who aren’t interested is kind of rude, even if it’s well-meaning, and I think OP can she’s should certainly push back on that. Unfortunately, I think she probably just has to put up with the break room treats.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I do that as well, so it’s not really that I’m sharing them out of love. I’m sharing them for purely selfish reasons. It means I get to eat just a few cookies, andI don’t have to feel guilty about throwing the extras away.

            And I can also see that it’s possible someone is pushign goodies on other peole so they don’t feel bad about themselves (“other people eat them too, so I’m not a disgusting fat person for eating these treats”–not saying they ARE a disgusting fat person, just that they may have this fear, especially given the messages we send to people in this colleague’s weight category).
            That’s very human, and I have a lot of sympathy, but it’s not the same thing as a love language.

            Who knows what the reason is? It doesn’t matter. Any one of them is a reason to have sympathy for a fellow human being, and none of them preclude speaking up and saying, “I need to concentrate, and I am controlling my diet. I also don’t want to keep having this conversation, so please don’t bring them to my desk anymore. I would consider it a favor.”

          3. Anonymosity*

            Same–not that I love it, but I get a wild hair and want to make cookies or something. Or I see a treat at the grocery that looks amazing but no, I do not need to eat an entire dozen cupcakes by myself. I have two and take the rest in.

            But I don’t push them at people. I leave them out for whoever wants them to take on their own.

          4. nonymous*

            If I did this, my (male) coworkers would keep asking for more. When we transitioned to a distributed working group a couple coworkers started the tradition of rotating hosting treats when we’re in the same town (nothing fancy, just bagels and the like). It was pretty obvious that the two guys were not participating in the bringing of stuff, but they don’t have any qualms about scarfing food down – seconds and thirds even!

            The really annoying thing is that the people flying in have a per diem, so if one has a light dinner one night, it will easily cover the cost of a dozen doughnuts. And frankly, after eating 3(!!) doughnuts in a single day, maybe a veggie sub is a good idea?

          5. Crystal*

            Yep. Love to bake, single and live alone. My office staff lounge gets the rest. They go quickly.

        2. Minocho*

          This. My family’s love language is very heavily focused on food. Every family get together, every special event, food is a major focus.

          I have a friend that is very serious about controlling what her family eats, and it took me a while to figure out why I was so offended and upset that she wouldn’t let me bring food to her house when we got together – and that’s when I realized that food was comfort, family, and celebration to me. Once I worked that out, I was able to let go of the emotion. But the office coworker could have the same sort of background.

          1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

            My family’s love language is very heavily focused on food. Every family get together, every special event, food is a major focus.

            OMG, this is SO TRUE for my family, too! I don’t think it’s possible for us to gather together for any reason without there being a meal involved.

            1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

              I was thinking the same thing. It may be a way of saying, “I value you and hope you value and trust me, too.” It’s not your job to do her emotional labor, but it may be worth exploring what she is trying to express or accomplish with this behavior and figure out what might better work for the two of you. I’m pretty sure that she’s not bringing food in to make you feel disgusted, manipulated, and attacked.

        3. ElspethGC*

          I have a friend whose grandmother apparently has food as her love language – three different baked dessert options (cake, pie, brownie, trifle etc) after every lunch. Not just Sunday lunch, not just family get-togethers. Every lunch. My friend is trying to lose weight, but her grandmother gets genuinely hurt when she refuses second servings and desserts, and it piles onto her anxiety and makes her feel like her granddaughter doesn’t love her. It’s a tough one.

          1. GG Two shoes*

            Can I make a suggestion for your friend? Maybe she can ask g-ma if taking them home is ok. “I’m stuffed right now, can I bring this home for a dessert tonight?” Then at home either save it or toss it but grandma won’t know.

      2. Mom MD*

        If she’s super obese (which is a medical term) she has an eating disorder. But she doesn’t have to inflict her pushy behavior on people.

        1. On Fire*

          This is … really not true. People can be obese for a variety of reasons that may or may not include eating disorders.

        2. Ellen N.*

          You are incorrect. There are many morbidly obese people who don’t have an eating disorder. Also, there are many people who are not obese who have an eating disorder.

        3. Specialk9*

          Oh for heaven’s sake. That’s not true.

          Fun fact, the subject that doctors are least knowledgeable about, without additional specialized training, is nutrition. Don’t trust someone who’s just an MD about nutrition.

          1. Irked*

            This is not the first time that this Mom MD poster has weighed in on a topic with inaccurate information. I really wish she’d cut it out.

    2. designbot*

      I’ve had a coworker like the OP’s, and she even specifically said once, “I’m just trying to make you all fat while I lose weight, so then I win!” I was floored that she could possess the self-awareness to know she was trying to do that without any filter.

  5. BadWolf*

    I would consider swapping “I’m trying to eat healthy” to something like “I’m limiting my snacks.” Then you can still have snacks and you won’t be directly implying she’s eating unhealthy and you won’t be in any discussion about what’s healthy/not-healthy.

    I recently had someone decline a dinner invitation because they were “eating clean.” Um. Sure, I get that you mean you don’t want to eat out at a restaurant, but now it sounds like I’m eating dirty (!). And then a week later she’s eating a donut. Eat all the donuts you want, but now I’m all judge-y pants.

    1. BadWolf*

      Also, true confessions: When I first started working, I used to bring in cookies and at the end of the day, I would walk around offering one more cookie (complete with “Are you suuuure?) to everyone. I stopped making cookies after a coworker called me an Office Mom, but I also realized I shouldn’t push snacks on people.

        1. MrsCHX*

          I bring stuff in somewhat regularly but I come in pretty early. I leave it in the kitchen and go about my way. And when people are wondering “Who brought the treats?”, I just mind my business!

          1. The New Wanderer*

            I used to do this. Not very often, but I would bring in the post-Halloween and post-Easter candy overload and anonymously leave it in the break room. Once in a great while, I’d bake something and leave it out for any takers. There were so many rounds of leftovers from meetings and other people’s food donations that it was just known as a communal food arrangement.

      1. Susana*

        Good on you for realizing it! I *hate* the “are you sure?” question (about anything, really, but especially about food, if it’s a co-workers pushing cookies on me or a waiter trying to get me to buy overpriced dessert).

        So I say – “It wasn’t a hard question.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I like this one too. It’s a little snarky, but I think if you deliver it with a friendly smile, it could be really effective at letting people recognize what they’re doing.

    2. Rainy*

      I only eat candy on Saturdays. You’ll notice this isn’t a workday. :)

      If it’s wrapped candy and I really want some, I’ll take a piece and save it til Saturday, but most of the time I just say “oh, thanks, I only eat candy on Saturday”. If people ask I explain it’s a Swedish thing and that there’s actually some interesting scientific research behind it, but in general people are like “oh, cool” and we all just carry on.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        One of my coworkers does something similar! She declines sweets in the office and says she limits them to weekends. That way she’s not putting them off entirely, but she is being a bit healthier.

        It’s hard because there is almost always food around the office – we’re in that industry – but when we have parties and such someone usually brings fruit as well as cupcakes and cookies, so there is a healthy choice.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Some chef–Rick Bayless?–had this as a diet. Exercise restraint during the week, and on the weekend enjoy a feast. The idea was that it mimics a traditional food pattern, where you don’t feast every night but do after a particularly good hunt.

          1. Ron McDon*

            That’s how I eat – I find it easy to eat healthily when I’m busy at work all week so I tend not to eat any junk food Monday-Friday.

            Then at the weekend I eat what I want (within reason!); so I don’t eat junk all weekend long, but if we go out for dinner/get a takeaway I eat what I fancy.

            It’s an easy way for me to control my tendency to overeat/binge eat.

        2. TootsNYC*

          The guy who works for me has decided that he only eats treats if they’re homemade. Because he has to limit calories somehow, especially since we used to get tons of outside-vendor food gifts.

          1. Fiennes*

            I made a rule years ago that I could have fried chicken only when I made it myself. This works out to maybe twice a year. (Though I’ve gotten good at frying chicken!)

          2. Overeducated*

            This is my guideline (not a hard rule any more). I figure if I can only eat selected sweets, homemade ones are likely to be better quality.

        3. Elisa*

          It’s also a good way to decline the sweets. Sometimes what I do when the insistence is full on I is take the sweet or baked item and say how nice looks and then I throw it in the bin when no one is looking (napkins wrapped around it). In my case it’s not diet I love sweets so much but for too long I have gotten tummy issues from other people’s home baked items. They may not store ingredients properly, use some ingredient that upsets my tummy or even prepare the food in an unhygienic way.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            My concern is more people with pets that have unfettered access to their kitchens. Not interested in cat hair cookies. However, I don’t assume everyone is unhygenic, but the people with hoarder work spaces, no, not eating their homemade items. I’m very clean but usually just buy items for coworker consumption.

      2. Hope*

        I really like this idea. I might adopt it myself, as I want to cut down on the amount of candy I eat (I am a gummy bear fiend), but also don’t want to give it up entirely.

        1. Rainy*

          For the first few weeks I ate a LOT of candy on Saturdays. These days some Saturdays I have some M&Ms or a Twix, and some Saturdays I don’t eat candy at all. Limiting candy has really reset my sweet tooth.

          The downside: I have become a berry FIEND, I love berries anyway but now I’m unstoppable, and berries are so much more expensive than candy. Whoops.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I like this! I had a friend who was on a diet and rewarded herself for a good week by allowing herself to have a candy bar on Saturday.

        My son always wanted to get nuts from the candied nuts guy by his daycare. I wanted to say yes sometimes, but I didn’t want to deal with it every day. It was Wednesday, so I said, “We got nuts yesterday. We only get nuts on Tuesday.” And so we did. It became a really nice ritual!

        But that would be a nice way to handle this woman–to redirect the pressure, instead of simply resisting it.

      4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        That’s a bit like the “No-S” diet. The basic idea is no snacks, sweets, or seconds except on days that start with “S” (Saturday, Sunday, and Special Occasions).

    3. Canadian Public Servant*

      “Clean” eating lingo gets my hackles up. Food is not “dirty” (three second rule excluded).

        1. Emi.*

          When I’m queen of the world, foods will only be labeled “guilt-free” if their supply chains hold up to rigorous ethical scrutiny.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            Hear. Did you get that cupcake by stealing it from a small child? Was it first prize in a kitten punching contest? If not, I don’t want to hear about how “naughty” you are. It’s food, either eat it or don’t eat it, whatever serves you best.

        2. Lora*

          Cheesy Poofs are BAD. Cheese is a delight and the food of the gods, poofy things can be excellent (popovers, marshmallows, popcorn), but cheesy poofs…no.

          Also, have seen the insides of many food processing plants (okay, arguably the ones that needed a professional decontamination so I ONLY saw the grody ones, selection bias etc but still), and there is a lot of dirty, insect and mold infested food on the market which people nevertheless voluntarily eat, far above and beyond Romaine lettuce recalls. Highly processed food does tend to have all kinds of things you’d rather not know about including rat poop and cockroaches.

          I still eat cornflakes, god help me. But knowing that a lot of junk food contains more rat / cockroach / disinfectant than Natural Seasoning and salt helps me avoid it.

          1. Bea*

            I eat enough bugs jogging in the park each morning and enjoy insects as crunch. The filth that comes in on produce in general has made me give so few ef’s about the grossness on industrial production equipment and facilities.

            But I also grew up collecting poop covered eggs from the coop.

            1. Lora*

              I have eggs from the coop, and produce from my garden which is fertilized with manure. Trust when I say, you have not SMELLED the vileness of a hotdog-making plant. It’s a whole other level, and mixed right into the meatfoodproduct so you can’t really wash it off.

          2. smoke tree*

            To be fair, fine wines have a non-negligible mold and bug content. The only way to avoid that stuff for sure is to grow all your own food and hand-inspect it.

            1. ket*

              If you grow enough of your own food and inspect it enough…

              …you start saying about the wine-making ingredients, eh, it’s only small bugs!

      1. Bea*

        It’s up there with “oh I was soooooo bad today, I drank a regular soda!!!”

        Stop with the shame, I can’t deal with it in a civil manner after awhile.

        I got comments as a kid about how I was “so good” and “wow you don’t want any cake!? I wish I had that discipline.” Well I had an eating disorder…so.

        1. Anon Accountant*

          When adults say “I was soooo bad today because I drank a soda/ate candy/otherwise” I want to say “oh no! Do you want a timeout? Because when someone is ‘bad’ they wind up in timeout”.

          I have little patience with people.

      2. Le Sigh*

        This. I yell at the TV when Panera commercials come on. Clean eating or not, it’s 1,000% of your daily sodium intake. IT’S STILL A BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP BREAD BOWL THAT YOU CAN EAT.

          1. A Nickname for AAM*

            I have an aversion to soggy food and the sight of bread bowls of soup makes me gag. Ew soggy bread.

            Also do not dunk cookies in your milk and have soggy cookies with cookie crumbs floating around in your milk, ew ew ew.

            (See how subjective food preferences are?)

            1. Le Sigh*

              Oh completely. I looove dunking oreos in milk. Or cookies in tea. I love when chex and cornflakes get soggy at the end of the bowl.

              I just have a severe, severe dislike of labeling anything “clean eating.” It’s a nonsense, bullshit term to begin with, laden with coded messages about being “good” when eating. But I find Panera claiming a mantel of clean or healthy eating borderline farcical.

              1. soon 2be former fed*

                I concur. Cookie dunking takes mes back to my childhood. And clean eating is bullshyte.

            2. Bea*

              I hate hot food and everyone has to deal with it. I hate soggy or limp. I’ll put my pizza in the fridge and only eat it cold and delightfully congealed!

              1. poolgirl*

                Cold pizza is the best! I get an extra large on purpose so I can refrigerate half of it.

              1. Paquita*

                Cold pizza, fried chicken, and yesterday a cold grilled cheese and bacon sandwich. I also like KK glazed donuts cold.

                1. Bea*

                  OMG reminds me how cold pasta is so good. Like please put that mac n cheese in the fridge and I’ll eat it for breakfast.

            3. Usually silent*

              This is so me! Haha Soggy bread, dunked carbs, or anything similar turns my stomach.

            4. Specialk9*

              The bread is very dense and stretchy, it doesn’t actually get very soggy. I haven’t had a bread bowl since high school because I don’t need that much bread. But it wasn’t soggy.

