Can We Stop Policing the Way Women Eat at Work?

Can We Stop Policing the Way Women Eat at Work?

This content was created by Girlboss in partnership with Atkins.

“Wow, you must be really hungry!” ”Don't eat that, you'll get fat." “I could never have that many carbs.” These are just some of the eye-roll-inducing, unsolicited comments women get when fuelling their bodies (and minding their damn business)—in the corporate lunchroom, at the dinner table with family, and yes, even from strangers.

But we’re here to focus on eating at work—and why you might feel self-conscious noshing on your sad desk salad in front of your coworkers. So, we consulted Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc., Atkins’ resident nutritionist, and Libby Supan, a licensed therapist and certified intuitive eating coach, to help you understand where that anxiety comes from and how to navigate those tricky feelings. Because you deserve to enjoy your lunch break again.

Why do some people feel anxious eating in front of my coworkers?

  • You’re worried you will be judged for what or how you are eating.
  • You experience a sense of shame if you feel others are judging you for eating too much.
  • You currently struggle with body image or have in the past, and perceive yourself as being overweight or too thin.
  • The office “Almond Mom” or “Food Police” leaves comments/judgments critiquing everything you eat. No one wants to experience that!
  • You’re on a specific diet due to an ailment, allergy, or illness, and don’t want to hear what others say about it.
  • You may be an introvert, or shy, and don’t like exposing this intimate part of yourself (such as eating) with others. When we’re eating, we’re in a somewhat vulnerable state, and if you’re someone who’s already struggling with anxiety, and more importantly social anxiety, that can contribute to it.

What can I do to navigate my social anxiety around food?

First, consider the source of your anxiety. Why are you uncomfortable? Is that reason realistic or valid? Are you telling yourself a story that isn’t necessarily true? 

If it’s the fear of others judging you, “Remember when someone judges you, it defines who they are, not who you are,” says Colette. Libby also suggests practicing mindfulness by taking some deep breaths before you enter the lunchroom and saying to yourself: “It will be okay,” “I will get through this,” “What others think about me is none of my business,” “This is temporary and will be over before I know it,” and “I’ve done this before and will do it again.”

But mindfulness only gets you so far. “It’s always best to seek professional help from a food and body specialist if you want more support,” adds Libby. “There can be deeply rooted reasons why you’re uncomfortable eating with coworkers.”

Why do people—especially women—police other women's eating habits?

The answer is short (but incredibly complex): diet culture and fatphobia. “For many women, dieting has been part of their lives for as long as they can remember,” says Colette. If you’re not manipulating your body through food and trying to make it smaller, whether for an event, a vacation or to fit into a certain piece of clothing, what’s the point? You’re not supposed to be comfortable and empowered in your body, society tells us. 

“We have all been gaslit by the dieting and wellness industry,” says Libby. “Most of what you hear is false. The reason why these messages are so powerful and ingrained in our brains is that diet and wellness culture have a lot of money (the global wellness industry has reached a record $5.6 trillion and is forecasted to hit $8.5 trillion by 2027, according to the Health and Wellness Global Market Report 2023). It’s always going to be about money.”

And remember that: what and how you eat, the number on the scale, and the way your body looks are the least interesting things about you.

“But isn’t Atkins a weight loss brand?” Yes and no. While the Atkins diet had past roots in weight loss, it’s evolved to be more about finding a diet and lifestyle that suits your specific goals and needs. So, maybe you want to try a low-carb diet for health reasons. Or, maybe you love snacking but want to find snacks that will give you more energy throughout your day. Or, maybe you’re happy with where you’re at right now, but just need meal-planning help to save time during your work week. All of the above is a-ok, and Atkins wants to help empower you with the resources you need to take control of your diet and lifestyle.

Get 20% off all Atkins products for the next three months when you use code GBDEC20, GBJAN20 and GBFEB20.*

And discover Atkins’ free tools—like meal plans and recipe ideas—here.

*One use per customer limit. US only. Not combinable with other discount activations. Free 1-3 day delivery over $99.