So I have a coworker who likes to eat at 11:30 on the dot. My office has two kitchenettes and pre-COVID he would keep his food in the one closest to my office, so he’d pass by at the same time every day. He’s tall and lanky, and you could just tell by his bouncy walk/swinging arms/demeanor that he was pumped for lunch. I found it endearing, it was one of my favorite parts of my pre-COVID workday to see him walk by at his lunchtime. In theory, I could see myself commenting on it, not in a mean or inappropriate way… like, if it somehow came up? And I’d not phrase it like your coworker. It’s rude to say someone is always hungry, especially publicly.
I think when you asked over messenger if you always seem hungry, there was an opportunity to say, “Your comment rubbed me the wrong way and I’d appreciate if you didn’t comment on my eating habits.” Commenting on people’s food — what they’re eating, how much they’re eating, whether it’s “healthy” or not, etc. — is increasingly a topic people understand they should not comment on since so many people have issues around food.
At work, our executive director used to comment on my clothes sometimes. Not often, he works out of a different office, and he was never sexualizing me or anything (at least not aloud). He was attempting to make jokes, he thinks he’s funny, but it was weird and inappropriate. Initially I’d laugh uncomfortably. I stopped doing that. I never felt comfortable saying anything about it directly and it never felt like it rose to the level that I’d bring it up to my boss. The last time it happened, I stared at him straight faced and let the awkwardness of his comment hang in the air. It didn’t happen again, that was probably five or six years ago.
Other phrases I’ve used when asked questions I find inappropriate, though not in a work context:
– A cheery “Oh, what an odd thing to ask!”
– “Why would you ask me that?”
– “I don’t see how that’s relevant.”
Anyway, I think it’s fine to say directly that you don’t appreciate the personal questions or open commentary on food habits in a non-confrontational way if you’re deeply upset by the comments.