          2. Future Homesteader*

            +500. I have no problems acknowledging how nutritionally empty/calorically dense/overprocessed foods are and then eating them anyway. I love Cheetos, and why shouldn’t I? They were pretty much engineered in a lab to make us want them. I have a degree in food, I understand these things pretty well. Doesn’t stop me if it’s something I enjoy.

        1. WellRed*

          Girl Scouts introduced, I think, a fat free cookie or some such. The coworker who left the cookie sign up sheet in the background put a sticky on it touting the “healthy” cookie. I put a sticky on it (in good fun) that read “false propaganda.”

        2. teclatrans*

          I did not know that this is a thing that exists! Yum. I think there is a Panera around here somewhere….

    4. Katniss*

      Yes, I really like this. Having junk food isn’t “unhealthy” eating if one is enjoying it in moderation (by whatever definition of moderation works for your body). You can ask her not to push these foods on you without being judgmental about her own eating habits.

    5. Dino*

      I like this wording. Food is such a hot topic and labeling with evaluative words like “healthy” or “clean” or “bad” and their antonyms won’t help solve the issue of her pushing food on you but might make her more defensive than is useful.

      1. Future Homesteader*

        But that’s in no way OP’s place to police. I like the “limiting my snacks” wording because it sounds much less judgmental. I guarantee you the coworker is aware that she’s overweight, OP doesn’t need to tell her that.

      2. Marthooh*

        The point is to avoid that conversation. The coworker’s health and habits aren’t the OP’s business, and have nothing to do with the question.

      3. Knitting Cat Lady*

        You can’t tell someone’s health status by their size.

        You don’t get obese from over eating.

        You get obese from your hormones being out of whack. Adipose tissue is an endocrine organ.

        What causes your hormones to be out of whack?

        Chronic stress, medical conditions.

        Another cause of obesity:

        Fucked up metabolism.

        How do you fuck up your metabolism?

        Calorie restriction.
        That includes dieting.

        And if you want to gain weight really fast?

        Try weight cycling.

        Homeostasis applied to body weight as well.

          1. Louise*

            Literally the only way to know that is if you’re the person or you’re that person’s doctor, so this is a moot point and does nothing but further stigmatize fatness as some kind of moral failure.

          2. WannaAlp*

            And how do you distinguish that situation from the one where a thin person eats the exact same amount of food (but their body handles it differently)?

            You don’t.

            1. Not My Monkeys*

              The thin person is probably moving more. Or eating less over the course of the day/week. Yes, every body is different and things like hormones, etc., come into play, but it’s misleading to imply that overeating and a sedentary lifestyle could never be related to obesity.

        1. anonymouse*

          Yeahhh, no. You go over there with the anti-vaxxers and the flat earthers, with that “you don’t get obese from overeating”

          1. Knitting Cat Lady*

            I can cite 50 years of research. On my phone until Saturday. If you’re still interested then…

            1. anonymouse*

              Research from what? Online activists? Outlier study results? There is no question in mainstream medicine and science. Obesity is caused by consuming more energy than you are burning. Humans do not defy the laws of physics.

              1. Knitting Cat Lady*

                Start with the Minnesota starvation experiment.

                And yes, calories in/out applies.

                Human bodies are very good at reducing the calories out part by shutting down non essential functions.

                Like the reproductive system. Or brain power.

              2. ket*

                The lovely thing about biology is that it uses physics in unusual ways. Birds can fly despite being heavy; people can absorb or excrete differing percentages of fat and vitamins depending on their gut flora. For a simple thought experiment, if a poop transplant can change a person’s weight without changing their eating habits (link in name), then we’ve demonstrated that while weight gain is proportional to caloric intake the constant of proportionality is not the same for all people, and so intake of essential micronutrients may not be fulfilled by a diet of adequate macronutrients (a possible cause for overeating). Anyhow, it’s clearly been demonstrated that “just eat less” does not solve obesity and simultaneously lead to health. (I am of course assuming that you want people to be healthy, not just skinny.) Physics is fine. Biology is complicated.

                1. poolgirl*

                  A fecal transplant allows them to gain weight because they are no longer losing food to diarrhea before calories can be completely absorbed. A family member had it done a week ago. It’s disingenuous to claim this has anything to do with obesity. Yes drastically dieting will lower your metabolism, making it more difficult to lose wait the next time since you’re caloric requirements will be lower. Then you adjust your intake downward accordingly. Blaming it on glands is simply denial, and any doctor will tell you so. No it’s not easy but it’s still within your control.

        2. fatanon*

          I’m morbidly obese because I eat a ton of sugar and baked goods. Maybe some of these other things are in play, but if I didn’t eat the way I do, I would not be nearly as fat.

          You can’t eat the way I eat and be anything but fat. Admittedly, some other factors are at play, but it’s a far cry from saying “you don’t get fat from overeating”.

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s good that you know that. I’m obese because of chronic illness. I eat pretty darn healthy actually. And I bring treats in to the office, because I like my coworkers.

            So fat lady + brings in treats =/= she’s fat because of overeating.

            (Heck the most vigilant junk food pusher I knew really seemed to be anorexic, stick thin, never ate a morsel, compulsively baked for everyone else.)

          2. WannaAlp*

            And maybe there are thin people who eat just like you do, but their body reacts differently.

          3. Nicole Maria*

            My brother is thin (really thin, like 5’9 and weighs under 140) and eats only junk food. His usual lunch is potato chips and microwaved sausages, and he drinks soda (not diet, full sugar & calories) all day every day. “You can’t eat the way I eat and be anything but fat.” is false.

            I know my brother is definitely an outlier but they do exist. He and I have acknowledged the unfairness of the fact that most people looking at the two of us would think that I’m the one who spends all day on the couch drinking soda when I’m a fairly active person and eat a wider variety of whole foods and fruits & veggies.

        3. Reddy*

          There are numerous studies showing that calorie restriction lengthens the lifespan because it induces the process of autophagy. I’m pretty sure that early humans in a feast and famine cycle weren’t obese due to calorie restrictions.

        4. Ms Jackie*


          I am morbidly obese. I get a check up every year. Except for my PCOS, I am very healthy. My cholesterol is good, my BP is 105/65, my blood sugar is well within the normal range to such an extent that for medicine for my PCOS, I have to worry about my sugars dropping to dangerous numbers. I also do not eat ANY sugar (except fruit) and am on the DASH diet (mom and grandma both had triple bypasses – I am paranoid now). But if you look at me, you would think I am horribly unhealthy and didn’t care about my health. I’m so Freaking tired of busy body ladies telling me what I should eat – and I am talking about total strangers at the whole food market.

          You cannot judge someone’s health by what they look like. Its not possible

        1. PlainJane*

          “It’s her life and her body” – yes, yes, yes! People get to make their own choices, and plenty of us not-obese people have unhealthy diets and unhealthy habits. Food should be a source of pleasure and nourishment, not guilt and judgment.

      4. KellyK*

        Even if that’s true (and it’s not necessarily), neither the coworker’s weight nor the coworker’s health are remotely the OP’s business. The intent is to *stop* having food pushed on them, not get into a debate about who’s eating more virtuously.

        1. Flinty*

          Exactly. This coworker isn’t annoying or wrong because she’s obese, she’s annoying because she is pushing food on people.

          1. KellyK*

            :) Yeah, and even that’s not *objectively* wrong or annoying until someone tells her to stop and she doesn’t. It bugs the LW because it’s food that they both like and are trying to avoid.

            In general, offering people food is a perfectly harmless and friendly gesture. Yeah, three times in a day is a lot, but if she’s new and doesn’t have a lot to do yet, I’m sure it’ll die down in time.

      5. Louise*

        This is the height of concern trolling. “I’m just worried about your health,” is not an okay reason to comment on someone’s eating or weight unless you’re their doctor.

        1. Lara*

          And isn’t it funny, that when I was smoking a pack a day, doing drugs and drinking too much, no-one was concerned about my health. Yet when I quit those unhealthy habits and packed on the pounds, suddenly the concern appeared…

      6. tusky*

        Why does someone always have to come in and ruin a perfectly good conversation with this “BUT-ACTUALLY-IT-IS-UNHEALTHY”…like, it’s so absolutely exhausting at this point. Even if it is true, do you really think people will have somehow not heard (let alone been beaten over the head with) that message by now? Maybe go seek an audience with the not-all-men folks instead.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          Very fair! I have that thought a lot, but I try keep it to myself. I have to admit sometimes it’s hard (there is a LOT of nutrition misinformation, scaremongering, and just plain pseudoscience out there), but I try to make “stay out of other people’s food habits unless specifically asked” my core value.

        2. Lilo*

          I mean I do think we need to have conversations about how certain foods hide some really nasty side effects.

          For instance, my parents are both on low sodium diets for health reasons so companies that hide massive amounts of salt in this like salad are evil. Gummy vitamins and vitamin chews really get me because those things are nominally healthy but they shred your teeth. Granola is sold as being healthy but is packed with sugar. Same with a lot of juices and fruit snacks.

          While food may not be “moral”, unethical food companies hide the ball on just how bad some of their stuff is. Like the “low fat” movement in the 90s that replaced fat with sugar and upped the calories immensely. We need to be able to talk about secret sources of bad food because that can be why people try to eat “healthy” and end up gaining weight. The processed food industry lobby is big and powerful and feeds you bad info.

          1. Louise*

            Literally the only way to know that is if you’re the person or you’re that person’s doctor, so this is a moot point and does nothing but further stigmatize fatness as some kind of moral failure.

            1. Louise*

              Ugh nesting/double posting fail.

              I was actually going to say that critiquing the food industry is very different from critiquing individual people’s food choices, esp when food choices are so closely tied to economic level.

              1. Lilo*

                True, it is just frustrating people saying there is no such thing as bad food. There is, we are being brainwashed into eating it, and it is causing problems. Diseases like gout and scurvy are making a comeback because of it. The food companies are lobbying to sell fast food to kids at lunch in school and are putting candy vending machines in school and advertising to kids.

                There is such a thing as bad food.

                1. tusky*

                  But I really don’t think there’s any food that, eaten in moderation, is bad, unless you’re talking about spoiled or contaminated food, or food to which a given person is allergic. Foods might differ in how nutritionally dense they are, but trouble usually comes from eating too much of a particular thing. Fast food isn’t bad, but it’s bad that corporations have such sway over school lunch menus, and bad that some people don’t have access to much other than fast food. Plus, moralizing food can contribute health problems (e.g. disordered eating).

                2. Just Jess*

                  Food companies are also doing their best to design hyperpalatable food. That means they want a good percentage of the population to be addicted and unable to stop eating their products. Think of it as a bell curve distribution. Maybe 25% of people can have three chips without eating the whole bag, 50% of people can stop at half a bag of chips or eat just one small bag, and another 25% get addicted and find it extremely difficult to not go through three large bags of chips a week. There’s a small number of people at the edges of the bell curve who are either completely unaffected by the hyperpalatable recipe for a particular product or extremely effected.

                  TL;DR – moderate consumption of junk food is a food company myth.

                3. tusky*

                  Just Jess, you do raise an interesting question, about the role of food palatability. I’m curious to know if you’ve come across studies/reports about this that you can recommend? I suspect that there is more to it than the food itself–food marketing, for sure, but also things like stress, history of dieting (at the individual level), and other risk factors for disordered eating. I still don’t think that makes the chips (or whatever) a bad food; it just means some people will need to avoid them (though it’s not a great analogy, I might compare it to alcohol–some people need to abstain from alcohol entirely, but that doesn’t make alcohol a bad substance).

                4. Just Jess*

                  I can see how we should not use terminology like bad food and junk food even if food companies are being sinister. No, I do not have any reports that show food companies have hired researchers to increase the addictive flavors of their products. They do hire researchers to decrease the cost of their products while maintaining the flavor.

                  My main point is that we shouldn’t blame people for eating the whole pint, pizza, or bag. Food can be an addiction and certain people are prone to destructive/dysfunctional behaviors. However, it also seems that the food companies are misleading us when they say “our products are fine in moderation” and know full well that plenty of people can’t stop eating them. It’s not a personal failing. Imagine if the tobacco industry tried that with products that contain nicotine?

                5. tusky*

                  Just Jess, that’s fair. It would be better if there was more acknowledgement/discussion of the fact that these foods can be difficult to eat in moderation (frankly, the whole notion of “willpower,” as it is commonly understood in relation to food, seems terribly problematic). And I completely agree that we shouldn’t blame people for these eating behaviors or consider it a failure! Which is ultimately why I tend to argue so vehemently against moralizing food (so, apologies if I came across as harsh).

          2. tusky*

            I would say this falls in the general category of advice–it’s best when given in response to a request for information. Critiques of food industry are one thing, but offering unsolicited health advice seems rude or intrusive.

            That said, I was actually commenting (obviously not very clearly) on the tendency of people to loudly proclaim that being fat is unhealthy any time someone says anything that could be even vaguely construed as neutral or positive about fatness.

          3. soon 2be former fed*

            With labels on every darn thing, it is relatively easy to know what you are puttingin your mouth. I am a bit older and remember the time when food labeling was not reuired, so I carried a book with nutritional information in it. So much easier now.

    6. kingderella*

      I agree, I wouldn’t use terms like healthy/unhealthy, eating clean, eating better, or junk food. It’s best not to judge.

      Say you’re eating fewer/no snacks, or sweets.

    7. Future Homesteader*

      I love this! And a +1000 to everyone’s comments about taking the guilt out of eating. Let’s all respect each other’s choices (or at least judge in silence, not out loud) and and separate morality from calories.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        My go-to is, “Food has no moral value.”

        My coworkers have started saying it before I do, with an entertained rolling of the eyes.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          I love this! Mine is “eating a dougnut doesn’t make you bad.” (It’s usually doughnuts in our office.)

      2. ElspethGC*

        I’ve got to the point where I don’t even look at calorie counts etc anymore (except to say “Yikes, that’s so many, oh well let’s eat it anyway and laugh about it later”) because I can get obsessive about this sort of thing quite quickly. I’ve tried a couple of times, but it started spiralling, so now I just…don’t. I also never weigh myself for the same reason, and because being tall makes me feel like I weigh too much.

