our coworker asked us to help him eat better — and I’m concerned for his health

A reader writes:

I know you have discussed the office food police before and how to deal with them, but what if it’s policing someone who has asked for your help with their eating habits before and seems to have a possible eating disorder?

I work in a very small office with less than 10 employees. One of our older employees has had two major surgeries in the two years he has been here that were directly caused by his obesity and dietary habits. He has asked his friends at the office (me being one of them) for help in learning how to eat properly and make sure he is following doctor’s orders (which he has shared with us). It started out well, then he lost motivation and didn’t seem interested in our help any longer, so we backed off and mostly washed our hands of it.

That is until this weekend when we had a major, two-day meeting that included several shared meals. I watched him consume more food than I did in the entire weekend in one day (and to be clear, I am also obese and have a tendency toward eating poorly when left to my own devices). At one point I had to remind him that the appetizers were for the entire five-person table and not just him, and he still proceeded to eat most of a sampler platter. He didn’t just eat absent-mindedly either, we’re talking full-on food shoveling and then going back for more. I saw major stake-holders giving him the side-eye at multiple meals.

I don’t want to be “that person” in the office but I am seriously concerned not just about his overall health, but his mental health. Do I have any room to talk to him about this since he asked for my help in the past? Should I punt it to someone higher up? Not say anything and let him eat himself into an early grave?

Normally I’d say that what a coworker eats is 100% not your business and you shouldn’t talk to him or anyone else about it, but this is complicated by the fact that he asked for your help.

I’m still going to tell you that you should leave this alone, but it’s a little trickier because he previously invited you in.

Not that much trickier though, because you’d seen earlier that he didn’t seem to want your help anymore, and you rightly backed off at that point.

Did you ever have a conversation with him where either of you explicitly acknowledged that his earlier request for help, and your acceptance of it, was no longer in effect? If he’d said anything then like “thanks for helping earlier, but I’m going to manage it on my own” or if you’d said anything like “I don’t want to push, so I’ll stop mentioning this unless you ask for help again,” then I think your agreement is officially ended, and you should treat this as his personal business and not something you have standing to intervene on (just like you would have if he’d never requested help in the first place).

But if that never happened and you just quietly stopped on your own, there’s maybe some room for a discreet, one-time conversation with him where you check in on how he’s doing and make it clear you respect his boundaries and won’t offer help he doesn’t want. For example: “Hey, you’d asked a while back for help in following your doctor’s orders about diet. I’d pulled back on that because I got the sense you started wanting to manage it on your own. Am I right in thinking that’s your preference? If you do want support, I’m happy to help however I can, but I defer to you.”

Note that this is just asking whether or not he wants support. It’s not referencing how much he ate at the recent meeting or noting that he seems to be off the wagon. It’s just checking in on whether his previous request for support still stands.

If he says he does want your support, at that point ask specifically what would be most helpful and see if it’s something you can realistically do. If he wants you to intervene when he’s over-eating, that’s not necessarily something you can do in a work context. (Plus, you have to consider other people, who might find it unhealthy to hear lots of diet talk when they’re trying to have their own healthy relationships with food.) But there might be specific forms of support you can offer.

If he says no thanks, he’s good, then you’d just say, “Okay, got it!” and leave it there.

It can be hard to watch someone do something destructive to their health, especially when you know they’re under medical orders to change and especially when they’d previously asked for help, but ultimately you’ve got to let people manage their health on their own. There are some exceptions to this (like interventions for drug or alcohol addiction, or talking with a spouse about serious health concerns), but those exceptions are usually best managed by people close to them outside of work, like family and friends. And frankly, even with family and friends have limits on how much they can do or is appropriate to do … but those boundaries are much, much tighter with coworkers.

{ 275 comments… read them below }

  1. Future Homesteader*

    Alison, thank you for yet another in a series of compassionate and sane responses to the office food issue. I cannot possibly express how much I appreciate your approach to these things, and how very, very refreshing I find the attitude of the commentariat in general. Seriously, it makes me happy. (Yes, I’m weird.)

    1. stefanielaine*

      Absolutely. I read and reread this incredible sentence probably ten times, just luxuriating in its un-scoldy yet firm insistence on empathy: “Plus, you have to consider other people, who might find it unhealthy to hear lots of diet talk when they’re trying to have their own healthy relationships with food.” Truly, Alison, thank you.

  2. WorkingOnIt*

    I’m sorry to say this but he likely needs therapy with a psychologist who specialized in eating disorders. This has helped me tremendously and I am on my way to good health. There just isn’t enough outside motivation that won’t leave you running in a shame spiral to food. The think I would do is just make sure if you bring in food/snacks that are low in sugar (cheese plates, veggie trays) if you feel like treating the office. Otherwise, as hard as it is, this is his problem.

    1. pope suburban*

      I agree. However well-intentioned OP or their coworker might be, this is simply not something that people with no mental-health training can resolve. It’s above our pay grade, and in this case further complicated by the fact that it’s in a work setting, with different boundaries than one would have with, say, a partner or relative. I hope he gets the help he needs, and I hope the OP is able to find a compassionate way to bow out of this. At the end of the day OP, like all adults, can only control and manage their own behavior, and I imagine it’s pretty stressful to try to shoulder that burden on someone else’s behalf. This situation sounds very difficult for everyone involved and I hope they all find a healthy resolution.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Because they are friends and he has asked for help with his eating before, I think a one-off “guy, as your friend, I am observing this and think you should consider some professional help” might be warranted.

      Only because of the friendship and past explicit discussion of this very problem. And to suggest professional intervention–his coworkers as food police isn’t going to do it.

  3. Amber Rose*

    I’ve been on a chicken, rice and carrots diet for two weeks and I was nearly that guy on Saturday (to my great regret). Following a new, difficult diet without the proper support is basically a set up for failure.

    Coworkers are not, can not, be the proper support. The proper support is: doctors, loved ones, dieticians, and maybe a handful of useful apps.

    I’m sorry. What you did and what Alison advised is about as much as you can do.

    1. banzo_bean*

      And eating a variety of foods you like! Eating a diet of the same few things would drive anyone to unhealthy overcompensation.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Haha, yeah. This is temporary for me, maybe one more week. I’ve been having the most unbelievable GI problems, so we cut my diet to a list of about 6 definitely safe things to see if my stomach would heal. If I had to do this long term I’d lose my damn mind.

        The problem is, it’s hard to both go on an unfamiliar diet, and eat a variety of things. Nobody teaches you how to cook for a whole new lifestyle, so without any guidance the odds are stacked against.

        1. Zip Silver*

          The trick to eating the same thing every day is to change how you spice it. I more or less do chicken stir fry most days, but it tastes different every you’ve because I change up how I spice/sauce it.

          Also, if you’re steaming your carrots, that could be a problem as well… too mushy. Try blanching them and see if that helps. They’re cooked, but should still be crunchy.

          1. JessaB*

            Regrettably the issue that Amber Rose is having may mean that spices are a no go until their stomach heals. It stinks to have to be on a limited diet because you’re ill.

          2. Amber Rose*

            I love mushy carrots though. And I’m limited, since a portable steamer is how I cook my lunch. Dinner I can switch up a bit, but lunch is pretty standard.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I’m in the “mushy carrots are delicious” club and the “sometimes my GI tract won’t let me eat anything interesting” club. I hope you get through this stage quickly and can start branching out soon!

          3. Veronica*

            I don’t eat carrots myself (fructose sensitivity), but would pan frying them work? I love pan fried veggies!

            1. Creed Bratton*

              Happy to ‘meet’ someone with the same issue I apparently developed. My attempt at buying healthy low fat items means I was loading up on hidden high fructose corn syrup. Yet my sister (the nurse) still insists I should always no matter what buy the lowest fat version of any food item :/

              1. Zip Silver*

                Nurses (and doctors even) are surprisingly not super up to date on nutritional standards. Once upon a time I was on track to be a dietitian, but ultimately your hot you’re salary cap pretty yearly on.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Medical professionals except actual nutritionists or dietitians are notoriously unschooled in nutrition.

                2. PhyllisB*

                  Seconding the nurses and doctors don’t know a lot about nutrition. When I was pregnant with my first, my doctor was amazed that my iron levels were so good, so she asked me what I was doing. I told her, “eating that Cream of Wheat every day.” (For those who don’t know, C of W has 45% of your daily iron requirements. I ate a double serving every day because I knew I needed more iron while pregnant.) She was astonished, and said, “I need to tell my other patients about this!!” Before it was over, I ended sharing a lot of nutritional knowledge with her. Prenatal vitamins and iron aren’t the whole story.

              2. bluephone*

                The low-fat craze is so annoying (when we’re not talking about foods that are naturally low in fat like…IDK, Jello or something). Fat makes food taste good. When you take out fat, you have to replace it with something that makes it taste good. Hence….sugar!
                Honestly, skim milk is basically sugar water.

              3. Veronica*

                Happy to meet you too! :)
                Doctors and nurses are woefully uninformed about nutrition because it’s not taught in med school. I always end up educating them about my diet and food issues. Even the GI dietitian didn’t know as much as I’ve learned from my need to have a healthy life.

                I took a nutrition class in college and learned fat is a necessary nutrient. As long as you’re eating *naturally low-fat* foods you should be fine. Food processors will do anything to sell, including trying to deceive. You have to always check ingredient labels to see what’s going on.

                1. Mongrel*

                  I looked at the labels a long time ago and, as a rule of thumb, if it’s loudly proclaiming it’s low fat then it’s high in sugar and if it’s saying it’s low sugar then it’s probably high in fat.

                  Also, in the UK at least, be wary of “No artificial sweeteners” on the packet as they’ve been using things like deodourised apple juice as a sweetening syrup for a while now.

                  So yeah – I think the best thing you can do to eat healthier is try to buy more of the items that have been least processed and scrutinise the nutritional labels of everything else.

        2. Quill*

          If you know you can do butter or oil… saute the carrot out of those carrots! And make sure the chicken is moist!

          (Also, dark meat from the chicken is almost always better than the chicken breast.)

          1. Filosofickle*

            That’s debatable! My partner prefers thighs so I cook with them a lot, but I usually prefer breast meat. It just tastes better to me, better texture in particular. Just don’t overcook it! People way overcook chicken IMO.

              1. beckysuz*

                Brine baby…brine the “white” low fat meats for 24 hours and you’d be amazed how moist they are.

        3. Liz*

          ugh. that sounds horrible but I hope your week goes by quickly, AND you figure out what it is that’s upseting your GI system.

          Not at all the same thing, but I was diagnosed with very mild hypertension a few months ago, and my dr. wants me back in 6 months, after attempting to lose weight and “eat better” I’m ok with the portion control aspect of it, but OMG the amount of sodium in things you would never think had a lot is mind boggling! like today. And while i dont’ think I need to cut it out completely, i DO need to cut way back. and figuring out what I can have, that will keep me full, and not stuffing every darn thing into my face, while still being on the healthy side is NOT easy.

          1. Amber Rose*

            It’s miserably hard.

            At the moment, we’ve determined I absolutely can’t have apples or any kind of sweeteners. Which sucks, because apples were my entire breakfast and sweeteners are the only way I can stand water. :/

            1. Zip Silver*

              Mio helps quite a bit, but if artificially sweeteners aren’t doing it, then even a splash of lemon juice helps quite a bit. I can do plain bottled water just fine, but I have to have lemon juice to kill the chlorine flavor from my towns tap water.

            2. Just Elle*

              Seltzer! Naturally flavored seltzer water is a game changer.

              I also cannot do sweeteners because migraines/digestion, but pure liquid monk fruit drops seem to be ok (not the so-called monk fruit sweetener that actually has erythritol as a main ingredient).

              1. Trying a New Name*

                I am obsessed with flavored seltzer!!

                Also, probably won’t help with Amber Rose’s situation, but if anyone is looking to try to eat healthier, but doesn’t know how, I highly recommend signing up for a CSA/produce delivery service. The one I use delivers fruits and veggies that would have been thrown out because they couldn’t be sold in super markets. It’s super convenient, I get to try new fruits/veggies, and it’s really cheap!

            3. Sleve McDichael*

              Amber Rose if you’re still reading the comments, a large tea company that rhymes with shinings do a line of cold water infusions. They’re like teabags but you put one in a drink bottle and they last all day. They come in all sorts of fruity flavours and they have no sugar or artificial sweeteners. I struggle to drink water on it’s own but these are great. Rooibos is another option if you want flavoured water without the caffeine hit from tea.

