This Just Happened.

The scene:
Lunchtime at the office.

The characters:
A dude from another department that I don’t particularly like

The action:
I’m sitting with a book in one hand (Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child) and a fork in the other, eating a leftover lamb shanks (good, not great, so I’m not sharing the recipe yet) on a bed of kale and spaghetti squash.

Across the room, the Dude is assembling a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the generic PB, generic grape jelly, and whole wheat bread our company keeps in the kitchen so there’s “food” in case people need to work late or are too busy to get out for lunch.

[From across the room, in a loud voice…]

Dude: Mel, don’t you follow the kilo diet, or something like that?

Me: It’s called paleo.

Dude: Right, paleo. Are you allowed to eat pasta on that diet?

Me: It’s spaghetti squash.

Dude: Oh! It really looks like pasta, and I know you said you can’t eat that on your diet.

Me, inside my head: It’s not a diet. The only reason I told you anything is because you’re always staring at my food and don’t have the good graces to notice I don’t particularly want to talk to you about it. Who made you the food police? Perhaps you should put down the poison butter and poison jelly on poison bread sandwich. And oh, yeah… mind your own fucking business.

Me, outside: No response, eyes riveted on my book as if my life depended on it. In fact, Dude’s life depended on it because I came thisclose to answering the question that’s plagued me since I started CrossFit: I wonder how hard I can punch if I really put my core into it?

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  • Marcy says:

    Everyday my co-worker sniffs or glances admiringly at my food, but then comments he couldn't eat 'like that.'

    He was recently diagnosed celiac so he's in here everyday with gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta, etc.

    Luckily it's a friendly banter in our case.

  • Wild Runner says:

    Yeah, I have moments like that a lot. I have to remind myself that my soft-looking, yet annoying, coworker actually practices kung fu and I probably would not win a fight with him.

    When my husband asks how my day was, I answer "I didn't hit anyone." On a particularly good day, "I didn't want to hit anyone."

  • Fontaine says:

    I would imagine you could hit pretty hard. Especially if you keep your elbow in line with your fist 😉

  • LizzieFriend says:

    My personal SAD-spectator pet peeve:

    (Lizzie eats something paleo)

    "Oh look at you, so good at keeping to your diet!" -friend loudly in front of everyone at a dinner with lots of people

    (Lizzie eats something not paleo)

    "Oh look at you, splurging on some tortilla chips. Those aren't paleo!" – same friend even louder at a different dinner with even more people

    Grumblegrumble. You can't win.

  • Kerri says:

    LOVE this post! My life at work is the exact same. I've started to really enjoy re-heating my leftovers and stinking the place up. SCREW 'EM!!

  • Danni says:

    Just to be devil's advocate, maybe he was just striking up conversation and wasn't intending some sort of judgment or criticism of your lunch choices. Maybe calling a PB&J "poison" is more dogmatic than his observation that spaghetti squash looks like pasta? And in fairness, while it's not a diet, it is restricted in the way most diets are — eliminating food groups and such. It's not hard to see why he would call it a diet.

    I totally understand though and don't mean my devilish advocacy as some sort of criticism.

  • lessofmimi says:

    So grateful that I haven't met those kinds of people yet. I have no filter. I can usually avoid physical violence (I'll just spar w/ hubby later) but my mouth has a mind of it's own. Gets me in trouble all the time. #1 reason I'm a better online than IRL friend. 😉

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Marcy –> Gald you guys have friendly banter about food. That's awesome!

    Wild Runner –> My husband Dave often says, "Don't hurt anybody today." when I walk out the door. Almost all of my wiseass comments and right hooks are TOTALLY in my imagination… the world is safe.

    Fontaine –> That's what I'm thinkin', too!

    LizzieFriend –> No, you can't! And it's why I abhor talking to most people about nutrition. We are all pretty firmly entrenched in our thinking… and we all have so many personal feelings wrapped up in our food choices. My approach is to NEVER comment on others' food choices — I wish others did the same.

    Kerri –> Good for you! I do that in the a.m. here at work… heat up my veggies and meat and the let the delicious aroma waft around my desk.