        I know what feels good for my body and what doesn’t. I know that if I snack excessively a few days in a row I start feeling gross and lethargic, but that I always get a good night’s sleep after a meal with lots of fruit and veg. I’ve learnt what works for me and what doesn’t.

        And I know that I don’t know what works for other people! I’m sure people have judged my food intake in the past, but I’ve found a diet (not a Diet(TM), but just a regular diet) that keeps me feeling good and at a relatively constant weight, so I’m sticking with it regardless of whether it’s officially “Good” or “Bad”, because it’s good for my body. Maybe not yours. But mine.

        1. MrsCHX*

          I’ve had to explain to a close friend so many times that, while I’m glad FitnessPal and WW works for her, counting calories period makes me obsess. WHY would I do that? I know what a serving of food x is…I know that last night all the pizza and cheesy garlic bread (mmmm) that I consumed means today I’m eating much lighter/fewer calories. And when/if I’m feeling lethargic or ‘yucky’ it’s time to check my intake.

        2. PlainJane*

          Sounds like you have a healthy approach to eating. Counting calories is a) usually ineffective, and b) takes the joy out of eating. Yes, if we want to feel our best, we should think a little about what we eat, but obsessing over clean eating or cutting calories is a good way to ruin one of life’s great pleasures–good food.

          1. anonymouse*

            Ive counted calories for two years, lost 40 lbs and maintained it, and i still find food quite enjoyable. It’s extremely effective and simple, people are just to lazy, greedy, or set in their ways to devote a few minutes a day.

            1. Katniss*

              That’s great that it works for you, but it doesn’t work for many people, and you’re being rude about that fact.

              When I counted calories I backslid so far into disordered thinking about food it took me months to recover.

            2. Urdnot Bakara*

              ^Same as Katniss. I was a fat kid and my parents had me dieting when I was as young as 12/13. That developed into pretty bad disordered eating habits centering on counting calories/restricting food intake. On top of all that, I really hated myself. It took me a long time to get out of that mindset.

              These days, I’m still fat, but I don’t count calories, I don’t weigh myself, and when I go to the doctor I ask not to be weighed and/or ask that the doctor not bring up my weight (with which I’ve been relatively successful). I’m soooo much healthier now than I was when I was counting calories, because I eat regularly, I enjoy exercising more, and I’m in a much healthier place mentally.

              So yeah, good for you, but it is absolutely not okay to act like counting calories is a healthy or safe option for everyone.

            3. tusky*

              You are a sample size of 1. If I’ve had the opposite experience, or an experience that directly contradicts yours, how do we decide who is right? What if you’re the anomaly?

            4. ket*

              Plenty of randomized studies show that calorie counting leads to disordered eating in a significant fraction of people! Chalk this up to toilet paper over/toilet paper under (over forever thanks) or the blue/black dress vs white/gold dress. People are simply fundamentally different and it is not a matter of laziness, greediness, or being set in their ways.

              (If you really want to get geeky, you can check out the paper “Clues to Maintaining Calorie Restriction?” It points out that the psychosocial profile correlated with successful caloric restriction without concurrent eating disorder includes low neuroticism, high future orientation, and few close friends. This works for some folks, sure, but it doesn’t describe everyone.)

            5. Anonymosity*

              I suck at math. I don’t want to do it all day with every bite I put in my mouth. I’d rather just eat less, exercise more, and enjoy a treat once in a while. Doesn’t make me lazy or greedy. The only thing it makes me is not you. I’m me.

            6. Specialk9*

              @anonymouse “It’s extremely effective and simple, people are just to lazy, greedy, or set in their ways to devote a few minutes a day.”

              Wow. Seriously. I hope you keep a log of your bitter judgmentalism too, cuz that could use some adjustment.

            7. Hrovitnir*

              Wow. I’m sorry your internalised fat hate has made you so hateful.

              I have multiple friends with (restrictive) eating disorders and that has made me deeply despise the overwhelming inundation of **calories** everywhere (you can’t turn the display off on many exercise machines or exercise apps for example.)

              As someone who really enjoys numbers and graphs and quantifying things I am kind of attracted to calorie counting, but it’s damn hard to separate it from the idea that less is always better, and that thinking is inherently disordered, and bloody dangerous.

            8. Nicole Maria*

              My doctors have specifically told me to *not* count calories or track food intake, even though I’m “overweight”, due to my eating disorder recovery. Please stop making those kinds of assumptions.

    8. Nora*

      I was going to suggest something like “I’m only eating food I bring from home”, but I like “I’m limiting my snacks” way better. The term “healthy” is so relative! For example, eating too little food is very unhealthy.

      My favorite response when people say they are “eating clean” is “But dirt is soooo organic!!”

    9. Legal Beagle*

      This is what I thought, too. “I’m eating healthy” might sound really judgmental to the coworker. Also, it’s enough to simply say “no thanks.” With pushy people of any stripe, it’s better not to offer any reason or justification, since they’ll just try to argue you out of it. It’s harder to argue with a plain no.

      Also, wow at your friend! It’s a good example of how this kind of language can be SO loaded. To say “I’m eating clean” is isolation is…whatever (I think it’s a dumb label, but you do you), but when it’s set it up in contrast to something else, it becomes very rude.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Ugh, nesting fail. This was supposed to be in response to BadWolf’s comment at the top of the thread.

  6. LeisureSuitLarry*

    “Doughnuts with peeps in the middle.” I normally don’t discriminate against doughnuts, but this is an abomination that needs to be killed with fire.

      1. Dino*

        Do you do Peep jousting?! Put a toothpick in each one facing out like a sword and the one to pop the other Peep wins!

    1. Bea*

      Stab them with a fork and leave it for all its surrounding loved ones to see! Peeps must be removed from our lives after the age of 12.

            1. Future Homesteader*

              That sounds a million times better than those nonsense milkshakes with doughnuts on top. LEARN TO MAKE A COHESIVE DESSERT, HIPSTERS.

              1. Marthooh*

                I googled this, and one result was “donut milkshake hurts”. It’s not what it sounds like, alas.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I could totally see peep-filled doughnuts drowning in a barrel of cheese puffs appearing in a modern art show.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Cut their heads off, put them on stakes, and leave them up as an example to the other doughnuts.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      I wouldn’t bother trying to hide my reaction if something like that was shoved in my face. Which might be what it took to get through to the pushy coworker, so I don’t see a downside at all.

    3. Don't Block the Door*

      The mere existence of Peeps proves that the experts have been right all along: Toxic waste does last forever.

  7. A.*

    People in my office bring in donuts, cookies, and bagels daily. I’m intermittent fasting and limiting processed carbs and sugar so I feel your pain. I usually just bring sparkling water and healthy snacks for when I break fast and avoid the break room if I’m super hungry. Tracking my calories on MFP helps also because I don’t want to track 3 donut holes.
    Other than asking her to stop offering the snacks to you, there is not much you can do about the snacks in the break room.

    1. chocoholic*

      My office at times has lots of junk food – candy, cookies, doughnuts, etc etc. I usually am able to stay out of it once I think about how many hands touched the food. Makes the temptation way less for me :)

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Yup. Tracking that over-400-calorie cookie yesterday was a nice wakeup – oh hey, that was about a quarter of the food I’m supposed to be eating. Did it feel that filling? No.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Not really. That’s the problem. I don’t even like sweets all that much, but put snacks around me at work and I will turn to them as a stress-eating response. And as I was eating it I was noticing the slightly acrid burn on my tongue, the sickly over-sweetness, the oil that had seeped out into the paper envelope it’s packaged in, how it was oversized and maybe the size of 2-3 cookies. But I wolfed it down because it was there and my brain was essentially chanting at full volume how I needed to eat it, I deserved a treat.

          And at home I tracked it and thought ‘well, that wasn’t worth it at all – now I have to skip the beer I actually wanted.’ So that’s fine, cookies from work luncheons don’t get to stay at my desk – they get deposited off in the kitchen and ignored.

          1. E*

            I’ve noticed that my taste buds have changed over time when I cut back on sweets or processed foods for a while. Soda doesn’t have the same appeal, and processed foods often don’t taste “right” anymore.

            1. Ron McDon*

              Absolutely. When I began trying to eat more healthily I didn’t eat any junky food for a few weeks (due to my tendency to binge eat). When I then had some crisps I noticed how salty and greasy they tasted, and rarely eat them now.

              When people offer me cakes etc at work now, I can truthfully answer ‘no thanks, I don’t fancy that’.

          2. DD @*

            This is so true! The sweet stuff I eat at work tends to be not all that satisfying, but I keep eating it because it’s a stress response. I’d SO rather eat something really tasty for the same amount of calories, sugar or what have you, but sometimes knowing–intellectually–that it’s a stress response isn’t enough to stop me from grabbing that free cookie from the meeting lunch. Human behavior is fascinating! :P

          3. ket*

            I’ve definitely observed that too. And it suggests anther answer to the LW: “No thanks — I’m not hungry now! If I really want it in 20 minutes I’ll go get it.” Maybe that’s enough to deal with the stress-response for some.

  8. Clorinda*

    It seems like there are two separate overlapping issues. First, co-worker brings piles of food to the office. Well, there’s not much you can do about that. You’ll have to walk past the bowl of candy to get to your healthy lunch, sorry. Second, the co-worker walks around the place pushing junk food at people, and that you can definitely shut down. First time: “Please don’t bring candy or snacks to me.” Second time: “I already told you, I don’t want you to bring candy or snacks to me, thank you.” Third and subsequent, no more please and thank you, just, “You know I don’t want snacks.” Or you can ask: “Why are you bringing snacks to me when you know I don’t want them?” Really, why is she doing it? See if you can make her put it into words, and “I’m just trying to be nice” is not an adequate answer, because doing something someone has asked you not to do is not trying to be nice.

    1. nep*

      Yes–unfortunate you’d have to spend work time on this conversation. But after a bit, asking her ‘why are you bringing me snacks when you know I don’t want them?’ –Yes. Put her on the spot.

  9. Bea*

    I would be annoyed she had enough free time to socialize so often. You bring treats, set them up in the breakroom or treat-shelf whatever and go to work. I am fine with even a quick all office email as a heads up but being so in your face is over the top and screws up productivity for a lot of folks.

    I’m blessed and temptation isn’t an issue I deal with. I take or leave goodies, I have a drawer full of chocolate my lovely coworkers gift me as their appreciation for “favors” (I’m actually doing my job but they’re so sweet and think I’m going above and beyond, I appreciate that they appreciate me so whatevs).

    It’s the same as those who push you to drink at a happy hour or whatever else. Rude to say the least.

    You can’t fault the treats for existing or others for indulging but yeah, don’t push your food on others. I’m large and loath publicly eating, less stressful now but I had massive anxiety for decades. You just never know what others are dealing with, sigh.

  10. SoCalHR*

    Fully sympathy for you OP – I am the same way, I can avoid it if its not in my face (unlike the doughnut I am currently eating even though it conflicts with my current eating plan – today was not a will power day).

    I agree that you can’t stop the junk buffet in the breakroom but it seems odd to me to have someone regularly go around and offer treats to people. That is an area that I think you have grounds to object to.

  11. Syren*

    My co- worker keeps godiva, ghirardelli, ferrero rocher and several other gourmet chocolates on his desk, 2 feet from me. IT IS HELL. Since he started, I have gained 10 lbs (totally my fault in eating all the chocolate). We have had several conversations about said candy jar. In fact I think the whole team has had several teasing (yet real) conversations about said candy jar. Pranks have ensued by taping said jar so no one can see the candy, replacing said candy with fruit, etc. Seriously feel for the OP. The pain is real. And agree with Alison there is not much you can do. :(

    This made me remember the article Alison linked last year around valentines day:

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Totally anecdotal, but I think there is something to it. I have candy jars (yes, plural…small jars though) on my desk and when I had open top jars/bowls where you could reach in and grab something, the candy disappeared VERY quickly and people also tended to take more with each visit. I switched to jars that have screw on lids and SURPRISE….candy consumption decreased. Maybe it’s the effort that it will take to unscrew the lid or the time it will take which might make the taker think I’ll notice more keenly how much they’re taking, but whatever it is, it worked. And I’m thrilled. I and another co-worker exclusively fund the candy jars so gluttony is quite pricey. I say this to see if y’all might want to try replacing the jar with one that has a screw on lid, if you don’t already have that.

      And I also tried to replace the candy with healthier options….individual packets of nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, etc. and there was a virtual mutiny. I was astonished. Maybe everyone eats healthy outside of work and wants a mini Snickers in their time of stress? Who knows?

      1. tusky*

        True, there’s somehow nothing worse than raisins when what you really want is sweets.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        This is true with supermarkets in terms of doors on the fridges or freezers. Take the glass doors off so people don’t need to go to all that effort of pulling opening a door, and sales of frozen food go up.

      3. Specialk9*

        If you call it “gluttony” why even bother? Is it a nice thing you’re doing, or are you secretly enjoying getting to judge everyone, and feel martyred? If you can’t do it with a pure heart, just don’t have a candy bowl.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          I think you’re reading too much into my choice of words there. Excessive consumption could be substituted. I enjoy providing the candy jar, but it becomes problematic when the same few people, who have NEVER offered to contribute to funding it (I’ve made it known that contributions in any form are welcome) come by and take literal handfuls of candy to the point where they sometimes drop it on the floor because they can’t carry it all. I feel like it’s common knowledge in most offices that helping yourself to a piece or 2 every now and then is fine. But it is not there for anyone to consume an entire bag of fun size Snickers in a span of 2 days. I’d argue that the individual doing so is making a glutton of themselves by leaving nothing else for their co-workers to enjoy.

    2. RlyNao?*

      So….I’ve always wondered why people think “pranks” over hiding another person’s candy jar, or replacing the items with healthier stuff is ok.

      The rule is “If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t touch it/take it. Ask first.”

      …so what makes that situation different and allowable? It shouldn’t. I am curious about it.

      1. Syren*

        Oh we’re a highly functioning tight knit team. I’ve asked him about it when it was just he and I together at lunch and he thinks it’s funny. If it weren’t I’d put a stop to it ASAP.

    3. WannaAlp*

      Ouchie. If that were me, I’d set up a little visual barrier so the chocolates didn’t keep looking at me. Even though I wouldn’t have any (allergic), it’s annoying to have something delicious but toxic in my sight line.