              Also if you can’t have apples, pears are a safe food for most people with intolerances including salicylates if that’s you. Nashi pears taste like an apple/pear hybrid (they’re not but they’re better than regular pears imo).

            4. Seeking Second Childhood*

              If you have any interest in gardening, try getting a stevia plant. That steeped in water with mint & lemon is the first no-cal sweetener I’ve ever been able to enjoy. And I dislike it processed.

    2. MicroManagered*

      Coworkers are not, can not, be the proper support. The proper support is: doctors, loved ones, dieticians, and maybe a handful of useful apps.


      I think the reason it’s difficult coming up with how to address this is that it’s just not appropriate for coworkers to be in this position. (And I’m not talking about some friendly accountability between coworkers who are trying to go out for lunch less by eating their brown bag lunches together–something like that.)

      1. GrumbleBunny*

        Agree with this. I once worked with a very obese colleague who constantly talked about trying to lose weight, but then he’d say “I need you guys to keep me from eating things that I shouldn’t.” The next day he’d bring in a bunch of sugary snacks to share, then after eating most of them would scold us for allowing it.
        It put everyone else in an awkward position (nobody wants to tell another adult what he should or should not eat) and also seemed to allow him to release himself from all responsibility for his own choices.

        1. Lilysparrow*

          This is the equivalent of That Friend in college who tells everyone else it’s their responsibility to keep them from drinking too much at a party.

          It absolutely never ends well. Never.

          Just having the conversation means that the person has pre-decided to abandon any attempt at moderation and self-control. They are overtly abdicating responsibility for themselves.

        2. Never Been There, Never Done That*

          “I need you guys to keep me from eating things that I shouldn’t.”

          Me: “Sorry co-worker friend but I can barely focus on keeping MYSELF from eating things that I shouldn’t. You are on your own.”
          IMO nothing good can come from being asked to manage another adult’s lifestyle or habits. Hard no.

          1. Zip Silver*

            Idk, me and another dude I work with managed to lose a combined 250lbs by being each other’s support system, and eventual gym buddies.

            1. GrumbleBunny*

              I think there’s a pretty substantial difference between “Let’s keep each other accountable” and “You keep ME accountable, but I’M going to enable the crap out of you by passing around sugary snacks every day.”

    3. CatMom*

      Ahhh I was in this position over the summer. Luckily it was resolved (albeit with permanent, somewhat disappointing dietary changes), and I hope yours is too soon. But I felt terribly, terribly awkward eating around other people. I knew it looked so strange!

  4. pcake*

    The issue you can address is that he’s eating food meant for a group and perhaps his eating habits. This second one is tricky, but if he’s making major stakeholders uncomfortable, that could be an issue. The first one would be addressed by telling him each platter is to split between everyone, so each of you can only have a maximum of one tenth (if you have 10 people at the meeting – change the number as appropriate) of each food. The shoveling is more complicated, too – it doesn’t sound like something I’d like to see at a meeting or at all. Yuck! But it ain’t easy to address the way someone eats.

    As far as trying to help, you can only help someone who’s willing to be helped. It’s hard watching someone harm themselves, but if they’re not willing to change, there’s nothing others can do :(

      1. Witchy Human*

        And treading very, very lightly, without trying to shame. It would be hard to strike the right tone. Maybe “quickly eating more than what most people would consider an equal share of communal food in the company of stakeholders can come across as a little unprofessional.”

        The message should be “share and slow down a bit,” not “you’re eating too much.”

        1. Quill*

          Yes. It’s not the stakeholder’s business how he manages his diet but it is the rest of the office’s business if they can’t get an equal share of the food.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, that’s a separate issue from the health concerns. We’ve seen letters and comments here before from people whose coworkers take more than their share. The reasons vary, but regardless, that isn’t okay.

    1. Fae*

      Yes, was going to post saying something similar. The manager of the food coworker needs to take him aside and have a conversation about office food etiquette. If the OP is the one ordering the food, maybe, maybe they might have some standing to address it but otherwise the OP should just bring up the impact coworkers food behavior had (i.e. reaction of the stakeholders, etc) to the coworkers manager and let them sort it.

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I absolutely agree that it’s okay to address the eating the shared plates thing, even if you hadn’t been asked to help him previously… but only if you’re his manager. That is just plain rude for anyone to do and honestly if I was at a meeting like that, I’d *expect* the person’s manager to intervene.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Yes. If his manager was at the meal and sitting close enough to see it happening, then I would leave it alone. If not, I might mention to the manager that shareholders were put off by him eating so much of the shared food.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yes, he absolutely cannot eat everyone else’s food and make a spectacle of himself at meetings. That is not work appropriate behavior, regardless of cause.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think an effective way to address that specific weekend meal might have been to dole out the shared plates to each person. It wouldn’t work in a lot of situations, but it might help in a few. I mean, I have my eating issue under control, but one of my biggest weaknesses is that I feel compelled to finish anything that is “left over”.

      You wouldn’t be commenting on his behavior so much as choosing a method to share the plates. Just in case something similar comes up.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        If you are eating with shareholders and ordering food for the table I feel like that would be really hard to do without treating everyone like children. Most adults would prefer to decide how much they want of a shared dish, not allotted their portion. It could work in settings where it is just people from the office, but there are some situations with clients or higher ups where it would come across badly.

        1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

          And which foods! I don’t much like shrimp, so I wouldn’t serve myself shrimp poppers. More for everybody else. On the other hand, I don’t actually hate shrimp, so if shrimp poppers were already on my plate, I would feel obliged to eat them. Loose, loose. Or if I try one of the chicken wings and it turns out to be too spicy, I don’t have to take any more. If I have a full share, they languish untouched on my plate. Cause I do hate spicy.

          On the other hand, if I really love the quiche bites and nobody else is really eating them, I can feel free to have one or two more.

      2. Quill*

        Do you too have Great Depression era grandparents? Because that, plus a large extended family, is where I learned that there are no “left overs” of anything that’s good, so you get one crack at getting any. And there is always a cousin who is better at sneaking your favorite cookie than you.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          YES. My dad was frugal AF because of it, and I like to think I took most of the best of that without the less healthy parts. I’m definitely not a hoarder like he was!

          1. Quill*

            My grandparents were packrats, my mom’s just a compulsive over-preparer. Barring more generational influences, if my brother has kids they may just turn out well adjusted. :)

    5. Holly*

      I would agree, but only if OP was in a more senior/management position/event planning role, no? I feel like I wouldn’t have standing to tell someone I’m merely coworkers to stop eating all of the food ordered for an event that I didn’t even have anything to do with

    6. GooseTracks*

      I would just order individually-packaged meals for important meetings, so it’s clear what each person’s portion is, and you don’t have to worry about this happening again.

    7. JessaB*

      Agreed, I do believe that while pulling back from being the food police on his behalf, and saying that the OP can’t do that anymore, there’s a separate issue of overeating food designated for other people. It’s kind of like telling omnivores that they cannot eat the vegetarian or vegan options until the vegetarians and vegans go through the line as they cannot eat anything *else*, which is a thing I wish people would do.

      I really wish that for instance at an event buffet the person hosting would stop and say okay, would those with a special diet please go first (like boarding a plane with people with kids and people with disabilities) instead of allowing a mad rush where the only items certain people can eat – the vegetarian, the vegan, the coeliac, etc. are suddenly grabbed by the omnivores and they end up not eating or eating plain veg.

      It absolutely has to be said that you can’t eat every appetizer when they’re meant for a table of people unless the other people have taken their choices and tell you that you can have the rest.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        It absolutely has to be said that you can’t eat every appetizer when they’re meant for a table of people unless the other people have taken their choices and tell you that you can have the rest.

        I just think that’s really hard to do in the moment without making everyone present uncomfortable. The person speaking up needs to make sure that they have the social capital to do so, because unfairly or not, people are likely to look at the person speaking up as the cause of at least 50% of the discomfort.

        Terrible situation all around, really.

        1. JessaB*

          Which is why someone in authority does it politely after. And possibly if the person makes a habit of it reminds them before. But no you really can’t unless you can manage to politely go “hey pass that to me I want an x,” at which point you conveniently pass it elsewhere.

        2. ceiswyn*

          You know what’s an even worse situation? The BRIDE ending up in the kitchen at HER OWN WEDDING, desperately rustling up something for the two vegetarians who had been left without food because omnivores had taken all the veggie meals. Even although she had anticipated this and ordered more veggie meals than there were veggies.

  5. Harper the Other One*

    Alison, do you think there would be room for discussing not his eating habits in general, but his eating at a work event? I’m not sure how you’d phrase it but it sounds like he was more focused on the food than on the stakeholders that the business is presumably trying to impress. Could it be a similar conversation to “keep within careful drinking limits at a work dinner”?

    1. Amber Rose*

      I don’t see why not. At our last event, a company wide email went out reminding us that food was primarily for visitors, and that we were to limit ourselves to a small amount until the end of the event when we were allowed to tackle any leftovers.

      I have some coworkers who will eat a lot of food, any kind of food, and they don’t have eating disorders or anything just big appetites, so that kind of reminder is sort of necessary.

      1. Anonariffic*

        And there have been plenty of stories before about people who show up ten seconds after the food is served with full-on tupperware sets, ready to take half of it home with them before anyone else gets a bite. It’s perfectly reasonable to remind people that unless the cake has your name on it, it’s meant to be shared with everyone.

    2. Antilles*

      Certainly. It’s probably a discussion worthy of having on its’ own merits because the impact on clients can be real. That said, such a discussion should probably be kept separate from the “general eating habits” – trying to combine the two might result in muddling the issue.
      Especially if he’s changed his mind about wanting your help, it’d be very easy to lose the work-related impact on clients when he goes “yeah, sorry, I just don’t really want/need help any more on my eating, thanks”.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      That’s what I came here to say. OP noticed some not positive reactions from important people at work events even after already mentioning the appetizer situation. However, I think OP should probably actually go to this guy’s boss and say “I noticed that several of our stakeholders were less than impressed with Guy’s manners at the conference this past weekend. I attempted to get him to realize that his hoarding of the shared plates and the speed in which he was eating was inappropriate but I don’t think he really heard me. I wanted to bring this to your attention so if you felt it was an issue you could address proper work meal etiquette before the next event.”
      This way you avoid any health/weight/disorders and focus on manners and etiquette at a work function similar to the drinking.

      1. blackcatlady*

        Yes, his eating habits at client meetings needs to be addressed by the manager. I can imagine a business lunch would be very off-putting if one of the people were shoveling food in like they were starving and not demonstrating basic sharing manners. The last thing you want is a bad impression with clients! Even if the company has solid work, the memory of lunch will linger in the back of the client’s minds. It sounds like the guy has problems with food and it will be a work in progress. I wish him the best.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — although whether or not OP should be the one to have that conversation depends on her role and his role. She might not have the standing for that one.

      1. JessaB*

        I don’t know if the OP is usually pretty levelheaded and not known for being a whinger, a quick “The Countess Curmudgeon made her ‘I am absolutely scandalised’ face, when he was eating, it was obvious she was totally upset, don’t know if you want to *do* anything about it, but I thought you should know, considering she’s our number two benefactor and worth millions in our budgets…” to someone the OP has a good rapport with, not complaining so much about him, but reporting the actual visible reaction of the visitors, might be okay?

    5. MOAS*

      Yeah, to me, absent all other issues, taking so much food that ther’es nothing left for anyone else is pretty…..not cool. I think a lot of people would be pretty miffed that majority of the food was taken by one person. But it is a very sensitive issue as, even if the person had no eating dsiorders or issues, would feel like they w ere being picked on.

    6. Lora*

      I long for the day when Table Manners 101 is required as part of all onboarding. Table Manners 102: Multi-fork Utilization and Table Manners 201: Beverage Choices should be required as part of manager training.

      I have been to many many distinctly unpleasant conference buffet lines where, when I finally got to the buffet table, some Animal House a-hole is literally hunched over the buffet, squatting so he is at table height, shoveling an entire shrimp platter into his drunk face at a 3 pm apero, ensuring that there is no food left for anyone else.

      1. Artemesia*

        Ahh I remember the social justice conference full of do gooder types; the buffet dessert table had small treats and they had calculated 4 per person — the first half of the line stacked their tiny plates with 8 to 10 tarts, brownies, petit fours etc and the last half of the line got nothing.

        1. WannaAlp*

          Attendees can’t be expected to mind-read what the people ordering the buffet thought would be a fair share, and estimating quantity of nibbles divided by number of attendees is tricky. Depending on size, 8-10 might seem like a perfectly reasonable guess, and then they’d probably be grumbling about the size of the plates. Probably mirrored in the world of social justice – some people are fair-minded but really don’t have a clue about how lucky they are.