    Danni –> I hear what you're saying, but here's my problem: I didn't SAY anything out loud about the PB&J. I don't preach dogmatically — or make faces or roll eyes, etc. — I just want to eat my damn food and read my book. To be clear, this isn't a person I'm friends or even acquaintances with… we merely work in the same office. Not sure why he felt like he had any reason to ask about my food choice, particularly in the judgmental tone he used.

    And yes, if you're calling me out a little bit, I am dogmatic about junk food I consider poison, but I only share that opinion here, in my blog, not in the work lunchroom or anywhere else in public. Unless asked, I don't generally talk to people about the way I eat.

    lessofmimi –> When in doubt, just pop something healthy into your mouth to help keep your mouth shut 🙂

  • Matt F says:

    Always wonder why people feel the need to comment on what I'm eating. I don't say anything about what they are eating. I have a vegitarian (don't really care if I misspelled it) friend who is always making comments if I want something that is not Paleo. I don't NEED Paleo Police!

  • desidou says:

    Have you seen this blog post? Good advice. I get harassed too, especially if I have a cheat in public:

    Here's the scene today, as I'm giving blood.

    Someone is having a conversation about weight and how I don't weigh enough to do a double red cell donation.

    Me: "What is the weight requirement for that donation? "

    Other person: "You must weigh 'XYZ'"

    My response: "Oh I used to weigh that much."

    Everyone else: "Really? How did you lose it? What's the diet you went on? What do you eat, etc?"

    The barrage of questions was swift and never-ending. The "Oh, I can't live if I had to eat like that comments" were frequent. In the end, two people asked for info on the diet. I went back to my desk and printed off a few emails I'd sent to family and delivered them promptly. Maybe there will be two new converts. Maybe not. I wasn't even trying to bait them today. I kind of get tired of constantly repeating myself.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Matt –> I think people really REALLY like talking about food… and when they perceive that someone is following a "diet" it brings up all kinds of personal stuff — and to be fair, I think some people are genuinely curious. I just hate the "food police" aspect of the whole thing.

    Desidou –> I did read that blog post, and I LOVED it! Thanks for sharing it here. Hope your advice works for the converts!

  • Kris @ Health Blog says:

    Hahaha that was funny, I know just how you feel like btw 🙂

    It's goddamn annoying when people look as if you're doing something strange, it's them with their horrendous diet who are strange.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Kris –> And while I'm being kinda bitchy, I may as well also admit that I HATE (HATE HATE HATE) when people find me alone in the break room with a book and talk to me. Really? Do you not see me mentally removing myself from this place with a great book?!

  • Danni says:

    You have the right to eat and read in peace for sure. Judgmental tone changes things a lot.

  • Lindsay says:

    Also….so what if you were eating pasta? Is he planning to call the paleo police??

  • Dawna says:

    Wow. I kinda (stupidly) thought I was alone with all the food comments! I rarely eat in front of my coworkers and tend to take lunch in my car because I like the solitude during my workday, but on the rare occasion I do eat in front of them, there are *always* comments. Today, it was, "oh! What is that? Oh, that looks so good! Chicken and avocado, huh? OH! and *blueberries*. Oh, that looks so goooood".

    They hover, they inspect, they question, they sniff (ew), and it drives me insane. And, they inevitably talk about the most recent meal they ate at some restaurant…

    Diabetic, overweight coworker who complains about his doctor putting him on more and more insulin, "oh, we had the best meal last night… " then goes on to describe a meal of pasta and lots and lots of bread. I politely suggested this particular coworker should check out Fathead on Netflix and now all I hear about is, "oh, that FATHEAD DIET. I should try the FATHEAD DIET" followed by laughs and snickers.

    Most priceless comment? Coworker eating a Fiber One bar looks over my way with disdain at my raw red pepper and says disgustedly, "I don't see how you can eat THAT."

    I used to think I was obsessed with food until I was forced to take breaks with other people. By and large, people are overfed and undernourished. I think they are so hungry all the time because they aren't getting any real nutrition. I feel for them, but it doesn't mean I like them commenting about what I'm eating all the time.

  • Erin says:

    HAHAHA! Love it. So nice to know one isn't the only one getting weird looks. What drives me crazy is how people almost try to make you feel GUILTY for taking TIME to make REAL FOOD.
    They are the weirdos. Not us.

