Munching During Meetings

meeting snacksReader S has a business etiquette question about eating during business meetings…

I have an business etiquette question. I have low blood sugar and have to eat every couple of hours. Is it rude to eat something that can’t be shared, like a piece of fruit, during a meeting? In today’s example, we didn’t have a break, and the senior person passed around a tin of cookies, so I assumed it was OK to snack. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to pay attention….

Hmmn. I’m a big believer in the importance of keeping your blood sugar level steady for energy, brain power, and mood purposes, but I’m not sure about Reader S’s question.   I guess the answer here depends on the kind of meeting. If everyone is eating (or it’s a BYO kind of lunch meeting), I think its fine to bring something of your own, whether it’s shareable or not. I would, however, pay mind to whether or not your snack might be disruptive — if it is loud (crunchy apple? crinkly wrapper?), smelly, or involved (such as if you need to set up a staging area to spread cheese or peanut butter on top of something), I would strongly suggest you reconsider bringing it to a meeting, even if people are eating.  (Pictured: Food for the trail, originally uploaded to Flickr by trekkyandy.)

If, however, people are not generally eating, then you have fewer options. First, you could rely on liquid calories — take your sugar with coffee and cream, so to speak. (Or just fill your cup full of milk or soy milk when everyone else gets coffee.) The second best option would be to excuse yourself to the bathroom and eat a few quick bites of something filling, preferably in the “lounge” area of the bathroom that a lot of offices have (and not in, you know, the actual stall). My list of quick and stashable bites would include things like a handful of almonds or trail mix, a banana, or even an energy bar.

All this, of course, presumes that it is a Long Meeting (2-3 hours) — if it is less than that I would really suggest you bend your eating schedule around the meeting.  If it’s a Very Long Meeting (3+ hours), of course, the planners will hopefully/probably build bathroom and snack breaks into the meeting.  (If you are one of the planners for the meeting, implement one!)  If you regularly have Long Meetings or Very Long Meetings with the same players, you might just take a moment to explain to them that you need to eat every few hours and see how they react.  (If this were me, though, I would still probably excuse myself when I needed to eat, unless I was assured it was ok to eat anyway.)

Readers, what are your thoughts on munching during meetings?

Comments

  1. Thanks for responding! It was a two hour meeting (10am-12pm).

    • I agree with excusing yourself to go to the ladies’s room and eating outside the meeting. I had a hypoglycemic client once who brought grape sugar candies everywhere, and did offer them around. They sort of looked like Mentos in size. I think that’s a reasonable alternative if you’re solo in a meeting and don’t want to leave.

      • It was probably this one: http://www.amazon.com/Reli-Glucose-Tablets-Orange-10/dp/B002V0YER2 or something like it.

  2. I do not have a medical need to eat throughout the day, but I do tend to be a “grazer” who eats much smaller snack-sized meals all day long. If I find that I am going to be in a longer meeting, I try to prepare in advance and eat something immediately before that will hopefully get me through the whole meeting. If the meeting is so long that I will need to eat in the middle, I usually either suck it up and go hungry or excuse myself to munch on something in the bathroom or hallway.

    If it can at all be avoided, I would recommend not eating in the meeting. It is distracting to the other participants and can be a bit too informal, at least for my business (law).

  3. My $0.02: if you are going to snack, definitely bring a quieter snack, not something loud/crunchy. And for the love of Pete, make sure you know how to chew with your mouth closed. This sounds absurd, but I was in a 1-hr, non-lunchtime meeting with a guy who brought a full spread then loudly chewed and talked with his mouth full. ICK.

    • I have people doing this with gum. There is even a person who snaps her gum (I don’t know the exact word) and it is very distracting.

  4. Hi reader S! I second Kat’s suggestions to excuse yourself quietly and have a discreet snack like a banana or something that you can carry in your purse and then eat in your office, restroom lounge, workroom, etc.; or to get your sugar through a beverage. Attention to you during the meeting should be limited to your work performance — unfortunately, any side snacking (when it’s not a lunch meeting) will be distracting.

  5. If something is being passed around at the meeting, you can assume that it is okay to partake in it.

    Otherwise, I would say it depends on the length of the meeting, and when it is.

