my office does “Fat Friday” – and I have an eating disorder

A reader writes:

Three months ago I started a new job and I really love it. My team is great, the people are lovely, and the work is exciting.

However, I’m struggling with a tradition known as Fat Friday. When I started it seemed to be once a month or so, but now it is every Friday — we’re all told to bring food in to share (and it is frowned on not to). There are themes, such as pastry week, meat feast, etc. The food is all laid out in the office, in the room we work in, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it is a staggering amount of food. It could feed us all twice over. And it is always high fat, high sugar.

Now, I completely understand that people love food and people bond over sharing food. But I am in recovery from an eating disorder that has followed me my whole adult life. I have very little willpower around food and I am terrified of gaining weight. I’ve had panic attacks in supermarkets because of it. The best way I can describe it is that I have an overwhelming, uncontrollable urge to eat, but I also fear gaining weight more than anything. I’ve had lots of therapy and I’m on medication that’s working well.

But Fat Friday is a minefield, with people pushing food on me and encouraging me to eat more. Last Friday, I ended up eating a lot and hating myself afterwards. Today, when I found out FF is now weekly, I almost cried in the office.

I would never want to take away other people’s fun. But am I just powerless here? Would it come across as fussy or overdramatic if I asked to work from home, or to sit in a different room? In my experience people don’t understand how severe my compulsion to binge eat is, and I’d hate to color my new manager’s opinion of me. But the thought of sitting for nine hours every Friday trying desperately not to eat is really worrying me.

You are not powerless here! But you might have to share more than you’d prefer to in order to get the best outcome here … and I know that sucks.

How comfortable are you with your new manager? Does she seem like a generally reasonable person? Ideally you’d talk with her privately and say something like, “Please keep this between us, but I have a health issue involving diet that makes it difficult for me to be part of Fat Friday — or, candidly, to be around it much. Would it be okay if I worked from home on those days, or even just from a different room here?”

A smart manager will read between the lines and not push. But it’s possible that your manager will think it’s something like a dietary restriction and suggest that you bring in food that works with your diet so that you can continue to take part. If that happens, you could say, “I really appreciate you trying to make it possible for me to participate, but it would be much better for my health not to be around it at all.”

But if you’re willing to share that you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, that would be an even more direct route. And you don’t need to share details, like that you’re still struggling with it or that you’re in treatment currently. You could simply say, “I had an eating disorder in the past, and it’s not something I should be around.”

Or if you have HR, you could skip your manager and talk to them, and ask them to help you with accommodations. They could/should arrange with your manager for you to work from home or sit somewhere else during these extravaganzas, and generally could do it without sharing your medical details with her.

As for what the actual accommodation should be … if it’s possible for you to work from home one day a week (which will depend on your role and to some extent on your company’s culture about working from home), the ideal solution would be if you just happened to start doing that on Fridays. If you’re just in a different room, people are likely to ask why (although maybe you can come up with a reason, like needing to focus on something that requires high concentration on Fridays) and/or hassle you to come in and take part in the eating.

The main takeaway, though, is that you are not powerless here. It’s going to require a conversation with someone, but it should be doable.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 433 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    As you comment, please keep in mind this isn’t just a “I need my coworkers to stop pushing food on me” letter (which we’ve had several of in the past). In this case, the OP wants to be in a different room from the food altogether, which makes this more complicated.

    Advice that just focuses on what to say to pushy coworkers is not what the OP is looking for here.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    . . . also, this is a terrible idea and what on Earth are they thinking?

    Food and I are on very congenial terms and, wow, I wouldn’t want to be around this, either.

    1. KarenT*

      Seriously! I am a mostly healthy eater who would happily eat junk food on Fridays but I think this is insane! Lots of people would find this uncomfortable either because of the food or being frowned at (!) if they don’t bring food in. This pastime would get expensive, quick. It seems really tone deaf for a number of reasons, and I’m surprised more people aren’t pushing back.
      In the OPs case, I think working at home Friday’s is the perfect solution if it’s feasible.

        1. sofar*

          Yes, this would be such a huge chore for me every week! I barely have time to cook for myself and I can think of DOZENS of things I’d rather do on my Thursday night than preparing or shopping for food for Fat Friday.

          1. Anon E. Mouse*

            I already dislike infrequent potlucks, to the point that I’m trying to figure out if I should take a vacation day to get out of the next one on the calendar, so this sounds like my version of hell.

            Entirely the chore part of things and not because I don’t enjoy any/all delicious things

            1. Seespotbitejane*

              Potlucks are such a fun way for your employer to throw a party without having to spend any of their own money.

              1. Life is good*

                +1000 – old dysfunctional employer had us make dishes for open houses for customers – with our own ingredients and serve ware! Sometimes, they wouldn’t have enough of a variety, so they would send the list around again so you could sign up to make a few more things. Another way they could treat someone/market without having to pay for it.

                OP – I second what Alison suggests. Visit with your boss about your concerns. You don’t say if there are other rooms you could move to. Maybe a permanent move is what you need so you don’t have to be in the room with the food, which seems weird anyway. Sorry you have to go through this. Oftentimes, coworkers just don’t think.

            2. Red 5*

              My husband actually does schedule vacation days to conveniently coincide with office potlucks. He has a health issue that means his diet is pretty strict and he’s had decades of people trying to push things on him that he doesn’t want so he just skips the whole thing.

              I’m half tempted to do that with our next holiday party, but I could imagine getting more pushback from that at our office.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            It does seem possible that if she can manage to stand waaaay back out of the way for a few weeks, the weekly aspect is going to drive a number of people batty and lead to a sensible return to monthly or quarterly food-fests.

            1. AMPG*

              I want to highlight this as a potentially low-conflict course of action, since I agree that this schedule will quickly become unsustainable. OP, if you really don’t want to have this conversation with your manager or HR, you could try to ride it out for the next 4-6 weeks using a combination of PTO, WFH, booking off-site meetings on Fridays, etc. There’s still a possibility that you’ll have to ask for accommodations if the rest of the office really embraces the new schedule, but I would bet money that they won’t.

          3. GlitsyGus*

            That’s what I was thinking! I don’t have time to cook for the three potlucks my office has during the year, who has time for this every WEEK! I mean, if some folks do, that’s fine, but that kind of commitment should in no way be compulsory.

            OP, I wouldn’t be surprised if you start bowing out of this tradition, either by working remote or moving to another room, that you will suddenly find at least two or three other people asking to not deal with it either. That sounds exhausting.

        2. AnonToday*

          On a Thursday night no less. Usually by Thursday I am already looking forward to the weekend (I love my job but everyone gets tired after a long week).

      1. Hills to Die on*

        It sounds like an awful thing to be around! I can see having to get more pointed than just talking about it in terms of health issue and have to use the term ‘esting disorder’ if the situation warrants it. Never underestimate the ability of a person to let something go over their head. Hopefully you have that rapport with your boss, or she is reasonable enough that she will listen. I really hope they allow you to work from home on Fridays – that’s definitely the best solution. Please keep us updated!

    2. ThatGirl*

      Same. I do not have an eating disorder, but I definitely have some willpower issues (and high-fat, high-sugar food is more or less designed to be hard to resist) and once a month would be hard enough; doing this weekly seems like a recipe for disaster.

      1. Erica B*

        I know it. My willpower for tasty yummy unhealthy treats is next to none. I wouldn’t want to be around this either. I’d be eating all day and making my pants fit worse and worse.
        OP, I do hope your manager will see the level ludacris this is in terms of frequency, and cost to the staff. I would be stressing out way too much if I had to do something like this EVERY. WEEK. just for the sheer cost and time- baking or just running to the store. I don’t want to spend my time doing that.

        best of luck, and I hope there can be a good compromise without you having to get into your medical history

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Once a month wasn’t so ridiculous, although I would say once a quarter is more than enough. Once a week is nuts. I can afford (monetarily and calorically) an all-day food fest once in a while, but doing it weekly would be too much.

      1. ThatGirl*

        My last workplace had a monthly birthday celebration for anyone who’s b-day fell in that month. It was plenty. And we often had healthy options like veggies, fruit, salads, etc along with the cupcakes and cookies.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Every week? No. Because of the expense, the outside work commitment (shopping, cooking transporting) and the during work commitment. “Oh, what are we doing this week? I have a recipe for… I’d like to…” It’s not only going to be the one day, it’s going to be the conversations about food that will pop up. LW, I hope you can work with your manager to find a compromise for Fridays, but I also hope that this isn’t just a bad culture fit and that you can work comfortably in your job.

      3. samiratou*

        I suspect once a week won’t last long. It sounds like that’s a recent thing, but I imagine after a few weeks of it people will start to dread it and it’ll drop back down to monthly before too long.

        Either way, LW should be able to WFH or another part of the building. That’s not at all unreasonable.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I like to eat and to cook, and I’m experiencing vicarious dread at the thought of this much effort every week.

          1. No Fun Potluck Hater*

            Agreed! I LOVE to eat and cook (it’s probably my main hobby, actually)… on my own terms, for my family and friends. I actually complain all the time about all the potluck events at my job and it’s nowhere near once a week. I would lose. my. mind.

        2. Maolin*

          Yeah, I don’t see weekly going for long. If it’s a whole office affair, eventually the lost productivity is going to start being noticed. Of course, it doesn’t feel fair that while everyone else is at the buffet & socializing, regaling tales of Thursday night food prep mishaps and upcoming plans for the weekend, OP is the one actually getting work done, whether working remotely or in a different location in the office.

    4. Det. Charles Boyle*

      Yes! And now I’m wondering about their health insurance premiums. Wouldn’t pushing all this unhealthy food have some ramifications for everyone’s health, and therefore their insurance costs? Very short-sighted and weird.

        1. GlitsyGus*

          We’ve had three “nutrition seminars” this year. I always book other meetings at the same time so no one tries to make me go listen to someone tell me I should eat carrots instead of cake just so the company can pay $5 less for my insurance.

    5. Roscoe*

      I don’t think its a terrible idea as long as its voluntary. I mean the name is a bit much maybe, but doing a pot luck style meal every week seems pretty awesome to me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree — there are groups that would genuinely all like this, if they’re small enough, and I don’t think we need to crap on that. The problem is when the group grows to include people who aren’t into it, and with people like the OP not being able to easily opt out.

        1. your favorite person*

          Agreed. We have a something called Friday Treats. Because we get out at 1pm on Fridays we don’t get a lunch so we have two people each week (on a pre-determined schedule) decide on snacks for the whole company. It can be bagels, donuts, veggie and meat trays, or casseroles. It’s all paid for in petty cash by the company. It’s a small-ish group of 35 so it works out well.

          1. EOA*

            Yes, we’ve instituted something similar, though it is all voluntary and only one person is in charge (though we’ve had a number of people do it with a partner or partners) of bringing in food, not everyone. It has been a tremendous morale booster and has helped people to get to know each other across departments.

          2. Noobtastic*

            That actually sounds very feasible, and much less troublesome.

            Do you keep the food, itself, in a break room, or conference room, or something out of the actual bull-pen/office area? In other words, is it a lovely treat that anyone can opt into, but is NOT in their faces? If so, I think it’s just about perfect.

            1. EOA*

              In my office, it is not in a break or conference room but instead in the office area. But people can shut their doors (and we have a multi-floor office, so those who aren’t on the floor where it is normally hosted can just not show up). It’s definitely an opt-in strategy.

        2. hugseverycat*

          Eesh, really? I mean, have a day to bring in food, that’s fine, but calling it “Fat Friday” is actually pretty hurtful. I’m a fat person and I would feel extremely judged and hurt by this event. I would feel like it’s an invitation for my coworkers to be like “there goes fat Denise to Fat Friday! typical”. Ugh.

        3. Gaia*

          Yep, OldJob had (has) Cake Club. Every Tuesday someone in the club brought a cake for other club members to share. No one was required or pressured to join, no one was coerced into eating cake they didn’t want, and no one seemed to really mind. It was a small group of serious cake lovers who made some really awesome looking cakes. No real harm there, but if it had been something we all had to do? Heck no.

    6. MuseumChick*

      100% agree Dust Bunny. It sounds like this started as something small, a group of co-workers maybe bringing in junk food on Fridays or something like that and has snowballed into this monster thing.

    7. Kittymommy*

      Yeah. I mean I have a crap diet and barely cook, most of my meals are eaten out and leftovers, I akso adore potlucks…. but this sounds like a nightmare. Beyond the face I’m not coming for myself once a week I’m damn sure not doing it for others, this sounds deeply uncomfortable.

    8. MM*

      The fact that they call it FAT Friday too isn’t helpful for anybody, I’d think, even those without a disorder.

        1. Noobtastic*

          I like Foodie Friday.

          But I’d like it better if it was only once a month, or on a rotating schedule with just a few people bringing stuff in, and not a monster-feast to feed everyone several times over, and practically forced on them, all day long.

          The name works, though. Foodie Friday.

          1. Noobtastic*

            Actually, “Foodie Friday” to me brings to mind visions of unusual foods that most people don’t see on the regular, such as authentic foreign cuisine, or gourmet this or that, or even “Did you know you can do this to common ingredients?” Like I don’t know, apple soup, or something. Just as long as it’s not usual, it fits with the “Foodie,” idea of adventurous eating.

            Which means not so much ALL deserts, ALL the time.

            1. ofotherworlds*

              Yeah, my response to the “meat feast” would be that I would happily partake of meat on any other day of the week for most of the year, but I don’t eat meat on Fridays except during Easter or if if a major feast falls on a Friday. And I don’t eat meat on any weekdays during Lent. Actually that’s probably a bit too much information. “I have a religious diatary restriction against eating meat on most Fridays” should be enough.

              1. Hekko*

                Oh, thank you for sharing that! I was beginnning to think I was the last human on Earth who still fasts on Fridays.

              2. Stinky Socks*

                Me three! And imagine trying to “justify” to someone else that you’re *voluntarily* fasting for religious reasons! (“Hey, wait a minute! My in-laws are Catholic, and they only do this during Lent!”)

          1. pope suburban*

            Nevertheless. The name they picked is pretty charged, and they all sound like they are old enough to be aware of that kind of thing, and also to know professional norms/behaviors. Though this thing just sucks out loud, because they’re expecting a pretty considerable investment of time and/or money from people, and then kind of shunning/judging people who might not be able to commit to that kind of extra activity. Plus all the problems they’re causing for people with eating disorders, weight problems, dietary restrictions, time constraints, or tighter budgets. This is a straight-up disaster.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Not to mention the poor people, the people who have tiny kitchenettes, if any, the people who bike or take public transport to work, and otherwise would find this a hardship.

              And what about the people who just are all thumbs in the kitchen, and would rather just be the Official Bringer of the Napkins to every potluck event. Mind you, having been at an ill-organized pot-luck, where we literally had nothing BUT food, the Official Bringer of the Napkins, Cups, Plates, and Utensils would be welcome at any and all pot-lucks I organize FOR LIFE.

              1. pope suburban*

                Right? The list of people who would find this a hardship is really quite long. A potluck once of twice a year is probably something that can be borne with minimal hardship, but every week? Yikes.

    9. Dwight*

      Really? This sounds like so much fun. Once a week is a bit much, but clearly they like it so it’s part of the company culture. It’s not right to push it on people, but there’s a lot of cultures where it’s normal to push food, and they can’t assume everyone they meet has an eating disorder. Hopefully a quick talk with management gets OP some help.

      1. solar flare*

        “they can’t assume everyone they meet has an eating disorder”

        They also can’t assume no one they meet has an eating disorder. This phrasing comes across as dismissive and unkind, like ~ugh, you can’t just expect people to be considerate of others!~

        1. wherewolf*

          I think Dwight meant that they aren’t going to preemptively assume that people can’t/won’t participate because of their sandwich rule variant, especially since it sounds like it started because people wanted and liked it. If they changed it to Yoga Fridays, and people seemed into it, they wouldn’t then cancel it because what if someone has mobility issues or hates group fitness or objects to the religious origins of yoga. They can only make it opt-in, and allow people to discreetly opt out.

    10. Dr. Pepper*

      I got tired just thinking about having to bring in food for the whole office EVERY FRIDAY, never mind being around everyone else’s unhealthy treats.