      I wouldn’t do it in a passive-aggressive manner though, I’d talk to the co-worker on the next desk to explain what I was up to, and why. Hopefully they would understand and wouldn’t take offense, especially since I’d compliment them in their taste in chocolate.

  12. Eulerian*

    Personally, I’d use the phrase “I don’t eat unhealthy things at work”. For a few reasons:
    (1) “I don’t” is a lot more firm than “I’m trying not to”, and makes it harder for her to push
    (2) She won’t feel like you’re constantly refusing food because she’s the problem (even though maybe she is!)
    (3) Psychology says if you’re trying to break a bad habit like junk-eating – or maintain a good habit – saying “I don’t” instead of “I shouldn’t” or “I can’t”, both to yourself and others, makes you much more likely to succeed.

    1. The Original K.*

      I would probably use the phrasing “I don’t eat [specific thing being offered],” but I agree with you about “I don’t” language. I say that unless the food being offered is something to which I am allergic, in which case I say “I’m deathly allergic to [thing with nuts in it],” which is true. (I started adding “deathly” because just saying “allergic” wasn’t enough for some people – “Oh, it’s probably not that bad! Have just a little peanut brittle.”)

      1. Blueberry*

        Slight digression, but I have NEVER understood people who don’t take allergies seriously. “You might only die a little!” You have my sympathies.

      2. Future Homesteader*

        OT but allergy-deniers are terrible, I’m sorry that people actually still think PEANUT BRITTLE could in any way be okay for someone with a peanut allergy, WTH?

        1. The Original K.*

          Yeah. If people continue to press, I tell them about the time I ended up in the ER in anaphylactic shock.

    2. TootsNYC*

      (3) Psychology says if you’re trying to break a bad habit like junk-eating – or maintain a good habit – saying “I don’t” instead of “I shouldn’t” or “I can’t”, both to yourself and others, makes you much more likely to succeed.

      Ooh, I’m going to work this into my rant about how we should all get rid of the word “should.” (see what I did there?)

      That “should” assumes you won’t, and “shouldn’t” assumes you will. The very word predicts your failure.

      But if you say “I want to go to the gym” instead of “I should go to the gym” (or “I could go…” or “I will go…”), you change your mindset.

      I did this, actually, I’m just realizing. I was eating a candy bar every single day, and I decided to stop, so now I say to myself, “I don’t eat candy now.”/

      I also have celiac, and so now I don’t eat gluten. There’s no obligation (“should”) or forbidding (“can’t”)–there’s action: I don’t.

      (How’s this one: “I don’t eat snacks at work.” )

    3. zapateria la bailarina*

      i really like the suggestion of saying “i don’t” but i would switch out “unhealthy things”

      “i don’t eat sweets” i think is the best way to go

  13. Blackeagle*

    I bring homemade cookies to work about once a month, usually because we’re doing some sort of potluck or for some special occasion. I would never dream of going around and pushing them on people (they’re tasty enough that they tend to disappear in fairly short order, though).

    1. Blueberry*

      I was just about to write a similar comment. Bringing something to share is one thing: pushing it on people is another.

      1. Sarah*

        Yep. My old company had a table that became an informal snack table. So if you brought something in, all you did was send a quick email to the department saying, “I put some brownies in the usual spot!” and they’d be gone by 5. No pressure, no bringing it around to everybody, no watching to make sure people took some. Just a heads up and nothing more.

      2. smoke tree*

        I hate it when people push food on me, so I make sure never to do it to anyone else. I like to bake and don’t like to have thousands of baked goods at home, so I often bring them to share, but I always just leave them in a communal space and make sure not to monitor them or pressure people into eating them. I usually only do this with groups of people who already have an entrenched communal baked goods culture, and if I’m sensing a lack of enthusiasm, I stop.

        1. bonkerballs*

          That’s how I am. I love baking and I do bring in baked goods to work fairly regularly. Some days every thing I’ve brought gets eaten within an hour, some days I’m bringing most of it home again. The only thing I make sure to do is make it absolutely clear that I’m happy to take it all home. No one has to eat anything, I just have it and am happy to share.

  14. nep*

    I agree that LW is in the right to ask coworker not to come round offering; if coworker continues that after a firm statement, that’s just plain wrong. But a bunch of goodies in the break room–yeah, live with it.

  15. Tau*

    Many sympathies, OP! We have an office baker who will bring in homemade cake several times a week – near the start of the year it was almost every day. Thankfully he doesn’t wander around offering it to people, but all the same my resolution of eating less sweet things has been sorely tested!

    That said, Alison is right that it’s her prerogative to bring in food and your responsibility not to take any if you’re trying not to eat junk food. I wouldn’t dream of telling my office baker to stop bringing in cake – that would be offloading my own emotional work onto him, and a very unkind way of responding to generosity.

  16. RabbitRabbit*

    Serious sympathy. I have gained significant weight in my current office (which I otherwise love) as we have such a food culture, lunch meetings, etc. I had to crack down recently after reaching an all-time high weight for me, with not eating any work food – even our catered lunches would cover nearly my entire calorie content for the day, or very close to it! I eat basically 1/3 of my calorie intake in simple breakfast and lunch, then get room to splurge a little at home with my husband or eating out. Even having food at my desk can be too distracting – my brain is essentially shrieking about how I have to eat the cookie in that box.

    A few foods trigger near-bingeing behavior in me so I stopped eating them – moderation wasn’t helping with those. A coworker heard me say that I absolutely can’t stop at one Thin Mint cookie and eat the whole sleeve in one sitting. She insisted I take one of the Thin Mints I brought in and nearly outright said I was rude – in front of other people – for not doing so. I took one. I threw it in the garbage when I was out of sight.

    1. nep*

      If someone calls me rude–in front of other people–for not taking food they’re offering…well, they’ve just made an ass of themselves in front of said people.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        I know, right? She’s kind of prickly anyway, and rather than deal with her implication that I was insulting to her, I just took one. Fortunately my brain doesn’t chime in with a din of ‘you have to eat that now now now now’ once something’s in the garbage.

    2. Sara*

      I had to institute a no work food rule as well after I gained a bunch of weight at my first job. Bagel Fridays plus a woman who LOVED to bring in baked goods were not great for my diet.

      I find it easier to do a blanket ban than just pick and choose. Good luck!

      1. TootsNYC*

        I find it easier to do a blanket ban

        Gretchen Rubin has talked/written about the two mindsets of Abstainers vs. Moderators.

        I’ve realized I’m an Abstainer.

        Plus, decision fatigue is a thing, and simply deciding “I don’t eat snacks at work” is much easier.
        I’ve realized I did this w/ all sorts of big decisions when I was a teen and young adult:
        • I’m not a smoker, so I don’t smoke (I never started, even though the one puff I had actually was appealing)
        • I don’t do illegal drugs
        • I only have one drink

        Having the rules just makes life easier. I thought them out and put them in place.

        1. Traveling Teacher*

          Wow. This is not just me? I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few months: how it was so much easier for me to not do the things that I’d simply decided to not do rather than have “just one” of anything (candy, tv, chocolate…).

          I’ve had a really hard time when I’ve decided to allow myself a treat “just once.” And, I too have put rules in place for myself from a young age (“I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs” being a big one, but there are others.)

          This seriously gives me a lot to think about. Thank you!

    3. Bea*

      “You’re so rude…”
      “No. You’re rude. Leave me alone, Nancy.”

      She’s a manipulative bully pretending to be so thoughtful and kind. Barf.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        I will admit to a certain amount of glee at throwing out the cookie. I did grow up in a household where we weren’t totally secure in having enough food, so it’s taken me quite a while to get to that point where I could do that. It’s a shame to waste food, but at that point, it was better than eating it.

        1. Bea*

          I’m happy you got the satisfaction in the end at least!

          I just wish you dropped it in her trash instead >:D

      2. E*

        This. “Don’t police what other people eat”. That includes picking on folks for eating healthy or junk food, or those who opt out of food available in the break room for the day. Mind your own beeswax!

    4. uranus wars*

      i hear you on the Thin Mints. I had to stop buying them. Everyone has their kryptonite and those are apparently mine.

  17. Sherm*

    I used to work with a guy a lot like this. I eventually figured out that he didn’t actually care whether I ate the food or not. He just wanted to give it. I came to realize over the months that he was very insecure and felt the need to “give tributes” to his coworkers in order to stay in their good graces. But he never followed up with a “So, did you eat it?” I often tucked the food in a drawer and discreetly removed it later.

    1. Archives*

      I have done that several times and not just at work. My aunt will insist I eat what she is cooking. So I learned to tell her to put it in a container and I will eat it later since I am not hungry. After, I left her house I threw the food away and brought the container back. So never knew.

  18. Sara*

    I’ve had to tell people in my workplace ‘Its ok to pass me, I’m always going to say no. I promise I won’t be offended if you don’t ask’. I told the woman that offers the most several time before she believed me, but now she doesn’t offer/ask.

    On the flip side, the days I do cheat apparently are a big deal now and are heavily commented on. Kinda keeps me honest though, lol

    1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      On the flip side, the days I do cheat apparently are a big deal now and are heavily commented on.

      Ugh, this is why I try not to talk to anyone about anything diet-related. There are certain foods which I try to avoid because they’re IBS triggers for me, but this apparently bothers some people because people are weird about food. I’ve found I get those types of comments again when my willpower fails & I eat bread or too much sweet stuff or whatever. So if I’m offered something I can’t eat, I just say no thank you without further explanation.

      1. Snark*

        A friend of mine with IBS deals with this exact problem, and had to resort to “Ok. Fine. I’ll eat it. I’ll be over in 12 minutes to take a dump on your desk. File any important papers.”

        1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

          Oh, if I only had the guts to say that!!! Your friend is way braver than me! :)

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Its ok to pass me, I’m always going to say no. I promise I won’t be offended if you don’t ask

      I like this a lot.

    3. Koala dreams*

      I like that wording. It’s very clear and don’t go into sticky issues like healthy/un-healthy. For me personally, I don’t necessary get that a simple comment like “No, thanks” means “I don’t want to be offered any snacks, ever”, so I appreciate when people spell out what they mean.

  19. WellRed*

    I actually spoke up one time when it seemed like every single day people were bringing in baked goods or what have you. Finally, when someone brought in a half-priced, post-Valentine’s giant grocery store brand cookie I said something about how it would be nice to have something healthy for a change (I have diabetes, and while that’s on nobody but me to manage it gets old being the one to grin and bear it). Several people agreed and we had a day with people bringing in fruit, cheese and crackers, etc. At my current job, after looking at people’s leftover holiday baked goods and candies for a week, I will usually toss it. Stuff around here goes fast so if it’s lingering, probably no one else wants it either.

      1. ElspethGC*

        Yes! I can resist biscuits. I can resist chocolate. I can’t resist cheese. (Special mention to anyone who brings Wensleydale, halloumi or Italian formaggio nostrano. I am *so* looking forwards to my halloumi tonight.)

        1. Anonymosity*

          Omg I love cheese. I once bought four packages of English cheddar before remembering I was not going to be back from vacation in time to eat it all. So I made a big cheese-and-cracker tray with a bottle of olives and took it to work. Apparently, nobody at Exjob could resist it either, because by the end of the day, there was nothing left but three olives and some crumbs. :)

  20. Lilo*

    I am not so sure it does come from a kind place. I had a coworker who constantly kept trying to feed me and was critical of my eating habits and exercise. It felt like she was actively trying to sabotage my eating habits and would pout when I turned her down. She acted like my desire to eat well and exercise was a personal attack on her. Some people try to drag others into bad habits to make themselves feel better about their own bad choices.

    1. Luna*

      Yeah I’m having a hard time deciding whether this is really kind. I do like to bake and will occasionally bring baked goods into the office (I live by myself so can’t eat it all on my own!), but that happens maybe once every few months. And it will be one batch of cookies or one cake. What the coworker is doing sounds so excessive it’s to the point of being pretty bizarre. What one person brings in that much food that frequently? And clearly others are not that interested, otherwise she wouldn’t need to walk around asking people to eat it.

    2. Yorick*

      Your coworker was probably just trying to share something that she enjoyed. Overweight people usually don’t have some weird agenda or any problem with others’ thinness or lifestyle.

      Not saying you do, but some people infuse SO MUCH judgment into their refusal of the things a fat person was nice enough to bring in.

      1. Lilo*

        My coworker wasn’t fat, FWIW. I never said she was. You don’t have to be fat for eating a lot of sugar to be bad for you.

        1. Yorick*

          Sorry for assuming.

          Still, I don’t think people have bad motives here. They mostly think it’ll brighten someone’s day to get a cookie. Sure, maybe some want others to be “bad” with them, but they don’t mean that in a hurtful way.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            Even if it’s not hurtful, it’s frequently selfish. If I have a choice between being the only one eating a doughnut and eating a doughnut with somebody, I’m going to choose the latter, and it’s not out of pure motivation because I think they’ll enjoy the doughnut and I just want them to be happy. I don’t want them to eat a doughnut at some point, I want them to keep me company while I eat my doughnut. Indulgence wants company.

    3. Lara*

      Honestly, given your other comments I think you should examine whether or not you were projecting.

      1. Lilo*

        I mean the lady also kept telling me that smoking would make my headaches go away, but sure, I was just projecting.

        The fact that I am frustrated by the food industry does not mean I hate fat people. It more comes from my dad’s stories about treating kids for constipation and malnutrition because their parents are only feeding them these “kid meals” or chips because “it us what he likes”. Acting like there isn’t a serious problem in this country caused the fact that we are constantly bombarded by high calorie, high sodium, low nutrition foods is sticking your head in the sand. This stuff is making people sick.

    4. Darth Vader*

      Yes to this! I’ve had coworkers occasionally who criticize my eating (good or bad) and offer opinions about what I ought to eat, etc. it’s all about them. Right now i made the mistake of responding to a food question with, well i’m Trying to eat a healthy diet right now (response to ‘why are you eating salad?’) now this person asks me nearly every day, sometimes loudly in front of others, ‘are you still on a diet?!’ Trying to slowly train her to stop. Each time she asks, i hold the silence, or raise and eyebrow and say ‘hmm…’ or some other non answer bc she is senior and i can’t afford to offend her. I think she is just making conversation and doesn’t realize, but i dont’ trust that it will be ok to ask her to stop asking. Would love scripts that don’t point out that someone’s wrong in any way, but still stop the behavior. Holy grail… it makes for uncomfortable moments sometimes at work.