    7. ceiswyn*

      I mean, I have binge eating disorder and when I’m in ‘binge mode’ it feels actively painful to not be eating, and I hate and resent everyone else who is preventing me downing the cake or whatever…

      …and I still wait for everyone else to have as much as they want, because that is what a human being does.

  6. Jennifer*

    I think the only thing you could do if this happens again is maybe ask him to wait until everyone has been served before going back for seconds. That’s not really policing his food but reminding him of office etiquette. But yeah, the rest of it is, unfortunately, none of your business. I wouldn’t have agreed to help him stay on track with his diet in the beginning either. That’s too much to ask of someone that isn’t on your medical team or married to you.

    1. WellRed*

      “I wouldn’t have agreed to help him stay on track with his diet in the beginning either.’

      Yep, this was the first mistake.

      1. boo bot*

        I think it’s one of those things where someone makes an outrageous (or at least unusual) request, and it throws off everyone’s sense of what’s normal just long enough for them to agree to something weird and uncomfortable.

        And yeah, they shouldn’t be doing it. Good news is, next time a coworker asks them to be responsible for helping them maintain a medically-directed lifestyle, they will all be prepared to say no!

  7. AMPG*

    Honestly, I think you only have standing to talk to him about this from a “professionalism” standpoint, i.e. it’s not being considerate of his coworkers if he’s eating so much at shared meals that others aren’t getting their fair share. I personally would recommend only addressing that piece of it and keeping the rest of the health/wellness talk out of it.

    1. Shamy*

      I really agree with this. I am a dietitian and even in my field, there are very strict guidelines about the type of advice we can offer the general populace. In addition to some potential mental health issues that need addressed, this man has had 2 major surgeries which could mean his dietary needs are vastly different than what one might expect. For example, most people don’t realize that obese patients actually have higher protein requirements, however if he has kidney issues, that could directly conflict with those requirements. If his obesity is such that he has had issues with his skin breaking down, that could pose other nutritional issues. Often times, with medically fragile obese patients, it is not simply a matter of eat less, move more.

      I have no doubt that OP and their coworkers’ hearts are in the right place and I appreciate the compassion they are showing this man. But truly, they do not have the proper knowledge to help him and could even potentially harm him. He needs to be in the care of an experienced interdisciplinary medical team.

  8. Powerpants*

    I agree that this is a mental health issue and you can’t really butt in. I think that if you were to do anything, it might be kind to say, “I know you are on a special diet, so would you like for me to order you a special meal? ” when you are ordering food. If they decline, then just order more food than you would normally. There is not much else you can do.

    1. JSPA*

      That’s a kind way to approach it: “I want to order whatever you tell me will work best for you, while leaving enough fancy goodies for the stakeholders.” (But you do have to follow through, even if his request is a burger and fries.)

      If he can focus on the “food ordered for him” or knows there’s food ordered on his request, that might put him in an empowered frame of mind coming into the event (which is generally helpful) as opposed to a conflicted or “resenting limits” frame of mind (which is sometimes a trigger). It may also help stave off magic thinking (the, “oh, I just won’t eat anything, it’ll be fine” route) followed by hungry panic at the thought of being without. No guarantees, of course.

  9. Goldfinch*

    If he’s eating so much at a work event that there isn’t enough food left for others, then someone definitely has to make him stop, whatever his backstory.

  10. Mathilde*

    Well, there is also the rudeness. I don’t think you have any power in changing his habits, but when you are all sharing food at work, it is not okay that he is taking everything for himself. It is also clearly reflecting poorly on himself and the company (at a meeting with shareholders ! ).

    1. I Need Coffee*

      Do you address the (unintentional) rudeness, or do you order more food if you know he is attending the meeting? Honest question…..I don’t know the best answer.

  11. Taryn*

    This makes me sad. Food addiction is such a real and terrible thing, but instead of treating it with the same seriousness drug and alcohol additiction, most people see it as a sign of laziness and sloppiness. To be clear, this isn’t directed at either Alison or the OP, both of whom I’d like to commend for treating this with seriousness and concern instead of judging and derision. My heart really breaks for this man, who is clearly struggling and is I’m sure completely aware of how others are likely to perceive him and likely had quite a bit of shame over this. OP is a really kind person to care and be concerned, and I sincerely hope this man finds the help he needs to overcome.

    1. Shamy*

      It is truly heart breaking. As a dietitian, I have tried to explain it to people this way, “imagine having an addiction you have to confront literally every single day multiple times of day. Alcohol and drug addictions are insanely difficult as well, but at least one has the option to completely stay away from them. But with food, you don’t get that choice, you can’t just not eat.” I had a patient once break down in tears at being shown compassion when I explained her addiction to her that way. She was so used to people just telling her to stop eating.

      When people have compassion for those with drug and alcohol addictions, sometimes this perspective can flip a switch in their brains helping them be a bit more empathetic to those with food addictions. For those with no compassion for addicts in general, nothing I can say will make a difference anyways. But at least a patient can hear that they aren’t just a weak and worthless human being for struggling with this.

      1. Liz*

        This! I have struggled with my weight since after college, and while I am not morbidly obese, my BMI puts me in the obese category. I love food. I love to eat, and am pretty sure I have a mild addiction (if there can be such a thing) to food. I remember my mom, scolding me? if that’s that right word, about how i should just watch what I eat, and eat less. when I was at my heaviest. She did it out of concern, as my dad was obese, had hypertension etc. But he was also a smoker.

        I think i finally drove the point home when i told her look, i KNOW you’re concerned, i get it. BUT remember when dad tried (unsuccessfully, multiple times) to quit smoking? me trying to lose weight is very similar. I think then she realized they were very similar and has since backed off

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yep. I’m not obese, and I know reality shows are heavily edited, but after watching weeks of a program about weight-loss surgery, it’s plain that food addiction is a real thing. Speaking as a tobacco addict, I remember how hard it was to quit smoking. All the behaviors and the rationalizing are the same.

        2. Filosofickle*

          I learned that lesson in the other direction. When I was younger I judged smokers A LOT and certainly wouldn’t date one. One day it clicked how much I hated being scolded about my weight/food, and how it wasn’t any more okay for me to be up in their faces. I still don’t want to smell smoke, but otherwise I live and let live.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        OK I wish more healthcare providers were like you!! I swear if I hear “just eat less and exercise more” with the implied “you idiot” ONE MORE TIME…

        No food addiction, just PCOS causing problems. Sometimes I wonder if people believe me when I say I’m training for a half marathon and eat a diet pretty similar to Whole30.

        1. Shamy*

          Thank you, I find that keeping an open mind and not being judgmental goes a long way. There is so much evidence, particularly in women that the body will literally do everything in its power to hold onto weight. Start adding in hormonal issues from things like PCOS, and it is an amazingly difficult task to lose weight.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Honestly I’ve stopped trying so hard to lose weight and focused more on being as healthy as possible given the body I have. If I lose weight, great, but if not at least I’m cultivating good habits that can mitigate the risks associated with being overweight. So far I’ve actually gained weight…in muscle mass! My legs are ripped. It’s kind of awesome. And also so very freeing to focus on what I can do and not on how I look. When you don’t hate your body it’s so much easier to take good care of it.

            1. Shamy*

              Good for you! I wish more people got to this point. You can absolutely be overweight and quite healthy with perfect labs. My own mother was like that. Quite overweight, but so healthy she didn’t need any sort of medication aside from a multivitamin in her 70’s. Interestingly enough, my sister who is a personal trainer told me that her absolutely strongest clients are the ones that are overweight due to having to carry around the weight. Once they start gaining muscle, their strength is unbelievable. Obviously, that is anecdotal, but it certainly makes sense!

              1. Media Monkey*

                absolutely! look at olymic weight lifters and throwers – they are rarely small! as an aside, i think a lot of you might like to follow Rebelfit on facebook. he is quite rude so not for the easily offended but he covers a lot of the issues discussed above.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  I’m partial to Mirna Valerio (Fat Girl Running), Martinus Evans (300 Pounds and Running), and Latoya Shauntay Snell (Running Fat Chef) myself, plus I’m part of Potterhead Running Club which is pretty encouraging. I’ll check out Rebelfit too. Never hurts to have lots of positive fitness role models.

            2. Trying a New Name*

              This! I’ve recently shifted my thinking from focusing on specific numbers, to just cultivating good habits and behaviors. I also have start to focus on the positive things I’m doing, and increasing that number, instead of thinking “I can’t eat this” or “I can’t believe I didn’t exercise today.” It’s made such a difference, both in my own happiness and mental health, and I’ve finally started seeing positive results after over a year of struggling!

              It’s all about cultivating good behaviors and habits, not a number :)

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                I agree. If you focus too much on the scale it can be pretty demoralizing if you don’t see the progress you want. If you’re exercising and eating well only to lose weight, then what’s the point of keeping on if you plateau? But if you’re doing it to become stronger, to have more energy, to be able to chase after your toddler without gasping for air, it’s easier to stay motivated. Your body is an instrument, not an ornament, after all. :)

        2. Sleve McDichael*

          So much of it is about what you eat, too. I get comments about how much I eat and where does it all go, but I have the advantages of being able to cook and eat lots of healthy food. It’s a lot harder when you’re time-poor, or just straight up poor, or you don’t know how. If people stopped with the ‘Just stop eating!!!!!11!!!1’ and switched to offering solutions like ‘Hey do you want to learn how to cook (and eat ;) ) fresh minestrone soup with me?’ you can switch from shame to empowerment and that’s way more effective, oddly enough. Especially with young people who are just beginning to form their relationships with food.
          (Not that it helps with PCOS of course but in general)

      3. Perse's Mom*

        Thank you for this.
        I’m just starting to treat a lifetime of health problems (that have of course created additional problems) and my doctor’s response so far has been the ever so helpful ‘eat less, exercise more.’ I’m hoping the medications I’ve only just started will take effect so that I have the energy to have the willpower to eat better for starters!

      4. Perpal*

        At the risk of derailing, I agree with the above in general; buuut, I just want to make it clear; having compassion does not mean having no boundaries. Boundaries are incredibly important, especially with some addicts, who may try to prey on sympathy. This is probably less prevalent in food additions though; I see it a fair amount with some of the other substance addictions and maybe gambling addictions?

    2. AnonAcademic*

      I agree that compassion is warranted, this is a very sad situation. I also think the very visible and frequent nature of eating makes it harder to politely ignore than drinking, smoking, or drugs (politely ignoring is still the way to go 99% of the time, to be clear). If someone was rapidly chain smoking cigarettes at a meeting (when smoking indoors was allowed) or chugging beers it would probably incur similar judgement to shoveling food I think. But because we eat 3 meals a day, that’s up to 3 daily chances to observe out-of-the-norm behavior and associate it with a person, creating a more lasting impression. There’s also a manners component that we don’t associate as much with smoking or drinking alcohol.

      1. Shamy*

        This is an interesting point you make regarding the visibility factor of eating. So many overweight and obese people talk about the shame of eating around others. The manners component most certainly plays a huge role. I don’t want to armchair diagnose by any means, but given that so many have shame about eating in front of other people and this gentleman was shoveling food in points to the very real possibility of a severe disorder which would be way out of the coworkers area of expertise. I am not sure of the best way to handle it, but do think the focus should be on dealing with the professional effects piece.

    3. Perpal*

      I think food addiction is extra tough because food is required; alcohol, gambling; even to a lesser degree sex, shopping; optional; less so with the last two but still, food? Required to stay alive. So you can’t just say no food, and it’s really hard to make strict rules around food (ie, just 100 calories, or whatever).

  12. Charlotte*

    I mean you can worry all you want and say something if you can’t let it go, but by the sounds of it this person is not going to change their behaviour just because you said something to them. Unless it affects you then just leave them to their own devices.

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      If the expense and hardship of two surgeries didn’t get him to change his behavior, a few words (no matter how compassionate and well-chosen!) from a work colleague will have 0 impact.

  13. Manchmal*

    I totally agree that it isn’t this OP’s business per se to keep the coworker on track. That kind of outsourcing of responsibility doesn’t tend to work anyway, unless he makes specific requests like if the OP is in charge of ordering food and he asks her to make sure there’s salad. But doesn’t this situation veer into the company’s business, or perhaps his manager’s business when his behavior is eliciting negative reactions from clients? This isn’t so different from any other violation of professional norms (other bad table manners, inappropriate attire, offensive jokes, etc) or greedy behavior around “free” food (taking multiple plates when others haven’t had a first helping, etc). Since I have suffered from it myself, I see a compulsive aspect to the coworker’s behavior and wonder whether he wouldn’t benefit from a group like Overeaters Anonymous.