    11. SavannahMiranda*

      Why on earth is the food not being placed in the office kitchen? Everywhere I’ve ever worked such activities have taken place in the community kitchen.

      There must be no office kitchen, and LW’s desk must be in the best situated room for such decadent conspicuous consumption. What a convergence of awful.

      Even if people were not pressuring others to eat (!) simply having folks constantly coming and going from the Accounting Department or Widgets Team or wherever all this food is spread out is a huge disruption to work for the day.

      This letter is a really good example of why it’s a good thing for a company to invest in a community kitchen space.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Just a data point here. . .my company has an office kitchen for the entire building, which is only our company. Each floor has two kitchenette areas with a fridge, sink, and microwave, but they are open on the floor and do not have any counter space beyond the bare minimum to hold the coffee machine, etc.

        We have semi-annual potlucks, and they are in our workspace. We do this because we want to provide food to the ~35 people in our group–not the 1,000 coworkers in our building. You could have it in the kitchen, but it could only be for an hour and it wouldn’t provide for the “team building” effect because there is no eating area in the kitchen–it would be grab food & go back to your desk.

        1. Noobtastic*

          In my former work, we could schedule a conference room for this sort of thing. Amazing how much food you can set up in a conference room. Bonus: You can actually have a comfortable place to sit and chat, while eating. You could even decorate it, if you want to, while maintaining the professional look everywhere else, so it’s fine if a VIP comes to visit.

      2. Red 5*

        Most places I’ve worked haven’t had an office kitchen, or a place where this kind of thing could be laid out that would be out of the way and inconspicuous. And honestly as the person who is in charge of our current office kitchenette (no tables or anything, just a small food prep area) I think a lot of offices are better off without them unless they also want to hire a cleaning service.

        That said, community spaces ARE vital and necessary. I just don’t think they need to be food oriented spaces, just ones that can be adapted for some food oriented activities.

    12. Alton*

      Calling it “Fat Friday” makes it sound so unappealing. I would be okay with having occasional treats at work, but not if it’s framed that way. Also, every week seems like a bit much, and having rigid themes + pressure to participate is a recipe for disaster (what if someone is vegetarian, or has food allergies?).

    13. McWhadden*

      I totally get the underlining concept. A lot of offices provide free lunch once a week or go out to lunch once a month or so. It’s just a bonding thing.

      But they definitely enacted it in the wrong way.

    14. AdminX2*

      I can’t imagine this will last through the holidays. That’s just so much time and money and energy!!

      Good luck LW, you are making the best choices you can!

    15. Clisby Williams*


      I have no food issues at all, and I wouldn’t want to take part in this. Especially WEEKLY? Two or three times a year, OK – although it should still be totally optional.

    16. Jadelyn*

      I love food. Seriously, I really love food. I’m fat – on the smaller side but still a size 18-20ish (US) – and aggressively unapologetic about my food intake and body size. And I would still hate this crap! First of all, the name is shitty. Second of all, providing food for coworkers on such a regular basis costs money that not everyone necessarily has. Third, that kind of high-pressure environment is really stressful for all kinds of people.

      Like, potlucks are nice, but…this is too much.

        1. Elizabeth W.*

          I still like them every once in a while. We had an awesome one at OldExjob one time–Chili Dog Day. Only the folks who brought stuff could participate, as it was put together independently by a plant manager. So participation was voluntary. But it was great. The person who brought the chili made it from scratch. I brought buns and stuffed myself so thoroughly I didn’t need to eat dinner, haha.

    17. Archaeopteryx*

      This is an insane amount of extra work and expense- once a week? And enforced? And calling it “Fat Friday” for heaven’s sake? This is inappropriate and burdensome even without the eating issues at play.

    18. Jennifer Juniper*

      Ew. Just the name sounds gross. What the barf were they thinking when they came up with that one??

    19. Kathy*

      I know I am off track here; but the term Fat Friday is could be construed as being offensive. Wouldn’t people who perceive themselves as overweight find this terminology off putting?

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    My initial reaction is that calling it Fat Friday is a huge problem in and of itself.

    1. nnn*

      That’s what I was thinking – especially when it’s just as easy to call it Food Friday or Feast Friday

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      Being raised Catholic with “Fat Tuesday” this didn’t seem to strike on the same note with me, but I can see where some would find it offensive!

      1. Reba*

        Yeah, I figure the name derived from Mardi Gras. But given OP’s struggle–which she may not even alone with in that office!–and the general social shaming of fat people, it doesn’t really work. It doesn’t seem to carry the celebratory tone of Mardi Gras but rather closely associates food and treats with fatness. I don’t think it’s offensive exactly, so much as just not really nice.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Yeah, as a fat person, myself, who has only recently learned to appreciate my body, and embrace “fat activism,”- the idea that fat people are people, too, and should be used to strike terror into people, that the War on Fat, is actually a war on PEOPLE, and that “fat” is a simple descriptive, not a pejorative, I find this name really rotten. Not offensive. Just horribly problematic.

          Since our culture currently pushes “Fat = Bad” so very, very much, and there are literally people pushing “death is better than fat” and “Do this thing to make you lose weight. Only a small percentage of our patients actually die” and… I’m getting so derailed. Sorry. But I think you get my point. Our culture has built up so much angst about that word that even the ones embracing it are still dealing with the angst-by-proxy, as well as the angst of fighting the battle to have the *right* to claim it as merely a descriptor, after all.

          When the culture at large considers the term a pejorative, there is almost no way to make that name work out well. Until the entire culture embraces the word as merely a descriptor, it just is not going to work for a huge sector of your population, those who fit the descriptor, and those who have been conditioned to literally be terrified of ever fitting the descriptor, including OP.

      2. Kate R*

        Same. I assumed it was a play on “Fat Tuesday” where people celebrate and indulge in eating whatever crap they want before starting the fast. Without that context (and even with it frankly), it comes across as fairly offensive.

      3. Just Employed Here*

        But Fat Tuesday is only once a year, not *every* Tuesday.

        In our language, the word for Friday starts with the same letter as the word for pizza. The alliteration has not escaped us. But not every Friday.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          But in theory….if you went out for Pizza every Friday night, that wouldn’t be “worse” then being in a bowling league or something of the sorts. I mean other then the name and that it’s taking place in the office where people aren’t able to opt out as easily, there is nothing inherently wrong with partaking in a food activity once a week. Any health implications would be between their doctors and themselves, just like people who drink, smoke, eat junk food when they are bowling (or whatever weekly sport you partake in).

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Oh, it’s not even a semi-official office thing or anything. Some of us simply go out for lunch, and on Fridays it’s more likely to be pizza than sushi och salad.

      4. Emi.*

        I’m also Catholic and I’m offended that they’re having food parties on a fast day! Kidding, but … this still does not make it okay.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          I forget, is every Friday a fast day or just during Lent? Since heading out on my own – I’m sure I’ve violated most of the rules that were drilled into me as a child ;)

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Every Friday is supposed to have some kind of observance, but fasting from meat is only Lenten Fridays and fasting from food in general is Ash Wednesday and Good Friday nowadays ;)

          2. Book Badger*

            It’s no meat on any Friday of the year, with proper fasting (i.e. eating only one meal) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Though some people only do “no meat Fridays” during Lent and ignore it the rest of the year. I’m lapsed and haven’t practiced in years, but I’m back living with my parents again and the amount of fish sticks we consume in a month is absurd.

          3. Vicky Austin*

            It’s my understanding that it’s only on Fridays during Lent. Prior to the late 1950’s it was every Friday but Pope John 23 changed that with the Second Vatican Council.

            1. Just Employed Here*

              We haven’t been Catholic for about 500 years, but we still have a tradition that started with the whole no-meat-on-Fridays thing: On Thursdays, we often eat pea soup with bits of pork meat in it (this was considered strengthening and nourishing at the time — we were poor — now it would be seen as a light lunch) and oven pancake for dessert.

              We gave up Catholicism, but we’re not giving up pancake!!

          4. MsSolo*

            y understanding was that it’s no meat on fridays, but fish and seafood are fair game.School dinners were always fish fingers on a friday, which as someone with an allergy drove me nuts because the vegetarian options were always so half arsed.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        I definitely connected it to Mardi Gras, sans any Catholic background myself.

        But you don’t have Mardi Gras every week, unless your workplace is a cruise ship.

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Fat Tuesday happens right at the point where you start to FAST on Fridays. So it bugs me even worse seeing the connection.
        (Half my family’s Catholic, it seems to be a family tradition to mix Protestant & Catholic. Three generations woot.)

    3. MM*

      Oops, should have scrolled down. Yes, this is awful. Regardless of my reaction to the food itself, I’d be struggling to keep my temper every week just hearing the phrase.

    4. caryatis*

      I’m guessing this is a pretty fit group that can afford to indulge once in a while. Actual fat people IME aren’t comfortable enough to joke about this stuff.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        Or if they are, they don’t tend to include other people in the joke. I have an overweight friend who says things like “don’t get between a fat girl and her pizza!” as a joke and gets a good chuckle out of it, but that’s about it.

          1. pope suburban*

            I don’t think that anyone meant to be unkind here. Our culture has some pretty pervasive, sneaky toxicity about food and eating, and having polite discussions about those sneaky bits are how we can change that. Everyone has been polite, and hopefully people reading this comment thread will have a little- I can’t resist, I’m sorry- food for thought.

          2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            I realize they probably meant well, but I was trying to point out that the underlying assumption is problematic regardless of intent.
            Just like with any marginalized group, a lot of common expressions and thought patterns are actually offensive in one way or another.
            To give you an example, I can be very nitpicky about spelling and grammar, and I have to restrain myself very often to keep from pointing that out to people because it’s actually often both classist, racist and ableist. I’ve just been trained to think it’s a good thing to do.

            1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

              But someone had to tell me that it was a problematic thing to do and challenge my assumptions. I didn’t magically figure it out on my own.

          3. Jadelyn*

            No, we really don’t. Because a lot of people say it and mean precisely that.

            And whether Caryatis actually meant it that way or not is only semi-relevant anyway. Whether it was intentional or not, the comment was predicated on a whole pile of toxic unexamined assumptions about thinness, health, and fat people, and that deserves to be called out so people can work on unlearning that stuff.

      2. HigherEdPerson*

        And therein lies the challenge with our diet culture. Planning a time to “cheat” or “indulge” which in turn assigns a moral characteristic to food – which means you’re good when you eat good, and bad when you eat bad.

        Food is food is food. It’s good, better, best, and we can eat regular balanced meals on our own terms. Focus on how it makes you feel when you eat it. For example, for me – ice cream = yummy! Too much ice cream = yukky. Ice cream isn’t a bad food, and I’m not “indulging” when I eat it. It’s just food. I eat a little bit if I want to have some b/c I know too much makes my stomach hurt. Rather than tell myself it’s fattening, or it’s unhealthy, and restrict.

        I’d be super uncomfortable if my professional setting called something “Fat Friday” b/c of how problematic our culture is around fat and fatphobia. Foodie Friday is a much better way to describe what’s happening, and I would challenge HR and/or the manager to rename the day.

        1. Jadelyn*

          T H I S

          I refuse to participate in the moralizing over food, and it really does tend to mark me as unusual in a conversation no matter how politely and gently I say “Oh, I don’t sort food and eating into “good” or “bad” – food doesn’t have moral value to me, it just is.”

          And then my coworkers marvel at my “willpower” in being able to leave candy on my desk and not constantly snack on it. Because it’s not willpower! I don’t see the candy as something “forbidden” or “tempting” because I know that I can have candy whenever I want it, which takes the lure of the forbidden out of it and makes it just another food. Do I want it right now? If not, I don’t eat it. There’s no sense of urgency because I’m “letting” myself “be bad” on a limited basis, it’s just a question of what I feel like eating right now.

          I’ve explained it a million times and still the comments get made and nobody gets it.

          1. Mine Own Telemachus*

            In grad school, I developed a reputation for indignantly shouting “FOOD DOESN’T HAVE MORAL VALUE” when friends would comment “oh this is so bad for me” if they grabbed a piece of cake or a pudding for dessert. After awhile, I just had to look at them to get them to stop with the comments.

          2. Ja'am*

            Thank you! This is how I approach food as well. Healthy eating is not all in the food, it’s in the mind too. To me, THIS is healthy eating. It’s so simple, yet people do not understand how you don’t have to assign “good” and “bad” labels to food, and how easy it is to have “willpower” when you just don’t restrict at all; I don’t believe in “cheat” days, none of that stuff, it sounds exhausting to live like that.

            This is the simplest, easiest, healthiest way to eat, imo, people don’t get it though. I don’t blame them, since diet culture is so horrible and prevalent, but it’s still upsetting to see people getting sucked into it. It’s everywhere and it’s toxic for me to hear about it. But since I have a pretty healthy relationship with food, at the very least I’d ask my higher-ups to change the name of this day, it only adds to that unhealthy mindset.

          3. General Ginger*

            Every time someone here brings in donuts, one of my coworkers loudly deliberates whether she should be naughty, and have one. JUST EAT THE DANG DONUT (or don’t!). Food, or eating it, isn’t “naughty”.

            1. Mrs. Fenris*

              I had a boss who had some very bad hangups about food. She definitely saw different foods as “good” or “bad” and if someone brought in donuts, she would loudly yell, “WHO DID THIS? WHO BROUGHT THE FAT PILLS?” in a kidding-not-kidding way.

              1. General Ginger*

                Honestly, it took me years to get to the “food isn’t naughty” stage. So, much like w. my coworker, this is simultaneously frustrating and sad/relatable.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Same – it was one of the hardest things to unlearn when I started moving away from diet culture and trying to rebuild a healthy relationship with food and exercise and weight. I even went through a phase in my re-learning how to eat normally where I actively disdained healthy foods because, basically, “f*** the pressure to eat healthy, I’m going to be bad and not apologize for it!” I had to get that out of my system – give myself permission to “indulge” and “be bad” without punishing myself for it – before I could get to a really morally neutral point with food, and yeah, it took probably 3-5 years in total.

                  But gods, it was so worth it to be able to look at a donut or some candy and just consider “do I want this right now?” without any of the accompanying “have I *earned* it?” and “what penance do I have to do if I eat this?” thoughts. 10/10 do recommend.

                2. media monkey*

                  it is really hard. i have been actively working on this for a year and i’m not there yet. 40mumble years of diet culture make it a tough one to overcome.

            2. AdminX2*

              Ugh the need for food “naughty” validation is SO tiresome. I remember distinctly one evening being in a room of size 8-10 women all complaining for at least a half hour how fat they were- while I sat there awkwardly as a size 16. Being older now I would tell them to stop, but coworkers/bosses complicates things.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                I’m a US size 18. I simply turn to the offender and say, “Quiet, small person.” Works every time!

                1. Julia*

                  As a size 8 to 10 woman, I have been called fat countless times over my almost 30 years of life, because society thinks women over a size four are fat. (At least a lot of people think that, and say it out loud as well.)
                  I understand that slim people calling themselves fat and “awful” around bigger people sucks for the bigger person, but just because someone is smaller than you doesn’t mean they haven’t been fat-shamed, even if it’s not to the same extent. I’m not saying I have it harder than you, or even as hard, but hurtful comments are hurtful to everyone.

                2. employed*

                  “Quiet, small person.” — that’s awesome.

                  I’m appalled and frankly surprised that so many (or any) people would call a size 8-10 woman fat.

          4. Vicky Austin*

            Here’s the thing, though. If the OP were to simply eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants; he could wind up in the hospital again. He’s recovering from a binge eating disorder. So just because you’re able to eat whatever you want without a problem doesn’t mean that everyone can. If he could, he wouldn’t have written the letter in the first place.

        2. Original OP*

          Hi HigherEdPerson, thank you for responding to my letter to Alison. I really appreciate everyone being so kind.
          Your point about food is food is food is spot on. There’s a (big) part of my brain that regards certain food as bad bad BAD and if I eat it, I’m bad. I’m working on undoing those associations. But in this case, it’s amazing how much I’ve noticed people in the office reflecting those unhelpful thoughts back at me, e.g. “Ooh it’s Fat Friday, go on, be bad”, “Treat yourself, diet starts on Monday”, “God I really shouldn’t, but…” And when those thoughts are reflected back, it becomes so easy to ignore all the work I’ve done to not see food as the enemy!
          Thanks again for your thoughtful reply

          1. Noobtastic*

            Moralizing food causes problems for people of all sizes and health levels, largely because of this.

