When Co-Workers Give You A Hard Time About Clean Eating

When Co-Workers Give You A Hard Time About Clean Eating

If you have been eating clean for any amount of time, you have probably gotten at least one sideways glance at work during lunch. Maybe even a snicker or an off-handed comment about the food you choose to eat.

These looks and comments can range from mildly annoying to downright infuriating.

I call it food bullying. Maybe that’s an extreme term for something like this, but that’s essentially what it is. Somebody decides that the way you eat is silly or ridiculous, and proceeds to make you feel awkward or bad about it. It’s not uncommon. It happens all the time.

So how do you deal with these people? People who may not even realize what they are doing? (though most do)

There are three things you can do to try and ease the situation.


  1. Understand that the way you eat probably makes them realize that they need to work on their health as well. They subconsciously (or even consciously) know that the way they eat is probably not the healthiest and they need to make changes themselves. Their comments often stem from this feeling of inadequacy. Whether they know it or not. So if they are uncomfortable enough to comment, simply remind them that you are eating this way for your health. And if they’re comments are really snide, reassure them that THEY do not have to eat YOUR food.
  2. People who assume you are “on a diet” assume two things. First, that the way you are eating is temporary and second, that you must not be enjoying what you are eating. So let them know you think your food is delicious! (Because it is!) Even offer to let them try some if you think it will help. But let them know that you truly enjoy your food.
  3. For people that just won’t quit, it’s important to realize that the real issue might not be about food at all. But either way, it’s perfectly fine to let them know that when they are ready to eat a healthier diet, you would be happy to help them with that.

There are always those that will try to push food on you. They will try to make you feel guilty for not having that piece of cake at the umpteenth office birthday celebration this week. They will try to push a cookie on you that they baked that morning, and there are a few ways to handle them as well.

  1. You can, of course, take the food but not eat it. That’s always an option. Just don’t let them see you throw it away!
  2. If they stand there waiting for you to take a bite so you can tell them how good it is, there is the option to take a bite and leave the rest.
  3. If they are pushing you and you really don’t want it, simply tell them that you would love to have some but would like to have it later “if that’s okay“. Tell them you’re full…. tell them your stomach is unsettled…. tell them whatever you like. But postpone it. Tell them you’d love to but would prefer to eat it later if they don’t mind. “Asking their permission” in that way will make them feel like they are in control and will get them to back down, “allowing” you to have it later. Which of course, won’t happen unless you actually want it to. I’m no psychologist, but it’s worked really well for me.

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  1. Using the word bully in this sense, while catchy, really trivializes what the actual term means. I don’t think anyone ever committed suicide due to the shame of eating healthy. And honestly I cannot imagine people actually making fun of someone clean eating so much so that they feel “awkward” in the workplace. I actually get comments made when I bring something unhealthy to work or for the sodium content in an Amy’s frozen dinner. Love your site. Love your recipes. Just my opinion they out article is off base

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      D – Sorry you feel that way. But yes, food bullies are out there. I’ve run into a few of them myself. I don’t think I’m trivializing anything. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Suicide happens as a result of extreme and usually consistent bullying. But that doesn’t mean the bullying doesn’t happen on a smaller scale and to a lesser extent. Bullying is bullying, even on a smaller scale.

      1. I agree, they are bullies, they make me feel inferior and bad about myself and make me change my habits (like eating alone, or lying about what I ate when they inevitably force the topic into the conversation). They feel insecure about themselves so they bully people trying to better themselves, I get it a lot for the healthy food I keep at my desk or have for lunch, or when I try to get physical activity at work. It seems almost everyone I work with treats me slightly crazy for incorporating these healthy habits into my life. Even at home my partner rolls her eyes at me but she doesn’t outright mock me like coworkers have. They are absolutely bullies, they are the definition of bullies. Even when they aren’t being bullies, there’s the ‘kind bully’ who offers you her own processed terrible snacks and WILL NOT GIVE UP until she sees you physically swallow it. They’re also bullies, they feel bad eating these snacks while you eat healthy so they use propriety to hold you down and shove it down your throat, because I’m technically the ruse if I tell her to just leave me alone with the snacks (believe a hundred version of a thousand polite ‘no thank you’ gets you nowhere with these people. They steamroll over it with a ‘just take one’ over and over until you want to grab the bag from their hands and throw it out a window or light it on fire. I am so sick of food bullies. And the fact I feel this stressed and tormented and have to change my life to avoid them means that THEY. ARE. BULLIES.

        1. The Gracious Pantry says:

          Alexa – Exactly. I’m so sorry you’re going through that. Sometimes, you have to be a little rude in order to stick up for yourself. But it’s a thin line to walk at work. I hope you find a resolution.

    2. I get bullied at work for having veggies for my lunch. And I mean bullied. They walk past the microwave everyday telling me it stinks and how gross it is. They tell me that no one could actually like my food because I’m a terrible cook. I hear snide remarks every single day while they have KFC or McDonald’s. luckily I’m a strong individual and can either ignore it or laugh it off. It’s more just irritating. But I can see how such bullying can lead to isolation or giving in to the bad food just to fit in.

      1. Chelsea – I’m so sorry you’re experiencing that. How small minded they must be to do something like that.

  2. I just ignore them. Trying to explain or – worse – justify my diet to people who are that insecure about their own food habits is at best a waste of time, IMO. I never tell people I’m a vegetarian and I certainly never preached to anyone about it. It’s nobody’s business what I eat or don’t eat and why and I never comment in any way on other people’s food choices. Some people just can’t deal with other people not being exactly like them. It’s better for my mental health to ignore those people.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Stef – I so wish more people in this world thought like you do. It would make life so much easier!

  3. I find it best for me to just say NO THANK YOU…..and yes those first no thank your were hard…but get a few under your belt and it’s easy…..I am picky with my food…my oldest is vegan and my youngest is allergic to corn…so they say no thank you a lot also….

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Shelley – It’s true! The more you say it, the easier it gets! 🙂

  4. Hi Tiffany! Love your blog and your recipes. It is so nice to have one place to look where I can reliably find whole foods resources; I have family who are diabetic, too, even though we do not eat low-carb ourselves. All in all, the Gracious Pantry is a valuable resource. I like to tell people, “If you eat better, you feel better.” And they have to agree– nobody can argue that! When all else fails, make something you can share and bring to work– maybe leave in the break room anonymously, then own up to it later once they’ve sampled it!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Anna – Haha! I like the way you think! 😀

  5. I think it’s really sad that this happens, although I’ve definitely seen it happen before/experienced it before (to a very minor degree). I just like going by the “live and let live” philosophy–if I don’t force my views on others, they have no right to do that to me, and if they try…I just ignore. 😀 It works most of the time! :]

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Farrah – Ya, it’s annoying to say the least. If ignoring it works, that’s fantastic! 😀

  6. My co workers are terrible. I don’t know why it is anyone elses business what goes in my mouth. They are constantly saying in a not nice way are you sure that’s a clean food and then they snicker and shake their heads. And God forbid if I decide to partake of the monthly birthday cake. It just isnt anyone elses business!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Penny – Exactly! It’s not their business! I will never fully understand it. I guess people will find anything they can to pick on sometimes.

  7. I think I forgot to mention I work in a doctors office and the doctor himself gives me a hard time.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Penny – Wow. Just wow.