  14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Uf. Uf.

    Back at OldJob, we had a slightly similar dynamic, though on a joking level. Fergus was very open about being diabetic and needing to be extremely careful about sugary food, but a common departmental joke went something like this:

    Fergus: (pointing at donuts/candy jar/etc) Oh, I’m gonna eat all of that! It’ll be amazing!
    Anyone else nearby: No, Fergus! Don’t! That’s very bad for you!
    Fergus: (mimes eating everything there) Om nom nom!
    Anyone else nearby: Nooooooo!

    It was clearly lighthearted, and meant to be very jokey…. but I was quietly struggling with an eating disorder, and these conversations were about three different kinds of triggering* for that disorder and issues related to it.

    Which is all to say, these conversations are not good ones to have in the office! Especially if they’re focused around monitoring and commenting on what someone eats, even with that person’s consent. There are a lot of ways you can help someone eat healthier that don’t involve standing over them going “Hmmm do you really want to take that third donut?” Meal clubs are a good one, for example, where people take turns preparing food that meets the club’s standards for portion sizing and protein/fiber/calorie/carb counts.

    * And yes, pedants, I am using that word correctly for the stimulus causing an acute attack of a medical condition.

    1. Witchy Human*

      It sounds like the coworker in the letter specifically asked his friends rather than the office at large, but you’re right–these conversations tend to spill over to everyone. People will try to be “supportive” by not being secretive, or by using humor, and they aren’t careful about their company or the language they use.

      Personally, some sad family history with diabetes means those stupid ‘om nom nom’ conversations would probably have eventually had me in tears.

  15. Spargle*

    Addiction in general is an anxiety trigger for me, but food addiction is terrifying. How do you manage something you absolutely cannot cut out of your life? I don’t know if he’s addicted but my heart goes out to him.

    1. Gail Davidson-Durst*

      From what I’ve seen emerging in the research (and I am not in any way an expert or scientist, to be clear), the perverse thing is that “food addiction” is probably more a symptom created by dieting and diet culture. One of the treatments is to let go of all restrictions and judgmental thinking about food. Like, literally eat an entire cheesecake for breakfast every day if you want to. After a period of adjustment, a lot of people just don’t want to anymore. I know I used to think I could never NOT want any dessert or deep fried food that was available, but once I stopped thinking of these as forbidden foods, I actually don’t even find them appetizing most of the time.

      TL:DR – one thing all of us can do to help people struggling with eating disorders, binge eating, and damaging beliefs about food is to shut the fork up about diets, restriction, “good” and “bad” foods, etc.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        That’s a great point Gail!
        As a personal anecdote, when I was young and living with my family of seagulls I used to gorge all of my chocolate and lollies as quickly as possible and then want more. Now, my family have actually switched to giving me stone or wooden eggs for Easter because the chocolate would sit in my pantry for six months or more and go bad! I think for me it was a scarcity/availability thing.

  16. nnn*

    If you wanted to do something and you have a hand in making food arrangements, one thing you could do is quietly make food arrangements in such a way that everyone has their own designated food, as opposed to taking servings from shared dishes.

    So, instead of shared platters, go to a restaurant where everyone order their own meal. Instead of ordering pizza, order box lunches for everyone.

    He could still order, like, three entrees or something, but finishing the meal that you’ve ordered presents more of a mental “Okay, now you’re done eating” signal, whereas having a large tray to serve yourself from makes it easier to eat multiple people’s shares of food.

    Of course, this isn’t actually your problem. You are under no actual obligation to arrange meals to stop this co-worker from over-eating.

    But if you did want to do something, this is something you can do without putting yourself in the position of policing your co-worker’s food.

    1. Joielle*

      This is a really good point! Eliminating the appetizer situation altogether might be the easiest route. It might be a bit more work on the front end (gathering box lunch orders, making lunch reservations, whatever) but I think it would be worth it to hopefully avoid this whole awkward issue.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        The easiest way to go about the issue is for his manager to tell him to quit eating more than his share and stop trying to make his coworkers his diet/nutrition coaches.

        His manager needs to tell him to grow up and act like a responsible afult. It’s *not* putting *any* extra work on anyone else because this guy refuses to exercize a modicum of self-control.

        1. BananaPants*

          I’m obese. At work lunches I consciously minimize how much food I take and eat because I feel like my normal-weight colleagues are observing and will judge me if I take even the same portions as they do. So I have one slice of pizza, or serve myself only salad, and I never ever go up for seconds or dessert because I don’t to fulfill some executive’s perception of a fat woman as lacking in self control.

          If this worker really can’t control himself – and it sounds like he can’t – then he needs to seek help so he’s not downing entire trays of food intended for the entire group. It’s bad enough if coworkers don’t get food because he’s taken so much, but it’s really Not Good to have shareholders side-eyeing him like that. It would be a hard conversation for his manager to have, but it needs to happen.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Agreed. To be clear AFAIC this guy can eat anything, and as much of it as he likes. No judgement from me.

            I just cant take adults placing the burden of their lives on others. Dude (OP’s coworker) you are not a child, even if you were you aren’t my child. It is not your coworkers’ responsibility to keep you on your path…


    2. pleaset*

      Nice idea.

      That said, mid-afternoon snacks are important in day-long meetings, and can’t be done that way. But doing individual portions for lunch is good.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        You can probably arrange individual servings of afternoon snacks. Individual fruit salad cups, single serving bags of snack crackers, and individually wrapped cookies or granola bars could all work well.

        1. Marmaduke*

          My school used to have a snack pack for each attendee during training week—usually a brown bag with a granola bar, water bottle, string cheese and a piece of fruit. It made snack time simple and quick.

  17. juliebulie*

    Ouch, this is a hard twist on the usual theme of food policing. Under the circumstances, I agree that it wouldn’t hurt to ask your coworker if he’d still like your help. But even if he does, I think the most you can do is minor supplemental help. He needs a professional.

    Other than that: whenever the boyfriend (now ex) of a certain family member was eating more than his share at a family gathering, I would pick up the platter/serving bowl/bag and cheerfully offer it to people at the other end of the table, sending it out of boyfriend’s reach. Not because boyfriend was obese, but because that seafood salad/carnitas/croutons/potato salad was supposed to be for everyone.

    1. WellRed*

      yes, someone should have asked him to pass the platter (and break the momentum) but I suspect because he’s got weight problems etc that made them feel they couldn’t. But they absolutely could and should have.

  18. Celeste*

    You sound like a very caring person; obviously his health is one issue, but so is his social standing at work when he behaves this way over a shared meal. He sounds very troubled. I like the idea to revisit support, since you can truthfully tell him it looks like he’s struggling very hard and you’re concerned for him on different levels.

    I agree it’s very tough to watch someone who is spiraling out of control.

  19. CatCat*

    OP, I don’t know if, being so small, your company has an EAP. But if so, that may be something to point him to as well when you have the follow-up conversation Alison suggests. That may help him find a professional to help counsel him on the mental side of food. There are also support groups that he may find helpful like Overeaters Anonymous, TOPS, or WW meetings. If you feel comfortable mentioning those things, that type of group support can be really helpful for someone who is struggling (I know this from personal experience). Had he not asked for your help, I would not raise them, but he did, and you’re following up on that/closing the loop. He has had some guidance from his doctor, but it sounds like he needs an ongoing mental and emotional support/help he may benefit more from a professional counselor and/or a support group. It does not sound like something coworkers are necessarily equipped to handle even if they really want to help the person who has asked for help.

    You seem like a kind person genuinely interested in helping your coworker when he wants help. I hope your coworker is able to get the help he needs.

    1. Old Biddy*

      My insurance covers nutritionist visits with no copay/no referral needed. I wouldn’t have even realized this but a colleague mentionned it. Hopefully HR/EAP will be able to provide some workable options for him.

      1. Sara, A Lurker*

        Came in to say exactly this. I’ve worked with several different employers who all use a major insurance company in our area, and all have offered six free visits to a nutritionist per year as part of the benefit package. When I took advantage of this, I was given a list of participating practices to choose from, which required some research from me but also gave me the opportunity to choose a practice that aligned with my personal values and goals.

        I hope LW’s coworker can find an option like this, because it is 100% not appropriate to ask your coworkers for support a professional should provide.

  20. Pink Glitter*

    As someone who struggles with binge-eating, I want to commend the OP and Alison for their compassion in this situation.

    I agree that it would not be out of line for someone to address the lack of manners during group meals, though it may be better coming from someone higher up than OP. Food addiction is so hard because you can’t just give up food like you can alcohol or drugs.

    1. Colorado*

      I was wondering how would replacing alcohol with food in this scenario be different (as an almost 4 month sober person :D, but I guess if it were alcohol the behavior would be easier to address because if you were drinking say 3 to 4 to every 1 of other peoples’ drink, your behavior would change as you become intoxicated. And the behavior is what a manager would address. Addiction is hard. I feel for this man.

      1. OhNo*

        Congratulations on your sobriety!

        I think that behavior is the thing to address in this situation, too. It’s not easy to do, because social mores around how much is too much to eat are more subtle than the black-and-white rules people can put on alcohol. You can tell an employee they’re not allowed to drink at work meetings anymore because they make the company look bad, but you definitely can’t tell an employee they can’t eat (or even how much to eat) for the same reason.

  21. Sharrbe*

    I make this comment as someone who is overweight and struggles with food issues. I think his initial request for help was misguided to begin with. Sure, he could ask for your support by requesting that no one offer him the baked goods that someone may regularly bring in, and to perhaps keep it out of sight, but that’s about it. But he wanted you to teach him how to eat properly and that is waaaaaaaaay out of the realm of what is expected from work friendships (I mean, you don’t know his specific dietary needs, nor should you be expected to ensure that he achieves them). That’s something only a licensed dietician should do. You can’t be the food police for someone else. It’s unfair to you. He was trying to hold you responsible for what he ate, and look, here you are, feeling guilty that you’re not doing your “job” now that he’s no longer watching what he eats. Free yourself from this responsibility. Truth is, no one can force someone else to change. They are the only ones who can do it.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      +100. Coworkers can help with this a little bit by, say, not offering cake, but they can’t be his educators and bodyguards.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I have a coworker who is diabetic and also allergic to a lot of fruits, so when we bring treats, which is not often, anyway, at least part of the food is a vegetable tray and maybe a cheese plate, which everyone likes and she can eat without blowing up her blood sugar or breaking out in hives.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yes, all of this.

      There are other ways coworkers can help, but they all revolve around the same idea of making health-conscious choices easier and medically inadvisable choices more difficult, not directly telling someone what to eat or not eat. Like, if you’re doing a work potluck coordinate to make sure there are veggie dishes instead of eighteen flavors of potato chips. That’s the kind of thing coworkers can do. Being someone’s personal dietician — or worse, scolding parent — isn’t appropriate or kind.

      1. Quill*

        Just did a work potluck where I brought in a fancy salad and got thanked profusely for making sure the nuts and cheese were on the side instead of premixed, so it would be safe for as many dietary restrictions as possible. (Obviously for severe nut allergies or severe celiac I couldn’t guarantee that there was no cross contamination, as I, a person with neither problem, made the salad in my kitchen, which I clean with nonmedical precision.)

    3. A*

      +1. Especially given that these issues are rarely driven solely by ignorance in re: to nutrition etc. More often than not, people know what they “should” do, but for various reasons… they don’t.

      I say this as someone who also has had this struggle.

    4. Jennifer*

      Agreed! That’s just too much responsibility. Beyond allergies and religious restrictions, I don’t think coworkers should be involved in other’s food choices at all. Making healthy options available at potlucks is one thing, but I’m not running around hiding cupcakes or telling people they can’t have them.

    5. smoke tree*

      In a way, this reminds me of letters from people who are trying to manage a coworker’s mental health by walking on eggshells around them. Aside from being generally kind and considerate, there is a real limit to how much support is appropriate for a coworker’s personal issues, and there is a chance of mismanaging it in a way that could be counterproductive for the coworker or disruptive/disturbing for others in the vicinity. That’s because most people aren’t experts in this stuff and it’s very complicated. I do understand the impulse to help, but sometimes you have to recognize when you’re not the best person to do that.

