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The question your colleagues really wish you'd stop asking at lunch time.

A colleague confessed something to me yesterday that, to be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to.

“I’m sick of people commenting on my lunch!” she said.

“When someone tells me ‘Ooo being healthy are we!’ I then feel pressure to eat healthy the next day. I feel like they’re watching and policing what I eat.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about her comment was that everyone around her started nodding in furious agreement.

“Yep. You should never comment on what someone is eating at work,” one woman added.

“It’s rude.”

Watch: Things people never, ever say in the office. Post continues. 

Of course, I stared at the wall in front of me for the next four hours and did a lengthy mental check of a) if I’d ever remarked about my colleagues’ lunch and b) if I’d ever offered some unwarranted value judgement on what they were choosing to eat.

With a sigh of relief I concluded that I probably hadn’t, mostly because I am not even moderately interested in other people’s meals. I’m far too self-centred.

But it did make me think that even though eating is something most of us do upwards of three times a day, often within view of other people, it remains oddly… private.

We don’t like being watched as we eat. We don’t like having our choices scrutinised. Food has become increasingly political; an indication of our morality.

Food is divided, in a way it wasn’t 20 years ago, into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The antithesis to ‘clean eating’, one can only assume, is ‘dirty eating’, and what does that say about you as a person?

It turns out my colleagues aren’t the only ones who despise being questioned about their lunch.

Forums are full of people (women in particular, it must be said) sharing their discomfort about lunch chat.

There are tales of comments like, “Are you sure you’re getting enough protein?”, “I hate tofu” (accompanied by a crinkled nose) “Oh chicken… didn’t you have that yesterday?” and “hungry today are we?”.

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Some office workers report resorting to eating in their car to get away from offhanded remarks that ultimately make them feel extremely self-conscious.

Everyone has a different relationship with food, some far more complex than others.

But to be safe, it might be better to refrain from commenting on what the person next to you is choosing to eat.

There are far more risk-free avenues of small talk. You can never go wrong asking how their dog is going (unless their dog… died) or what their plans are for Christmas (unless they don’t have any….).

You know what?

Just stick to the weather.

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