“Why Do I Hate Eating at Work?” How to Fix It?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA
(Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : April 24, 2022

Emmanuel hated lunchtime. Whenever the lunch break arrived, he had to come up with several excuses. Sometimes he’d say, “Oh, I have work, I can’t join you guys”. The other times he’d simply tell them that he is not hungry. In reality, Emmanuel hated eating at work. “Why do I hate eating at work?” He wondered. In this article, we discover why some people hate eating in front of others. We also understand how we can fix it.

Those who hate eating in front of others, feel anxious about eating in public, in some situations or in some atmospheres. This type of feeling can create a lot of stress in their lives. To socialise, we usually have to eat with others or have a drink with them. At work, lunchtime is a very good time to catch up with colleagues. We can get to know them better. However, if we have a fear of eating in front of others, we will hate eating at work

Chapter 1:
Why Do We Hate Eating at Work?

Well, there are many possible triggers which make eating in public awkward. The fear can be provoked by the situation, the kind of food and the company that you are eating with. Let us look at some of them closely.

  • Situation: Sometimes people feel awkward while eating in some situations like at a party or an important client meeting. Additionally, they will avoid these situations. That is to say that they may eat fearless at home, but only in social situations, they will hate eating. For instance, the fear of staining their clothes is more in a banquet setting. This can make the person nervous.
  • People: Some people get nervous eating in front of authority figures. Moreover, they will fear eating in front of the opposite gender. These people may be very uncomfortable eating in front of the person that they like. They may think that the other person is judging them negatively.
  • Type of food: When a person has to use cutlery to eat a particular dish, they can get nervous. Additionally, when they have to eat something messy like noodles, which can make a slurpy sound, they will feel awkward.
  • No of people: In a crowded restaurant or an open eatery, some people will get fairly more nervous compared to eating in a quiet setting, More number of people are fearful of people who hate eating in front of others.

Chapter 2:
Signs and Symptoms That You Hate Eating at Work or in Front of Other People

You will constantly think of reasons to avoid eating in front of others. You will always wonder, “Why do I hate eating at work?” When you have this type of fear, you will have a list of events that you think, can embarrass you. This can include:

  • You will feel that you will drop the food.
  • Some may think that their hands are shaking. More so, you will feel that others are constantly noticing you at mealtime.
  • You will feel that you are making eating sounds which others will make fun of.
  • You will eat something spicy and become teary-eyed and everyone will make fun of you.

Since you hate eating in front of others, you will avoid situations where you have to take a meal with others. You are more likely to take smaller portions of food. There is a possibility that you will not take bright-coloured drinks when you hate eating in front of others. You may fear that you will spill the drink and stain your clothes.


Chapter 3:
“Why Do I Hate Eating at Work?” – What Are the Causes behind a Fear of Eating in Public.

The main reason for this kind of anxiety is because deep down we feel that we are being judged by others. We feel that others are negatively evaluating us. There is also some amount of social anxiety present in people who hate eating in front of others. They already fear social situations. On top of that, eating in front of others creates more fear. They feel that many things can go wrong while eating in front of others. They think that their cultural eating habits can be made fun of. There is a fear that others may not like their food choices.

People with an eating disorder may hate eating in front of others. They fear that others will judge them for their body shape and size. For instance, a person suffering from binge eating may feel that if he eats a lot in front of others, people will laugh at him. They will call him names and fat shame him. Moreover, the person may fear more because they will not find a place to purge what they had eaten. This can create more anxiety.

A past traumatic event related to social eating can trigger in future. For instance, if a person had spilt some coffee on their shirt in the middle of an important meeting, they will carry this trauma in future too. This could be because they were laughed at in the past. Some people are also picked up for their eating habits. For instance, if a person eats with his fingers at home, he can be laughed at in his office for not using a spoon and a fork.


Chapter 4:
What to Do If I Hate Eating at Work? How to Stop Hating Eating in Front of Others?

Let us look at some strategies to fix the fear of eating out with others.

  1. Identify your triggers: Try to know what is bothering you. Is it the situation? Is it the people you’re eating with? Understanding the source of the problem is the first step toward solving it. Sit with yourself alone while eating and think of the possible reasons why you may hate eating at work. Think to yourself, “Why do I hate eating at work?” You may even write down the source. You can talk to a friend and figure out what bothers you about eating out in front of others.
  2. Change your focus: Try mindful meditation to change your focus from food to people. When you are eating out at work, think of the topics that people are talking about. You may notice that others commit the same small mistakes that you used to fear. They may drop some food, dirty their hands or spill some water by mistake. This way, you won’t feel all alone. You will realise that all of us make such mistakes. You may practice mindful eating. For example, don’t think, “Why do I hate eating at work?” You can instead notice the goodness of the food.
  3. Take help, practice: You can seek help from friends. If you hate eating at work, you can ask a friend for help. You can practice eating with them. You can use cutlery to eat while practising. If you are not confident with chopsticks, you can practice using them.

Chapter 5:
Why Do I Hate Eating at Work? How Can I Fix It?

When you hate eating at work or in front of others, you will often fall into a vicious cycle of anxiety. If you fear social eating, you will avoid it and then avoidance will become a defence strategy. This can leave you away from social circles. If you keep avoiding people at work, during lunch hours. They might feel that you are not friendly. They might end up not calling you for parties or other social events. If you hate eating at work and if the anxiety is bothering you a lot, then take a step. You can keep the fork and the knife down for a while, sip some water or you can excuse yourself for a minute. This can give you time to regroup. You can carry positive affirmations with you. You can carry them in your pocket. One can take extra pair of napkins if you feel you will spill something. If you have fear of eating outside, then you can go to restaurants alone as an exposure practice. You can learn how to use a knife and a fork online and practice it when alone. You can take smaller portions of food at the office. This way you won’t have fear of dropping food. If the thought, “Why do I hate eating at work?” is going out of control, you may be suffering from social anxiety or an eating disorder. At Epsychonline, some courses and articles can help you with these thoughts and feelings. Do check them out.