    6. Anonymeece*


      Quite frankly, I’ve noticed this tendency because it allows someone to shift the “blame” onto someone else for their own behavior*. I’ve seen it with food, tobacco, and drinking.

      It usually looks something like this:
      FRIEND: I’m quitting smoking!
      (later on in the night)
      FRIEND: Can I bum a cigarette?
      ME: I thought you were quitting?
      FRIEND: Oh, I was just joking/nah, not tonight/just one/etc.
      ME: Okay, sure.
      (next day)
      FRIEND: Why did you let me smoke!?

      Sharrbe is absolutely correct – “Free yourself from this responsibility.” Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility, even if he tried to make it yours.

      * This isn’t to say they’re a bad person. It’s just a natural human response. I want to do the right thing -> I messed up -> I don’t like feeling guilty -> I feel better if I make it someone else’s responsibility, because I feel less guilty. We’ve all done it after a fight we know that we overreacted to, or embarrassed because we messed up over something and blew up, or struggle with an addiction or behavior.

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        I’d say it’s not necessarily about shifting blame, but about shifting the work. And when it comes down it, we don’t need to do other people’s work for them just because they asked us to.

  22. Dust Bunny*

    This is way, way, above y’all’s pay grade.

    I agree: Check in discreetly to see if he still wants your help, but then back off again as you already did. You can’t fix this for him.

    And now you know: Take whatever food you want at events at the first go-round.

  23. Lauren*

    What is the office set up like? Have you thought about walking meetings? If the building offers some easy 15 min laps in the halls or up and down some stair inside – great, but outside works too. Great way to get your steps in, and I’d encourage your coworker to join in, and ask HIM for support in coming to your walking meetings.

    1. Yorick*

      Definitely don’t do stairs though. I’m fat and I enjoy a nice walk and a walking meeting sounds lovely, but if someone wanted to go up and down stairs during a meeting, I’d be livid.

      1. Ophelia*

        Hah, yeah, I also balked at that, because the chances I would fall down the stairs when trying to pay attention to someone talking to me are…not zero.

      2. Triumphant Fox*

        What are even the logistics of that? I envision calling up to the person four steps ahead of me and constantly craning my neck to look at the people behind me, while huffing and puffing.

        I love the idea of a walking meeting though. Bring in a Sorkin-style walk and talk to my real life.

      3. Quill*

        If no one has to take notes, a walking meeting sounds nice assuming that it’s accessable to everyone. Especially when you have things like “hey, let’s have this meeting and show people from the Teapot Design department the Teapot QC’s lab so they can physically see what QC is working with.”

        If someone has to take notes? NO WALKING MEETING. Someone will fall.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Yeah, I’m on board with the idea of walking meetings when it’s only 2 of us and we’re both reasonably mobile. (Recently I had a leg injury that put the kibosh on my walking mentor sessions.) It can be nice to move and get fresh air! Get away from other ears! But it can’t be anything detailed, where I need notes to talk or notes need to be taken. It only works when it’s a chat / catch up on stuff that can be held easily in your head. And more than 2 people is a real problem, because you can’t easily walk / talk side by side.

    2. Anon Y. Mouse*

      If you do this, just be cognizant that this may create a culture that isn’t very welcoming to people with mobility restrictions.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        Not just that, but someone out of shape enough will find themselves likely huffing and puffing and that’s also deeply embarrassing. If they don’t have enough breath to talk, they aren’t contributing and they probably aren’t getting anything out of it either as they’re either focused on their breathing or struggling to keep up.

        Somehow I never think of these walking meetings as leisurely strolls, they’re always power-walking.

  24. nonymous*

    I think, in addition to the excellent advice that Alison suggested, that either the coworker’s supervisor or the person organizing the event has some standing to comment on the workplace performance aspect of it. One person scarfing the appetizer samplers meant for a crowd (I saw this happen at a conference once – the first 5 guys scooped up all of the guac, meant to serve 65) will definitely affect the experience for others. And if stakeholders were expressing disapproval, that is feedback to pass along.

    I mean, it’s totally up to the individual employee if they choose not to monitor their health, but they can do so by eating extra meals/snacks before/after the event (or supplementing discreetly with high-calorie drinks).

    1. Zephy*

      the first 5 guys scooped up all of the guac, meant to serve 65

      I…that’s a terrifying amount of guac for a single person. Practically a whole avocado each.

      On-topic: I agree that the “etiquette around communal platters/work lunches in general” is the only real thing OP or the employee’s boss has real standing to say anything about, but I do like Alison’s compassionate approach.

      1. Quill*

        It’s more like half a tree of avocados! A single serving of guac is about 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado if it’s being served as a dish rather than just a smear on your sandwich.

        1. Toothless*

          Turning one avocado at a time into guac and eating it with chips is one of my favorite bad-decisions dinners

    2. Quill*

      They ate 13 servings of guac apiece? Either your workplace severely under-estimated what a serving of guac is, or they literally had entire heaping plates of it. 0.o

      1. nonymous*

        It was the afternoon snack break at a tech/academic conference at a very prestigious university. They basically piled multiple large scoops on a dinner-sized plate to eat with a fork. I think it was a combination of jerkiness, and that the meals earlier in the day were extremely light on protein/fat and coffee.

        I’m pretty picky about what I eat during conferences, to avoid blood-sugar crashes and food poisoning, and I was supplementing with protein bars – I can’t imagine how the people who don’t have a conference eating plan were coping. University catering tends to be smaller portions than hotel catering.

    3. Lilysparrow*

      I find it amazing that nobody said anything. This is the exact scenario that the word “DUDE!” was made for.

      One guy with an eating disorder, maybe – and even that’s no excuse, because making other people bear the brunt of your mental-health issues is a jerk move no matter what those issues are.

      No way there were five guys in a row who all had eating disorders with a specific craving for guac. They were just being assholes.

      1. OhNo*

        The next time this conference comes around, someone needs to have a Guac Signal on standby to summon him. Or just put him at the end of the buffet line to lecture and redistribute as needed…

  25. Anon because this one is close to home*

    As someone who has a close family member with an ED, I’ve learned that I can support but not compel good food behaviors. It’s difficult even when you have the standing to intervene. As a coworker, OP is likely unable to really influence his diet and food choices. She can try Alison’s suggestions, but I doubt she’ll have much success. I am sorry for this situation.

  26. Heidi*

    It seems pretty common that people trying to lose weight are advised to tell people that they are trying to lose weight for the sake of accountability. However, your friends or family don’t really have any authority to cut you off. This tactic probably works only if the person losing weight is motivated to eat better by the potential embarrassment of failing in front of people they know. If not, this plan will not work. Don’t blame yourself for any of this, OP. It’s lovely that you want to help, but the help he needs is beyond what you can provide as his coworker.

    1. LinesInTheSand*

      I’d be ok with concrete asks too. Things like “let’s try to avoid buffet-style events if we can”. That seems reasonable. Asking for people to police his food is appalling.

  27. Bagpuss*

    I think thatunless you are his manager, the only things you can appropriately do are
    1. As his co-worker / friend speak to him to let him knowthat ou had backed off from saying anything despite his request, as he seemed to no loner want that input, and (if he says he still wans it, you can either ask him specifically what would be helpful, or alternatively say that you don’t really feel ccomfortable commenting about his eating so would prefer not to continue, depending how you feel)

    2. Speak to his or your own line manager to mention the reaction of the stakeholders, in which case keep it solely about manners – i.e. that he took most of the food from the sharing plater without allowing others time to take a portion, and that you could see that other stakeholders were noticing this. That’s the management issue and there shouldn’t be any mention of is weight, eating habits or the fact he asked for help in the past, as those are not work-related issues.

    I think unless you are his manager or are a very close friend, it is not appropriate for you to have the conversation with him about letting others take their share beforegong in for seconds – it sounds as though did did make a comment which he didn’t take on board, and you don’t (unless you are the manager) have the authority to address the issue of his behaviour being unprofessional.

    If your employer has any kind of employee support which might include resources which could be helpful for him, you could mention this in the context of a conversation abotu you not being involving in ‘helping’ him any further – but again, keep it low key “I expect you’ve already looked into it, but if not, have you considered contacting the EAP?”

  28. Savannah*

    I cannot even fathom what it would mean to “help” a coworker not overeat. I would be so uncomfortable at his first mention. That falls strictly on the “personal” side of the line I draw between myself and my job.

  29. voyager1*

    Hard disagree with AAM on this one. This isn’t about his heath. When food is brought in everyone it doesn’t make it his personal buffet. Frankly your coworker is gross and lacking of manners. I would totally send this up the chain.

    1. A*

      The letter is highly suggestive of addiction. If this was an example of one coworker repeatedly drinking in excess at company happy hours, would you also view it as unrelated to health and “gross”?

      1. sunny-dee*

        Actually, yeah. I would call it gross and wouldn’t necessarily make it about health. I’m assuming voyager means the relevant company issue / conversation isn’t about his health — it was about his public behavior around important stakeholders. If I had a coworker who got completely wasted and acted in an unprofessional and embarrassing manner at a company event, I would bring it up (to the coworker if they were a friend and to the manager if I weren’t close enough to the coworker). That kind of thing can be damaging to the company (especially one that small) and damaging to the coworker professionally.

        1. voyager1*

          Exactly. I mentioned health because the LW wrote so much about it. The issue here is the guy has no awareness about how to eat around others in a professional setting. And yeah the behavior is gross and lacking of any manners.

          1. Marmaduke*

            One key difference is that an alcoholic can simply choose not to drink at work events. Eating is not so avoidable.

              1. Marmaduke*

                For a multi-day event? Yes, it’s possible to fast for several days, but I wouldn’t say it’s something that can reasonably be expected.

                1. voyager1*

                  No, that an alcoholic can resist drinking.

                  I wouldn’t expect the employee not to eat, I would expect him not eat more then his reasonable fair share. If needs extra he can bring his own. If people are noticing he is eating way more then is reasonable, that is a problem. This is no different then someone drinking at an office event to the point of being drunk and causing a scene.

      2. Lilysparrow*

        Yes, if he’s drinking so much that he acts unprofessional and ruins other people’s ability to enjoy themselves as a direct result of his drunken behavior.

        The drinking is about his health. The impact on other people isn’t.

        Just like if someone has anxiety or depression that makes them prone to angry outbursts. It is not okay to scream at people and verbally abuse them. Or slam your belongings around on your desk in a disruptive way. Or be sullen and unpleasant to your co-workers.

        Someone can have a legitimate health issue, and still be doing actions that qualify as gross misbehavior.

      1. Johnny Tarr*

        I think this kind of response is not helpful to the dialogue. As others pointed out, any kind of rudeness in a professional setting is inappropriate and it’s fair for an employer to put a stop to it, even if the behavior is caused by an addiction or other mental health issue. This shaming response – “you’re a sad, embarrassing, gross, judgmental, ugly, indecent, ignorant, mean person” – is a little much.

        1. voyager1*

          Meh, I neither “embarrassed” nor “sad”. Some people responding on here never take into account tone or just read something in the worst way (probably a life outlook thing). Sure one can get upset enough to write what they did, or they could have taken a moment to see if they weren’t reading into it. Apparently they gave into being impetuous in responding. No biggie, just another day on the internets.

  30. Sharon*

    This one is hard. I once had an assistant that I relied upon as it was a department of 2 – me and her. She was older, overweight and had poorly controlled diabetes. She would frequently get sick and be out for several days to a week. It was hard for me not to say anything as she would regularly eat donuts and pastries and drink soda. On the one hand – none of my business. On the other hand – it WAS my business because her personal habits were impinging on her ability to do her job. In the end, the company was sold and we both moved on before it got to the point where I HAD to say anything. But… in general, I would say that if the LW’s co-worker’s habits aren’t directly impacting his ability to do his job, there is nothing to be gained by saying something.

    1. AMT*

      Even if the coworker’s habits were affecting the job, I’d still keep it focused on the behavior (e.g. “You called out sick multiple times right before a deadline” rather than “You need to control your diabetes”). In the LW’s coworker’s case, it doesn’t sound like it’s affecting his work other than taking too much of the communal food, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to intervene beyond that, even if asked. He clearly needs more support than the LW can provide.

  31. LinesInTheSand*

    One thing I didn’t see Alison address is the appropriateness of this person’s request that his coworkers help him with his eating disorder. That seems inappropriate in so many ways to begin with.

    1. Amber Rose*

      No point in addressing it, since the past can’t be changed and it doesn’t do any good to tell anyone except that guy that it was inappropriate.