            Eating disorders are almost always a mental thing, after all, and messing with our minds, by moralizing foods, and using moralizing language around foods, just makes it all worse.

            As a fat person, I do not blame you for being terrified of being fat. Fat people are treated really badly in our culture, and if I were thin, I’d be terrified of being treated that way, too. As it is, it’s just my life, and I have to find ways to deal with it. But, yeah, living fat in America is a pretty scary thing. Not for the health reasons people *claim* (which, 1 – correlation is not causation, and 2 – thin people have the same problems blamed on fat, which doesn’t work, if fat is the actual cause, because then how did they get it without that cause, and this literally causes thin people to *die* due to mis-diagnosis from fat-phobic doctors who look at them, see thin, and think “I don’t need to test for diabetes or heart disease. Everyone knows, those are caused by fat.”). No, it’s terrifying because everyone sees and knows, whether they will actually admit it or not, that fat people in our culture are treated really, truly badly. Of course you’re terrified! You’re smart!

            Jedi hugs, if you want them.

        3. Lady Whackamole*

          This. The attitude towards the treat day is problematic, but calling it “Fat Friday” is downright offensive – especially in a work setting. I mean, if they really want to go all out with the Mardi Gras connection, just call it Vendredi Gras. Otherwise, Food Friday, Feast Friday, Fun Friday.

          I hope they allow OP to opt out of being in the office for this.

      3. Noobtastic*

        Or, they are comfortable joking about it, but are often shouted down, and hated on because they are comfortable while fat.

      4. Bea*


        No. I know a lot of fat people who fully acknowledge their size and “reclaimed” the word fat. It has nothing to do with fit vs fat bodies. It’s all about the confidence of each person.

        My ex gf’s mom was close to 400lbs and used to use the phrase “I’m wasting away to nearly 200lbs!” every time dinner was running late.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          We say this to my one overweight cat when he starts yowling half an hour before his dinner. “Sorry, buddy, are you wasting away to practically a lot?”

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Possibly, but it doesn’t actually make sense. The whole point of Fat Tuesday is to eat extra calories before fasting on Ash Wednesday.

    5. motherofdragons*

      Oh my gosh yes. If the title of this letter was just “My office does Fat Friday” I’d be appalled. As it is, I really feel for LW and hope that whatever route they take is immediately successful!

    6. Tavie*

      As a fat person, if my company called an event this, I’d find it really offensive, especially on a weekly basis. This is very different from an annual Mardi Gras celebration.

      And I don’t find the word “fat” offensive in and of itself. It’s the assumptions being made here and the assumptions that society makes about fat people – this is just a really problematic label to apply to a work event. It would be really upsetting to me.

      My company gives out bagels on Fridays. They call it “Bagel Friday”. “Food Friday” would work well here, this company really should rethink that “Fat Friday” label.

    7. SB*

      We have Friday Feasts at our office, and they’re healthy snacks (which can be an issue for me but at least it’s not like “gorge or else!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  4. High Score!*

    I don’t have an eating disorder and I’m cringeing just reading this. Definitely bring it to the attention of management and HR, you may not be the only one who doesn’t love this. Good luck and please give us an update!

    1. Lumen*

      This is very very true. Eating disorders are scarily common, and disordered eating even moreso. I doubt the OP is the only one who is, to some degree or another, uncomfortable with this and feeling pressured to participate regardless.

      1. Eloise*

        I was thinking the same thing. And even if they are, by some chance, the very next hire may have their own reason for discomfort. As a weekly event, it doesn’t sound fun to me. But if it’s designed so people can’t opt out, that’s a much bigger problem. OP, if you’re able to speak up, you’d be doing a service to yourself and, I bet, to others.

        1. Oranges*

          As a person who got gastric bypass yeppers. Having food shoved at me is not fun. Nor is it fun for me to take up a seat talking to the people eating (because I finished what I can eat way before everyone else). Just awkwardness all around.

  5. Det. Charles Boyle*

    Ugh! I’m so sorry your new company is doing this, OP. How does anyone even work on Fridays if they’re eating all day and pushing others to eat? Talking with your manager or HR sounds like the best route and I hope they can help you resolve this.

  6. ExcelJedi*

    I’m having trouble reconciling “I would never want to take away other people’s fun,” and “But Fat Friday is a minefield, with people pushing food on me and encouraging me to eat more.”

    People can have their fun….as long as they’re respectful of others’ boundaries, and take “no” for an answer the first time. Especially in an office, there’s no excuse to push people to do “fun” things that they do not want to do. It probably means it’s not fun for them.

    Between that and the fact that they want to do this every week, I’d be really careful about the culture here, and try to set really strong boundaries as soon and as often as possible.

    1. grey*

      That stuck out to me too. I think half the issue is if people would just respect other people’s food restrictions, it would go a long way.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        Especially since for some people (i.e people with food allergies) having “just a little this one time” can be deadly.

    2. Junior Dev*

      Wow, yeah. I worked in an office that had gross drinking culture (open bar, common to have a beer or whisky at your desk at 2pm) and even they weren’t this bad about pushing things on people.

      1. ENFP in Texas*

        If you had a coworker who was a recovering alcoholic, would that have changed your perception of how having such an open alcohol culture would haveaffected them?

        1. pope suburban*

          Your comment made me think that it is such a bummer that people often feel the need to choose between being hassled (or even harassed) or divulging deeply private information. I mean, for all anyone knows, this poster *did* have a colleague who was a recovering alcoholic! And they had to decide whether to stave off the constant pressure, or make their private health matter public. That’s just…really bad. I mean, I understand wanting to let people know that they are included and allowed to participate in fun events at work, but surely there are better ways than pressure? Like, I don’t know, telling people that they are welcome to join in, or sending an office-wide email to alert everyone that there are treats at X location, and please feel free to stop by and mingle? There comes a point where trying to be fun becomes very, very un-fun, and I feel that a lot of people in a lot of work sprint past that line. I hope we can get to a point where optional really is optional, and people can be part of a team without engaging in every specific thing that the office might do.

          1. Noobtastic*

            We need “Sticker Fridays” where everyone brings in stickers to trade. You can keep them on the backing, so they can be traded again and again.

            That’s fun, and the odds of having someone with a sticker addiction being triggered are really low.

            1. HQetc*

              Not trying to be all “YOUR STICKERS ARE HURTFUL” at all, not putting this on the same level as awfulness around food or drink, seriously only replying because I think it’s so interesting that *literally anything* is gonna be an issue for someone. I had a roommate with a sticker phobia. They really freaked her out, and she didn’t really like having them in the house. I had little masking tape stickers I use for organizing stuff, and had to keep them in my room instead of with all our other stationary/craft supplies (wasn’t a burden, was happy to do it). Human brains are so freaking weird.

        2. General Ginger*

          Given that they called it gross, I don’t think Junior Dev was happy with this office culture.

        3. Vicky Austin*

          Wow, I didn’t even think about that, but you’re right: a person recovering from a binge eating disorder is, in many ways, similar to a recovering alcoholic. There’s no such thing as “just one drink” or “just one bite.”

          1. Ego Chamber*

            You missed the part where it’s possible to stop drinking alcohol for the rest of your life but you can’t just stop eating food for the rest of your life. That’s why eating disorders are so hard to treat, and to live with.

        4. Junior Dev*

          I’m not sure where you get the sense I said I was ok with any of it. I meant that the culture “wasn’t as bad” in that no one would overtly pressure you to drink. It was still bad.

    3. Aveline*

      Also, it would be fun for me, to I can’t participate for health reasons. I have a condition that is like diabetes, so I have a strict diet.

      LW does it need to say what her reason is, She can simply tell her HR or manager that she has “health issues” and can’t participate in an ongoing basis but she can’t push back directly at her coworkers without reviewing otherwise confidential health information to her coworkers. So either the company needs to make clear that the rules involve not forcing food on people of they need to let her work from home that day.

      Either the coworkers will be reasonable and step back or she works with overgrown children who take personal offense when someone doesn’t participate . I have run into the latter in some groups. I leave the group. But as this is work, she can’t really do that.

      She needs to simply have a higher up or HR clarify that partipRion must be voluntary and trying to cajole someone into eating is not ok.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The complication is that she also needs to be not be around it. It’s not enough for people to just stop pressuring her; she needs to be at a physical remove from it.

        1. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

          Yes, this is exactly the problem. Literally NO ONE would even need to be in the room and I would have the same issue. She needs to be removed completely from the whole situation.

          1. media monkey*

            yep. my issue (working hard on overcoming it although it isn’t at eating disorder levels) is eating in secret. it would be easier for me to eat all the things if no one was there – the fear of social consequences would stop me if people were there.

        2. Greg M.*

          speaking as someone else with something like a food addiction, it’s basically being an alcoholic while living in a bar and everyone keeps harassing you to drink. it’s infuriating how little people will mind their business with food stuff.

        3. wherewolf*

          Plus the good thing about Alison’s advice is it could just as easily be a super severe allergy. I know some people can’t touch or be in a room where peanuts have been and they can’t take the chance, that’s what I would think of if I was the boss/HR that OP spoke to.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My husband’s company has working lunches that they have catered. When he got there it was pretty much pizza or fried chicken. He quietly went to the person in charge and said “That pizza shop makes a great caesar salad, could we add a salad to the order next time?” The salad vanished faster than the pizza and everyone asked for more salad next time. His next step was to ask for the dressings to be on the side…again, it surprised the coordinator how many people had salad with plain oil & vinegar. She still forgets and orders more fried stuff than they need, but there’s enough he can have the low-carb/low-salt meal his doctor wants him eating. And since he knows he already stepped it down to healthiER than it would have been, he lets himself enjoy the croutons. ;)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I didnt’ mean to nest this where it showed up.
          And I admit it doesn’t address half the problems in this LW’s dysfunctional office.

    4. MLB*

      Agreed. Honestly outside of the fact that LW has an eating disorder, this is a bigger problem. There are many reasons why people wouldn’t want to be around a massive high fat feast once a week. And the fact that the people are food pushers and frown upon those who don’t participate makes it even worse. Having something like this once a week is insane, and even once a month is overkill. Once a quarter should be the norm.

    5. Psyche*

      Yeah. Being pushing about unhealthy food (or healthy food) is not cool. Not everyone is going to want to eat a ton of junk. Not everyone wants or needs a “cheat day”. Let people make their own choices! Also, their themes can be very problematic for many diets. People who are trying to eat healthy will automatically not have an option. But vegetarians will not have choices on meat day. Gluten free will be very limited on pastry day. If it happened once a month or less that is less of an issue, but it is a minefield as a weekly event.

    6. Czhorat*

      People can have their fun, but at a workplace one needs to be mindful of any issues fellow coworkers might have.

      Eating disorders, dietary restrictions, and general issues around food are common enough that having a weekly food event and *calling it fat Friday* is really, REALLY insensitive.

      I agree with Allison that they OP can push back; the first time I’d even consider saying, “have you thought about how this could impact anyone in the group who has problems with diet or body image?” That might be enough to wake them up into backing away from it. Some people genuinely don’t think about such issues.

      1. Anna*

        The OP doesn’t want to shut down the whole thing; they want to have accommodations to remove themselves from it. Let’s focus on the solution the OP is looking for, not the one we think they should want.

        1. Noobtastic*

          But we also need to consider that she is very likely not the only one with a problem. If the solution is purely personal (such as working at home), then everyone with a problem with this highly problematic thing, would also need a very personal solution.

          So, that means that what, ten percent (anyone know the stats on Eds in America?) would have to have personalized solutions. Plus all the dieters. So that’s another 50% right there, at any given time. Now, how many people can reasonably work from home? Admins can’t in almost every office. There are very rare exceptions, where admins can be remote, but most of the time, they would be utterly stuck.

          OP has a big opportunity here to help a really large portion of her office-mates who may not have the courage to stand up for themselves, because it sounds like some have at least tried (and been frowned down). If OP manages to find a solution to the office-wide problem, that works for all of them, she’d be a bona fide hero!

          1. Czhorat*

            Also, maybe shut it down entirely – or fundamentally rework it – IS the best accomodation, or at least part of it.

            Even those without diagnosable eating disorders are likely to have some issues around foot, eating, and the word “fat” — I don’t see it as too big a stretch to worry about the entire concept, as presented, being insensitive.

            Part of what we can do (and I believe many of us are doing) in cases like this is validate a letter writer’s feelings that the behaviour in their office is a bit off, and not appropriate. This isn’t duck-club levels of inappropriate, but it isn’t really professional either. I think gentle pushing at the concept of the weekly event might be able to lead to something less potentially painful to employees.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I’d also add the 9.4 percent of the U.S. population with formal diabetes diagnoses.
            (www dot niddk dot nih dot gov/health-information/health-statistics/diabetes-statistics )

          3. Jennifer Juniper*

            She’s not obligated to help the entire office here. She’s vulnerable and recovering herself.

    7. Dr. Pepper*

      I had a former coworker who brought donuts every Monday for awhile and incessantly pushed them on everyone. It got super annoying very quickly. Other colleagues complained about not really wanting to eat the donuts but doing so anyway just to shut him up. I’m not sure how the issue was resolved as I made it a point to avoid this person as much as possible, especially on Mondays, but someone must have stepped in and told him to knock it off. He still brought donuts, but scaled it back to once and month and quit badgering everyone to eat them.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        My response would have been to pick one up, hold eye contact, and throw it in the trash. But then the best way to ensure I never do something is to tell me I have to, so.

          1. Blue Eagle*

            But it is OK for the food pusher to be hostile by pushing food that you don’t want on you? I’m with knitcrazybooknut on this and have done this to someone who just would not quit badgering me about eating the sugary food they brought in for the group.

          2. knitcrazybooknut*

            I get it, but after the third time of having food pushed on you by someone who is not you and knows nothing about you, it becomes offensive. I have complied with your request and taken this food item. You, having gifted it to me, are now not allowed to dictate its eventual resting place. Awkwardness returned to sender.

            I had a direct report who would constantly bake things for the office. Very nice. I abstained, and when she asked why, I told her I don’t eat gluten. She then started making gluten free baked goods at least once a month, saying she made them gluten free for me. I am also allergic to almonds, the flour of which is often substituted for wheat flour. I don’t want to run down every allergy or food sensitivity I have with a coworker just so they can cook for me. Whatever satisfaction they get from pushing food on me is outweighed by my discomfort when that happens.

      2. Lucille2*

        I had that coworker once too. Another coworker and I made a pact to never eat the donuts. Then others joined in. He got the message and stopped bringing everyone donuts. Honestly, the issue wasn’t that he brought donuts to share, as a friendly gesture, but that he was very persistent in pushing donuts on others.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Oooooh, what if someone had Celiac? I shudder to think of having it pushed on them, and not taking no for an answer.

    8. SNS*

      Yeah I really don’t understand this mentality, we have a bimonthly potluck but it’s totally voluntary and no one ever pressures anyone into participating or eating

  7. Amber Rose*

    Oh, LW, I have no better advice for you than what Alison has given, but I just want to say that I understand. I would’ve cried too. A compulsion to eat is a difficult thing to deal with, and worse with the way society seems to orient itself around food.

    You’re not powerless though, so please do speak up for yourself. And if you feel up to it, let us know how it works out. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a good response for you.

  8. JokeyJules*

    Sending you all the support and encouragement and good vibes I can, OP. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you, and I hope your manager and coworkers are understanding and accommodating

  9. zapateria la bailarina*

    i know that at my office, sitting in another room would just prompt some of my coworkers to bring a plate (or two) of food to me to make sure i’m not missing out. it would be well meaning, but wouldn’t help. i wonder if you’d experience something like that if they move you to a different area on fridays. if you think that would happen, it would be worth mentioning if this is the route your manager/hr plan to take.

    good luck, op!

    1. Amber Rose*

      Yep. That happened to me last time we had an event. I ended up with three separate people bringing me three plates of food. It was all mini hotdogs, donuts and cheese.

      I was not well at the end of the day. Thank god we only do events like that once every few years.

