Clear the lunch table of food conversations

One plate overfills with creative contributions to lunch table conversation; the other features a bland assortment of food-based comments. This editorial argues that a variety of lunch table conversation topics can be more important than overanalyzing whether you've eaten a variety of food groups.

Editorial Cartoon: Marlee Baron

One plate overfills with creative contributions to lunch table conversation; the other features a bland assortment of food-based comments. This editorial argues that a variety of lunch table conversation topics can be more important than overanalyzing whether you've eaten a variety of food groups.

The Rubicon Staff, Editorial

Plates clang together, forks lift food into mouths, and the dining hall fills with the sounds of lunch time. During these hours, food brings students together, allowing them momentary relief from a hectic classroom atmosphere while providing time to catch up with friends. Then, during a lull in conversation, oftentimes someone slips in a casual remark about food, and suddenly the lunchroom feels much less inviting.

During a lull in conversation, oftentimes someone slips in a casual remark about food, and suddenly the lunchroom feels much less inviting.”

These comments about food range from obviously uncomfortable discussions about portion sizes to seemingly harmless words about the lack of color on a friend’s plate or a remark about the food’s taste. But, ultimately, these comments add little to the conversation and run the risk of causing harm.

One key point to keep in mind during lunch time is that everyone deals with eating anxieties and many individuals manage disordered eating habits or an eating disorder. Anybody, regardless of their relationship with food, will experience discomfort if someone at the table comments on what they are eating.

Not only are comments about a peer’s food damaging, but statements about one’s own food – such as the common “I’m going to need to run a mile after eating this” – have the same negative effect. Even positive comments about food, if spoken in a universally applicable tone, may causes others who dislike the food to question their eating habits.

Necessary food portions and choices are not universally the same, yet such a nuance is often overlooked during judgements. However, it is never one’s place to openly judge another person’s plate. While the contents of a friend’s plate may contradict one’s own preferences, calling people out in front of their peers during a time allocated for eating is not the time or place to do so. Furthermore, authorities such as their doctor or the school counselor are more equipped and perceptive than an everyday high school student to deal with unhealthy food choices, and concerns should be passed through them rather than directly to a student. Food can be a delicate topic as dietary restrictions may be personal, cultural, religious, or ethical. Also, there are just so many other things everybody could be talking about during lunch besides food.

Food can be a delicate topic as dietary restrictions may be personal, cultural, religious, or ethical. Also, there are just so many other things everybody could be talking about during lunch besides food.”

Some frequently heard remarks about food to avoid while eating include: “How do you eat so much?”, “I’m going to need to work out after I eat this,” “I should get salad, but I’ll get this instead,” “You’re so healthy, eating just salad,” “I have way too much food on my plate,” “You aren’t eating enough/You’re eating a lot,” “I need to eat healthier food,” and “I ate so much I feel sick.”

Instead, ask everyone how their day went, talk about plans for the weekend,make knock-knock jokes, think up some random questions, collectively complain about a TV program’s frustratingly long hiatus, play lunch-table-telephone. Or, just embrace the silence. People tend to feel the need to fill the air with noise to avoid what most assume will be uncomfortable silence. However, sitting outside and enjoying the crisp air before snow takes over, or taking a group break from the constant pressure to speak in class can be just as enjoyable.

Next time you set your plate down, think about what you’re bringing to the table.