  32. RUKiddingMe*

    I know hindsight is 20/20 and all, but in the future, with him or anyone else…

    “He has asked his friends at the office (me being one of them) for help in learning how to eat properly…”

    Said as kindly as possible…

    I’m not a nutritionist. I think you’d be better served engaging a registered/licensed professional.

    “…make sure he is following doctor’s orders…”

    Said as kindly as possible…

    I don’t feel comfortable doing that. We are coworkers/office buddies, not close family members.

    I’m not being unkind here, but this is his particular dragon and it’s so not the job of coworkers, including higher ups, and especially the women to do the emotional (and other) labor for this man.

    He’s an adult so he will need to “adult” and take on the responsibility of dealing without a pseudo-mommy to jump in and metaphorically slap his hand away from the crab puffs.

    1. BadWolf*

      Yeah, I had an Ex who once asked me to helping monitor his food. I said no, flat out. As I knew we’d only end up in the land of resentment. I mean, if he asked me to avoid suggesting appetizers and desserts, I could get behind that. But nitpicking whether he picked a burger or a salad and whether the salad was actually healthy or token greenery. Nope.

  33. MCL*

    This idea is totally a band-aid on a much bigger issue, but maybe it will help at least with the issue of him eating all of the group food. At the next meeting, if it’s possible, set up a table with snacks that isn’t at the same table everyone is sitting at. For added measure, you could try assigning seats, with his seat being farther from the food. Maybe if he has to get up to refill his plate that would be more of a deterrent? If you don’t usually assign seats for meetings this might be a little odd, so maybe just the first bit. If he is determined to binge, though, it might be impossible to prevent him from doing so, especially as he does not seem to be phased by excessively eating in front of others. I think Alison’s suggestions are very compassionate – ultimately it’s his responsibility to manage his health, though.

    1. MCL*

      Also the idea about box lunches is a great one. The portions are more controlled than a buffet-style lunch where you can get more helpings, and there’s still plenty of food for each person to have a satisfying meal.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Agreed. My workplace usually does either boxed lunches or, for big events, catered meals that come with hired servers, who help control portions (mostly to make sure everyone gets food). You can go back for seconds *after* everyone else has eaten.

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      That sounds like *so* much work for OP/others when the onus is on him to be an adult and restrain himself/behave like an adult with manners.

      If he is that far beyond the pale wrt social/office norms then he needs to deal with whatever consequences arise. It is not the job of coworkers, particularly the women coworkers (i.e. caretaking/mothering/emotional labor) to do extra stuff.

      It is in no way their duty to save this man from his choices.

      1. MCL*

        I’m not sure that putting the food on a table other than the conference table classifies as “so much work” in my book, but it depends on the set-up, I suppose. Seating assignments would definitely be more work.

      2. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

        Emotional labor was 100% ringing in my head when I read the letter. This is not your job as a coworker, and it’s unfair for him to ask it of you. He needs a “Team You” (Captain Awkward™) that includes his medical professionals, therapist, loved ones…but not his coworkers. Portion control is not in your job description.

  34. Blaine*

    I’m sure he has had extensive nutritional guidance prior to and for sure after his surgeries if they were related to his obesity. Teaching is a part of discharge – basically, he’s been given the tools he needs, and the information he needs. It’s not co-workers responsibility at his workplace to provide nutritional counseling to which I’m assuming no one is professionally qualified to do? Essentially I’m saying to let yourself off the hook – being supportive is one thing and of course a kind thing to do, but its not your responsibility to and you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty that you’ve been unable to police his dietary choices or make sure he is following doctors orders.

  35. theletter*

    I think his initial request and the way it was handled might have not set him up for success. I would think of this as more like how many offices handle alcohol. A lot of offices just don’t have it, or if they do, it’s heavily managed.

    The things the office could do to help him is:

    1. banish the baked goods and snacks that might come in from home. I know it seems heartless but it’s probably better for everyone in the long run.

    2. Events that involve food can be coordinated to involve only healthy food in set portions, as a commenter mentioned above. Boxed lunches. restaurants that don’t serve food ‘for the table’.

    3. Events should be coordinated without food if possible. This ought to save some money in the long run anyway.

    It seems draconian, but if he had come to me and I had any control over the situation, that’s what I’d do. Give him less opportunities to fail, help him cut down on decision fatigue. Keep the workplace focused on work and not on ‘food treats.’

    1. 1234*

      The problem with #3 is that food is sometime the draw for an event. It’s a way to get people to come to a meeting that they would not otherwise attend.

      1. Filosofickle*

        That is true! I’ve definitely checked into what food will be there before agreeing to an event I am not motivated to attend. And I’ve been irritated to arrive at an early meeting and find not even coffee.

        Timing matters, though. If it’s not held at a breakfast or lunch time, I don’t expect food and don’t look for it.

    2. Filosofickle*

      1. Not just from home! I worked in a small company that was infamous internally for its version of the Freshman 15. They brought in breakfast breads/pastries every Monday, enough to feed all of us for a couple of days. Stragglers lasted most of the week, so you didn’t have to resist once or even one day — every time you came to the kitchen for 3-4 days, there they were.

      Once they took a poll asking us what we wanted them to bring in for breakfasts and universally the responses said “please, no more donuts”. HR pushed back saying that clearly everyone likes the donuts so the poll is wrong. We told them, we’re asking you to stop bringing donuts BECAUSE WE EAT THE DONUTS. They continued buying donuts.

      It was a kindness that they wanted to give us treats. We worked crazy deadlines sometimes and those carbs held us over when we missed breakfast or lunch. (Sometimes dinner.) But, different choices would have helped us.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        I used to organize events for undergrduate students and once a young woman said something similar about pizza – how every event offered pizza because they assumed it was all undergrads ate but of course it was all they ate because events didn’t offer anything else. She said, a note of desperation in her voice, “Can’t we even have a salad to go with it?” Our assumptions about what people eat because they actively want it aren’t always in line with what people eat because it’s the only option.

    3. Quill*

      I’d push back on 3 given that “events” often eat into people’s lunch hours, pun fully intended. That said, if they’re scheduled for hours where people won’t automatically associate them with food, and it’s made very clear that there will be no food available, yes, don’t order a bunch of appetizers.

    4. Marissa*

      I think these are good suggestions. In sum, I think the OP can take steps to make sure the office is a safe place that is not full of triggers for overeating, which would benefit not just the coworker but probably lots of others there too. OP I think could have one short, compassionate conversation where they say, “Hey, I’m still here if you need me” and use the scripts Alison provided and leave it there. OP, even if your coworker rejects your help, please continue to show the same compassion you have so far. He is clearly in a difficult position and is trying to undo decades of engrained behavior.

      I’m embarrassed to say this, but at my old office, I was in a high pressure position, and there were always snacks and soda available, and I put on a good 30 pounds before I left (it was just so easy to snack to distract from stress). It’s been a year since I left there and I’m still working to get rid of an urge to constantly snack that I didn’t have before food was just always sitting out. Food at work and at work events can be really tricky.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I don’t get, though, why everyone is assuming the OP has any input or influence into setting up these events (or the office food policies as a whole). In a backward way, it’s basically forcing the OP to become the food police so that there is a minor attempt for someone else to maybe modify their own behavior. That’s really unfair to the OP. And that may not even remotely be the OP’s role, which means they’d have to step way outside their job to try to force everyone else to comply to an arbitrary set of rules.

        The coworker initially asked the OP (and others!) for “support” in their diet — because they were friends, not because the OP controls the office breakroom. And then the coworker quit following the diet. And then the coworker committed a major professional faux pas at a public event, which happens to be related to food but is completely unrelated to any snacks available in the breakroom.

        I think putting the onus on the OP to “fix” the food situation is incredibly unfair — especially since the coworker has already ignored the OP and others related to policing his food choices.

        1. Marissa*

          That’s fair, I think I did skip a step in the logic train. Since OP was asking what they could do, in my mind OP can’t change coworker. OP can provide verbal support, and OP can make changes to the environment to the extent they are able within their role in the office. Those are “cans”, not “shoulds”, or “musts”. I don’t think OP is required to take any steps, but I got the impression OP was feeling compassion and wanted to help, but didn’t know how.

    5. Caterpie*

      Related to your second point: I’m wondering if providing individually wrapped granola bars or equivalent snacks would mitigate some of the problems (unless a meal was an expectation as 1234 mentioned). It would help give attendees that wanted it a sugar/carb boost to get through the meeting, and others could decline or save it for later. OPs coworker might also be less likely to eat several if multiple wrappers are piling up in front of him. Added bonuses include clearly marked nutrition and allergy info and ease of providing a variety of options.

    6. blink14*

      I personally don’t think #1 is helpful in the long run. He needs to be able to be around “temptation” foods and make the right decisions. Totally banning baked goods and office snacks is enabling his inability to make correct choices. I think a more realistic idea would be to limit the number of days of baked goods and office snacks, if this is even an issue for your office specifically. You could also supplement with some fresh fruit or things like healthy granola bars.

      #2 Is pretty reasonable, depending on the situation. Do you throw a special pizza party every year for a particular event or client? Don’t change it, but add in some healthier options.

      I think in some industries, events with food are unavoidable. People have to eat, and you have to let said people make their own decisions of what to eat based on what is available. Choosing to provide better options is probably the most realistic option.

    7. OP*

      We actually did ban baked goods, which worked out in everyone’s favor as we have a colleague who likes to bake and share, but her skills and standards of hygiene (as relates to food) are kind of questionable.
      As to the not having foods at events, it’s not really an option in this case as the event in question is actually a meeting that spreads over two whole days (often going over 8 hours a day), I do like the set portions suggestion though. I think if I bring it up as a money saver, I might even get some traction with it.

    8. RUKiddingMe*

      This sounds almost like “well since Gary can’t eat only his share if the cake then no one gets any.” Everyone lises out because Gary can’t be responsible and control himself.

      To be clear this isnt about his obesity. That’s one issue that isn’t/shouldn’t be a work thing…at all. It’s about him taking more than his fair share and so because this one person “misbehaves” (for lack of a better word), everyone has to pay the price.

  36. Carlie*

    Universal Design for everyone who tends to take too much (or too little) – single servings. As some have listed, go to restaurants or use catering that packages by the plate. If you can’t do that (like it’s a potluck?), have one person be the designated server and scoop out to everyone, cafeteria-style. That also helps with situations like “everyone else ate the one food we had special for the one vegetarian and they didn’t get any”, “I assumed there would be some left so I didn’t get it the first round”, “I assumed since there was some left after the first round I could get seconds”, and all manner of food squabbles.

  37. Quill*

    The friend problem is that you don’t know if he still wants your help… the workplace problem is that it sounds like he’s demolishing the communal food resources for your whole group.

    My moderately educated guess is that he’s doing this due to previous restrictions (I’ll cheat on baked goods for this one day! So it’s important that I obtain one of each variety! The blueberry one was good, though…) but ultimately I don’t know for sure.

    When it comes to the workplace problem, perhaps instituting a no thirds until everyone has had seconds rule? Or a “we’re going to put anything that’s just lying around by 1:30 in the fridge so it doesn’t go bad,” thing.

    Other than that – if it’s at all possible, maybe serve the appetizers / group meal instead of treating it as a buffet?

  38. sunny-dee*

    Except there’s no indication that any of these situations occurred — the problem was that at a relatively public event, the coworker hogged entire plates of food and behaved poorly in front of major stakeholders. That’s not Betty bringing in her famous chocolate cake on Friday afternoon, where Betty could help him out by not bringing her cake. There are going to be events — conferences, networking events, cocktail parties — where the food is not going to be rigidly controlled and the coworker needs to be able to display at list a minimum of self control. Just like there are going to be events that serve alcohol and an alcoholic needs to find ways to cope with it. That may mean that the coworker simply avoids those events for awhile until he has a better handle on it, or only stays for the beginning and then leaves. But there are limits on how far you can rearrange the world to accommodate you, and this is one of those situations outside those limits.

    Honestly, I think at least one first step needs to be to let him know that his behavior was noticeable. It should have been obvious when the OP said something in the moment, but people have a really good ability to lie to themselves, and he probably convinced himself that in a large group, no one would notice. He kind of needs to know he did, because it reflects poorly on him.

    1. YetAnotherUsername*

      I think this is a really good analogy. If someone was in recovery from alcoholism and then got wasted and embarrassed themselves at a work event with free alcohol, it would be a kindness to excuse them from attending future work events with alcohol, until their recovery has progressed further.

