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Prying coworkers: So what's in your lunch box?

Updated on July 7, 2015
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Beverly majored in Psychology at GSU and has a strong interest in workplace politics and what drives people to behave as they do.

So, what's in your lunch box?

You may be the type that shares information freely and have no issues with prying coworkers who want to know everything from where you buy your underwear to what you are eating for lunch each day, but if you are a somewhat private person, you may feel uncomfortable with people asking you questions you feel are none of their business, like, "what are you eating for lunch today?"

If you are like most people, you haven't got a clue what you are going to eat for lunch. Few people pack their lunches for work anymore, with most going out to eat, grabbing a bite to eat from the company cafeteria or vending machine.

If you do bring your lunch daily, it is bound to get the attention of the prying coworker who will inevitably ask, "so, what are you eating today?"

Often the question is innocuous. The person may have a hard time deciding what or where they would like to eat or does not know what or how to pack a lunch that is tasty and satisfying, so they look to your lunches for ideas of their own, but often the questions seem invasive, especially if they are asked on a daily basis.

One woman, who got tired of the constant prying of a fellow coworker on her eating habits, posted a weekly menu on her cubicle and when the woman asked what she was having for lunch, she would point to the menu.

"I thought this would give her a hint and she would stop asking, but instead, she would come by and read the menu out loud and ask how to make this or why I was eating peanut butter on Tuesday when I ate it on Wednesday last week. It was almost comical."

The woman finally went outside to eat her lunch in her car or out on a park bench.

"Sometimes I would get in the car and drive down the road just to eat in peace without a grilling from the Food Network lunch box stalker, but when I would get back she would always ask, "What did you eat? Where did you go? Was it good?"

"I finally just got honest and told her that I did not enjoy discussing my food and that lunch time was made stressful by having her question me over what I was eating and that I just wanted to eat in peace and not share the details of my lunch box with her."

"She got upset and would not talk with me for days, but it was actually kind of nice. After that, she still stared at my food and when I would glare at her she would just smile sheepishly and move on."

Pete, who used to eat a peanut butter sandwich exactly at noon every day, had to work with Dan, a man who constantly said, "eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again today I see" and would mention that it was five minutes to twelve and that Pete needed to go eat his sandwich.

While Pete never said anything to Dan, the one day Pete brought a bologna sandwich to work, Dan nearly had heart failure and couldn't stop talking about it for weeks, often asking, "No bologna sandwich today, Pete?"

Dan's wife packed his lunch daily and he would always announce what he had eaten down to the very last details.

So, why the obsession with food and why should anyone care what you are eating at work?

Most people observe what others are eating, they just do not always comment on it. Watching what a person eats is very informative, it helps you relate to some people.

If you love Cliff Protein Builder bars and someone else eats them as well, you almost feel a special kinship with them!

Sometimes you can get ideas on what to bring for lunch or where to go for lunch by looking at what other people are eating and sometimes the food smells so good, that you just feel like you have to ask them where they got it or how they prepared it, but if you find yourself constantly commenting on what or how often people are eating, then you cross the border from normal, to lunch box stalker.

The more unusual your food choices, the more likely you are to receive unwanted comments on what you eat.

"I used to take things like blueberries and walnuts and home baked bread for lunch and everyone always commented on it, like I was eating bugs or something. If I ate a sandwich they would look, but not comment." said Maggie who also got upset when people expected her to share her lunch.

"I never asked them if I could have a bite of their sandwich or lasagna, but they always wanted some of my berries, bread or nuts. This was my lunch, not a snack and it cost me a lot of money. I was not willing to share, but felt bad if I didn't."

"For a while i would bring extra to share, but it got really expensive, so I stopped and then felt selfish. I couldn't even keep a box of crackers in my drawer because everyone wanted to take a bite for a snack, leaving none left for me.

I guess most people see what I eat as snack food, not a meal, but no one ever offered to pay me for a bite, so I found myself sneak eating and lying that I did not have any more. It was kind of silly, but I grew up in a household where my brothers and sisters ate anything they could find and had no respect if it had my name on it, so I got kind of possessive of my food and suspicious of people who questioned me about it, knowing they were hinting that they wanted some!!! It just makes me uncomfortable when people stare at what I am eating."

Carly said she also had issues with people who commented on her food.

"I am overweight so people are always looking at what I eat as if a fat person should not be allowed to eat a Snicker's bar or a doughnut."

"I feel like they are judging me, but I admit, if I see someone eating something I have never seen, I do ask them what they are eating and I do want to taste some of it!!!"

You can really tell a lot about a person by what they eat, how they eat it and how much and how often they eat it.

"I can't stand it when people eat BBQ ribs at work and drip mess everywhere," said Sandy.

"It is disgusting and when they heat up some garlic and onion thing in the microwave, it makes the whole office stink and makes me sick on my stomach, so I guess I am kind of the food police. I can't stand it when people eat smelly snacks at their desks forcing the rest of us to inhale it and even getting the scent of it on the phone so that I gag when I have to use it."

Joe stated that he liked to eat apples and always had one on his desk.

"It never ceased to amaze me that some coworkers would always ask, "you must really like apples" or "I see you are eating another apple..."

"It was kind of like they were irritated with me eating the same thing everyday. I didn't care though. I like apples and if they have a problem with that, it is their problem not mine. I do get tired of the comments though and now just sort of grimace a smile, and say, "yes, if i didn't like them I wouldn't eat them" or "No, that's just the same apple. Those GMO grown ones really last a long, long, long time..."

"Sometimes you just have to have fun with it."

If your prying coworker is driving you nuts commenting on your food and eating habits, try being honest and letting them know you are not comfortable with them taking that strong an interest in your food consumption.

If they are relentless, try going on lunch break when they are out of the building or try to go somewhere quiet and keep your lunch in an insulated bag under you desk and out of view so they cannot see or comment on what you are eating.

If you are a lunch box prier, try paying attention to your coworkers reactions. If they seem excited to share with you, then no harm done, but if they are short, curt or suspicious of your motives, you may want to put a lid on your prying and focus on your own food and not on everyone else's!


The more unusual your food choices, the more likely people will comment on what you eat.

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