Cow-Irker Commentary On Lunch Food

by admin on March 11, 2013

I need help with dealing with some unsolicited comments that have gotten out of hand in the office kitchen so hopefully the EHell readers have some neat solutions for me to try.

Our office kitchen is quite small and often a couple of people will be hanging around making meals at the same time. Generally conversation is limited to ‘that looks nice’ or ‘that smells good’ for the sake of politeness but lately this one man, who I do not work directly with or even know the name of, will come in and start commenting on other people’s food.

It started off general but now he has started to editorialize a bit, saying things like, “Why do you always have to be so healthy?”, or,  “Is that all you are going to eat?” Recently he told me that my egg salad sandwich, veggie sticks and mixed salad didn’t have enough protein in it and I shouldn’t be eating a plate full of carbs.

As someone who enjoys healthy food and is very conscious of what I eat I find his unsolicited comments annoying, invasive and rude but I can tell he’s just trying to make conversation. I feel compelled to be polite and end up trying justify all my meals to him to make him go away. Is there any way I can avoid having to verbally deconstruct my meal when I’m just trying to prepare it? 0224-13

This falls into the category of “letting it slide off my back like water off a duck”.   My ego and self perception is not intrinsically tied to what I eat and therefore negative comments about my food have no impact whatsoever on my state of mind or comfort level.   I would ignore his comments totally since they have no bearing on whether I would eat my lunch or not.  Engaging him in any way would have the effect of encouraging further comments but no response, how defensive you feel, will have send the message that you are not interested in discussing the contents of your meal with him.   Unless he is utterly obtuse, he should eventually get the message since it is pretty hard to have a one way conversation.

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

The Elf March 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I’m with Admin, that letting it go just makes life easier. This is one of those moments that I probably would have said “mmmmm-hmmmm. Okay Bob, see you later!” or “Thanks, I’m looking forward to eating it.” The last seems odd when someone just criticized the food, but it sort of throws them for a loop so I like it.

Not responding to the comments, followed with bean-dipping, is a good way to avoid criticism by taking the topic off the table. It takes two to argue, after all. I started doing that after I got rather pointed comments about choosing not to have children and it has worked nicely. It’s pretty rare these days when someone tries to call me out on it.

If it really gets bad, and if he’s doing it to everyone, then it may be time for someone to call him out on it, preferably a supervisor. You might want to bring it up to the supervisor. Bint’s suggestion is perfect if you want to go that route: direct without being rude or mean.

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LadyPhoenix March 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

If ignoring isn’t an option, I think the other option is simply telling him straight up, “I eat what I eat, and I shouldn’t need to explain that to you. Mind your own business.”

You don’t HAVE to explain why you eat, so why do you FEEL like you have to?

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Anonymouse March 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I personally HATE people commenting on my food, it’s one of the main reason I avoid potlucks. I have an extremely small appetite, so I am very small but perfectly healthy, and no matter what I have on my plate people seem compelled to comment on the quantity. I’ve generally found ignoring doesn’t work, but I would suggest the same as Bint and others. Calmly and politely say that it is none of their business and request they no longer comment on your food.

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Hannahbobama March 11, 2013 at 7:27 pm

This is just a fella who’s lonely and try as he might, the best conversation he can come up with is about your food. Absolutely rude to tell him off as some suggest, even if you think it is direct and to the point, you lose all sense if graciousness and graceful living which is what etiquette us all about. Simply smile and try to come up with a different conversation or go back to your book.

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The Elf March 11, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I don’t think a simple, not mean, direct statement would be rude. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t comment on my food” especially partnered with a change of subject and continued conversation (to show that you still want to engage in conversation, just not of that subject) wouldn’t be in the same category as telling him off.

