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why do people care so much about what i'm eating?Question: Submitted via email by Katie in Chicago, IL

I feel like everyone I work with is constantly scrutinizing my food. They notice what I eat (or don’t eat) for lunch, they notice if I take a cookie at work or don’t take a cookie. And god forbid I should indulge in some of the office goodies, people will say things like, “whoah, she’s eating. Katie’s eating a cookie!”  or if someone brings cake in they’ll say something like, “I’d offer you but I know you’d say no anyway.” Working in advertising sales,  a big part of my job is being very social, going to parties, lunches, dinners, conferences, etc, so I am constantly around food. How can I get people to stop talking looking at me eat and stop making comments about what I’m eating?

Hi Katie,

That’s really frustrating. First off, you can’t make anyone stop watching you eat or stop making comments. However, you are completely within your right to respond when people make comments about what you’re eating. You can always say something like, “it makes me uncomfortable when people comment on my food, I’d rather you didn’t.” And if you’re not comfortable with that, you can always turn it around, like if someone says, “I can’t believe you’re eating that”, you can always say “I can’t believe you’re eating that!”

People are  very quick to notice other people’s food and eating habits so when you feel uncomfortable, even the most innocuous comments can feel very biting or harsh.

It’s really distressing for people with eating issues when someone else notices their food. Eating disorders thrive in the dark and when someone notices your food or your eating, it shines a light on it. You feel exposed. And, unfortunately, when you become uncomfortable, it’s more fodder for people to make comments.

You certainly don’t have to make justifications for what you are choosing to eat or what you are choosing not to eat.

Here are some ways to answer certain common statements/questions that people make.

Q-Are you really going to eat all that?

A- Maybe

Q-Is that all you’re eating for lunch

A-For right now.

Q-Why don’t you ever indulge in the goodies we have here? You’re too good.

A-I’m not interested in sweets

Q- Do you always eat so healthy?

A-I try to eat mostly healthy, but of course sometimes I don’t.

Q-If you only eat vegetables, why aren’t you super slim?

A-How much time do you spend scrutinizing my food? I’m really uncomfortable with that.

Q-Do you ever eat?

A- Of course I do.

Q- What do you eat?

A- Whatever I’m hungry for

Q-How do you eat so much and stay so slim?

A-I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m satisfied. I just eat what my body wants, no more no less.

 

You certainly don’t have to justify your food choices to anyone. We are curious by nature. And for the most part, people are probably not trying to upset you, but are genuinely curious. If you look around, you will notice that you are probably not the only person who they are questioning about food. And if you think about it, anyone who is obsessed with your food probably has their own issues with food.

 

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  • I would say it’s important not to try to find some perfect comments to hide your eating disorder from everyone, but at the same time no one in your office has the right to demand you explain what you do and do not eat. I’m a big fan of advising people to say something like, “I have a medical condition related to food and I’m not really comfortable talking about it”. You may have to repeat it, but you’re not being impolite by saying it.

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  • Linda

    I eat very healthy. I hear negative comments each and every day from office mates when I eat something good for my body. They complain about my cabbage, fish, or veggie juice. It’s relentless micromanaging of my food. It’s so bad that I now eat my healthy food in my car so I can have peace while they stuff popcorn, pizza, and candy in their body. I don’t care what they eat but they care what I intake. Your thought?