      1. Jen RO*

        On the other hand, I really appreciate it when coworkers bring me food from company events. I find it very considerate of them.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I would find it considerate to be *asked,* which gives me the opportunity to suggest things I would actually eat or to, you know, decline entirely.

        2. wherewolf*

          I agree, I think it’s considerate, but I’m in a guess not ask culture. For me the culturally competent response would be to prepare a small plate and trust that the coworker can eat or not eat whatever they like, rather than feeling excluded.

    2. Reba*

      Yes, for this reason I think working from home (AND curtailing the frequency of these events!!) is the best solution for OP. Being in another room and repeatedly dealing with well-meaning but pushy people around the food is going to both draw more people’s attention to OP, and make it much harder on her. If she’s just not present, it’s not so obvious that she is sitting it out.

      And I agree with Zapateria that she can raise this with the boss, perhaps like:

      “it has been my experience that people are enthusiastic and often don’t want to take no for an answer around shared food! [said in a friendly way] Since I don’t want to disclose to the whole office, and since repeatedly talking about it and declining will be bad for me, I think being away from the office during the potlucks is best for me. My doctors agree.”

    3. LCL*

      Yes, good point. That is the culture here, as we deal with problems that happen in real time and someone may end up stuck at their desk for some time.

  10. Doug Judy*

    I have a feeling that this will eventually fizzle out as people are going to tire of it eventually. But that might take a while, so definitely speak up now.

    At OldJob in the department I worked in we had weekly treat days every Wednesday, but only one person would bring a small treat ranging from store bought items to homemade things. It was completely voluntary and worked out to each person participating bringing something 3-4 times a year. One lady, who was in an eating disorder recovery did bring up to the group that she would like the food kept away from her desk, so we moved everything to a a spot that was easy to avoid. She said later she was very embarrassed to bring it up, but then when we were like “No problem!” she felt relieved that it wasn’t as big of a deal as she had made it in her head.

    1. Jane of all Trades*

      This! Hopefully in LWs case the coworkers who are pushing food on her at these events try to do so out of misguided attempts to be inclusive.
      LW, I can’t speak to eating disorders, but I have in the past had to tell people things about myself that I felt would “other” me, and have made good experiences. Maybe if you told your boss and coworker outright “unfortunately I am recovering from an eating disorder so attending this event would put my health at risk”?
      It can be really hard with health issues that are so stigmatized, but you have every right to advocate for your own health needs, and any reasonable person would accept that, and not think any less of you.
      Best wishes, LW

  11. Bend & Snap*

    OMG. Health issues aside, who wants to cook for their coworkers once a week? I don’t even want to cook for my family most of the time (but I do, obviously).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it’s a small group, it’s possible that the others are truly into it. Hard to say without knowing more. (If it’s like 15+ people though, then almost certainly not everyone is thrilled.)

      I think this is becoming like the responses we get here to office social events sometimes — 90% of people saying it sounds horrible while ignoring that plenty of people legitimately like them.

    2. irene adler*

      Amen. It would be like having homework for work. I don’t want additional demands on my personal time.

    3. Ellen N.*

      I am an avid home baker/cook. I love baking/cooking for coworkers, neighbors, the mail carrier, you name them. That said, I never push. If someone says no thanks that’s all I need to hear.

      1. your favorite person*

        Same. I offer first to my direct co-workers then put it in the kitchen.
        the only reason I even offer is that the one time I didn’t offer them any my co-worker who LOVES my banana bread didn’t get any :(

    4. SarahTheEntwife*

      And I enjoy baking, but without a car it’s annoying to lug in food so I only do it occasionally.

    5. smoke tree*

      I think it would be smart of the manager to take a look at the tradition more broadly and see if there is too much pressure going on, in addition to allowing the LW to work from home. Even if everyone except the LW is currently happy with it, there are plenty of reasons why the next new hire also might not be, or that current people on the team might no longer be able to do it. Pushing food on coworkers is best avoided all around, even if the tradition is working out okay otherwise.

    6. Anna*

      The people who work there and participate? Maybe let’s not assume it’s the end of the world for everyone since people seem to enjoy it in this particular setting.

    7. Bend & Snap*

      Okay, wow, didn’t expect a pile on. Weekly required cooking seems excessive but that’s just my opinion. Obviously.

  12. Sara without an H*

    Oh, Lord, yes, there are all kinds of reasons that this is a bad idea: health reasons, religious reasons (several religions require periodic fasting and/or abstinence), expense, and the social pressure to participate. I very much doubt if OP is the only one who has issues with this.

    In addition to Alison’s advice, OP may want to do some (very discrete) checking to see if she has any allies in the office who might be willing to push back as a group. NOT necessarily to ban the practice for those who actually like it, but to push back against the social pressure.

    And is there a conference room, or other place outside the main work area, where the food could be set up? I would think having it in the main work space would be a horrible distraction.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      I find myself wondering what workplace issues the weekly feast is meant to gloss over. Morale? Understaffing? Long hours?

      1. Mark A*

        I really feel for the OP too.
        I was thinking that could be a minefield not joining in.
        All the signs are the manager is a strong advocate of this event.
        Like Doug Judy said, the fact it is moving to weekly might just be the death knell of it. It sounds super competitive too.
        Another weakness is the cost.
        If Alison’s advice is not possible, then maybe others may not like the cost element.
        If/when more than 2 mention cost, then joining together and asking for it to go back to monthly will mean appearing to support it, appear keen to keep it going but make it easier for OP.
        I hope it gets resolved.

    2. Tardigrade*

      And is there a conference room, or other place outside the main work area, where the food could be set up? I would think having it in the main work space would be a horrible distraction.

      This, and I seriously doubt there’s nobody else at all who isn’t bothered by sitting so near a bunch of food, food smells, and buffet commotion all day every week.

  13. Myrin*

    Additionally, OP, you say that your team is full of lovely people – is there someone you’re getting along with particularly well? Even better if it’s someone who’s known for being no-nonsense and/or have some kind of authority, but I think a work friend works just as well. Because if there’s such a person, you may also try to enlist them in helping you out here. How that might look in detail would be up to you, of course, but for when you’re actually physically present on Fridays, I’m thinking of things like re-routing food-pushers, just standing around with you talking so that you’re not such an obvious outsider, maybe even getting the word out to leave you out of the event, whatever you’re comfortable with.

    (Obviously, the best solution would be if everything playing out like Alison’s detailing it in her answer, but I think this might be a good crutch for any scenario where you don’t get accommodated the way she suggests, which I of course hope isn’t going to happen.)

    1. TootsNYC*

      I like the idea of finding an ally for you. Even for the “bringing up ‘what if someone has an eating disorder?’ ” issue.

  14. Buckeye*

    OP, take comfort in knowing that you are probably not the only person in your office who doesn’t like this. Being pressured to buy and supply snacks for your coworkers can be time-consuming and expensive. It’s unfair to more or less force everyone to stretch their budget and cook/shop for others and assume that they will be thrilled to do so. Do you get the sense that any others are unenthused as well? Maybe some group pushback would encourage management to lay off the pressure and move this to a different location within the office where those that wanted to participate could do so without involving those that don’t.

  15. Nay*

    What a BAD idea! I don’t have an eating disorder, but I am very particular about my diet, and I wouldn’t want to feel pressured into spending money I don’t have on food I won’t eat each week! Bring in food you can eat? I do…I bring the lunch and snacks I need, I can’t afford to bring food to share, and I shouldn’t have to if I’m not going to eat anything anyone else is bringing…this just is problematic for a ton of reasons, OP you have my sympathy; good luck and please update us!

  16. irritable vowel*

    The concept of “Fat Friday” seems so out of alignment with the healthy initiatives that many workplaces promote that it makes your organization, or at least your work group, seem out of touch. (I can’t tell from your letter whether you work for a small company and this is a company-wide thing, or if you’re at a large organization and this is limited to your specific office area.) While I know workplace health initiatives can be problematic because sometimes they’re tied to the company’s interest in lower insurance premiums or lowering time spent on sick leave, I think a way to initially address this in a way that doesn’t involve discussing your personal health is to say either to your manager or to HR (or both) that your workplace is way out of alignment with the current philosophy of promoting health among employees. Mention commonplace initiatives like pedometer/activity tracker competitions among employees, incentives to join gyms or take fitness classes, Weight Watchers at work, etc. If nothing else, companies don’t want to hear that they’re out of touch with their industry or other businesses that they compete for employees with.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Doing Weight Watchers at work doesn’t sound like a good way to address eating disorder issues either, though.

        1. MM*

          If the company were to swing hard in the other direction, I suspect this would also be very bad for OP. It certainly would be for many people in ED recovery. Really, workplaces should just stay out of the entire subject area. (I can understand some exceptions such as, say, if you work at a gym, but anything not directly related should just Not Go There.)

          1. Catleesi*

            I completely agree. Having a range of alternatives during food events as appropriate is great, but I get uncomfortable when it goes beyond that. Your workplace shouldn’t be pushing you to eat a certain way, workout or not workout, or really anything in the general vicinity.

        2. Observer*

          I think that it’s a dangerous route to take, though. People with issues like this do not need initiatives that start poking into their health and dietary issues. And given the apparent culture here, the reality is that there is likely to be way too much intrusion with any of these types of initiatives.

        3. Noobtastic*

          Mentioning it as an example is a very bad idea, though, because OP knows it would be horribly triggering for her, so why give them the idea? Especially as it already is a very popular idea.

          She’d be better off mentioning blood mobiles, and mobile mammograms, and flu-shot initiatives, and other things are not triggering, and can be done in a way that helps a lot of people, while not hurting anyone. Lots of options to opt-in, without disrupting the work-flow, and no or low pressure to participate, no or low visibility on who did or did not participate (thus avoiding the Whyyyyyyyyyy? questions of co-workers), and something with a clear benefit that does not cost employees a lot of money.

          I agree that OP has a real opportunity here to improve the lives of all her co-workers. Wellness programs really *can* be done right. They usually aren’t, but they actually can be. They need to be designed right, from the ground up, focusing on the needs of everyone to be 1) respected, and 2) autonomous about their own bodies.

        1. soon 2be former fed*

          Huh? I have seen WW meeting at many workplaces including my current one. WW always emphasized eating a variety of foods and not depriving oneself.

          1. Red Lines with Wine*

            WW, for some people, can trigger disordered eating behavior because they have in the past focused on a points system. Tracking every little morsel, every sip. For me and a close friend, this is mentally exhausting and triggers other disordered behaviors like working out an extra 15 minutes to burn off that cracker. Their newest program focuses on healthy eating and only reserve points for stuff off the main list. It’s better, but I stopped WW a long time ago and have no plans to return.

          2. Marlowe*

            Wasn’t it Weight Watchers who encouraged fourteen year old girls to open an account with them and start counting what they could or couldn’t eat per day?

            1. Hamtaro*

              Yep. WW is notorious for stuff like this. It’s particularly bad for people with eating disorders.

            2. SignalLost*

              The 3 people I know with an overlap between WW and disordered eating have been clear that WW is what initially triggered it. In all three cases, they joined as pre-teens and early teens. TBD what the new program will do, but I’m not hugely hopeful.

          3. Noobtastic*

            Telling you to wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap yourself every time to feel hungry so you would “snap out of it,” and realize that you’re not *really* hungry, is not about eating a variety of foods and not depriving yourself.

            Telling you that “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels” is not about eating a variety of foods and not depriving yourself.

            Telling you to carry a clothespin and use it to pinch yourself whenever you see food that tempts you is not about eating a variety of foods and not depriving yourself.

            Also “Weight Watchers is great! It worked all six times I tried it” is not about long-term weight loss NOR about health, let alone eating a variety of foods and not depriving yourself.

            Weight Watchers, from my own personal experience, is about telling yourself that 1) you don’t deserve to be happy if you’re not their ideal weight for your height and age (regardless of body composition), 2) you cannot possibly *be* happy if you’re not their ideal weight, 3) if you think you are happy when you’re not their ideal weight, then you are lying to yourself and others, 4) if you “followed the plan” and did not actually lose weight that week, you are a big fat liar who deserves to be publicly shamed, 5)… I could actually go on for a long long time. Let’s just say that Weight Watchers is a big old mess of problems, and NOT healthy and almost certainly WILL trigger almost anyone with an eating disorder.

              1. WillyNilly*

                Wow, I have been on & off WW for the better part of a decade and that is *NOTHING* like what I have experienced. Not by a long shot. Not a single one of those suggestions has ever even been hinted at around me. Sounds like Noobastic had a sadistic group that went very far off script.

            1. T*

              Yep – my teen is in ED recovery with a team of therapists and they are not currently allowed to know their weight, check calories, or restrict food intake for any reason. They are actively encouraged to eat at the first signs of hunger and eat a variety of foods-but no diet foods like sugar-free or fat-free items. WW talk would be problematic.

          4. Alton*

            I can’t speak for WW in particular, but I think it’s more an issue that *any* weight loss-focused group can be a bad idea for some people, especially if they have a history of eating disorders.

            I don’t have a history of disorded eating, but I’ve learned to stay away from weight loss groups (including WW) because I find that the way a lot of people talk about their weight loss efforts (like talking about passing up a treat, feeling bad for overindulging, or eating fruit instead of ice cream) is counterproductive for me. It makes me feel resentful because one of my primary goals is to be able to eat what I want in moderation. I also can’t sustain a healthy diet very well if I focus too much on “keeping score.”

          5. wherewolf*

            Honestly the weirdest thing I’ve seen about WW is they describe non-participants as “civilians.”

    2. SignalLost*

      If you want a really interesting read-through of why what you’ve said here is problematic and not a great tack to take, I recommend the third post in the suggested links above, “should our office have a policy on healthy eating”. Broadly, it boils down to what people eat is not their employer’s business, and what is healthy for Person A is unhealthy for Person B; there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the notion of healthy food. And that’s without getting into the serious yuck factor of companies that think there is and push their idea of healthy, which is usually low-calorie, low-fat.

      1. irritable vowel*

        I’m not saying I agree with any of it – I find my workplace’s health initiatives offputting. But I thought it might be something that HR would respond to in a way that would put a stop to Fat Friday. That’s all.

        1. smoke tree*

          It sounds like the LW doesn’t want to put a stop to Fat Friday though, because they probably assume that it would get them off on a really bad foot with new coworkers who loved it. Also, it could easily backfire if the manager doesn’t care about workplace health initiatives, and could make the LW seem a bit disingenuous if they then try to make the case for working at home. Unfortunately, in this case because the LW actually needs to avoid Fat Friday altogether, rather than just not participating, I can’t see any way around having to disclose that there is a health reason.

        2. General Ginger*

          But then you always run the chances of HR replacing it with something equally problematic, but “healthy”.

        3. Elsajeni*

          But in this case, it’s not just that it’s off-putting — it’s also likely to be just as triggering for the OP, and/or for anyone else with an eating disorder. The vast majority of workplace health initiatives play into the idea that the only meaning of Health is Losing Weight and a healthy office is one in which everyone is really focused on losing weight all the time, so suggesting any of them in this context would be a really bad idea.

      2. Noobtastic*

        The only Healthy Eating Initiative I’ll support in the workplace is putting up easy-to-find notices (like notebooks, or a website) where a person can find nutritional values for a variety of foods.

        Not so much calorie counts, but what actual nutrition is in each thing. “Are strawberries a good source of calcium? How about Vitamin C? Where can I find high sources of Potassium? Phosphorous?” Potassium and Phosphorous are almost never listed on nutritional labels, so people who are expressly ordered by their doctors to avoid those nutrients (while still getting the small amount they need to live) have a very hard time of actually finding that information.

        So, yeah, “Healthy Eating Initiative” meaning “We’ll make it easy for you to find the information you need to choose for yourself and what works for your own body” sounds great. Anything else sounds paternalistic, intrusive, and possibly dangerous, for anyone who happens to have one of those conditions that means some foods that are “healthy” for other people are “deadly” for them. Such as salt-substitutes. Anyone on hemo-dialysis will tell you that salt-substitutes will kill them. And yet for someone with a heart condition, they may really need the salt-substitutes to keep up their electrolytes, while maintaining their heart. It’s all so very, very personal.

  17. Laura H.*

    What a doozy….

    I enjoy when my coworkers bring in treats on occasion. But every week seems a bit much.