      1. Darth Vader*

        Oh and sometimes she will order me, in front of coworkers, not to eat something because ‘you’re on a diet!!!’ I only said it the once. Now i’m Consigned to shaming about my eating choices for all time… unless i bite the bullet and risk offending a senior director. Ok now i’m Writing this i’m wondering if there is a bit of passive aggressive in there…

  21. MicroManagered*

    It’s also not reasonable to connect the food-pushing to her weight, because many people of all different weights do what she’s doing and this kind of aggressive food-peddling is a common office phenomenon.

    +1 to this. In fact, I’ve worked in many offices where slimmer people would bring junk food in, either to get it out of their house or to try a recipe and not be responsible for eating all of it, etc.

    At the same time, I do think there’s a different phenomenon where people want you to cosign their decision to eat junk food by eating it too. And they perceive the refusal as an indictment of their choice to eat it. (Kind of like offering someone a cigarette and they say “I quit” or something like that.) I work with a LOT of people like this–women and men, irrespective of their weight. To that end, I’ve found it sometimes easier for office-politics to say “Not right now but I’ll get one after lunch” or, in some cases, take one and just toss it in the trash* when the food-pusher is gone.

    *This one does require willpower.

    1. Melissa*

      +1 from me as well. I really appreciated that Alison pushed back on the connection to weight. I am a fat person, but I am not a food pusher and never have been.

      Also, there are fat people who eat “healthy.” There are fat people who are fit.

      The assumption that fat people are unhealthy, have disordered eating, and are lazy or lacking in willpower is hurtful.

    2. annakarina1*

      Yeah, I was a little bugged that she pointed out that she was obese, it read as fat-shaming to me, like “of course the fat lady would be pushing sweets on people.”

      1. Sarah*

        Yeah, that upset me, too. One has nothing to do with the other and pointing it out in comparison to the LW trying to eat healthier reeks of the kind of “thinness is a virtue” BS that is unfortunately so prevalent. (And its newer cousin, “fitness” where “being fit” is being a very specific, very difficult to achieve body type that requires more maintenance than simply being thin.)

      2. MicroManagered*

        Yeah. I was kind of pointing to that in my comment, but I’ll just come out and say it: I think the letter has a subtext of not liking this person because she’s fat first, pushing food second. Something is going on between OP’s resentment of the food-pushing, her own willpower to resist it, and fat-shaming. I don’t know the person so I can’t say anymore than that. But I think it’s there between the lines. (“acutely obese” for example.)

      3. smoke tree*

        Yeah, I can’t think of any non-rude reasons to mention this. If the coworker were skinny, would that make the LW any more inclined to eat sweets?

    3. ginger ale for all*

      I bring in food sometimes because I am single and while I would like to try a new flavor or brand of chips or something, I am not up to trying a whole bag full of that flavor. I also bring in the new flavors of oreos when they come out because of the same concept – I could never eat a whole package by myself before they went stale and yet I still want some.

      1. ginger ale for all*

        I forgot to add I will just send an e-mail out to say that there is stuff in the break room rather than walk it all around. There is no sense interrupting people for something that isn’t business related.

      2. MicroManagered*

        OH! As a newly-single person struggling with that very thing…. Thank you for this idea! Why just yesterday I passed up some roasted red pepper Tostitos because I didn’t want to have the whole bag around. (As a newly-single person, I also struggle with boredom eating sometimes too!)

      3. uranus wars*

        I do this at time because I am single, but it’s not because I can’t eat it before it goes stale. It’s because I can eat a whole package before my next sleep. But I also just randomly put in the break room and never say anything. It’s always gone by the next day. I couldn’t imagine going cube to cube. Mostly because I am selfish and that seems like a lot of work.

  22. Nicole*

    Oh gosh peep filled donuts sound gross. So much sugar.

    I have a colleague that does this even though she knows the rest of us likely won’t touch it. She brought in cupcakes recently for my birthday and I felt not an ounce of pity when nobody had one. It’s her money to waste.

    1. Lara*

      So – someone tried to do something nice for your birthday and you’re… contemptuous of her? Ok.

      1. Nicole*

        She routinely brings in sweets that she knows nobody in the office will eat, then she eats them and gets sick and complains the whole day. She did a few other nice things for me to which I’ve thanked her several times, but I refuse to guilt-eat something.

      2. Nicole*

        This morning she brought in chocolate cake. Tried to get me to have some, then asked again after I told her I don’t really like cake, then again after telling me the cake doesn’t have frosting in it.

        Three times. We’ve only been here 2 hours.

  23. Ugh*

    The NY Times had a piece recently about how resisting temptation actually lowers your ability to fight temptation – so her doing this is actually impacting OP in a negative way – she will now have less strength to fight other temptations. I’d probably try to have a nice conversation with the new coworker and frame it as, you’re new, so you didn’t know any better, but we don’t really do what you’re doing here, and it really stands out in a bad way. Maybe she’ll stop, probably not.

    1. KellyK*

      Why treat it like she’s doing something objectively wrong and you’re helpfully setting her straight? That comes off as condescending. For this particular LW, the constant temptation is an annoyance and a distraction. For a coworker who forgot to bring lunch and doesn’t have time to go out, the new lady swinging by with baked goods might be like manna from heaven.

      Just tell her you don’t eat snacks, or sweets, or whatever phrasing you want to use, ask her to stop offering them to you, and leave it at that.

      1. BuffaLove*

        Because in most offices it IS objectively wrong to do rounds with whatever food you’re pushing, because it’s distracting and just not necessary. Put it in a common area and send an email so anyone who wants to partake can, and anyone who doesn’t can ignore it. People who feel like they have to do rounds are doing it for the attention, not just to share food.

        1. KellyK*

          There’s an awful lot of space between “unnecessary and potentially distracting” and “objectively wrong.” I mean, I assume you’re not taking the people chatting about football at the water cooler aside and explaining that they probably didn’t know any better but they really shouldn’t be doing that because it’s distracting and unnecessary.

          This is someone who recently started, so yeah, they probably do want the attention. As in, they want to chat with and get to know their coworkers, and bringing food is one way to do that.

  24. not so sweet*

    Is there any chance that the sweet-pushing co-worker might describe the OP or the general office climate as too focused on “virtuous” eating for her preference? I agree that it’s rude to go around pushing doughnuts in people’s faces, but I also don’t like co-workers to talk about their own food value-judgements in front of me where I can’t avoid them and need to be polite. Everyone should keep their eating habits to themselves, not just the people whose food you long for and don’t approve of.

  25. Terg*

    Why mention that the offending coworker is “acutely obese”? Ideally, you’d feel the same about these behaviors regardless of her weight.

    1. Katniss*

      This combined with the comments about her “unhealthy lifestyle” make me concerned about how judgmental the OP might be towards this woman who is just trying to be nice.

      1. WellRed*

        Well, it’s not nice to keep pushing food on people after you’ve been asked not to.

        1. Katniss*

          She hasn’t been asked not to. The OP has said no thanks. That is not the same as saying “hey, please don’t stop by when you’re sharing treats, I don’t like the temptation”.

        1. Anonym*

          Perhaps not in the result, but I’d bet good money that she’s a nice person who wants to be liked, and has found this to be a good way to build relationships with coworkers in the past. She’s misstepped, but there are no signs of villainy here.

          1. Snark*

            Not villainy, but when someone asks you to stop doing Thing, and you keep doing Thing to them regardless, it’s not really clearing the bar for consideration.

    2. Susana*

      Yes, that made me cringe, as well. The sweet-pusher’s weight is her own business.
      BUT –
      I do think there’s something to the possibility that she wants the office to sanction her eating habits by joining in. Or maybe she wants to feel as though she’s not a terrible person for being unable to resist sweets and snacks because look! Thinner people than I can’t resist them either!
      Of course we really don’t know her eating habits – really, never assume that because anemone is very heavy that all they eat is junk food. And under no circumstances is it OK to address cookie-pushers’ weight with her. I think the other reason it makes this situation more complicated is that it’s hard to say to her – oh, I’ll have to say no. I’m trying to lose weight. Because that, then, sounds like a criticism.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I’m reminded of how many people hate being the only one ordering alcohol–if they’re drinking, and you don’t explicitly not drink, you should get a beer too or they feel judged. People tend to perceive abstaining from indulgences as expressing moral superiority, even when the abstainer isn’t communicating that at all.

        1. Lara*

          Or indeed, the way that non drinkers can sometimes assume that everyone who has more than one drink with dinner is a raging alcoholic.

      2. Lara*

        Uhhhh I think you might be projecting a lot of motives onto OP’s co-worker. Motives you would not ascribe to her if she was thin.

        1. Susana*

          No, I’m not, really (projecting motives). I am speculating, though – I own up to that. To be clear, body size is a) no one’s business at work, b)not an indicator of healthful habits and c) not a test of someone’s personal strength or morality. But the reality is, there is often a discussion (take about un-healthful!) at work about being “good” or “bad” or whatever because of what one is eating. This of course should stop – but those of us who are loyal AAMers know that will be tough.
          So, in this case, the cookie pusher’s weight just complicates things in that it affects OP’s response. Cookie-pushed should not be waving food around to anyone, and this would be true irrespective of her size. But it’s not enough to say no every time, since OP has said it’s hard to resist sweets when they are presented to her – and pushed on her. And it’s not even the same as blowing smoke in the face of a non-smoker, who can say, “I don’t smoke,” or “I quit smoking.” Because we all have to eat, and there’s really no food that is just intrinsically evil.
          So – if OP says, please do not wave food in front of me; I’m trying to resist treats – well, that becomes a subtle comment, even if unintended, that cookie pusher can’t resist them. And that’s rude, in itself – OP (and all of us) do not get to judge food pusher’s personal choices. So what is the right thing to say?
          Though I agree the letter sounded as though there was more than a little disgust aimed at cookie-pusher. Though I don’t know if it’s a frustration over the behavior, or a genuine bias against a heavy person.

      1. shep*

        Same. It doesn’t seem relevant to the behavior. I know personally I would (and am often) annoyed when coworkers try to force food on me no matter their size or perceived health. Just the other day, one of my coworkers (whom I do actually like, despite her tendencies to be a bit pushy) goes, “You’re coming downstairs to get cake with me!” and I flat-out went, “No.”

        She laughed and I laughed, but then I said, “No, really. I don’t need cake.” She pushed it a bit more, jokingly but also NOT jokingly, which irked me, but I think she just wanted the company more than anything. That’s more understandable, but I’m also trying to eat healthier and putting myself near cake (and many OTHER people who will likely ask why I’m not eating cake and suggest that I just have a “little bit” or whatever) is a situation I just don’t want to be in.

    3. Liane*

      “Ideally, you’d feel the same about these behaviors regardless of her weight.”

      Or if she were offering you an “Unprocessed Locally-sourced Gluten-free Adkins-friendly Organic Free-Range No-trans-fat Paleo” buffet.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        A seriously health-conscious coworker once gave me a (horrible) cookie, which I ate to be polite. Afterwards she asked if I could tell she had replaced the eggs with mashed chickpeas and cut the sugar by 1/3. I could tell that it was something that looked like a cookie but was not one. Don’t feed people chickpea-cookies without telling them!

        1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

          Yes. If your food comes with the phrases, “Guess what?” “Gotcha,” or, “Surprise!” attached, maybe back it the sneg on up and go read a book on on how to interact with humans.

        2. CMart*

          I had a vegan/sugar avoidant coworker give me a “sugar free vegan frosted brownie”. I asked what was in it and she encouraged me to try it first. So I did, chewed the abomination thoughtfully, and asked what the frosting was made from.

          “Avocados! Can you tell?”

          “I wouldn’t have guessed avocados specifically, but I will now say that avocados should never pretend to be frosting,” is what I told her. She laughed, knowing that her diet is fairly extreme and that this “brownie” would offend my Dunkin Donuts lovin’ tastebuds. But if she was constantly pushing her food on me every day it would get really tiring really fast.

    4. CMart*

      My charitable interpretation when someone adds a detail like that is that they think it adds nuance to the response they might give. That perhaps there are emotional considerations to work around in the way to phrase “please stop offering me sweets” that might not be present in someone who wasn’t very overweight.

      Because let’s not pretend that fat people have had the same experiences as people who’ve never been fat. Someone telling a never-been-fat person “please stop offering me junk food, I try to eat healthy”, regardless of intent behind the words, probably carries a completely different sounding judgement when said to a fat person who has likely been shamed for their weight and perceived diet about a million times.

      So I’m hoping the OP was just trying to add detail in order to be more sensitive in their response. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist.

  26. Admin Amber*

    These people are likely coming from a good place, but it sure is irritating to have to deal with the food pushing.
    An easy out is to kindly say: “I just had a snack” and then turn around and go back to what you were working on.
    Be consistent in your wording and if the woman has any intelligence she will stop after you say that day after day. The other option if she is persistent or just plain clueless is to say “no thank you” “Please stop coming to my desk with food.” Being direct is a kindness to those who are clueless.

    1. A.*

      Yes I do this when people ask me to go on a cookie break or a coffee run. I’m like oh I already had my snack / coffee but enjoy!

  27. animaniactoo*

    “Esmerelda, I need you to stop bringing the food to me and asking me if I want it. I’m having struggles dealing with how I approach food and while I know you’re trying to be friendly it is not helping me. I appreciate the thought and if I feel the need, I know where to find it, okay?”

    Because asking her not to bring it in is beyond the scope of your interactions with her. Asking her to respect that you need it not to be directly offered to you by her is not beyond the scope at all.

    Any pushback is met with “I understand, but this is what I need. I don’t need you to agree on whether I should need it or not. I just need you to respect my request to stop doing it with me. We all have our issues. This one is mine. Please don’t make it harder for me.”

    and if she keeps going and gets REALLY pushy: “I literally do not understand why what I put in my body is more important to anyone other than me.” with a flat stare. Because at that point, she is not someone who is being sweet. She is someone who is having her own issues with food and control and carrying it out on other people. Hopefully, however, that’s not the case and you can just blanket wholesale ask her to stop offering stuff directly to you and she’ll respond well to that.