  • Emily says:

    It's the inner jealous/gossip in us. Perhaps even more so the need to see someone fall from their winner's stand to "average joe" level (i.e. the healthy eater whose presence reminds of someone of their bad SAD diet).

    As a Christian I encounter this all of the time. The minute I'm not nice or perfectly well behaved it's "well that's not very Christian of you!"
    I'm like "dude, I'm trying here. It's a goal, only Jesus really got it right. And he ain't here…yet." 😛

    Most criticism is fueled by jealousy. The good news is that you're living your life in a way that makes others envious of your strength. WIN

  • Audrey says:

    I love the comments. I've gotten the old "Macadamia nuts? Do you know how much fat is in macadamia nuts?". I got the same thing when I brought 10 olives, "I can't believe you are on a diet that lets you eat olives!" First – not a diet (as previously established. Second – this diet doesn't not "let me eat" things, I choose to eat this way.
    Third – Olives! You are mocking my olives! I would tell you to check the fat content in your frozen chicken pot pie, but I don't want to shatter your warped reality.

    Don't get me started on the office HCG dieters…

  • Allison K says:

    Audrey-People always comment on my olives too! Only I usually get "you are eating Olives??? Who eats only olives???" type of responses.

  • gotamigo says:

    Love it! This blog post gives me great internal merriment. (I stole that from Mary Roach, but it sums it up pretty tidily.)

  • Doctor Err says:

    I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now and love it! But this particular post… I ADORE!! I can totally relate to this post. Thank you for writing!

  • mig says:

    i hate all this. my personal goat is people who display exaggerated fawning when i fix myself lunch from home-made food.

    seriously, the younger people in my NYC office have no cooking skills whatsoever – they can't make pasta for themselves. literally. so for me to be assembling my yummy paleo lunch and heating it up and making everything smell delicious and eating off a real plate – it provokes this ridiculous reaction even without the additional paleo angle. which, if they knew about it, might make their wittle heads explode.

    i have had people look at a hand-torn romaine salad with a few vegetables and shredded meat and react as if i had just painted the Sistene Chapel.

  • Cheryle says:

    Ha ha ha – this post made me laugh out loud… like so many of them do!! Love it!! You've got to know that you'd drop that PB&J-eating weenie faster than he could even SPELL paleo…

    Personally, I've given up trying to explain the health benefits of this kind of lifestyle to the poor saps around me who are far too brainwashed (or too lazy) to do some research and understand what the typical North American diet is doing to the general population.

    Keep up the good work and thanks so much for sharing your stories!


  • Karen says:

    I used to think that religion and politics were what people got excited about, but food choice–no, let me get it right: others' food choices–really gets some people going.

    I am new to paleo (though not new to eating as healthfully and consciously as possible given what I know about nutrition and health at any given moment) and already have experienced people's (mostly respectfully expressed, fortunately) concerns about eliminating food groups. I take great pains to avoid evangelizing about my food choices at work though many of my colleagues are genuinely interested in talking about food choices–theirs and mine–so we do. Most think I have abnormal will power (I rarely succumb to the constant array of goodies that find their way into our work kitchen) but that is because having eliminated refined sugars and starches, I have absolutely no craving for them. They simply do not appeal–something that both shocks and delights me. I can understand my colleagues’ thinking–not too long ago I would not have believed that I could sit at the table while others consumes homemade garlic bread (or brownies or butter tarts or birthday cake and ice cream) and not–really not–want any.

    My response when people really hassle me about what I eat? "Show me the nutritional imperative for eating grains…or dairy…or legumes." Of course they can't and if they try I can, with gentleness and respect, counter their unsubstantiated beliefs (most people have little accurate knowledge about nutrition other than a vague memory of school health lessons where they learned about the food guide) with the findings of sound research.

    Mostly people just want to believe that whatever choices they make are fine because change is hard and self-indulgence is easy—and they don’t want to be confronted with anyone who might make them question themselves and their choices and–worst of all–change! For me, calorie counting and constant hunger or feeling sluggish and ill are hard–paleo is easy.

  • Michele says:

    Everyday my ex-boss said I ate "weird" food. Weird? Really? Often it was a green smoothie and grilled chicken.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Wow! I love the contributions you all are making to this conversation. Food is right up there with religion and politics for a hot-button issue, isn't it?!

    Thank you so much for sharing your funny stories and insights everyone!