    No eating disorder, but being around a lot of food, frequently- would make me uneasy, healthy or not so healthy.

    No advice but good luck op.

  18. MuseumChick*

    My jaw is on the floor. OP, I am so sorry you have to deal with this! Allison is correct, speak with your manager and/or HR. You will probably have to share more than you would normally like to and it is possible that if you don’t have a great manager/HR you may have to push back against them a little.

    As for co-workers who try to push food on you, try this:

    Co-worker: “Here eat this.”
    You: “No thank you. But that’s very kind of you to offer!”
    Co-worker: “EAT IT!!!”
    You: *perplexed* “Again, its nice of you to offer but no thank you.”
    Co-worker: *insert shaming remarks here*
    You: *bewildered* “That’s a very strange thing to say to a co-worker.”

    Then if it continues go to HR and report it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think, though, that the issue goes beyond coworkers pushing food. The OP needs to be away from it entirely, which makes this more complicated than the “coworkers pushing food I don’t want” letters we’ve had in the past. I may put a note at the top to highlight that, in fact.

      1. MuseumChick*

        True! I missed that aspect of this. I hope the OP’s manager is half-way decent and provides some kind of accommodation.

        I worry that some of the OP’s co-workers may start making comments on her lack of participation.

      2. B*

        Thank you for noting the distinction, Alison! Before recovery, leftover conference catering in the office kitchen would trigger binging and purging for me – with no one pushing it, just the food simply being there.

        OP, this really sucks, and I hope you find a solution that works for you/that your company is on board with. I want you to know you’re not alone with this! Unfortunately, I agree with Alison that sharing some details with HR and working at home may be the only way to ensure you don’t have be to physically around the food and that no one comments on your lack of participation. Wishing you the best.

    2. Amber Rose*

      The problem isn’t refusing the people, it’s refusing the food. A compulsion to eat makes it next to impossible just to share space with food, regardless of whether people are pushing it on you.

      1. smoke tree*

        Yeah, this is kind of the equivalent of being a recovering alcoholic and having an all-day open bar at the office.

      2. soon 2be former fed*

        Yep, it’s the see food diet, I see it and eat it. Visual cues are strong with compulsive overeaters like me. I avoid buffet restaurants and always serve meals restaurant style for this reason. I use a smaller plate. OP, you can look out for yourself without raining on anybody’s parade. Work at home or move yourself during the festivities, present these as non-negotiable options. No need to comment on the event itself, although I think the name is horrible.

  19. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Oh, and semi related, but we’ve had one team food day since I started working here 5 months ago and it was a salad day. Some people brought lettuce. Some brought cut up veggies. I brought in shredded cheese. One girl brought in shredded chicken. It was super fun and relatively healthy.

    1. Sadie*

      As someone with a restrictive eating disorder this is as triggering to me as ‘Fat Friday’ as it would cause so much rumination about ‘healthy’ eating and the urge to start restricting again.

      The very problem is that people with EDs do not have the same healthy relationship with food that healthy eating or ‘guilty pleasure’ eating means to other people. My healthy is not to even engage with anything around calories or ‘healthy’ choices or the cycle starts again.

      Throw other issues likd disabilities, religious restrictions, intolerances, allergies and cultural sensitivities and anything non voluntary or dictated around food is a minefield.

      I actually had to go freelance to avoid the rock and the hard place between the salad crowd and the cookie monsters in offices or I came home in such a state emotionally it caused a huge ED relapse even if people meant well with their associations around food in the workplace.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Well, this was completely voluntary and it wasn’t touted as a “Oh hey let’s eat healthy” sort of thing. Your comment comes across as implying that people should never do anything food related at work and I think that’s an unrealistic viewpoint.

        1. Delphine*

          I don’t think Sadie’s comment implied that at all–just explained why your more positive alternative could also be difficult for people with eating disorders. It’s not just too much food or unhealthy food that can be a trigger…

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I understand your point about eating disorders, but I’d like to point out that a salad day is probably the best possible food-related work activity from an allergy perspective. It tends to include a lot of plain ingredients in separate containers so it’s incredibly easy to pick something you can eat. This also helps people with other kinds of diet restrictions. Of course if the problem is that the existence of salad “reminds” you to go on a “healthy” restricted diet, then it’s not good, and you probably can’t reason yourself out of that mindset just by remembering that salads aren’t necessarily healthier or lighter than other types of food. For other types of food problems it’s great though.

        1. Noobtastic*

          How about an “Ingredients Pot-luck” where everyone brings an ingredient, and you put it together however you like, and it probably resembles a variety of salad, but doesn’t have the “salad=healthy=moral” stuff behind it.

          People could even get together to plan that they bring ingredients that specifically go well together, such as baked potatoes, cheese, chili, and other such toppings.

          You know, I personally think that would be a whole lot of fun, held in a separate conference room, out of the way, and totally opt-in.

        2. Lexi Kate*

          From someone with an eating disorder, the Salad food day or build your own taco days are far better for me personally. On these days I feel like I have some control and can set a food limit as opposed to a free for all with 25 different dishes where it seems like the food has taken over the floor.

          Its not ideal but it is so much better than the food carnival.

  20. Bea*

    This sounds expensive along with excessive. My cheat days are reserved for date night, GTFO with telling me when, what or where I’m spending my calories. Ick.

    I hope they’re reasonable with you. As a fellow person with an ED, I’m upset on your behalf.

  21. Marlowe*

    Oh my god.

    OP, I know exactly what you’re going through — a year ago, what you describe applied 100% to me and my relationship with food. But at least I had a ton of support, and I didn’t have to through Fat Fridays at work, what the everloving hell! I am all (especially now that I am a ways ahead on the road to recovery, and my brain has been fighting off anorexic patterns for a while) for destigmatizing food and enjoying sweet stuff when you feel like it, but the combination of a) a weekly compulsory thing, b) coworkers forcing food on you, and c) the NAME, WTF–it sounds like hell. Even for people who aren’t suffering from an eating disorder! What about people who did in the past, in whom this could trigger a relapse? What about people trying to lose weight, who are themselves at risk of falling into disordered eating? What about people with dietary restrictions? What about people who just don’t like sweets much? This line of behaviour implies two very disturbing things:

    – that “obviously” everyone would want to partake in that kind of event, which means that everyone who doesn’t is effectively ostracized
    – that “enjoying sweet stuff because sometimes you want to” = “fat” — with, of course, a backwards self-deprecating stigma on the idea of fatness. OF COURSE.

    The result isn’t a couple of hours spent chatting with coworkers and eating food you actually care to eat, it’s a social imperative based on inclusion/exclusion and the pseudo-jokey stigmatization of food … even as you eat ALL OF IT. We’re in a society that thrives on overconsummation and self-flagellation as a result of it, and I am goddamn sick of it.

    /rant over. Now for something more constructive: I really hope you’re getting the help you need, OP. There are a lot of quacks out here who’ll make you believe in anything, and even doctors are notoriously unreliable when it comes to eating disorders. Personally, what has helped me until now was the proper dosage of the proper medication, a specialized therapist and doctor, and the invaluable resources and advice provided by Tabitha Farrar over on her website and in her podcast feed. She has made it her life’s work to help people suffering from eating disorders, and finding her may very well have saved my life. She comes highly recommended.

    Best of luck!! Hang on in there; I promise it’s worth it to try and get out. <3

  22. CupcakeCounter*

    We have that once a year at my work (of about 300 people) but the food is WAY far away from all work areas. It isn’t even in the normal lunch room. People will ask what you brought or if you tried their X but it is incredibly easy to not participate.
    I can’t imagine having that weekly!
    At minimum see if there is a way to have the food moved so you can avoid it at your desk. Could you say something like “For health reasons I have to maintain a very strict diet. I ended up quite sick after the last Fat Friday and even though this is a personal issue it is really hard to avoid the delicious food everyone brings in. Could we move the spread into the conference or lunch room so it isn’t so tempting?” Or substitute “Could I work from home on Friday?” if that would be better for you to not be there at all.
    This leaves the reason open and they can input whatever makes sense in their head – food intolerances, IBS, diverticulitis, etc… There are lots of reason other than eating disorder they will think of first (and if they ask for details you can just say it is personal and most people will assume gastrointestinal issues and stop prying). You could use a similar script for anyone who asks if you tried their dish or why you don’t have a plate. Its generic but accurate and will work well for *most* people.

    1. Yojo*

      Very diplomatic, I like this approach. It would also leave room for “depending on how I feel, the smell of food (even delicious food) sometimes makes me queasy, too.”

  23. LGC*

    I’m thinking – could you work with a different team on Friday if you’re not in the kind of job you can do from home? It gets you out of the office AND gives you a cover story.

    Also agreed that…while having a weekly potluck isn’t the worst thing in general, this setup is REALLY problematic, even before you get to eating disorders.

  24. Anonforthistopic*

    OP, you’re not alone. I’ve been diagnosed with Binge Eating disorder, and currently, I’m doing well! However, I have been there – both with a candy dish sitting 6 feet from my desk and with many, many mornings of donuts. Also, this week is the unofficial “cake week” here at work, which is, as you can imagine, pretty tough. Luckily, I don’t sit in close proximity with the cake – it’s in a separate room – as it’s a big trigger for me. Hang in there. I would also suggest talking to your manager if you are comfortable with that.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      Off topic from the letter and feel free to not answer if it’s too personal!

      Do you have times when the binge eating is easier to ignore/control? I personally have ZERO issue eating normally and healthily at work. Very rarely do I feel the need to partake in whatever treats (homemade or store bought) someone has brought in for no reason. However, at home…all bets are off. I want to inhale my entire food supply!

      1. Bea*

        My binging is always private. I’m reserved and scared around food publicly. I couldn’t even eat or bring food into the conversation with my partner the first year we were dating.

        I didn’t eat at school or work for years. Just drinks and shrugging off food offers from others. I was told I had such good restraint by family members at holidays because I would just pick at a salad mostly.

        But then when alone all bets were off.

        It caused me stress to see and smell and watch others eat until I had some intensive therapy. Now I can enjoy a plate at a company event at least. I still in hyper aware of others who may notice or bring up eating more or eating differently or straight up scorn because they think I’m over eating etc.

          1. Bea*

            It was miserable since junior high when I started dealing with body shaming dbags.

            But thankfully I’ve got myself through the darkness and most days are not stressful. And I can now go to fun places like Mongolian grills my partner introduced me to :)

      2. Anonforthistopic*

        Yes, absolutely! I used to eat huge amounts of carby things at home at night. I haven’t done that in a long time – years, now that I think about it. However, my eating at work and during the day has been not great until the last few months. I’m not perfect, but for me, I also think trying to be perfect about anything is a trigger. It’s definitely a complex issue, and I would venture to say could be different for many people.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          Definitely complex! I’ve not been diagnosed, but looking at my own patterns, I fall into the food addiction/binge eating categories. Easier said then done, but life in general though should always be progress over perfection :)

      3. General Ginger*

        Not Bea, but I used to really struggle with this, and now struggle considerably less (therapy, so much therapy), but there are still people I can’t eat around, at all. I never eat lunch with coworkers, only at my desk. I don’t eat around my biological family.

        When I start eating around a new friend, it means we’ve reached a pretty solid friendship stage, and I consider them “safe” in that regard. Eating around my good friends isn’t fraught with all kinds of issues, so I feel supported in the “food isn’t naughty” mindset, can safely go to brunch with them, be surrounded by their plates of pancakes, order and eat my own food and feel insulated by their presence (in terms of tuning out everyone else, or even feeling discomfort about ordering food in the first place).

        When I’m around my biological family, especially my mother (who has greatly contributed to my ED), I still have a lot of trouble controlling it. One comment from her sometimes reduces me to bingeing in the car later.

          1. General Ginger*

            Unfortunately, she knows.

            To my mother, fat is the worst thing a person can be, especially a woman (I’m a trans man, but that’s a whole another can of worms). I don’t want to share stuff from my teenage years, because it’s harder, but let me give two examples from when I was already an adult; I have more emotional backbone to deal with those.

            Content/trigger warning for fat shaming, emotional abuse, serious boundary crossing:

            My mother once suggested I should secretly put ground up weight loss pills into my now-ex’s food. I was supposed to take the same pills openly; she’d bought and sent them to me, and then called to confirm receipt, and make the suggestion.

            When I was later struggling with whether to split from the same ex, she said I ought to lose weight first, as there was no point in splitting from a loving partner when nobody else would be interested in fat me.

  25. Goya de la Mancha*

    I agree with everything Allison said. And if all else fails, I would start scheduling ALL my appointments on Fridays.

    1. Squeeble*

      That got me thinking–I don’t know if it would make sense for whatever OP’s job is, but if the office won’t give them any accommodations, maybe a standing meeting around lunchtime on Fridays, especially something that can be scheduled outside of the office, would help.

  26. TootsNYC*

    I don’t know if you have to go the eating-disorder route.

    Frankly, pushing food on anyone is very rude, and many, many people find it easier to just never indulge when they’re trying to control their diet.
    So you could make that point, and then get righteously angry and a little sharp about it when people bring it up to you. Be pleasant about every other thing, and more than a little outraged about this, and they’ll get used to it.

    HOWEVER: you say you have trouble even being in the room, so that’s probably not going to be enough.

    Good luck to you!

  27. Mouse Princess*

    OP, as another adult struggling with a lifelong eating disorder, I am so sorry that this is happening in your workplace. I cannot imagine a bigger nightmare. The fact that you are coping with it and looking for a way to get through this is a huge testament to your will to live a satisfying and life, and for that, you should be proud of yourself. Alison’s advice is great and as difficult as it will be to have that conversation, just remember that you are doing it to help your recovery and that is the most important thing.

  28. From the High Tower on the Hill*

    My current problem is that my boss, that usually hates me, keeps bringing me a cinnamon sugar bagel ever Monday with about an inch thick cream cheese. I have been dieting in advance of my sister’s wedding and that bagel literally is an entire day’s worth of calories. I don’t want to make her mad since we have been on good terms recently, but I really don’t want a calorie-bomb first thing Monday morning.

    1. Icontroltherobots*

      This is pure evil – especially if she knows you are dieting for something special. Sounds like some passive aggressive B/S.

      I avoid pretty much all food with my “dairy allergy” – I recommend developing something similar

    2. Camellia*

      Hmm, does she know you are dieting in preparation for the wedding? Those who don’t have our best interests at heart can find a lot of ways to sabotage us. Maybe this is another way to express ‘hate’ for you while at the same time being nice about it so that you can’t or don’t want to protest about it and risk rocking the boat.

      1. From the High Tower on the Hill*

        She knows that my sister’s wedding is coming up since I have talked about it with her a few times, she used to be a wedding planner so I asked for her thoughts on a few things. She might not know that I am dieting in advance of the wedding, besides it is in less than two weeks so I can’t use that as a reason for dieting for much longer.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Is there some reason you think she’ll be mad at you for declining it? Seems like next time you really should just say, “Thanks so much for getting me these! Sadly, should be the last one since I’m dieting for my sister’s wedding and can’t keep eating them.” (And then you don’t need to eat that one either; that’s just softening the message.)

      (Also, I have a very similar letter sitting in my queue right now. Maybe it’s yours!)

      1. From the High Tower on the Hill*

        It is actually! She is usually set off by small actions, like saying I couldn’t get lunch one day because I had plans with my sister or saying I needed to “stay in my lane” when I suggested a new idea at work. She is usually very cruel and mean to me at work so I just don’t want to risk going back into that cycle by declining what seems like an offer of good will (although it is pretty much inevitable that she gets mad at me again). We have an open office and our desks are right next to one another so I don’t think just not eating it would work.

        1. irene adler*

          Can you pack the bagel into a bag and bring it home? Then toss.

          I have some food sensitivities. Have to avoid wheat. I’ve mentioned to some that I have issues with wheat. They just give me a confused look “never heard of that before”. I know folks want to be kind and share, but I truly cannot eat the baked goods presented to me. So I thank the giver, and just take the food item home “for later.” Then toss. A shame to waste food, but I’m not going to make myself sick.

    4. MuseumChick*

      Could you try blaming a “medical issue”? Like, on a Friday say something like “Hey Jane, I wanted to give you a heads up. My doctor wants to me make some changes to my diet, very sadly, I won’t be able to eat those delicious cinnamon bagel you get.”