    1. KellyK*

      I really like this script. It puts the focus right where it should be, on the part of her behavior that’s a problem for you, and that it’s reasonable to ask her to change.

    2. SoCalHR*

      Agree I like this approach – there’s no reason to not err on assuming her motives are kind at this point and respond kindly (but firmly) yourself.

    3. Darth Vader*

      Too many details. Telling coworker that you have issues with food may trigger her butting in and trying to bring you carrots and lettuce or something. Probably not, but see the response below where a mgr had an employee who took her gluten allergy as a personal challenge. Don’t focus on why… just focus on the behavior and how you want it changed. Esmerelda, it’s so nice that you bring in these things, its’ very thoughtful. I wonder if I could ask you to please be thoughtful and not bring them to my desk, i try hard not to eat them when they’re here. Say it super nice the first time. Less nice the second, a bit firmly the 3rd, and maybe an email if a 4th time is needed. Because it’s not about the food. It’s about the behavior. If a coworker distracts me at work for any reason i usually ask them to stop. Hey i’m Busy can’t talk now, etc. if it’s a pattern i point that out and say hey when i’m Doing x i can’t stop to switch gears so can you talk to me when i’m Doing y instead? Awesome thanks!

  28. Nonny*

    “Acutely obese” are you kidding? Do you know that fatness became a medical “””concern””” solely because weight loss businesses like Jenny Craig formed faux health advocacy groups (like The Obesity Group), and created themselves a steady stream of clients bullied into unrealistic weight loss by their doctors? Do you know that “weight related research” is primarily funded by groups like that, even today? Do you know that if you actually read research that supposedly says weight loss cures illness, that the results actually don’t find that at all, but researchers magically keep saying that in their conclusions?

    It’s pretty shitty that you hate your new coworker for being fat. Which you obviously do. Why else would you start off your letter by letting everyone know she is fat? And using such a frankly ridiculous term?

    If your complaint was actually that someone is bringing in food you don’t want to eat, you wouldn’t have the need to immediately try to turn people against her based on her body and our culture’s hatred of fat people, particularly fat women.

    Just don’t eat food you don’t want. Don’t cry on the internet, pretending to be some kind of victim of a fat person. This is not a real problem. This is a stupid complaint you’re harping on to go after a fat person. Shame on you.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I wish all the people who were so bothered by others’ behavior would just say what they mean. “I don’t want sweets, don’t bring them to me.”

      People seem to complain when what they should do is stand up and say what they want. Even better, tell the new person that in your office, we leave food in the kitchen, we don’t spend time walking it around from desk to desk.

      She can’t read your mind, OP.

    2. Luna*

      I don’t think the LW hates her coworker for being fat, this seems like a really unfair spin on the LW’s situation!

      Look, we can push back against weight stigma without trying to claim that being significantly overweight is not a health problem. Because that’s really just not true.

      1. Lilo*

        I agree. If coworker was just bringing stuff in, maybe I could see this interpretation. But coworker is going around actively pressuring people to eat crap. I avoid sugar partially because I have bad teeth and get cavities easily. Not wanting unhealthy food shoved on you constantly has nothing to do with hating someone for being fat. The interruptions are disruptive and some people don’t like testing their willpower all the time.

        1. KellyK*

          So, then, you tell the person that the interruptions are disruptive and that you’re avoiding sweets and please don’t ask again. Offering someone food isn’t necessarily pressuring them, as long as you respect a “no” or a “no, and don’t ask me again.”

          It’s also kind of judgmental to refer to food that other people eat and enjoy as “crap.”

          1. Lilo*

            The thing is that people don’t respect a no. They tell you that you at too thin or “just one bite”.

            I am not referring to homemade food as “crap” but industrial products made in a lab deliberately designed to addict people to sugar, sodium, and fat with preservatives and dyes. If we can’t acknowledge the difference between an apple and a lab created industrial product, we are hopeless.

            1. KellyK*

              Yes, some people are super pushy about food. But you’re attributing all of that to the coworker before the OP has said “Please don’t ask me again.” even once, ever. We have no idea whether the coworker is pushy or reasonable. It’s not reasonable to assume someone will be pushy and pre-preemptively judge them for it.

              And, you can critique the food industry all you want, but when you tell an individual person who brought food in to be nice that what they’re offering you is crap, you’re being deeply judgmental. Yes, there are deep systemic problems with the food industry. There are also an awful lot fewer people going hungry than they used to be.

              For that matter, crap is in the eye (and belly) of the beholder. If someone is deathly allergic to that apple, then they personally are better off eating the Cheetos, no matter how natural and “real” the apple is.

      2. Greta Vedder*

        “Look, we can push back against weight stigma without trying to claim that being significantly overweight is not a health problem. Because that’s really just not true.”

        Agreed about pushing back against weight stigma. However, simply *being* fat isn’t necessarily a health problem. If you are fat because of genetics, pregnancy, or side effects to medication, you are no more at risk for diabetes, heart disease, etc. than a thinner person.
        What *does* contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and the like is eating food high in sugar and cholesterol, and not exercising enough. Since high-sugar, high-cholesterol foods are also fattening, and lack of exercise makes you gain weight, it makes sense that many people who eat too much sugar and cholesterol and don’t exercise enough are also fat.
        But some fat people have unhealthy lifestyles, and some thin people do.

        1. Lilo*

          You have to remember that most if these food companies want you to eat unhealthily. Reasonable portions and eating more fresh, unprocessed food doesn’t make them profits. So they hide the ball about proper portion size and the amount of sodium, sugar, and fat, including artificially created days, bombard you with advertisements, and do research on how to get you addicted to their products. They pretend their stuff is better and hide that products like Vitamin water doesn’t allow you to actually absorb any of the vitamins and you are just drinking sugar water.

          I will defend grandma’s homemade cookie recipe any day, but things like peeps or mass produced products.

      3. Louise*

        You absolutely cannot tell how healthy someone is by looking at them, so the argument about fatness as a health problem is really moot unless you’re a doctor or working in public health policy. And even then, there’s plenty of fatphobia in those fields too. (The amount of stories I’ve heard from fat folks whose doctors refused to take their medical issues seriously and would only ever suggest losing weight, only for it to turn out the patient has a serious disease.)

        1. Luna*

          I do work in public health, and I can never understand why whenever the issue of say, climate change, comes up people often respond by just saying “But SCIENCE!!!!”, and yet many of those same people will actively deny science when it doesn’t meet their personal opinions in other areas, such as this one.

          There are more than enough scientific research studies (funded by institutions like the NIH, not by Jenny Craig) out there that show the connection between diet, exercise and weight gain, and weight gain and health. We don’t need to pretend these connections do not exist. That obviously doesn’t mean that people who are overweight are bad people in any way (I myself have gained plenty of weight in the last several years). Between the food companies deliberately making their products addictive and advertising them everywhere, the unavailability of healthy foods in many neighborhoods, plus other factors like the amount of time we spend every day working and commuting to work instead of having that time free to exercise, grocery shop or cook- it’s no wonder plenty of us are overweight! There are a lot of factors an individual has to contend with, and it’s really, really difficult. This is why changing policies to stop some of these companies is a big goal right now, because it’s near impossible for individuals to go it alone. But there is a difference between not wanting to shame an individual person, and pushing completely false claims about what causes obesity, or that obesity is a made-up problem created by a Jenny Craig-led cult.

          1. Fiennes*

            Thank you for this. It’s so, so important to push back against the ugly myths of “fatness = badness,” but the counternarrative has taken on fairy-tale falsities of its own.

          2. Argh!*

            Science has also proved that weight loss is much more complicated than thin people who have kept off their 15 lbs of baby fat think. There are at least 8 genes and 2 viruses involved, plus a few medical conditions like PCOS and depression.

            “Successful” weight loss in studies usually amounts to 5% body weight or even 5 lbs kept off after a year. Wheee I can be normal-sized in 20 years if I follow this new study’s program! (Except that my metabolism will accommodate the changes and my weight will bounce back to where it started in spite of following doctor’s orders)

            1. Thursday Next*

              I think the problem many of us face is that all the factors Luna mentioned conspire to make us gain weight quickly, and weight loss is much, much more difficult to achieve than maintaining one’s current weight. So from a public health perspective, as I understand it, there are actually two separate issues: the first is helping people not gain weight, and the second is helping people lose it.

              It’s a struggle for me, for sure.

          3. Louise*

            That’s all well and good, and I’m not trying to argue that there’s no correlation btw food and weight — but those things exist on the aggregate and not on the individual level, which is why I’m arguing that it’s a moot point in this case and trying to make the point that applying large trends to an individual circumstance can be damaging/reinforce negative connotations with fatness when we literally have no other information than OP deciding that coworker was “acutely obese.”

          4. Lara*

            And yet, I was unable to lose a single pound until I switched one medication and went on the pill. So, acting like it’s purely calories in, calories out is also nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, it worked for me; AFTER addressing the other causative factors.

          5. WannaAlp*

            In this area, people who push back are arguing what the science says, not denying it.

            For example, arguments like “If so-called overweight is bad for you, then why do studies show that the longest life expectancy found within the BMI band corresponding to overweight? Why make such a fuss about the lower end of the obese category when the risks there are the same as for so-called ideal weight folks?”

            In the future, “The Earth is Flat!” will still be a conspiracy theory. But it may well turn out that “Fat is BAD!” is regarded as the conspiracy theory. Not all pushes against mainstream thinking are crank thinking without substance.

            1. Nicole Maria*

              Just an aside, but I CANNOT WAIT until several decades from now when the idea of the “obesity crisis” and doctors saying “just lose weight” will be looked at just as strangely as doctors prescribing cigarettes (which, remember was completely normal around 50- 60 years ago.)

              I don’t know if this will happen in my lifetime, because the dieting/weight loss industry is hugely profitable, but I’m starting to see shifts in medical practices that make me hopeful — for example last night I was at urgent care with my spouse (who just has a respiratory infection, thankfully) and even though their weight technically makes them “morbidly obese” neither the doctor or the nurse mentioned weight or weight loss, and in fact the nurse complimented my spouse on their great blood pressure numbers — which is how it should be!

      4. Lara*

        Then why mention her co-worker’s weight, or make judgey comments about how ‘some people just like to live healthier lifestyles lately’?

        Also – other people’s weight and health is literally none of your business.

    3. Dankar*

      Oh, please. People don’t like having food pushed on them, period. People don’t like it when coworkers are pushing sweets throughout the day, vegetarians don’t like it when their families push turkey on them at Thanksgiving, I don’t like it when my mother-in-law pushes more rice on me because partner and I “don’t look like we’re eating.” And I’m Korean! “Have you eaten rice yet?” is a freakin’ greeting for us!

      I agree that OP should not be judging coworker for her weight, or even bringing it into the conversation. But the crux of this issue is the food pushing, and that’s bad behavior, no matter what the coworker looks like.

    4. Pollygrammer*

      This clearly touched a nerve for you, but there’s no reason to attack the LW like that.

    5. Argh!*

      It’s impossible to be “acutely” obese, since acutely implies it happened recently and suddenly. That’s not how obesity works.

      If someone chooses to be happy rather than kill herself with diets that won’t work that’s her business.

      I’m living proof that diets don’t work. I have been dieting since the age of 12, and by 30 my metabolism was so messed up I just ballooned (also, a medical condition causes it partly t0o). Every time I lose weight, it gets put right back on plus some.

      I’ve been the same weight for five years now, which I count as a huge accomplishment. I did it by relaxing and not worrying about what a fat-shaming society will say about me.

      I have brought souvenir goodies to work, and I didn’t even consider that my coworkers were thinking “Oh look at Argh that fatty giving away chocolate as if we all want to look like her.” I also didn’t consider why some people said yes and some people said no.

      I wish people would just stop commenting on women’s weight (it’s always a woman, somehow, despite male girth being more of a health issue).

    6. Nicole Maria*

      Thank you! You said everything I wish I could have but probably would never have. “Acutely obese” is not a thing, and the fact that this person is making up this weird diagnosis just based on their appearance is really rude and unnecessary.

  29. Rachael*

    Or…you can do what I did when a coworker wouldn’t leave me along about eating her blueberry muffins.

    I put my fist in the air and shook it while (in a funny voice) yelled “Stop peddling your wares over ‘hea!”

  30. Snark*

    Here’s the thing: it really wouldn’t matter if she were rail-skinny and bringing you oatmeal carob bites. The issue is, this person is being annoying and wasting coworkers’ time doing the rounds. What kind of food it is is scarcely relevant. Given all that, I disagree with even mentioning the type of food or getting into Feelings about Food at all.

    “Grapefruitina, please just pass me by when you bring in food – it really breaks my focus and I’m usually on deadline. If I’m feeling peckish I’ll come find you! Thanks!”

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      Perfect response. Feelings about Food run very high, it is just not worth broaching that topic with coworker in this situation.

      1. Argh!*

        It’s not worth broaching in any work situation! It’s like politics or religion, in my opinion. The healthy habits crowd can be very smug and feelings inevitably get hurt.

        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          Okay, let me rephrase: this situation does not call for OP to bring up her feelings about food when it can be addressed as an unnecessary work interruption.

          OP should be careful not to say something she’ll regret, which is why I agree with the advice to treat it as a work-interruption issue instead of an unwanted-temptation issue – just don’t go there if you have to. But I would also argue that OP is being put in a position where ~feelings about food~ are surfacing, and not by her choice. Food is value-neutral, it’s not good or bad, but it *is* fraught, and coworker has no idea what anyone else’s relationship with food looks like. I have no doubt coworker’s intentions are collegial and friendly, but the impact is clearly not what she’s intending. So I don’t see that as a non-issue and I wouldn’t necessarily consider OP saying something to be more inappropriate than coworker’s frequent and “fairly insistent” offers of food.

    2. Someone else*

      Yeah, my problem with the scenario is not necessarily the food, it’s the multiple-not-work-related interruptions a day. Even if it’s a four sentence exchange, it’s disruptive. She could just as easily be coming round to offer Pokemon cards and the exchange would still be “no thank you and please stop asking me”.