      In this case it seems likely that he was in recovery from a food addiction but then binged and embarrassed himself at a work event with free food. It would be a kindness to excuse him from similar events in the future until his recovery has progressed.

      How exactly this could be achieved I have no idea, but I think this is what OP might want to aim for.

      If it was an alcohol addiction I would say it to my friend first and encourage them to let their boss know about being in recovery and ask to be excused from such events for a while. However if they insisted that they were fine and would continue drinking, I would probably let the first time go, but would raise their behavior with their boss if they did it again on front of clients.

  39. Koala dreams*

    It would be fine to have a conversation once about you being worried for him and maybe suggesting some specific resource, if that’s something you want to do. After that, you need to keep your worry to yourself.

    For me when I’m ill I prefer when people have some specific resource to share. That could be the phone number to a local service that connect you to different health facilities, advice to try X hospital or see Y specialist, or a book or YouTube channel that you found helpful for you. I don’t appreciate general tips (eat fruit, drink more water). Even though I understand that they are meant to convey sympathy, they often come across as unhelpful. It’s better to say something like “I hope you’ll get better soon” or “That sounds hard for you”. Or simply not say anything special, just the usual small talk.

    As for your coworker’s behaviour at the work event, I think you handled it beautifully. A matter of fact comment in the moment is the best way to go about it. Not much point in bringing it up later. Unless you are the person’s manager, then you might want to have a discussion about professional behaviour in preparation for the next event.

    1. Jessica Fletcher*

      “Drink water when you’re hungry” is a restrictive eating/starvation tip, so it’s pretty crappy advice! A lot of “diet advice” for fat people would be easily recognized as disordered eating in a thin person.

      1. Quill*

        Also some of it can majorly mess you up if your “weight problem” is actually tied to an “undiagnosed nonstandard dietary needs” problem, or even as anything more than a very short term solution.

        Even “make yourself tea instead of having a snack in front of the TV at night” is more complicated – is the snack because you’re bored, because you’re eating dinner too early, because you’ve restricted carbs and fat from your “regular” diet? In my opinion people who get paid to give out dietary advice should be licensed as strictly as doctors and in just as much trouble if they propose something that has no empirical proof behind it.

        1. Jessica Fletcher*

          Honestly though, most doctors don’t even know how to give accurate healthy eating advice, because our culture (American, at least) is so deeply committed to hating and punishing fatness at all costs. Did you know that diet companies led the charge to pathologize fatness as the billable medical diagnosis “obesity”? I wonder what could have been their motivation…

      2. nonymous*

        not necessarily. It’s also about retraining perceptions of “hunger”. Being hungry after only ingesting 500kcal in a 24 period is expected and water is not an appropriate response. Feeling “hungry” after eating 5000kcal in the previous hour, a sedentary lifestyle, and no mitigating medical conditions might actually be a thirst craving that is being incorrectly perceived.

        The rule of thumb that I have been taught is to rule out thirst, boredom, emotions. And if I’m still hungry (and it’s not mealtime) eat an apple with some peanut butter.

      3. Koala dreams*

        I didn’t think of that! I chose that example because I hear it as advice to people with a wide range of health problems, for example the flu. It sounds worse when it’s meant instead of eating. :(

  40. Jessica Fletcher*

    I like the suggestion to be thoughtful about selecting group meals. Even if he decides he doesn’t want your help anymore, you can still use whatever influence you have to choose options that everyone can enjoy for catered meals or potlucks.

    I also wonder how OP addressed it in the moment when the coworker was “shoveling” food at the group event. Did they make a discreet comment referencing the request to help with monitoring? Or did they make a joke or comment that could be overheard? If it was overheard, I can see the coworker either deliberately not changing eating style out of embarrassment, or not changing/eating more from anxiety.

    I’m a fat person who has struggled for a long time with restrictive eating disorders, so. Thinking about food sucks a lot, and as a fat person, there’s no way to eat “the right way” in public. So many people are going to have an opinion, no matter what. A lot of what we think we know about eating and health is wrong, primarily because research is controlled by groups with an existing bias against fat people in the first place.

    1. OP*

      I did discretely let him know he needed to leave some for everyone else. I poked him in the arm and covered my mouth slightly when speaking so no one could even try to read my lips. He laughed and kept on going.

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      Hey SaffyTaffy, it’s not your fault. Listen to me, it’s not your fault that you can’t fix this. Would you feel this way if you had a broken leg you couldn’t fix? Of course not. You’d go see a doctor who is extremely clever, has trained for 7 years and passed a bunch of exams to be able to fix you. (Or if you couldn’t afford that because the US has weird issues with medical costs, you would seek free help, online or from charities.) It’s exactly the same here. You don’t have to do it alone and there is a very good reason why that’s not worked yet. Because it’s flipping complicated! That’s not your fault. It’s just the way it is. If you’re seeing a pro, keep at it! Healing takes time, and that’s what you’re doing, healing your brain. If you haven’t sought help yet, please do. And build up your ‘team you’ who are close to you and on your side to cheer you on, not pull you down.

      BTW this applies to anyone who feels like SaffyTaffy reading this right now. Yes, you. I’m cheering you on from the other side of the world.

  41. Amethystmoon*

    I have been on multiple diets and learned the only way for me to eat healthy regularly is not to diet. Doesn’t sound right, I know. I make sure to eat my whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables — without going on a fad diet. I do track my food in a free app, but I also don’t make the amount undoable for a long period of time. Not everyone responds well to fad diets, and you have to be able to do them long enough to be able to lose weight and not regain it. Eating healthy is not just a few weeks or months thing.

    But yeah, being in an office, especially working for a company that sells food, I have to make sure to bring in my own healthy snacks or I’d lose my willpower all the time whenever unhealthy treats, such as ice cream bars, are offered regularly. I also usually bring my lunch since our cafeteria options have gone very basic to either burgers or packaged salads/sandwiches, most of which are pretty high in both carbs and fat content.

    If I was that co-worker, I’d be bringing in my own either protein or fresh fruit/veggie snacks on those days, and eating them on scheduled break times, away from the other food where I wouldn’t be as visible. That might help with the hunger issue.

  42. blink14*

    OP, I feel for you. It’s really tough to see someone you know and care about – co-worker, friend, relative – struggle and seem to continue toxic behaviors. Ultimately, while you can offer help, and you have by accepting his request, you can’t change his behavior. He has to realize it for himself that his eating habits are unhealthy. In the short term, the fact that his hogging of the appetizer plate was noticed by the stake-holders is concerning, but pointing that out to him may actually make things worse and could trigger private binge-eating. I think you have to stay out of it from here on out, and focus on your work relationship.

    Years ago I worked at a camp, and I had a camper in my group who’s parents, for whatever reason, had her on a diet. A 5 year old on a diet. We were asked to monitor her food intake, and literally split her lunch in half – the lunch was barely enough for a 5 year old to begin with. We were given no reason or real instructions – just split in half and no snacks. Instead of packing an appropriate lunch daily for their child, they put it in the hands of teenagers and young teachers who had no medical dietary knowledge, and we felt horrible. We started bringing in healthy snacks for her to substitute at snack time, but the look on her face when her friends got a couple of cookies and she had to eat carrots or a piece of fruit was so sad, or if we followed her parents instructions, no snack at all, she didn’t understand. On the flip side, we had a camper in the same year who’s family was very into organic food (well before it became a mainstream thing) and her parents educated her about their choices and packed her a special lunch every day with foods of their choice. They often mimicked foods that kids love – like Lunchables and mac and cheese. She would come with a little bento box “Lunchable” or a thermos of organic mac and cheese, and never felt left out. It was pretty cool to see her open that little bento and tell all her friends proudly about her “organic Lunchable”.

  43. OP*

    Hi All OP here! First I want to thank everyone for their kind comments, I was honestly half expecting a lot of fat shaming, which I haven’t seen. I was so excited that Alison thought my letter was post worthy!
    First I want to address the original request Guy made when asking for diet help. He literally gave us lists his doctors had given him of things he should not eat or only eat in moderation. He had no idea what most of the stuff even was. I went grocery shopping with to help him figure out what he could get and what he should avoid and discovered he literally had NO IDEA how to even grocery shop or even cook. So I taught him how to read food labels and showed him some fruits and veggies he could eat and even showed him the section where they had all the pre-prepped stuff. It worked for a while. That was in October, then in January he was informed he needed a major heart surgery (quad bypass) and it really seemed like that was the wake up call he needed but it obviously didn’t stick.
    For those people saying he needs to discuss this with a trained medical team, he has. He sees his cardiologist, kidney doctor, a dietician, AND I’ve just found out he’s been seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.
    I was able to asking if he still wanted my help with his eating and he said yes, then turned around and got a lunch that consisted of a family size portion of breaded and fried wings AND a very large sandwich, so I’m just going to keep myself to myself and keep eating as healthy as possible when he’s in the office and hope he follows suit. Not ideal but, I’ve tried, and in the end, I can only deal with my own food issues.
    Also, I did mention the food hoarding thing to someone higher up than me, because you are all right, it did look really bad. So that’s where we are now.

    1. blink14*

      A couple of hospitals where I live have special dietary programs, mostly geared towards diabetics, that group classes to learn how to approach food and dieting. The programs go through how to read labels, nutritional needs, how to shop, meal plan ideas, etc. I wonder, if a program like that exists in your area, if you could quietly pass along the information to him.

      At the end of the day, like all people who struggle with some kind of addiction, he has to make the change for himself. At some point, offers to help go unheard and the person drives themselves deeper towards rock bottom before having the enlightened moment of realizing they have to change their habits. From what it sounds like, he’s not at that point yet. I agree – keep setting a good example and remain kind, but do not involve yourself any further. From experience, at some point, offering help with no response becomes toxic to your own well being.

    2. Amethystmoon*

      YouTube is a great free resource for how to cook. There are literally cooking shows on there, that maybe should be on regular TV, but aren’t. I would suspect also they have cooking shows geared towards people trying to eat healthier.

      I learned mostly from books and watching various relatives, as well as other cooking shows on TV. But yeah, it’s tough when surrounded by food. I have the issue where I work for a major food retailer, and there are free unhealthy product samples constantly that have to be turned down, as well as once a month group birthdays. I eat the cake on my birthday month and no other one. Today, I’m having a couple of Halos for my snack, so I’m not feeling totally deprived.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I assume it was either 1) McDonalds etc or 2) things from the supermarket that don’t really require any preparation such as crisps (chips in the US), microwave meals, ramen noodles etc.

        After leaving home I would go to supermarket/grocery store and although (unlike this guy? Not sure) I intellectually knew ‘how’ to buy ingredients and cook stuff… anxiety stopped me from doing that and I literally couldn’t see anything that I could buy and make use of other than a couple of microwave meals and snack food. I don’t know how to explain it really but the part to be able to see ingredients like potatoes, meat etc and be able to “translate” them into future meals in my mind, was missing.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        … my fridge was empty because I couldn’t think of buying anything to keep in there and use in the future. I had condiments and stuff in there, no actual “raw materials” ingredients to speak of expect perhaps some mouldy cheese or things like that. I had a few things like fish fingers in the freezer, but on any given day couldn’t find the energy to cook them. Colleagues were worried for me because I wasn’t eating (I hadn’t learned the ‘filter’ by then and talked about all sorts of work-inappropriate things – I was 18..)

        Nowadays I like to eat healthy and love cooking with involved techniques and ingredients, so huh.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      OP, you were doing some top notch friend work in helping this guy with his shopping. That was really, really kind of you. But you’re right that he’s reached a point now where you’re not going to be able to help him. That’s really sad, and I’m sorry you’re in this position.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      You have already done way, way, way more than you needed to. He’s an adult. He can figure stuff out. He has multiple doctors and a list. Assuming he can read said lusts, he’ll figure it out…or he wont. At any rate this is not your circus. Leave him to his own devices.

    5. Close Bracket*

      I don’t think that his ordering a huge and unhealthy meal wasn’t in conflict with his asking for help, which seems to be how you took it. As I see it, ordering that meal was an indication of just how much help he needs and was an opportunity to help. I wonder what he thinks “help” looks like. Does he want you to step in and portion out his meals when he orders too much (way too much work for a coworker)? Does he want you to make vague and supportive noises when he mentions he needs to eat better?

      Ultimately, you are dealing with an addict, and like any addiction, there is only so much you can do. If you have hit your limit, you have hit your limit, and I support your choice to stick to your own food issues.

    6. emmelemm*

      Thanks for adding to your comment, and for having compassion for your co-worker. Unfortunately, if a quadruple bypass hasn’t become a rock-bottom for him, I don’t know what will.