      1. Reba*

        Watching your cholesterol!

        Of course, I then worry that she will see you eating a dairy food of your choice and pounce on that…

        1. From the High Tower on the Hill*

          I am actually lactose intolerant, but I live in the dairy state so I refuse to take it seriously. Cheese is just too good and too prevalent to avoid.

    5. PromotionalKittenBasket*

      That sucks. Can you counter with a cheerful “Thanks, I already had breakfast today so I’ll offer it to someone else!”? Preferably in front of witnesses?

  29. MechanicalPencil*

    I have chronic migraines, so smells can be triggering, and I also have to watch my diet. Certain foods can trigger a migraine, and I have to watch for some super random things also. Interrogating people about what exactly they put into their food gets annoying (“did you buy sausage without nitrates/nitrates? what about any aged cheese?”) Also, I’m weird about buffets in general. So I tend to bow out quick and just use a blanket “it’s my health, and I really don’t like to smell all the food I can’t have but you guys enjoy” and work elsewhere.

    1. Frea*

      I think we have the same triggers! I can’t ask after every ingredient of every dish, which is why I bring in my own entry for our crockpot cook offs (the table for which sits right outside my cubicle). No way I’m gonna win, but this way I’m guaranteed to have at least one safe dish to eat when everything smells amazing.

      Adding an eating disorder on top of that?? OP, you have my greatest sympathy. I hope you’re able to get the distance you need.

  30. Annie Moose*

    LW mentioned she’s had helpful therapy. If you’re still seeing a therapist, then this might be a topic to bring up explicitly with them, to see if they have further advice or can help coach you through how to talk about it or other ways you can help yourself cope? Especially when it comes to some issues that might not be totally resolved by working from another room, like coworkers talking to you about the food, bringing you food, or even just the smell of food. I’m not hugely familiar with how food compulsion works, but in a lot of situations, roleplaying and planning responses to specific interactions could help you until a more permanent solution is in place.

    1. TootsNYC*

      also–if you end up wanting to talk w/ HR or someone about this, your therapist could write a letter for you explaining that this accommodation would be helpful for your health; it’s probably not quite ADA (ADA has some restrictions, if I’m understanding it right), but it would be ammunition, since most people will give a lot of respect to requests/directives from a health professional.

      And your therapist doesn’t have to be specific about the diagnosis, etc.

      1. Texan at Heart*

        Agree! And if you’re far enough in your treatment that you’re not seeing someone regularly, this sounds like a good time to check in.

        Also: As a fellow person who is recovered from an ED, you should get an award for how incredibly well you’re handling this!! You felt powerless and reached out for help (and Alison’s advice seems right on to me). You’ve continued working there. You’re naming what’s happening and dealing with it. And you walked in and participated! Damn!! That’s a lot of strength.

  31. Observer*

    I know that the core issue is not the pushing of food on you, but that may be something you want to highlight, because it could help you make your case without sharing too much information.

    Something like “I have some diet related health issues that mean I really can’t participate in this. When the food is all here, and people are pushing me to eat it makes it all very difficult for me. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day, so could I just work from home that day?”

    If work from home really isn’t practical, you could ask to be moved to a different office for the day, and that people be told that you do not want them offering you food. It’s going to be a LOT easier for people to remember that you don’t want the food / forget that you didn’t get any when you aren’t sitting right there in front of their faces. And this way, you’re not sitting with all the delicious food sitting in your face, and people aren’t reminding you of it every other minute.

  32. IBD*

    Not the same situation, but I have IBD and I’m not supposed to eat food that was prepared in unknown conditions or that’s been left sitting out, there are a few ingredients I never eat because their could cause a flare, and I only eat bland foods when I’m actually having a flare. Having to participate in a weekly potluck would be a nightmare for me–I wouldn’t want to eat anything my coworkers brought in.

    I’m surprised anyone would think “Fat Friday” would be a good idea with so many people trying to lose weight, trying to eat healthy, or dealing with various health issues. Everyone should be responsible for feeding themselves and that’s it.

    Workplaces have such weird food ideas. My last employer was big on programs encouraging us to “eat 5 a day” (five servings of fruits or vegetables) and to “eat the rainbow” (eat fruits and vegetables of various colors), but when they gave us free food it was always junk food (pizza, donuts, etc.) and they’d really push leftovers on us when it all didn’t get eaten.

  33. CM*

    I’m curious about the advice that the OP could go directly to HR and then have HR help her talk to the manager. Is that a normal thing? Would the manager take it as going over her head? I always thought of going to HR as escalating the issue if your manager won’t deal with it appropriately.

  34. MommyMD*

    Can you just tell them you must opt out for health reasons? If you don’t contribute and let coworkers know you aren’t bringing anything, it may be much easier to refrain because you didn’t contribute and therefore aren’t entitled to participate.

    1. Annie Moose*

      As Alison said in her comment at the very top, this is not a “get my coworkers to stop pushing food on me” letter, and it isn’t a “how do I get out of participating” letter either. This is a situation where LW needs to not be around the food at all, regardless of whether or not she’s being pressured to participate.

      1. MommyMD*

        Maybe she can stay in her office when they have their potluck if she has a door or one is available.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Offices are great, aren’t they? Too bad the vast. majority of American workers work in “offices,” but are actually in cubicles.

          At my old job, you had to be manager level or above to even *hope* to get an office.

          1. Noobtastic*

            Early in my career, I had an office. It was a small law firm, that had converted a house, so the boss had the master bedroom with the en suite bathroom, I had one of the bedrooms (the one where the boss had his listening equipment – yes, he had the entire building bugged), and the other attorney had the other bedroom. The secretary had the living room, the receptionist had the foyer next to the copy room/closet.

            I sure miss that office, even if I couldn’t make any noise I never wanted the boss to hear. I could still close the door.

            It was the only office I ever had in my entire career.

        2. Annie Moose*

          LW says in the letter that the food is laid out in the room they work in, which implies she does not have an individual office.

        3. Pomona Sprout*

          The letter explicitly states: “The food is all laid out in the office, IN THE ROOM WE WORK IN [caps mine].” So no.

  35. Cedarthea*

    I am not in treatment for ED but I understand not being able to control yourself around food.

    If all else fails (and you can’t get away from the food), I’ve found that having my knitting with me helps keep my fingers (and brain) engaged which means that I’m less likely to overeat and make myself unhappy.

    I think the best bet is what Alison suggested, but if nothing else bringing in work or a hobby that will keep you engaged with that, rather than food, may be successful.

  36. anonymous for many reasons*

    This is really heartbreaking. As someone who has also dealt with an eating disorder/food issues for the majority of my life – I completely understand the pain you are facing. To be honest – if faced in your situation I would do the exact same thing. Stress over the unlimited food right in front of me, then punish myself mercilessly if I actually gave in. And I say this having spent years to get to a more healthy place. If I was in this work environment 10 years ago… well I do not want to contemplate that. As horrible as this is to suggest – I think the only course of action is to “out” yourself in some way. I tend to couch all my food issues as old and from a different time – even if I continue to face issues today. I likely would go the route of owning up to my childhood disorders while not bringing up how I still struggle today. Something like: “Honestly it is quite hard to be in such close proximity to this much food – you may not know this but I struggled with a lot of eating issues when I was younger/teenager. And while I strive to be healthy today – being around the food every week triggers a lot of uncomfortable memories from those years, years that I have spent many years working past” But this is not an easy thing to say – and I understand if you are not at that point in your own journey. Ideally a sensitive boss/HR will understand and help accommodate you. If not – my only suggestion is to try to stay out of the room when this happens – maybe time your lunches to match when the food is out? I wish you the best and it really hurts me to know your co-workers are putting you in this situation. I really dislike when food becomes of work culture myself – because so many of us struggle with food everyday and have trained ourselves for years to keep it secret.

  37. animaniactoo*

    LW, I’d like to give you a gift for those who keep pushing after you’ve said no: “I don’t understand why this is so important to you. No one has more right to care what goes in my mouth than I do.” To be said with a look/tone of mild befuddlement.

  38. Tobias Funke*

    I don’t have an eating disorder, but I am a big ugly scary fat person and I hate this. Yes, let’s have a weekly event where people… pretend to act like they think I act all the time?!? No.

    1. Grapey*

      I took it to be a play on words on mardi gras (Fat Tuesday).

      (Which of course does come from the tradition of eating fatty, rich foods ONCE A YEAR before Lent, NOT meant to be every friday!)

  39. Ron McDon*

    I have an eating disorder – specifically binge eating.

    The only way I have managed to maintain my weight at a lower level after losing three stones last year, is to be extremely strict M-F but allow myself to have some unhealthy foods at the weekend. Because I only buy small amounts of unhealthy food, once a week, it isn’t around at other times and it’s therefore easier for me to avoid it.

    The past few weeks i’ve been feeling very down – job pressures, relationship issues, ageing parents, a whole load of stuff – and have definitely reverted to my old binge eating ways during the week. Couple that with not exercising because I’ve been feeling unwell and it’s not good!

    All this is to say that if I were feeling fragile and worried, I would not be able to keep myself from bingeing on extremely calorific/high fat food, because that is part of the disorder – you literally cannot control yourself.

    Just wanted to put this out there because a couple of people wrote scripts as to what OP should say if people pushed food on her, but it isn’t needing scripts – it is needing to be away from the food entirely.

    I am so sympathetic OP, we sometimes have these sorts of events where I work -luckily only a few times a year – but I find it impossible to resist and often end up eating food I normally would avoid like the plague.

    If you can work from home each Friday then do, and consider sharing the broad strokes of your condition with your boss, as she is best placed to help you avoid these events.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Sorry, I was one of those people – I understand it goes beyond that but didn’t have much to offer beyond that outside of what Alison had already advised. I should have made that clear. I wish you and OP all the best, and ty for sharing to highlight how deep it goes.

    2. RaccoonLady*

      Yes- or if I’m already hungry and I see the big spread, it’s hard to stop myself from eating something because it looks good and I’m hungry (even without the pushing), and then I spend the rest of the day feeling guilty about it. It’s much better just to be away from everything.

  40. mark132*

    OP, are there any like minded coworkers in your office? Maybe you can work together to get some changes to help you and them. For instance maybe restrict the food to a single conference room?

    I do think Alison has a point about sharing with your coworkers. I have a daughter and brother who suffer from eating disorders. And I think you will find a lot of your coworkers are similar. I would be sympathetic and openly advocate for someone in this situation.

  41. anonorexic & bulimic doesn't lend itself as well to puns*

    This is Terrible. OP, I’m so sorry, it sucks to be in this position, especially when you want to be making good first impressions. I’ve struggled with eating disorders for what is now more than half of my life, and I feel you – I wouldn’t want to disclose, at all. That said, Alison and others’ advice about seeking accommodation is probably 100% right.

    I will give you some bare-knuckle survival advice for the meantime, if any of it helps:

    *I have a thing I say, when I have to: “I HAD an eating disorder for many years.” This is a lie – I still do have an eating disorder, but it allows me to communicate “this food thing is a serious problem for me and I have a real reason to say no,” while distancing the problem from my present self.

    *For me, deciding I will never eat anything at those Fat Friday events would be easier than trying to engage a little bit. I don’t know if that’s helpful for you, but for me, putting the decision-making completely off the table can make it less of a struggle.

    *You and your health are more important than this job. Find another one if you have to. Your life is all you have, so hang on tight to it.

    1. TootsNYC*

      *For me, deciding I will never eat anything at those Fat Friday events would be easier than trying to engage a little bit. I don’t know if that’s helpful for you, but for me, putting the decision-making completely off the table can make it less of a struggle.

      caveat: I have no clue about true eating disorders, so forgive me if I’m too simplistic here.

      Would it help you if you had an ally for those days? Some friend int he office you recruit to help you “enforce the rule” about “OP can’t eat anything” and would help run interference as well?
      Because sometimes it’s a useful crutch to have an external person’s strength or accountability to lean on.

      I have sometimes, when bringing in treats, been told, “Oh, I need to lose weight,” and then I say, semijokingly “You aren’t allowed to have any of these cookies, then. They’re not for you. Does that help?”

      1. sometimeswhy*

        It’s possible that it’s very much a ymmv thing but that strategy would send me into a very bad, no good, awful place further down the road. Like, please don’t help me reinforce that mindset, especially if it’s an immediately helpful thing. Those aren’t two ideas that easily exist simultaneously in my head.

        OP – I’m so sorry. I got nothin’ but sympathy.

      2. Amber Rose*

        I think that might work for some people, but it would fail horribly with me. When people tell me I *can’t* have a food, like a donut or a cookie, I almost immediately become angry and rebellious. If I’m choosing to suffer, that’s on me. If you choose for me, you become my tormentor and all of my frustrations redirect themselves at you.

        I like to think that sort of thing doesn’t show itself on my face, because I know it’s irrational so I suppress it. But after a rough exhausting day, I once absolutely started a fight with my husband because he told me I couldn’t eat an entire bag of marshmallows.

      3. anonorexic & bulimic doesn't lend itself as well to puns*

        Yeah, I meant that as an internal thing, it’s one of the strategies I would adopt in the OP’s situation.

        To explain a bit, because I think I was a bit opaque, for me it’s not about willpower but about being overwhelmed by decision-making. For me it’s really hard to be in a situation where I’m trying to decide on the fly whether I’m “allowed” to eat this or that, and how much, and so on, and the mental and emotional weight of all that piling up will make me feel crazy.

        So, if I were going to be around all that, I would decided that the Friday food was not for me, I would bring my own lunch or plan to go out those days so as not to be tempted by the lure of “but it’s free!”, and just never participate, because that would be a lot easier than selectively participating. YMMV, though, and that might be m0re of a me-strategy than an eating disorder-recovery strategy.

  42. Cat Fan*

    Am I safe in assuming that this company does not have a wellness initiative? Because it certainly goes against that!

  43. JustaTech*

    OP, thank you for writing in to ask about this. I hope that you can use Alison’s advice, and that your coworkers are respectful about your needs. And really, I hope that by you writing in and asking about this, someone will read this post, see their own office and say “Hey, this might be harmful to my colleagues. How can I be kind to everyone, people who love food and people who struggle with food for any reason?”

    Good luck!

  44. Lucille2*

    OP, no advice from me, only my sympathies. I had a roommate who struggled with an eating disorder. At the time we lived together, she had it under control, but I realized it was a battle she constantly fought not something she was cured of. It was eye opening. I hope you have an understanding manager who will accommodate a solution that works for you. Personally, I hate the office food events. It’s so hard to politely decline even in the best of circumstances. Honestly, I just don’t take part in these types of things, and this gives me one more reason to believe they are a bad idea.

    It sounds like your coworkers are just looking for a casual bonding event for Fridays. Perhaps you can suggest some alternatives that don’t revolve around food? Is it an all day thing, or can you take a walk or a break away from the office during the Fat Friday event?

  45. Marty*

    I’m willing to bet that there are other people in the office who it rather ridiculous to expect such a thing EVERY Friday, for goodness sake. I can’t help but wonder if there are 1-2 people in the office who are food/”team”-obsessed and everyone is just along for the ride because they don’t want to speak up.

    I love food and cooking, I cannot imagine rolling into work every Friday, looking forward to the weekend, with the expectation of contributing to some sort of potluck. Regardless of their personal reason OP, I think you may actually find some support amongst your co-workers to stop this.

    1. Nita*

      I was just about to say the same thing! To me the whole thing seems pretty unusual – the expectation to have everyone cook for coworkers weekly (and on a weekday), the name (could be a play on Fat Tuesday, but it’s hard to miss it does not sound good). I’m also wondering if the idea comes from just a few coworkers. Maybe the best thing is to figure out who’s the source of this tradition, and talk to them directly about some way to make this easier for OP. If there are others who want to push back for other reasons, such as trying to lose weight or finding the cooking burdensome, they can speak as a group.

  46. Some Sort of Management consultant*

    First: LW, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Please be gentle with yourself. I hope your colleagues stop questioning your food choices and good luck with your recovery!

    Second: JEEPERS CREEPERS what a fatphobic name for a weekly potluck. It’s bad on so many levels it’s almost staggering. Reading it makes my teeth clench.