    3. Argh!*

      I agree. I would only add to be extra friendly in case this is her way of getting to know her coworkers. Extraverted people really need to do that. They can’t just be quiet and ignore others.

  31. OskiEsque*

    I’m an active person and a very healthy eater. I think people at work recognize this and sometimes are shocked/surprised/impressed by my self control when donuts, cookies, cake, ice cream is practically shoved in my face. I usually turn them down when offered, usually with a joke (e.g. yes, of course I want a cookie, but I think I’ll just smell it/look it — ha ha! Everyone laughs and moves on.) — but if someone is persistent, I will take a piece and then throw it away when they aren’t looking or save it for someone else whose looking for seconds. I know it’s not good to waste food, but sometimes it’s not worth the war.

  32. Emilitron*

    If it’s something you can actually uphold (i.e. you don’t eat lunch at your desk) declare your desk/cube a food-free zone. No snacks will be eaten, no open containers of food may pass the doorway. Coworker comes around with a tray of cookies, and you say “No food allowed at this desk.” And you can politely agree that you could hypothetically go in the break room and eat some at some unspecified later time (aka never).

    1. Louise*

      Eh, I don’t think OP should have to never eat at her desk for the coworker to respect this very reasonable boundary.

  33. knitcrazybooknut*

    I was once managing an employee who brought in baked goods at least once a week. She loved to bake, and she also wanted to please me, more than the normal, “I want my boss to find me pleasant to work with” level. In the normal course of events, she found out I can’t eat gluten. She took it as a personal challenge. Suddenly all of her baked goods were gluten-free. Unfortunately, I’m also allergic to almonds, which is one of the main gluten-free alternative flours. I didn’t want to go through a long list of ingredients she used for every baked good she was going to bring in, and she was so insistent that I eat the food that it made things really awkward. I would occasionally eat something she brought in, but most of the time I would take one to my desk (under her VERY watchful eye) and later throw it out.

    People do not understand that their well-intentioned “gifts” are often more trouble for others than not, and it can sour whatever relationship already exists. Her behavior raised my hackles every time, and I was exasperated every time she made a show of bringing something in and saying it was gluten free just for me. It was difficult to make myself continue to be objective about her work.

    1. Sarah*

      Ugh. It’d be one thing if she’d made note of that and tried to put some gluten-free stuff in the rotation with a quick mention of it (“Hey! Just wanted to let you know that those brownies are gluten free in case you want one.”) but that is waaaaaay too much.

    2. TootsNYC*

      also–I won’t eat gluten-free treats made by other people. I don’t trust that they truly understand contamination issues.

      And most gluten-free baked good are disgusting, to be honest. Some are OK, but most of them are awful. It’s not just that they’re “not as good”–they’re actively awful. Gritty; they have no body and fall apart.

      1. Argh!*

        I won’t eat any gluten free food unless it’s naturally gluten-free! It’s a fad and a scam to make people spend too much on tasteless food. I’ve known people with celiac disease and it’s handy for them that it’s fashionable, but it also seems to be kind of an insult to borrow their intolerance for much lesser symptoms (if any).

        1. KellyK*

          I know people with celiac and people who get indigestion and other unpleasant symptoms when they eat wheat.

          I think the idea that gluten is objectively bad is pretty screwed up, but people get to limit their diet however they want for whatever reasons they want. I think that if a given food makes someone feel ill, it’s a *good thing* for them to be able to easily avoid that food. There’s no insult or competition there, just people eating in a way that works for them.

          (Likewise, I’m lactose intolerant and the fact that companies are starting to list common allergens, including dairy, in bold is really helpful for me. I don’t think that insults or takes anything away from someone who’s allergic to dairy.)

    3. Indie*

      Yeah I’m gluten free too, and people bring me stuff made of rice and almond flour; but my health condition is way better when I avoid the flour-imitators as well. I can get away with a certain amount, but how I spend that budget is up to me. The *option* is always appreciated though.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Did you ever just tell her, kindly, that while you appreciate the gesture, you don’t eat a lot of baked goods?

    5. Darth Vader*

      As a manager it’s part of your responsibility to mentor. At least your responsibility as a person, if not an employer. You can do that, by telling an employee about any behavior that threatens their relationship with you. Yes what she did was so over the top annoying i’d Have been annoyed too! But you lost the opportunity to be a teacher, I guess bc you didn’t want to be awkward? Sometimes being a mgr is awkward. Sometimes we have to set boundaries, and those conversations are always a bit awkward when someone is doing what she did. But next time nip those boundary pushers in the bud before it distracts from the work. Just tell her to stop bringing you baked goods. Acknowledge that she’s trying, acknowledge that baking isn’t evil, acknowledge her intentions and then redirect her to a different behavior, with an end focus on her work. Always bring it around to the work, that’s why you’re all there. Will it be awkward? You bet. Will it help you both grow? Yep.

  34. Greta Vedder*

    I, too, used to have an overweight coworker who recently brought fattening food into the office. She was also a gourmet chef, and usually it was food she made herself. She made delicious cupcakes. And then there was the pumpkin chiffon pie she made in the autumn…mmmmm, so good! It was so hard to say no to the desserts in the break room!

      1. Greta Vedder*

        I only mentioned it because the OP mentioned that her co-worker was also overweight. But you’re right–other commenters have mentioned that it wasn’t necessary for OP to mention her weight, and it wasn’t for me, either. My bad.

  35. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    Can we look at it from a different perspective? She’s new. She’s trying to connect with her coworkers. She’s trying to do something “nice”.
    You’re on a diet, trying to eat healthier, that’s great.
    How about kindly telling her that her wares are so tempting and yummy but for health/medical reasons you have to limit your intake. Can she help you by not bringing them to you?

    That won’t embarrass her. She won’t feel rejected. No awkwardness. She may feel good about ‘helping’ you by staying away with her dessert tray. Kindness will likely work!

    Good luck!

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I try to not eat a lot of sugar, because I’ve noticed that I feel like crap when I get too much of it in my diet. When I feel like I need to decline someone’s cookies or cake, I’ve had luck by telling people “Aw, I’d love to, but I’m avoiding sugar on doctor’s orders, thanks.”

    2. EmilyAnn*

      I don’t think OP should have to say why she doesn’t want to be offered food. Asking kindly to not be offered food anymore should be enough, with no reason offered.

      1. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

        She certainly is not obligated but I think it would be a smoother way to handle it. The woman is trying to do (what she believes to be) a nice thing. Doing it this way may make for a nicer relationship going forward.

  36. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    I’m amazed at the references to overweight coworkers. Wow. Just wow.

  37. Recovering journalist*

    Worry about your own body, don’t comment on others. You are, at the very least, unkind. Cut it out.

    1. Jan Levinson*

      Perhaps the OP mentioned her coworker being acutely obese as a reason behind her persistence in offering her treats; if she’s not used to eating healthy, she may not understand the OP wanting to pursue eating healthy. I think calling her “at the very least unkind” is a bit harsh.

      1. Ellery*

        We don’t know anything about her co-workers eating habits. She could live on kale smoothies and bring cakes in for co-workers.

      2. Argh!*

        Judgmental, though. Someone who is obese can eat more calories than skinny vegetarians without gaining weight. Nobody has a right to judge other peoples’ food choices.

      3. Recovering journalist*

        It isn’t harsh, it’s accurate (and probably generous). Her coworkers body is irrelevant. The OP’s inclusion of that detail speaks volumes.

      4. Lara*

        i don’t. It’s pretty telling that she felt the need to mention her co-worker’s weight at all.

      5. Nicole Maria*

        The idea that fat people don’t understand dieting is hilarious. One thing that actually leads to weight gain in the long-term is repeated dieting and weight loss attempts.

        But regardless, you don’t know anything about someone’s eating habits by their appearance, please cut that out.

    2. Nicole Maria*

      It makes me wonder what people say about me when I buy treats for the team. I’m the office manager so it’s my duty to buy team snacks for meetings and events and such, and I usually try to buy a variety of snacks (ie. veggies and hummus and also brownie bites) and I wonder how many people go home and say “this fat b— won’t stop buying cookies & brownies.”

      My co-workers are truly nice people so they probably wouldn’t say that, but it can be disheartening to see how prevalent fatphobia really is, even (especially) among people you can otherwise count on as being relatively kind and reasonable.

      1. betty (the other betty)*

        You’re fine unless you are approaching each person individually with the expectation that they must take a snack. It’s not the snack itself, it’s the pushiness of the snack-offerer that is the problem.

        When I worked in an office, we had lots of snack, but they were kept in the lunch room or the meeting room, and the only mention of them was a general announcement of “Brownies and fruit in the lunch room, come and get it!” That was fine.

        1. Nicole Maria*

          I know what I am doing is fine, but knowing how cruel people are around fat folks still makes it a fraught issue, you know?

  38. The Other Katie*

    I’d just skip the “because I’m trying to eat healthy”, as in my experience that just makes people push the junk food even more – “oh, go on, you can have a leetle treat, right?” Actually, I can’t, but I don’t want to get into an in-depth explanation of my food choices and why they are the way they are. (Or sometimes I can, but I don’t want to eat purchased junk food when I have access to much nicer stuff!)

  39. Fishcakes*

    I agree with the others who think your co-worker is bringing food around as a way to bond with co-workers and spark conversation. I have relatives who show care and kindness by showering their friends and loved ones with treats, and I can veer into that behaviour if I don’t think about it. Scripts similar to Alison’s + the bonding component have really worked for me in the past. For example: “I appreciate the thought, but I only snack on fruit and protein. Do you want some turkey jerky? It’s delicious!”

    1. Argh!*

      LW could be in the reverse situation in a new job — being the only one who doesn’t eat the goodies and accidentally hurting the feelings of others.

  40. Not Alison*

    I had a similar co-worker. After the third time she tried to push this type of sweets on me and my declining politely and her insisting – – I took the sweet, said “thank you” and tossed it in the garbage can in front of her.

    After the third time I did this, she stopped coming around to my desk to push sweets on me. There still was the problem of all of the sweets in the breakroom, but at least she stopped pushing them on me at my desk.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Damn you are stone cold! LOL Actually I have heard people say “If I have to tell you no more than 3 times, you forfeit the expectation of politeness.” I like that!

      I usually wait till the food-pusher has walked away to carefully slide it in my trash.

    2. Peaches*

      I’ve done this, too (just not in front of the person, LOL). It’s just easier after two or three asks to take it, and then dispose of it.

    3. Indie*

      You had to toss them THREE times before she got the message?! You rock at stonewalling.

    4. Darth Vader*

      Why didn’t you just USE YOUR WORDS and ask her to stop coming round to offer you sweets? Would that have been less satisfying?

  41. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    Next time she asks you: “No, thank you, Jane. I don’t eat sweets.”

    The next time after that: “No, thank you, Jane. I don’t eat sweets, remember?” (Which is you saying “hey, I already mentioned this, please don’t do that again”)

    The next time after that: “Jane, I have told you repeatedly that I don’t eat sweets. Why do you keep on bringing them to me?”
    If she answers with “I’m just trying to be nice/I don’t want you to feel left out/etc.”, say: “That’s very kind of you, but I’d appreciate it a lot more if you respect my decision not to have any and stop bringing them to me.”
    If she answers with a counter question (“What do you have against sweets?”/”Why do you have to be so rude?”/etc.), say: “My reasons are my own. Please respect my decision and stop offering sweets to me.”

    The next time she tries after this: “No.”
    And then go back to whatever you were doing. “No.” is a complete sentence. At this point, you have already given her multiple chances to change her behavior, but she didn’t. You no longer have to be nice to this person. If it makes her push more aggressively, feel free to raise your voice and say loudly “I said NO, Jane.”

    If she still doesn’t get it, talk to her boss and explain how this is really disruptive and disrespectful and you need this behavior to stop.

    In any case: the food left behind in the break room is entirely her business, not yours. And for all that is good and holy, please keep her own weight and/or eating habits out of ANY discussion you have with anyone about this topic. Fat shaming is a form of bullying.

    1. nep*

      (Well, offering after having been told ‘No–as a general rule I don’t want these snacks’ two or three times is not very kind. Don’t think you need that part.)

  42. Argh!*

    This is all we need to know: “Our company recently hired…”

    She probably came from a workplace that did this, and she hasn’t yet twigged to your workplace norms.

    It’s not about eating healthy or not eating healthy. It’s about sharing what you love. If you & your other coworkers don’t share, then whether you find the donuts tempting is irrelevant. You (or her manager) can say “I appreciate your generosity, but we’re not really foodies here. I hate to see you spending money on things we won’t eat.”

    If there are people who do eat those things, then it’s just one-on-one. You didn’t say how “recently” she was hired, but it’s hard to believe she will keep coming around if you don’t want what she offers…. unless it’s a ploy to get to know everyone better.

    How about: “No, thanks. So how was your weekend? Was that some thunderstorm or what?”

  43. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Is OP losing weight? Sometimes people who don’t feel they can don’t want, on some level, others to lose and may sabotage by offering food.

    I usually can eat sometimes at work, but often say “thanks, but that doesn’t fit in my plan for today/I need to stick to it.” If the person is offended that you never take or is interested in what you do eat, suggest something you might. Makes a connection with the coworker and is a healthier choice for all who might take it.

    1. Argh!*

      I doubt that it’s subconscious sabotaging. It’s just what the person was used to before beginning this job with pickier eaters.

  44. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    I just don’t get why some posters are attributing a sinister motive for offering sweets.
    She overweight, so she a saboteur?

    There is some fat shaming going on here.

    How hard is it to say no thank you, wish I could have some, but I can’t. To me, that just seems like a kind way to handle it.

    1. Argh!*

      Definitely some fat shaming. This reminds me of the LW who was worried about a coworker’s food habits. It’s nobody’s business what someone eats.

      Personally, I think the gluten-free bandwagon is a lot of huey and the only real effect is on the bank accounts of people who fall for it. Unless you consider smugness a positive effect. I have a relative who’s really snobby about her “plant-based diet.” She used to just be a vegan. Now she’s also gluten free. She’s been faddish about food for decades. It’s really tough because I usually only see her at family functions where there’s food.

      1. Argh!*

        … but I don’t shame her and she doesn’t shame others. We always have something on hand that everybody can eat so nobody feels shamed for sticking to one end of the buffet.