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MyraUrkel March 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

I would be so tempted to run up to him and say, ala Linda from Better Off Ted, “You’re like 90% body fat. Me likey! *squeezes guy* Honk honk!” Okay, HR wouldn’t like that, but it would be funny

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Stacey Frith-Smith March 11, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Food seems to have become political…or religious…take your pick. It’s another sphere where some people have difficulty in tolerating differences of perspective and approach, but it is indeed part of one’s private sphere, and should not be subject to unsolicited input, even if your meal must be consumed in a common kitchen or break area I’m also inclined towards the use of a direct approach in this case. One wonders if he is as obtuse in other areas, particularly where a client might be involved…

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Daphne March 12, 2013 at 1:04 am

Have you considered that he might be trying to flirt with you? Or is he socially awkward outside the lunchroom as well? Either way, one non-confrontational retort to rude comments is “I’m not sure how you would expect me to respond to that”. It can be interpreted as a question or a statement and therefore gives him a chance to apologize and maybe save face if he’s just a poor conversationalist. If he isn’t apologetic or doesn’t say “I’m not trying to be rude” or is not embarrassed at all, then you know he’s being a judgmental jerk on purpose. So then hopefully the next time he makes a stupid comment about your lunch you will not feel bad about telling him to stop it.

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Cora March 12, 2013 at 9:12 am

“That’s interesting. When did you earn your Master’s degree in Nutrition?”

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Evie3 March 12, 2013 at 11:08 am

I love Cora’s response!!! ^^^^

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Page March 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Joanna, I agree it is incredibly frustrating when your boss comments on personal issues. In my first office job, my boss was always making those kinds of comments. The worst was when we were both in the bathroom. I was washing my hands and took a lot of paper towels. I needed to dry my hands, then I wanted to get one damp to blot off my face, as it was summer in Pennsylvania and very hot. Then I needed to dry my face. Finally, I was taking a few back to my desk as my allergies were bothering me and I didn’t have any tissues. She gave me a lecture, in the bathroom, about how I shouldn’t waste paper. I was young, so I just stuttered out a defensive apology. Fortunately, I don’t work there anymore.

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Ellen March 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm

To continue the “duck” metaphor, started by Admin, I recommend my miraculous one-size-fits-all, “duck on the head look”. (TM)

You peer at the offender in a puzzled manner, but not quite at their eye level. As if you are staring at a large duck sitting on top of their head and wondering why on earth it is there. The more obnoxious the person, the longer silent, internal monologue you can have about the duck.

The offender will, in my experience, gradually sputter to a halt and leave, never to accost you again. I have never known it to fail.

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Weaver March 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm

If you’ve got the confidence to pull it off, I like Bint’s response the most. It’s to the point and by no means impolite. After all, he’s the one that stepped over the social boundaries.

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The Elf March 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

With all the chatter about the obesity problem, plus greater awareness of how diet impacts our health, plus the “diet industry” and associated webpages, plus the ever-changing opinions on what is “good” and what is “bad” (eggs, carbs, etc) it isn’t surprising that pretty much everyone has an opinion on a healthful diet. Some approach a particular diet with a fervor typically reservered for religion or politics, and that creates a lot of the defensiveness as well as the criticisms. And that’s before you get to the people with some sort of eating disorder.

Conversations about food and healthful eating are pretty normal. In fact, I enjoy such conversation, even with someone who is an adherent to a system that I do not use (i.e. paleo diet). But there’s a line, and that line is criticism of what someone is eating especially right at that moment. Unless you are that person’s parent or spouse (and even then, that’s some thin ice right there), it’s off limits. Even if you see the known diabetic grab a donut or high blood pressure patient dump regular soy sauce on his Chinese take-out, you just don’t go there. If nothing else, you never know when someone is having the rare treat and the rest of their diet is perfectly in line with their medical needs! Chances are good, you don’t know a given person’s medical history and what is best for them. Even if you have a general idea, individuals react differently to different foods.

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Enna March 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I like Bint’s comment. But I would inclined to say “there is protein in eggs and carbs in eggs or salad!

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Enna March 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

* I mean “no carbs in eggs or salad”.

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scissorhands November 30, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I don’t know if this guy is just socially awkward or being rude, but I always get unsolicited comments from a Coworker that I “dont eat enough fiber,” (I usually eat a turkey sandwhich, on DOUBLE FIBER BREAD, and she doesn’t see my other meals). She makes lots of ignorant comments but if you correct her, she gets infuriated. I know this makes her look stupid, but I still hate her comments.

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