  47. Imaginary Number*

    If OP is uncomfortable explaining that it’s specifically an eating disorder, could they simply say that they have dietary requirements (without saying what they are) and that an office-wide potluck is a minefield? I think most people would understand that being in a room full of food you can’t eat (or don’t want to risk eating) is horrible enough.

  48. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    If the conversation with your manager is overwhelming, or if she doesn’t seem like she’ll be totally reasonable about it, is there a coworker whom you think is particularly emotionally intelligent or with whom you’re close? I once had a coworker approach me about her “friend” who was hypothetically dealing with an issue that triggered some severe emotional trauma for said “friend”, and wanted some insight and an ally to talk it through. I was then able to bring it up to management as a general rather than the coworker having to lay out her personal and traumatic history.

    (In that case, management didn’t handle it properly, unfortunately, but there were other political issues at play. Even so, it might be a way to get what you need without having to bare your soul, so to speak.)

    1. Noobtastic*

      As an admin, I was frequently called upon to bring up the hypotheticals to the upper-ups. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, they are jerks and if it’s “only hypothetical, then we don’t have to worry about it,” and I was not at liberty to make specific claims, especially because with SOME people, if I said, “It’s not actually a hypothetical. It’s a specific person, who wants to remain anonymous,” they would claim it’s not really real unless anonymous stepped forward and outed themselves. UGH.

      In short, in a functional office-place, this works. But just one bad manager/executive can spoil it for everyone, and hypotheticals go right out the window.

  49. Anon 1*

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I don’t have advice but just know that you are NOT ALONE. Sugar addiction (yes, it’s a thing) runs in my family and I have it too. Basically my brain reacts to sugar like it’s crack. I know the shame. It’s incredibly difficult for me to refuse sweet treats, and as such I don’t keep them in the house and when people bring them into the office I have to physically remove myself from the area they’re in or I’ll scoff the lot. Strict mental discipline and a carefully regulated diet keep it under control, but I cannot imagine having to sit in a room full of sugary foods every single week. I would probably cry too. I go to work to do my job, not to practice extreme self control over what is essentially an addiction. It’s considered rude to invite recovering alcoholics to a bar, or offering a cigarette to someone trying to quit smoking, but people think nothing at all of shoving food at those with (or recovering from) eating disorders or food addictions.

  50. Melody is a pretty bird*

    LW: All the jedi hugs to you. Please take care of yourself and I hope you find care and kindness from your company as you work to resolve this situation.

  51. It's me*

    Wow, Fat Friday is truly an awful idea, even for folks who don’t have eating disorders. We’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic, and the last thing anyone needs is a weekly high fat/high sugar feast. I’m sure OP has some coworkers who don’t like the weekly feasts; maybe they could push back together?

  52. WorkLady*

    My instant reaction was “Work from home on Fridays.” I really hope that’s an option for you. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It sounds like you’re making great progress and it’s so smart to recognize this as a bad thing for you to be around.
    My company/team is very accepting of remote work, so I am biased. But if one of my team came to me and asked to work from home one day a week I wouldn’t blink, and wouldn’t think of asking “Why Fridays?” But if they did mention, even tangentially, needing to be away from this event, I would be 100% supportive. I hope your boss is the same way.

  53. queequeg in his coffin*

    I’m not a lawyer, so there might be something to this that isn’t occurring to me — but is there some reason OP can’t ask for an ADA accommodation here? I’m not saying it should be the first step they take, but since they’re already in consultation with their medical professional it seems like it wouldn’t be to difficult to accomplish.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m also not a lawyer, but I feel like “tell people they aren’t allowed to have food in the office” wouldn’t fall under the ADA accommodation standards.

        1. queequeg in his coffin*

          That’s more what I had in mind. I was just thinking that a lot of jobs, even if they allow telecommuting, might have problems with someone asking to work from home EVERY Friday, since that seems like the sort of thing a lazy slacker would ask to do. I was just wondering if, if the employer pushes back, that would be a reasonable option.

          (I also think that telecommuting or using a different room combined with less frequent Fat Fridays — say every other week — would be a reasonable compromise under ADA standards, but again, IANAL so what do I know?)

  54. Professor Ma'am*

    The real issue here (as already noted) is this is related to a medical condition. If it were DOG DAY and someone was severely allergic to dogs you would expect that person could either a) work in a dog-free space or b) work from home AND that her colleagues wouldn’t come barging into the dog-free zone with their dogs, insisting she pet them.

    I’d be curious if this touches on official ADA accommodations?

  55. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

    OP, as a manager I hope my team would feel comfortable coming to talk to me about alternate work arrangements. I would want to do something to help which is either approving a remote work situation, or if that wasn’t possible, confining the food to a conference room/break room so it’s not around all day. I hope your boss is able to find a solution for you.

  56. HannahS*

    I think Alison’s advice is bang-on, OP! I hope it works out for you, whether you involve HR or not. If you’re manager is a reasonable person, it’s also ok to say something like, “I’m not sure if this is a conversation that should involve HR, but I’m having difficulty with Fat Friday..etc.” It kind of covertly primes your boss with the message that this is a Serious Thing, not just a dietary preference.

    You didn’t ask, but I get the feeling that you might be uncomfortable with others noticing your absence and commenting on it or asking you about it. First, you’re doing the right thing by taking care of your health. Second, it’s none of their business why you’re not there. They might feel it is, but it’s not. You don’t have to tell them anything. You can say, “I’ve discussed it with [manager] and I won’t be around on Fridays anymore” and when they ask why you can smile pleasantly and say, “It’s personal and I’d rather not say, but please don’t worry about me! Everything is under control.” Act normal. If you act normal about your absence, other people are likely to take that cue from you. I knew someone who regularly missed work to accompany his father to chemotherapy, and told no one but his boss why he was absent, and it was fine.

    If you WANT to, you can say, “I had an eating disorder in the past and being around that much food and pressure is unhealthy for me” and repeat “Regardless, I won’t be around on Fridays anymore” calmly and pleasantly in response to every plea for your presence and suggestion of how they can make Fat Friday work for you. You’re doing the right thing by taking care of yourself!

    1. wherewolf*

      +1 If I were your coworker, OP, and I found out that these potlucks were causing you to leave the office, I’d start to feel differently about the potluck.

  57. Jake*

    Unless your manager has proven to be unreasonable, please start with her before going directly to hr.

    A good manager will figure something out here.

  58. Where’s my coffee?*

    I’m an old grump who wishes offices could avoid all cakes/fun/celebrations, etc. I actually have great camaraderie with my team, I just think treat days and such are annoying. I also hate any team building that requires me to touch people or hear about their inner demons.

  59. Narya*

    OP, I feel your pain, as I know all too well myself. But, whatever your solution, I’m willing to bet it will only need to be temporary. This potluck crap literally died a slow, but eventual, death here in my own office. And ours was just once a month! A weekly ordeal, people are going to get sick of really fast. Having to shop, cook/bake, and take the time to do this weekly, AND come up with different recipes… they’re going to start opting out, or going out for lunch (unless you live and/or work where this isn’t an option), but it’s not only that. They WILL get sick of being expected to do it & the pressure around it. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, these kinds of things were just never sustainable, even on a monthly basis. Which is why most places just save potlucks for holidays or special occasions.

  60. Micromanagered*

    OP, I wonder if asking to put the food in one location (like a conference room or kitchen) could be an alternative? (Particularly if working from home isn’t an option.)

    Also I really hope you take to heart what others are saying about the numerous reasons this “Fat Friday” is a pretty weird/problematic practice on its face. That’s not to minimize your struggle, but hopefully it gives you some confidence and validation around your discomfort with it. Taking issue with this is not you “ruining their fun.” Many of your coworkers might even be relieved to see this practice reined in a bit. (Like changing the really rude name of this “event”, for starters!)

  61. Potluck Grinch*

    While I don’t have an eating disorder I do absolutely loathe potlucks. There are a few people within the larger group I work with that organize them all the time. I don’t feel like I can skip out without seeming like I’m a Grinch for not wanting to celebrate the milestones that generally accompany these events. I rarely eat the food, particularly, after a case of mile food poisoning I endured after consuming a heated dish last year, and with other dietary restrictions I now just pick at fruit if it’s available. When the potluck spreadsheet goes around I’m usually late to receive it so the coveted drinks, plates, napkins and utensils have already been snapped up and I feel compelled to bring something to an awkward meal in a conference room where there are never enough chairs. I know I’m not the only one in my group that feels the same way I do, so OP, I’m guessing there are at least a few other people that are begrudgingly participating where you work but wouldn’t mind if this went away. The weekly aspect is going to be grating on more than a few of your coworkers, because once it went from an occasional thing to a weekly expectation it became a chore; albeit one that some will welcome, but definitely not all.

  62. KimberlyR*

    OP, in addition to your own accomodation, do you feel comfortable addressing the attitude around it? As with most things, it likely started as a spontaneous, completely voluntary event that everyone loved. But now its so often and so less optional than before (optional on paper but you’re asked why you aren’t participating, so not truly that optional.) Maybe they can keep having it but lose some of the insistence and get back to the super casual vibe of “bring food if you want to participate but its totally cool if you can’t/don’t with no pressure.”

    It could be that they had people that never brought food but always ate so they changed to the assumption that everyone will bring food so that everyone can eat. They can change it to Pay to Play-you can only eat if you bring food. But those who don’t want to participate can not bring AND not eat.

  63. Noobtastic*

    OMG, as a former admin, this just terrifies me! “Fat Friday” as a practically mandatory (we’re all told to participate and frowned on if we don’t) is bad enough, but some jobs make it IMPOSSIBLE to work anywhere else than your very own desk in a VERY public and busy place.

    Anyone can have an Eating Disorder, and they are more and more common, as our culture is pushing the terror of being fat, to an extreme, to the point that many people are literally choosing “better dead than fat.” In my mind, just saying the words “Eating Disorder” ought to be magic words that would instantly put a stop to this. No details required. Especially not “I had one, in the past,” because too many uninformed people believe that means “You’re cured!” Newsflash: Eating Disorders are just like alcoholism and drug addiction. You are NEVER cured. You are in recovery, or in the throes, but never, ever cured.

    Having treats is all well and good. Having weekly treats is fine. Put them in the break room!

    Also, who the Holy HECK in a Handbasket came up with the name “Fat Friday”? I just can’t even with that. And I am among the fat-activist types who want to reclaim the word, and make it no longer considered pejorative, but simply a descriptor. People! We do not need to have alliteration at all times! You could have the very same (horrible) thing going on, and just call it “Treat Friday” without adding in the terror of getting fat that OP suffers. She’d still have the whole dealing-with-food issue, but you’ve literally just bumped it up a notch with the very title!

    Food belongs in the break room. Whether it’s a basic lunch or treats. If it’s special, maybe in the conference room. But for goodness, sake, don’t put out a schmorgazbord in the bull pen!

    I’m shaking my head so much, my brains are rattling.

  64. Sara without an H*

    And now let me put on my Manger’s Hat (which look suspiciously like a traditional witch’s hat):


    1. Cardamom*

      I am thinking the same thing. Between helping to set up, hanging out and eating and socializing, being distracted by the general hubbub when I do try to get some work done, helping to clean up, deal with leftovers, my day is not too productive. That’s ok when we only have these things 1-2 times a year. But one day every week. That would not be cool.

      My sympathies to the OP. That is a tough situation.

      1. Interviewer*

        I’m also thinking the mega-calorie bomb would make everyone sluggish and non-productive, too.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        I used to work at a place where they did potlucks often… but definitely not every week! It gets old. I’m willing to bet others find it getting to be too much as well in that office.

  65. Phony Genius*

    Does anybody know if a diagnosed eating disorder falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act? It could matter in this situation.

    1. Natalie*

      There isn’t really a yes or no answer. The ADA doesn’t list specific conditions. Rather, a disability is defined as a physical or mental condition that “substantially limits one or more major life activities” of the specific affected person. So it would depend on what the person’s symptoms are.

      Although, if the accommodation isn’t difficult to provide, it’s certainly going to be safer to just provide that.

  66. soon 2be former fed*

    Food as a social linchpin is never going to change. Those of us with eating disorders, such as my compulsive overeating, must develop an overall strategy for caring for ourselves without missing out on significant parts of life. Sometimes we may need to reveal a bit more than we are comfortable with, sometimes we must take the social hit and skip the event, sometimes we white knuckle through it (like with grandma at Christmas). Those who do not have our conditions may not understand why being around food is not effortless for us, but don’t necessarily mean us harm. OP, never feel badly about caring for yourself, educate when you can, but don’t hesitate to do what you need to do to stay on tract. That said, enjoying food and eating is a very human thing and we deserve this also, withing whatever parameters we set for ourselves. Best wishes to you OP, let us know how it turns out.

  67. Original OP*

    Hi everyone, letter writer here!
    I’m blown away by how many comments this has received in a short space of time and how kind everyone has been. It genuinely surprised me how many of you understand what I’m going through, even if you don’t have an eating disorder.
    It’s a relief to know that my discomfort around FF isn’t solely because of my weird brain’s way of coping with food – that it might make other people uncomfortable too. That gives me some comfort that if I bring up this issue, it might not be totally disregarded!
    And a big thanks to Alison for her advice and encouragement. I will work up the courage to speak to my manager. He seems very nice and he’s good at scheduling regular one-on-ones to check up on things (both work-wise and more generally). I think part of me was hoping to dodge the issue entirely, but Alison (and all you lovely commenters) are right that nothing can improve unless I open up.
    Once again, thank you so much for being kind!

    1. cleo*

      There are absolutely a lot of reasons why someone wouldn’t want to participate in FF or want to be around so much food. Good luck with talking with your manager! (and send in an update)

    2. Amber Rose*

      I hear ya on hoping to dodge the issue, but I think you’re going to find it’ll feel a lot better to just get it out there.

      You can do it! We’re cheering for you.

    3. Shelly574*

      Good luck OP! Eating disorders are more common than you may think. Several of my coworkers are in various stages of recovery. As someone with my own mental illness, I know it can be scary to open up, but I hope you will have the courage to see what happens if you do. You may find that more of your colleagues are understanding than you think. I hope this can be resolved in a satisfying manner for you and please let us know how it all works you. I’m rooting for you!

    4. anonacademic*

      Hi OP, I am also recovering from an eating disorder (and have had panic attacks in grocery stores, too!) and your office’s food culture would absolutely make me cry on the regular. Nothing about this seems fair to me; I agree that outing yourself in some way is the right way to approach this, since clearly no one in your office has any idea that this crazy tradition could possibly be harmful, but confronting an eating disorder and getting the treatment you need already requires so much bravery. Wishing you peace, confidence, and strength <3

    5. Noobtastic*

      Cheers to you, OP! Whether you decide to come out about your ED, or not, I hope you do manage to find a permanent solution to this. Best of all worlds – a permanent solution for everyone who may ever work there, while still including a reasonable amount of morale-boosting fun. Not-so-best, but still jolly good – a permanent solution just for YOU. Because You Do Deserve It!

      I wish you very well, both at this job, and in the rest of your life.

      1. Noobtastic*

        Oh, and I said up-thread that you had an opportunity, here, to help a bunch of people, but please remember, “opportunity” does not equal “moral imperative.” You do what you can do and what works for you. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and this may not be your battle to fight.

    6. anonorexic & bulimic doesn't lend itself as well to puns*

      All the best to you, OP, I’m glad you wrote in.

      1. Lady Whackamole*

        The whole thing is so problematic. If they wouldn’t have something called “Binge & Purge Thursday” they shouldn’t have “Fat Friday.”

        I hope they (1) provide a suitable accommodation for OP, and (2) rename the dang thing. Seriously.

    7. Close Bracket*

      “that it might make other people uncomfortable too.”

      I thought it was horribly, offensively named. You are definitely not alone on this one. I wish you the best on speaking with your manager and in your continued management of your eating disorder.

  68. cleo*

    I agree with Allison’s recommendations. And ugh. This sounds hard but it’s absolutely a solvable problem. Good luck LW.