      2. AnonymousInfinity*

        Celiac is a real medical condition, not a bandwagon of huey that I’ve fallen for. Thanks.

      3. Anonymosity*

        People who eat gluten-free because of celiac disease really do need to be gluten-free. Most people don’t, and I agree that making a real dietary limitation a fad is annoying, as are food snobs like your relative. But that doesn’t mean it’s ALL hooey.

      4. Kuododi*

        Nice try….my beautiful niece was diagnosed celiac at age 5 and 2years ago she additionally developed peanut allergies. Fortunately my sister (her mother) can out cook/bake anybody I know. She’s been able to develop all kinds of wonderful foods for my niece which take into account her celiac and her peanut allergies. My niece is growing like the proverbial weed and appears to be adjusting to the food changes. In fact, she just earned her black belt in tae Kwon do last month at the ripe age of twelve!!!

      5. Kuododi*

        Nice try….my beautiful niece was diagnosed celiac at age 5 and 2years ago she additionally developed peanut allergies. Fortunately my sister (her mother) can out cook/bake anybody I know. She’s been able to develop all kinds of wonderful foods for my niece which take into account her celiac and her peanut allergies. My niece is growing like the proverbial weed and appears to be adjusting to the food changes. In fact, she just earned her black belt in tae Kwon do last month at the ripe age of twelve!!!

      6. Darth Vader*

        I had a neighbor once who had a wheat allergy. Got violently ill if accidentally ate it. I agree there are many folks who say they are gluten allergic and they aren’t, it’s true. Those are easy to spot bc they say they are allergic and yet they frequently ‘cheat’ and eat wheat. I can assure you from experience with my neighbor: someone with a true wheat allergy, and they do exist, does NOT cheat. People can be allergic to anything, some people have antibodies to single strand DNA (lupus patients commonly have this). Your body can make antibodies (hence develop an allergic reaction) to anything under the sun. There are even sun-triggered allergies! But yeah, the fad aspect is annoying, I’m with you there. But please don’t discount the reality that wheat allergies are real, for some.

    2. nep*

      Did more than one commenter bring up the sabotage notion? I saw just one but maybe I’m missing some.

      1. Susana*

        Lara, I’m with you on that, totally – I used to be quite heavy and know how much it hurts to be made fun of/dimissed/presumed lazy because of my size (to be clear, no one would describe me as thin now, but I exercise regularly and am happy with my health). But this does complicate how to phrase a response (I guess I assumed, maybe wrongly, that that was the reason OP mentioned the pusher’s weight). Here’s why I say that:
        Food is regarded, worldwide, as an expression of hospitality, and rejection of the food a rejection of hospitality. So that’s an inherent potential for hurt feelings that does not exist with, say, offering people an extra baseball ticket. (this exists in families as well)
        Second, the OP finds it hard to say no, since food is tempting to many of us – again, not like the baseball tix. So it’s not a long–term solution to just say no Every. Single. Time.
        We all need to eat – so people tend to want an explanation when you say – please NEVER offer me food.
        That’s where the pusher’s weight becomes a complication – not a condition for OP or any of us to judge, but a complication in answering. If the reason OP gives is, I’m trying to stay away from sweets – that’s not an easy thing to say without implying – because look what would happen if I don’t! (and again, we don’t know what cookie pusher herself eats – but it would come off that way).
        So the question is – how does OP get cookie pusher to stop without making it sound as though it’s a judgment of pusher’s personal habits? That, to me, is the only reason pusher’s size is a factor here at all.

        1. Lara*

          The reason I’m commenting on the fat shaming is that along with OP mentioning her weight and sounding judgemental, a lot of comments are speaking of OP’s coworker as though she’s malevolent and has psychological issues. For example, referring to her as a ‘food pusher’. I am not trying to be mean to you by pointing that out, but it is true we all have our own issues around food. Ones that lead us to demonise and dehumanise other people. A lot of people are bringing their own issues into this. I have been very thin, a regular size and fat, and it is amazing to me how much prejudice exists towards bigger people. I would have found it ludicrous when I was thinner; I think this thread demonstrates amply that prejudice against fat people is alive and well.

          It’s actually very easy to defuse this. “I’m not into snacks, cheers.”

          That’s it. Anyone saying otherwise should consider that they’re probably bringing their own baggage into consideration.

  45. Angela Ziegler*

    Anyone else get Ms. Doyle flashbacks from Father Ted, pushing tea and snacks on people?

    “Go on! Go on. Go on go on go on go on go on go on. Go on go on go on go on! Go on! Go on go on.”

  46. Nacho*

    I have the same problem, except instead of one overweight employee, it seems like our managers can’t figure out a way to thank us that doesn’t involve donuts or Costco brand cake or the least healthy brand of pizza they can find. I try my best, but some times it’s a losing battle not to eat some.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’ll admit when I started this job four years ago, my go-to reward for the team was junk food. In my previous company, people totally Hoovered any kind of junk that came in the door. Didn’t really matter what it was, it was gone. But here? I learned after a few times of bringing stuff in and it barely being touched that I had a group of people who were trying to eat healthy and/or just didn’t care for junk food in general. Nowadays, my go-to treats for the team are fruit salad or maybe some strawberries, veggies and hummus, pretzels (we keep these around all the time for snacking in general), and once in a great while some mini bagels and cream cheese. The only time we have sweets is when someone’s birthday rolls around.

  47. Laura H*

    Food is a touchy subject.

    I don’t eat right all the time. I know that, and while I’ll usually whine and moan (to myself) about how bro and mom want to eat healthier but they don’t change their habits (or things get overhauled way too much and it messes with my eating habits in a way that I didn’t sign up for)-at the end of the day, they’re not my business.

    My business is me, and honestly I haven’t figured out what type of eating works best for me. But I know I have to eat to fuel my daily activities.

    My coworker makes lovely sweets- their brownies are to die for. Coworker always let us know it’s in the back for us. Whether or not I partake, I ALWAYS thank my coworker, because food is a community builder.

    I don’t often bring things like that in- if I do it’s mini individually wrapped Reese’s cups- my favorite. I think I did that before I wasn’t scheduled for a bit and they were gone when I got back. And it was I think two 12 oz bags. Knowing how much to bring is part of it as well.

    Be kind to your coworker. Part of it is learning how much to make too. Your choice is yours, her choice is hers. You can work this out.

  48. Jen in Oregon*

    I’ve found the best way to is fake non-interest, no matter how much you want a damned donut. “No thanks” *should* be sufficient, but if it’s not, just follow up with a blase “those aren’t my thing–thanks for thinking of me though.” then just ignore the food and go back to your work, or if you want to be friendly, ask her a question or make a comment that isn’t food related–a work question, or a “how was your weekend/do you have plans for the weekend?” kind of question.

  49. buttercup*

    At my workplace, if someone brings any treats/sweets, the custom is to set it in front of their desk or at a common table and then send an email to the team about it, rather than go around person to person. I feel like this is the best way to offer food. This way, no one is in a position to have to turn down something and feel impolite or feel tempted. The people who actually want the food can go get it themselves.

    1. BuffaLove*

      Yes, this is how it should be done. No distractions or interruptions or food-related judgement. Everyone knows who brought in the treats, so it will serve the same purpose for the new coworker who’s just trying to share and maybe make some personal connections at the new job.

  50. I'd rather not say*

    This sounds like a reasonable compromise and maybe someone who has a good relationship with this new person could suggest it, or even their supervisor. It might be worth someone having a conversation with the food bringer pointing out all the ways bringing the food around as she’s doing could backfire on her intentions of building relationships (being disruptive, causing problems for people with dietary restrictions or preferences, etc.)

  51. NewNameForThis*

    Ugh, at OldJob I refused a piece of cake on the grounds I’m diabetic.
    coworker (who’d been a middle school psychologist !) : “No you’re not. You don’t think you’re fat, do you?” *Left a corner piece on my desk while I was in the bathroom. *
    I sat next to a 22 yr old guy (7,000 calorie a day diet) who offered to go with me to Hr… but could he have the cake first?
    It was one of a billion very disturbing food-related incidents. The “company” was… not a place where you’d want so many people to have such severe personality and likely mental health issues.

    1. Darth Vader*

      You could take it back to coworker, put it on their desk and repeat, I told you I was diabetic. Give them a puzzled exasperated look and say something about their poor listening skills. Walk away. Repeat as needed.

  52. Lara*

    The issue here is that she is being distracted by a co-worker. That’s an absolutely valid and reasonable concern.

    However, as Alison said – “It’s also not reasonable to connect the food-pushing to her weight,”

    I think it’s pretty frustrating that this thread has been 90% weight related, with a lot of people casting OP’s coworker as a malevolent, food pushing villain, all because the poor woman is offering people snacks.

    1. Susana*

      Lara, agree – the best way to address this as a systemic issue is with the distraction problem, since it does not sound like a rejection of hospitality. And yeah, she’s new and probably wants to be seen as generous and nurturing. But she’s also, according to OP, not a poor woman offering people snacks – she’s very insistently pushing snacks on people who say they don’t want them. Were she bringing them in, leaving them in the break room – different story.

      1. Lara*

        Except OP’s language is loaded enough to make me think her perceptions might be skewed. The last time I was dieting I was very angry at everyone who offered me food. Thing is, they weren’t being malicious, and they weren’t pushing it on me. I just had low willpower and wanted to shift blame onto other people.

  53. Aggravated*

    I have an overweight coworker who is constantly berating me about my eating habits. When I eat, what I eat, how often, etc. She also happens to be the office manager so there’s a seniority issue. It’s so damn annoying. Every Friday we have a lunch meeting, and she’ll call me antisocial for preferring to bring my own food from home rather than eat at the same restaurant as everyone else. As an adult, WTF are you so concerned with what another adult is eating?

    1. Lara*

      Again – why is her weight relevant? Don’t get me wrong, she sounds legitimately annoying, and a sucky manager who is abusing her power. Being overweight is COMPLETELY irrelevant.

      1. Nicole Maria*

        Thank you, Lara. It’s so important that we push back against that kind of comment, even if it seems insignificant to some.

      2. poolgirl*

        Sorry but I work at a place where there are 1300 plus people, the majority women, in the people who gets snarky when you won’t indulge with them are always the overweight ones never ever the thin ones. They are pretty pushy about it too. And God forbid you lose a few pounds or you are fair game for intrusive comments and questions, and even more food pushed on you because now you can afford it.

        1. Lara*

          None of that is relevant. I’ve had thin people try to get me to eat doughnuts. (And thin drug dealers try to get me to buy cocaine). It doesn’t follow that every thin person is a drug dealing doughnut pusher. Keep your prejudices off the blog please.

      3. Aggravated*

        I think it IS relevant because I think it explains her behavior. There’s no other reason to act like that other than insecurity and jealousy.

        1. Lara*

          Of course there is. She could be controlling, or just not a very nice person, or legitimately sees you as not a team player for not joining team lunches (there was a letter about this exact issue a few weeks ago). Assuming she’s being mean to you because she’s overweight is nothing but a prejudice, and one you should endeavour to get over.

        2. Lara*

          Of Course. The only reason an overweight person would ever be unpleasant to you is jealousy. /s

        3. Lara*

          More seriously, there was a post a few weeks ago about a team leader who wanted to intervene because her employee never went to team lunches. She felt it made him a poor team player. So there’s at least one reason outside of ‘jealousy’ why your team leader might criticise you for not participating in team lunches.

  54. Michaela Westen*

    To me it sounds like the colleague with the food is emotionally invested in getting people to eat it with her. I’m guessing it makes her feel better about eating the junk.
    It may take some doing to get her to stop and may hurt her feelings – but she has to come to terms with it to respect the needs of her colleagues.

  55. aa*

    How about “No, thank you?”

    On repeat. Over and over and over. She’ll get bored eventually.

  56. Nicole Maria*

    I just want to say a huge thank you to Allison for writing this “It’s also not reasonable to connect the food-pushing to her weight, because many people of all different weights do what she’s doing and this kind of aggressive food-peddling is a common office phenomenon” in her response. I definitely cringed when I saw the description of the coworker as “acutely obese” (which, first off, is that a thing? I don’t think that’s a thing.) and then the letter writer’s implication that that was related to her food-pushing habits.

    I’m really grateful that there are people trying to push against those kinds of fatphobic assumptions, and I commend Allison, because it’s certainly not popular right now.

  57. Anon for this*

    Just out of curiosity… if this person had a medical issue, like an addiction to food or a food allergy to sugar or eggs or something, would the response be any different? Could this be considered harassment? Why is food the ONLY thing that is acceptable for people to terrorize other people with?

    1. Michaela Westen*

      I have food allergies and I would say “no thanks, I have food allergies” in the hope they would stop offering. I would keep repeating.
      If this happened several times and didn’t stop, I would let my manager know because it’s annoying and interfering with my work and the relationship with the food pusher.

  58. Darth Vader*

    LW why is this woman’s weight relevant!??? You’re fat shaming! If she were a skinny marathon runner would you even be writing? I felt for you until you wrote that she’s obese. Get your head around the concept that some folks are bigger than others, some are obese for mental health or medical reasons, and that another person’s weight isn’t your business. Having said that, why haven’t you simply said ‘hey i’m trying to eat healthy and it’s nice of you to offer me snacks but please stop, as it’s hurtful to that goal.’ If she doesn’t stop offering you food, say it again. Then try ‘i’m trying to work here, i’ve Asked you to stop please respect that…’. Because you are right it is both a work distraction and a bit odd, unless you guys are all food critics or chefs or something, to do that. However say nothing about the food buffet in the break room bc that’s not your call to make. Someone bugging you with a plate of cookies shoved at you while at your desk is a violation, bringing doughnuts every single day and putting them into a common space, while perhaps tempting you to fall off the diet wagon, is not a violation. Check your privilege on the fat shaming.

    1. Laura Cruz*

      I’m just imagining this childish Tumblr rant being delivered in Darth Vader’s voice and it’s now hilarious.

  59. Kelly Bennett*

    I wonder how much people are talking about their healthy eating and their diet habits in the office. Is food constantly being given a moral value? Are people talking about calories, diet tips, cleanses etc.

    Maybe this is this person’s rebellion. I find it fascinating how many people think it’s totally acceptable to talk about their diets at work, but someone offering food is the issue.

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