      I’m really trying to help my partner eat better in the face of diabetes (well-controlled at the moment, but his diet is not, let’s say, under control). To his credit, he is keeping up with some exercise. But even seeing his father get both of his feet cut off has not provided a true Come-To-Youknowwho moment.

  44. Ellen N.*

    The description of the coworker’s extreme appetite and inability to control it make me think he might be on steroids.

    I have an autoimmune disorder that is controlled with prednisone. When I began treatment, I had to take 80 mg. of prednisone a day.

    If you haven’t been through it, you don’t understand how your hunger controls you. I’ve never been a breakfast eater. During those days, I would eat breakfast. All I could think about during the 20 minute drive to work was what I could eat when I got to work. My coworkers laughed me constantly because there wasn’t a second during the day that I wasn’t eating (it had to be something salty and crunchy).

    During that time I would not have had the willpower to stop myself from eating all of the appetizers regardless of what anyone said.

  45. Knitting Cat Lady*

    The thing about bingeing on food?

    It is ALWAYS, literally ALWAYS a reaction to restriction.

    You may see it as a diet, but your body goes: Fuck, famine! All system to power save mode!

    And when you encounter food your body goes: Food! Eat all of it! The famine might not be over yet!

    You see this in children who’s parents are very strict about sweets.

    A kid like that will literally gorge themselves until they get sick, whereas a kid who has regular access to sweets won’t do that.

    A similar thing are young people who come from very restrictive households, often religious ones.

    Once they get a taste of freedom there are two reactions. They either will be a deer in headlights terrified of everything, or they turn into a party monster who tries everything to excess.

    1. blink14*

      Yup – this is why when I crave something, I give into the craving once, or else it will become all I can think about in relation to food. My childhood meals were almost always home cooked from scratch, but the occasional fast food outing gave me that sense of indulging without having it multiple times a week.

      Also why some young people tend to drink excessively, particularly if they come from a household where it was totally forbidden.

        1. blink14*

          In my personal experience, the opposite has been true. Perhaps just my generation, but that’s been my own experience with people I know and people I went to school with.

    2. sunny-dee*

      Well, this is highly inaccurate. I was raised in a very religious household (which was slightly strict on sweets), and I did neither of those things when I was an adult. I’m moderate in my food and sweets intake, and always have been, and I was never a partier — nor was I afraid of everything. My husband who was raised in an aggressively unreligious, rules-free household is the one who was a excessive partier well into adulthood, dropped out of college, has off and on fought a serious drinking problem, and had a lot of very risky behaviors.

      I’m always scratching my head when people make statements like that. It’s anecdotal, of course, but in my experience, the hardest partying frat guys at college, the craziest coeds, and the border-line self-destructive adults are almost all areligious and had permissive-to-the-point-of-neglectful parents. There is usually one token strict / religious person in the group, but that’s hardly the overall group dynamic.

      1. smoke tree*

        I don’t think there is any action parents can take that will have uniform results, but the kids bingeing on sweets thing can happen. I knew a kid growing up whose parents were both fitness instructors and very strict about their kids’ diets. As soon as she was old enough to have spending money, this kid had a massive stash of candy, chips, giant jars of nutella, loaves of bread hidden all over her room, and would eat sweets to the point of making herself sick. Some people will react to restriction that way–it’s a pretty common reaction to a very restrictive diet.

        1. sunny-dee*

          But “some” is hardly a majority, which is my point. People point to these things like “those people” somehow create these negative behaviors, and that just hasn’t been my experience. Yes, some will binge. Some will never develop a sweet tooth at all. Some will eat more than their parents allowed but still within a normal, moderate amount. You can’t just say “if you restrict X, then the obvious and unavoidable outcome is bingeing on X.” And it’s even less of a good analogy when trying to compare children to adults because the ability for planning and impulse control are very different.

          1. Intuitive Eater*

            The statement is that all binge eating is caused by restriction, not that all restriction is caused by binge eating.

          2. smoke tree*

            I don’t think my comment was implying that this happens in a majority of cases? In fact my first sentence says that fairly explicitly. I was just pointing out that restriction can indeed lead to bingeing, which is worth being aware of, because it’s often presented as the logical option for losing weight. And evidence shows that most people who lose weight under a very strict diet will gain it back.

  46. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    Regardless of eating disorders, issues that really should have a psychologist involvement or whatever — your (as friends) being asked to help “police” his diet and wondering whether you should still do that are a red herring — although the script provided is a good way to bring that up if you want to.

    I think the real issue is that this person has already led “stakeholders” (are they internal people or external?) to notice the unusual ‘greedy’ eating behaviour, as such, it needs to be tackled in the same way as any other inappropriate thing like showing up in jeans to a client meeting where it should have been “business formal”, being unable to work due to alcohol or drugs, or just general “loss of client confidence” or “bringing the company into disrepute” etc.

    I don’t have food related issues but have struggled with mental illness for many years and on a few occasions it resulted in ‘incidents’ in the office of speaking my mind when I shouldn’t, freaking out, etc. You bet I was called out on those with disciplinary action and “but it’s a medical condition” didn’t let me off, and nor should it!

  47. Marmaduke*

    I so appreciate the advice to ASK your coworker what specific support he wants, and if it isn’t something you can provide, to back off entirely.

    I recently reached out to friends for some recipe and workout suggestions after the doctor suggested lifestyle changes to bring my cholesterol down and improve my mental health. Most friends offered suggestions or told me they couldn’t think of anything. One has taken it upon herself to comment on any social media posts of mine which mention TV, books, or insufficiently healthy food, with very public call-outs. It’s not helping. It helps so much when people support you in your own health plan. It hurts SO MUCH when they try to substitute their own.

  48. AmethystMoon*

    I do think there need to be more free resources when it comes to learning cooking and how to eat healthy. I’m always surprised when I find out people who are adults and don’t know how to cook besides heating a frozen pizza in the oven. There are blogs, but most cooking blogs assume things that people already know how to boil, bake, and fry stuff on their stove. Maybe it’s time someone made a blog geared towards the cooking beginner.

  49. Perpal*

    I think of it like general addiction management; you can be supportive but don’t have to do exactly what they ask, and their behavior is not your responsibility. There’s a line between supporting and “enabling” (by which I mean, doing things that might seem helpful in the very short term but in the long run aren’t actually getting the person to develop good habits / unlearn bad habits, which is really the heart of addiction; maladaptive behaviors around some kind of gratification)
    Examples of being supportive
    — coworker asks not to do social food things; so instead instead maybe do social karaoke, or bowling, or whatever makes sense for your office.
    — coworker asks to replace office friday donut binge with fruity friday (or again, just no food); again I think this is in the realm of reasonable/supportive, depending on the office and who is relying on the treats
    Examples of maladaptive behaviors around food that should NOT be done
    — coworker asks you to take food away from them, police them, don’t “let them” eat things, etc; no. Coworker needs to learn to do this for themselves and is not your responsibility

    There’s kind of a third issue, which is not exactly the health and eating, but apparently the alarming table manners. While related, it’s actually a separate thing, because it’s to the point that apparently stake-holders are getting uncomfortable. I think there’d need to be some kind of talk with him that he either needs to order his own food and stick to it, or perhaps not go to those joint meals. Kind of sucks, and I’m sure it’s not the perfect solution; other solutions might be just not doing joint meals, if that’s an option, but it smacks a bit of punishing the group for one person’s lack of control. It’s extreme but I am basing this off the description where his behavior was really abnormal, not just mildly so.

  50. Lucile*

    Absolutely without a doubt leave this alone. I work with eating disorders and while I obviously can’t say wether has has binge eating disorder one way or the other I can say that consuming tons of food doesn’t necessarily meet the criteria of a binge diagnoses. Also, most binge eaters binge alone and not out in public.

    There may be other reasons for this and it sounds like he is working with a team of doctors. I know he asked you all to help support him but it seems other issues are involved and it’s best to leave him to seek him or treatment on his own.

  51. Quandong*

    LW, I urge you to do your best to disengage from this employee’s eating behaviours at work and work events. In my opinion it was very, very inappropriate for him to ask for help from people in the workplace in the first instance, although I can see how it would have felt uncomfortable to decline in the moment.

    There is no way to win in this situation, for any of you. The fat employee has made himself more visible with regard to what he eats, and how much, at work and work-related events. He’s the one with the power to change his behaviours but alas! now you all feel responsible for managing him. It’s appalling. You can’t win because you have no power to affect his actions (and nor should you). He can’t win because he’s involved you all and now his eating behaviours are forever under scrutiny. Eating in front of others is fraught, no matter what he does.

    I encourage you to think about your motives, particularly in relation to the following:

    I don’t want to be “that person” in the office but I am seriously concerned not just about his overall health, but his mental health. Do I …Not say anything and let him eat himself into an early grave?

    I will be as kind as possible here. As a fat person, I expect you have been on the receiving end of concern trolling. It’s…pervasive and exhausting, right?! Do your very best to get out of this mindset, and to redirect yourself when you veer into the territory of policing what other fat people eat. Ugh! I cringed so hard when I read eat himself into an early grave.

    Please stop. Allow this employee to work with professionals to address his health. If he asks for assistance, direct him to whatever EAP is available. Let him know you will not be part of his health management team and that it’s not appropriate to ask you to take on this burden.

  52. Beth*

    If he were just a coworker, I’d say to not bring it up at all. The only ‘work’ grounds you could possibly have to talk about his eating is the ‘in meetings with customers’ behavior piece–and if that needs addressing, it should come from a manager, not a peer. And it needs to 100% focus on office etiquette, not his health; his health is his private thing to manage with his doctor, not something anyone in the office should be commenting on or telling him how to address.

    Since you say he’s also a friend, I do think it’s worth having a discussion…but not an intervention-style “you need to change how you’re eating” talk. Instead, I think you need a “You asked me to do this a while back, I’ve realized since that it’s just not something I can do for you, I’m here for you as a friendly ear/commiseration buddy/comfort source/etc. when you need it but I can’t be your food manager, I wanted to let you know so we’re on the same page about our friendship” talk.

    Once you have that, try really hard to stop paying any attention to how he eats; you’ve been intentionally paying attention, so it’s going to take some intentional retraining to get out of that mode. But I think your friendship AND your work relationship will be stronger for it. It’s not realistically a good idea to try and manage someone else like this–especially when you’re not their current medical doctor and may not have the latest info on what’s going on with them. (Even if you think you know, or you knew a couple months ago, it’s dangerous to assume you’re still up-t0-date now; things may have changed, other issues may be taking priority in the immediate moment, something might be going on that he’s not wanting to share with you, etc.) There’s always a chance that your efforts end up doing more harm than good…and even in the best case scenario where they lead to a good health outcome, introducing that kind of power dynamic into a friendship can kill the relationship really quickly. In an ideal world you wouldn’t have agreed to it in the first place, but since you did, explicitly opting out is probably the best option you have.

  53. Clementine*

    I strongly suspect this man, who has had quadruple bypass surgery and is clearly not in the best of health, may lack the energy to do healthy cooking. It’s sad and unfortunate, but very likely. If someone wanted to take this on with him, they could suggest services like Hello Fresh (may still be unattainable for him), or if available, delivery from restaurants with healthy options, or something similar, but simply saying he should start cooking is not likely to happen.

    1. Clementine*

      Only a person who has been previously invited to “help” should ever have such a conversation, needless to say. And only then with extreme caution.

  54. Frances*

    Has anyone talked to him about Health at Every Size? He may be big but there is no reason to be sure that his health problems and surgeries are related to his eating habits or size. People can be healthy at every size, and most people of size eat less than their thin counterparts.
    Do not ask him to eat less, as restriction always leads to binge eating and or disordered eating. Futhermore, it has been proven that there is no successful way to diet or lose weight.
    He should be directed to seek help from Health at Every Size practitioners and the writings of Ragen Chastain, Virgie Tovar and so many others who have helped so many.

  55. Happy Pineapple*

    This is a sad and delicate situation. It reminds me of a coworker I once had when I was an office manager and was tasked with buying all the snacks for the company. In two months he single-handedly ate what was supposed to be a six month supply of snacks for twenty people. When that was gone he started going into people’s offices looking for food, including once taking an unopened five pound bag of chocolates and eating them in one day. Another time he brought me a dozen cupcakes as a thank you gift for helping him with a project, and he ended up eating nine of the twelve himself that day before I got to them.

    Everyone in the office was totally at a loss for how/if to address his eating habits, so we never did.

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