    I also wonder eventually working to change the work culture away from FF and suggesting alternate fun / community building activities instead or even helping organizing them. This may be way more than the LW wants to take on right now (and shouldn’t be something they need to do to get what they need). But if they’re a planner type, I might try asking someone (a manager or co-worker who’s been there a long time) about the goal / history of Fat Friday. It could be something like, “wow, I’ve never worked anywhere that does anything like this, how did it start? Why do you guys do this?’ And then go from there, coming up with other things that might serve the same purpose without all the food.

  69. Mimi Me*

    I once worked for a company who did big food celebrations several times a year. One of the men in our department had severe food allergies that could be triggered by scent as well as touch / ingestion. He was always given the go ahead to work from home or in another part of the building for several days. I agree that the LW needs to divulge a little info in order to get what she needs from her workplace. I think Allison’s advice is pretty spot on here.

  70. Prison Mike*

    Wow having a weekly ff is a bad idea for many reasons. I probably have an eating disorder as well and am currently losing weight. I work mostly remotely so I can choose to just have healthy low calorie food around the house. I’ll have the challenge of being in the office more as I’ll be changing job titles. Being in the office means donuts, random treats, and company lunches which I’ll have to deal with. I don’t have any better advice then what Allison has prescribed, but wanted to add my support for you!

  71. Evan G Grantham-Brown*

    It might be worth checking to see how other people in the office feel about these events. There could well be other folks–with or without eating disorders–who would prefer not to spend their Fridays surrounded by food. That could make it easier to make your case for a “no FF zone.”

    If I worked in your office, I’d certainly back you up on this.

  72. WakeRed*

    As a person without history of ED but who has a lot of medical dietary restrictions and zero willpower around food: this is my hell. I’m lucky that our office eating events are far away from my office, so somewhat inconvenient to get to, and when it’s a big potluck I purposefully schedule myself away or bring a big meal for myself and avoid all the foods.

    For the OP: please talk to your manager as Alison recommends! For your health and for others, too. It’s important for people to realize that eating is not a viable hobby for all of us, and workplace camraderie can’t center *exclusively* around food if they want to include everyone.

  73. JSPA*

    I know this will only be helpful to a small percentage of people who sometimes find themselves cramming food, but here goes nothing.

    I found that my urge to eat overly-large quantities of food (and my bottomless capacity) mostly disappeared* when I had a bunch of food allergies diagnosed and also, separately, added broad spectrum digestive enzymes to each meal. Until then, food had been passing through me quite staggeringly undigested. Presumably my body was chronically “nutrient hungry” due to incomplete digestion, even though I was putting a wide range of nutrients in my mouth and chewing well. The urge was not quite as powerful as being “calorie hungry” after, say, a half marathon, but it was pretty compelling, all the same.

    Before those actual fixes, I had some success with having a small, highly-digestible meal elsewhere, ahead of time, or having someone bring me a plate of specified “healthy stuff”–then sucking a series of strong eucalyptus-menthol cough drops during the festivities. Basically, something that killed the smell of the food and clashed violently with the vast majority of potential flavors.

    If your food compulsion has no underlying physiological driver, or if the feedback from the anxiety loop is so strong that it overwhelms basic taste and smell criteria, the “pre-feed then set up a smell blocker in your mouth and nose” option may not work for you at all. I suppose it can’t hurt to try, through. (As a bonus, if you smell like someone catching a bad cold, people will probably edge away from you, and edge you away from the food, without necessarily knowing how or why they’re doing so.)

    Frankly, though, I’d push back on the frequency. Surely there must be quite a few other people with food issues, other people trying to eat healthy (however they define it), other people who are on medications or who are pregnant-with-nausea or get migraines or have PMS-related nausea or binges? Not to mention people who don’t want to cook. Not to mention risks from bad food handling practices. Once a week seems incredibly frequent. And that’s spoken as someone who likes to cook and is generally pro-pot-luck (like, 3 or 4 times a year).


  74. Noobtastic*

    I definitely see the value in morale-boosting and camaradarie-boosting (Please, God, not “team building”) events at work. Could we maybe have a thread devoted to throwing around some ideas of what could work in a variety of work-places, specifically avoiding food? Food ideas are ubiquitous and easy. Non-food ideas seem to be much rarer, so a thread where we can list and/or debate them would be a good resource for a lot of managers and “fun committee” members.

    1. CanCan*

      Yes, good idea!

      At one workplace, we used to do crossword puzzles at lunch, from the daily paper.
      You could also do puzzles (500 piece or so).
      For events, we went out bowling once, and to a mystery room. That’s just once a year around Christmas, though, as it takes a lot of time and is not cheap.

      1. ZucchiniBikini*

        Seconding the crossword puzzle idea. At a long-ago former workplace with about 50 employees, we had a thing of doing all the puzzles in the daily paper across our various lunchtimes. People took lunch generally for 30-45 mins in shifting groups between 11:30 and 2, so not everyone was together, but it was still a great low-stress no-cost no-fuss bonding thing. And because our daily paper had a range of puzzles (crosswords, word finders, Sudoku, number games, brainteasers, general knowledge quizzes etc), there was usually something that interested everyone. Our CEO instituted a thing that any week that all the puzzles got solved each day (happened rarely, bc some of those suckers were hard), he let us all leave an hour early on Friday. That was a SUPER motivator, and no food reward in sight!

  75. SusieCruisie*

    I think you might be doing some of your co-workers a big favor by bringing these issues to light. While you have a serious specific issue that needs accommodation, if I were the HR person hearing your situation I may suggest a different solution. I imagine there are plenty of people who are uncomfortable with the obligation and frequency of this weekly event, and you may have just helped all of them by giving them a valid reason to shut down this whole thing. Understanding your identity will be protected, this presents the opportunity to enlighten and educate the group as a whole as to the sensitivity of others. I don’t want to spoil everyone’s fun, but it sounds like this has gotten way out of hand and I’ll bet there are plenty of others who would like to see it shut down but there hasn’t been a “good enough” reason to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the outcome of your conversation and if you don’t see there are plenty of people happy to see it come to an end, without having to reveal it was your accommodation.

    1. boo bot*

      Yeah, calling it “Fat Friday” to me just sounds so punitive. Weekly Food Event could be a reasonable thing, but the name just gives it this ugly, shaming quality that would make my skin crawl. I know it probably started as a joke, but it seems like one of those jokes with a kernel of bitter, self-loathing truth at the center.

      Also, who wants to bring food in for the whole office every week? That’s too much, man.

      1. Grapey*

        I think it’s a play on “Fat Tuesday” when people would make very fatty/rich foods to celebrate the end of Lent. e.g. Mardi Gras, french for fat tuesday. I don’t find offense at that holiday as a fat person fwiw.

        But yeah, weekly potlucks are too much.

  76. Nacho*

    That sounds awful. Just as somebody on a diet, I’m not sure I could handle being around all that fatty food food all day at work. I can’t even imagine it if I had an actual eating disorder.

  77. HereKittyKitty*

    I think on occasion this sounds fun, but every Friday is wayyyy tooo much.

    I’m going to address this from a PTSD point of view since the food itself is triggering. I personally wasn’t keen on revealing I had PTSD to my manager until a coworker’s vile comments about the metoo movement triggered me into a panic attack at the end of the workday. My manager had to take a walk with me before I was calm enough to drive home. Since then, I’ve actually found it a relief that she knows, so if I need to work from home because of a trigger, she totally gets it and can accommodate me.

    Personally, I’d love to be able to keep my personal stuff personal, but sometimes if it leaks into the workplace, it might be something worth disclosing privately to HR or a trusted manager, so you can work comfortably, from wherever you are.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. Much love to you.

  78. overcaffeinatedandqueer*


    I used to deal with sub clinical anorexia (am short and so it was a matter of 10-15 pounds over a cutoff). Now, several years later, after weighing in at twice my lowest, I am trying to bring my weight down sustainably and in a healthy way. I also have some abuse relating to not having food/food taken from me which means my lizard brain says “MUST EAT ALL NOW” very strongly, and I eat so quickly that I can get reflux.

    Just, oh my god. This is my nightmare. I’m fine with the occasional or even weekly treat, but I would be asking to be moved, too. Especially with the high-sugar and fat foods. Lately, I’ve dealt with “I accidentally ate the whole thing” with common office type foods, like dips and peanut butter candy.

    Plus, it’s super uncomfortable that it’s called the “fat” day.

  79. Pretty Ricky what they called him*

    We had frequent potlucks at my previous job and I refused to participate because I have a sensitive stomach and I don’t know what kind of oil/spices people use in their cooking l. My manager kept pushing it so I said I do not trust the food safety standards of all my coworkers and I have no idea what ingredients they used it, whether the meat was kept at a proper temperature , whether they were trying to use up the or expired meat to feed us, etc. Also said the company would be liable for food poisoning. That got her off my back quickly.

  80. VermiciousKnit*

    I feel for you OP. I had an eating disorder as a teen that still messes with my brain, body perception, metabolism, and ability to eat mindfully.

    Could you ask that the *FOOD* be kept in another room instead of you working in another room? Is there a conference room that can be booked, or a hallway that can accommodate tables, or anything? It seems like a bad idea for more than just you to have food your direct workspace. What if someone brings limburger? What if someone is pregnant and can no longer tolerate the smell of chocolate? What if someone starts that has a contact allergy to something? It’s better practice to keep it away from the workspace to start with, and then you’d be able to maintain your separation without being singled out in any way.

  81. Tea*

    I’m really sorry, OP, that you are even having to navigate this. What a strange minefield of a social activity at work. It combines several work issues I bristle at myself: thoughtless approach to discussing food in the workplace (the implication that one should be allowed to eat certain foods only once a month or once a week?), and that awful “mandatory fun” aspect. (Quiet Revolution just had a fantastic post on the “mandatory fun” thing, if anyone wants to give it a google.) It’s also actually rather classist because it doesn’t factor in any employee who is on a set budget and for whom preparing a dish to share with people once a week is actually a financial burden.

    I hope you find a way to get support so you can avoid this activity, and I hope it isn’t too damaging for the recovery you’re doing. I would bet that management simply never thought of any issues, and I also suspect there may be others who will appreciate being allowed not to participate in the future, whether for reasons similar to yours, or any of the ones you mentioned.

    Ugh, I’m so annoyed that you have to deal with this!

  82. Not A Manager*

    LW, I think someone said this above but I want to reiterate it:

    Your health comes first.

    This sounds like a very toxic office situation for you, not just the Fat Friday thing, but the food culture in general and the lack of boundaries around food and eating. I think you should work with your therapist to make a short list of the VERY BEST accommodations that would work for you. You need to not be around Fat Friday, you need to not hear about it, you need to not be exposed to it. This is a health issue *just like* having serious allergies or anything else.

    Write a script, practice it, and then present it to the best advocate for you. Which might not be your manager.

    If they grant these accommodations, that’s great. You’ll also need to practice shutting down your co-workers immediately and effectively when they inevitably raise this with you. Don’t start small and gentle and assume that they will pick up cues. You need to stop any pestering or questioning in its tracks.

    But if you can’t make that work, if this food culture and lack of boundaries continues to affect your mental and physical health, I think you need to move on. I know that sounds extreme, but I don’t think it is.

  83. Pickaduck*

    Apologies if someone has already said something similar, but I wanted to share that I used to bring in huge gourmet doughnuts to our staff meetings. One of my staff told me candidly that she suffers from bulimia and really has a hard time around junk food. From that day forward we only bring healthy snacks to meetings, and we have a contest of who can bring the most interesting and unusual fruits vegetables. I think people are going to understand more than you think they might.

  84. P*

    Ah food. NGL I’d personally be torn between “want” and “do not want” from what you describe; it DOES sound fun to me but also easy to go overboard on. I’m not going to say this event is terrible and if it’s been increasing in frequency at a guess a number of people are enjoying it.

    But it’s definitely not something that’s good for you to be around; agree with allison it’s best to frame this as a medical issue that hopefully can be fairly easy to work with by having OP work remotely on days where this happens.
    (and if the manager is queued to reel the festivities in a notch, that’s fine too!)

  85. Shoes On My Cat*

    Really hoping you can work from home! I cannot imagine the willpower you already employ to have gotten to a healthy place, OP! If it helps explain this to your boss, perhaps link it to assigning an ex-smoker to work selling cigarettes in the smokers lounge.

  86. Been There, Done That*

    My office used to do Fat Friday and go wa-a-a-ay overboard. Not just a coffeecake or a box of doughnuts, but a huge smorgasbord of fatty, sugary once-in-a-while treats. And if you didn’t stuff yourself, you weren’t a “team mate.” We had some staffing changes since then and it’s petered out, thank heavens, and more people are bringing fruit or plain stuff like bagels. Our company always touts how it wants to support the health and well-being of the employees, but we’re so understaffed and slammed with work you could be tied to your chair for up to 3-4 hours without a break (and if you do take a break, you’ll get a stink eye), and on top of that they shove junk food at you. Mixed message much? Best of luck to you, I know it’s hard bucking the office culture–but you CAN refuse that stuff.

  87. Fred*

    Yuck What a terrible thing for everyone to be having fat Friday’s! I’ll bet you’re not the only one who doesn’t like them, but everybody is thinking they don’t want to ruin other people‘s fine. I Think it would be totally appropriate to suggest that once a month is more appropriate than once a week. Good grief.

  88. CanCan*

    What a disgusting tradition! Should be totally optional!!! Lots of people have food restrictions, for whatever reason, be it health, preference, religion, allergies, etc.

    I don’t have an eating disorder, but I do keep to a certain diet (no need to get into details or reasons). Which makes it problematic both to eat at potlucks – because (1) there’ll be very few foods I can eat or I’ll eat things I shouldn’t and will feel bad afterwards, and (2) I find it problematic to share food – I either have to cook something most people eat but I wont, or invest a lot of effort and expense into cooking something I will eat (which will be wasted effort/expense as others will certainly not appreciate it).

    I would think you’re not the only one hating this idea. Sure, people should be able to do it, but in a way that makes it easy for others to opt out. Putting the food in another room is a start. Or maybe only doing this during a fixed lunch-hour period, so those not interested can leave the office, and the food would be cleared away when lunch is over. And adding a rule: you don’t have to participate, but you can only eat if you bring something.

    Seconding Alison’s advice re. talking to your manager.

  89. annejumps*

    I am pretty much in the opposite situation and I think this “Fat Fridays” situation is way over the top. Once a quarter, maybe. Once a week is nuts.

  90. Beth*

    How is it that she has to move her work? Is there not a single other space they set up the buffet? As a fat person you either get judged for eating, or a party pooper iuf you don’t. I can’t imagine how much an actual eating disorder complicates anxiety.

  91. Former Producer*

    As someone who also struggles with an eating disorder (anorexia), this situation would stress me out too! I try to avoid bringing up my ED so pretty much no one knows except family and a couple close friends, and I’d prefer to keep it that way. However, I think in your case, you need to bring it up so you can get the accommodations you need, whether that’s working from home or in a separate work area. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of work potlucks/food events, partly because of my ED history and I’ve also been vegan for 6+ years, so the likelihood of there ever being anything I could eat (even if I wanted to) is pretty slim. Fortunately, I’ve been able to use my veganism to avoid participating in these types of events, and that way people don’t have to know my feelings around eating. Maybe if you don’t want to bring up your eating disorder, you could say you have a dietary restriction that prevents you from taking part.

  92. MissDisplaced*

    Omg! FatFriday once a month sounds fun, but FatFriday EVERY Friday sounds like a terrible idea for many reasons. Besides too much food, who wants to cook potluck every week? Ugh!
    If working at home isn’t an option, maybe you can suggest it go back to being a once a month event? I’m willing to bet you’re not the only one who finds FatFriday a burden.

  93. Aaron*

    Have you considered putting up signs on your door declaring it a “Fat-free zone” ?

    Unless people are actively pushing food on you (Go on, just one little bite…) or trying to guilt you into eating their food, in which case you need to speak to HR.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      As I posted above to mommymd, the eller explicitly states: “The food is all laid out in the office, IN THE ROOM WE WORK IN [caps mine].” So this suggestion is not applicable.

  94. NewBee*

    OP, yes talk to you manager. You might not be the only person who objects to FF. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I really don’t care for sweets. I also don’t like potlucks as you never know about the cleanliness of someone else’s kitchen. You will probably be doing someone a favor!

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