    A meeting lasting two hours, and ending before lunch, I would think that you could manage to eat something straight before the meeting that would last you through a fairly long while – and have a cup of tea with sugar/honey/sweetener/milk with you to the meeting as a back-up.

    A meeting lasting longer, or going through your lunch break, should either have a break where you can refill or fruit/snacks being served (I’m aware that not all companies have a fruit/sandwich service that they can call for meeting snacks). If it doesn’t, look into quick snacks that can bring the blood sugar up, but doesn’t make a lot of noise or mess.

    My department tend to have a lot of internal video meetings, and I find that the protocol is different there than it is in a real-life meeting or meetings with outsiders, because we all operate on different lunch schedules, AND it is possible to mute the sound coming from your side so it is okay to have a snack without worrying about what others can hear, as a couple of my co-workers tend to do, and it is not disruptive to the meeting.

  6. I attended a 9am depo (wasn’t taking or defending), and there was NO food. Just coffee & juice. At 10:45a.m., I had a pounding headache and felt ill. Brought a scone back and everyone drooled. LOL.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I’ve never seen breakfast foods in any morning start depos I have attended, whether the depo started at 7:30am or 9:30am. Only coffee, juice, and soda. After a half dozen depos in a few weeks, I started carrying 3 granola bars on me at all times – one in a suit pocket, one in the jacket’s interior pocket, and one in my briefcase.

      • Go SF Bay Associate ;-) I pity-the-fool who tries to starve YOU! (in my Mr. T voice…).

        • SF Bay Associate :

          Thanks lawgirl! Necessity of survival after realizing that the rainmaker I assisted in all these depos was one of those “lives on coffee, not food” types. Sometimes during the lunch breaks, she would want to not actually get lunch, but instead prepare for the afternoon session, sans food. I would usually offer her one of my granola bars, and occasionally she would take it, which added to my “SF Bay is the best attorney to help rainmaker in important depositions” image.

          I should clarify that said granola bars are gobbled up during breaks, NEVER in the depo. The only times I have ever seen anyone eat in a depo was a visibly pregnant attorney who silently slipped almonds into her mouth when another attorney was questioning. Just like with all the office attire threads, rules are relaxed for pregnant ladies (as they should be).

          • AnonyMouse :

            I don’t know that I’ve ever seen food at a deposition – might be lunch brought in for a break out room, but it’s rare to have it in the dep itself. If I’m taking/defending, I usually don’t want to eat. If I’m handing documents over or monitoring, I wouldn’t want to be eating – last thing you want is to be any kind of distraction or crunching on tape. That being said, if a junior associate were to make sure that there are decent snacks in the breakout room, I’d be pretty psyched.

    • Yeah, I advise against ever doing this to other associates, etc. You get a lunch break when the witness wants one. You never get breakfast, you’re supposed to eat that before you show up. Snacking/the noise of snacking/not taking notes/not paying attention during a depo as an associate is a major no – no. They usually have coffee, water, diet soda, and regular soda. Suck it up with those and eat before.

      Honestly, you’d be not working with any of those partners again in my firm if you did this.

    • I don’t know how on earth the other people that I work with manage this, but I have been involved in several depositions that started early in the morning (8:30am, or so) and did not even break for lunch. Aside from a couple bathroom breaks, these depos went straight through, and — in at least one case — lasted until after 4:00pm. The deponent wanted to “go straight through” and so that’s what we did. As the most junior person in the room, I did not feel like I really had any choice.

      Oh, my goodness. By the end of theses depos, I could not concentrate and felt very lightheaded when I stood up. NOT okay.

      I will never attend another deposition without fruit, nuts, granola bar, etc — and enough of it that it really can act as a meal substitute in a pinch. I load up my bag, and scarf down as quickly and discretely as possible at breaks.

      • I do this consistently. I’d rather work hard and be done then sit and eat and give the witness/other side a chance to discuss things in more detail. In addition, one tries to show that they have what you call self-control, driven, focus, determination, etc. You will not starve for not eating for 7 hours. You can drink calories if you are in need of some sugar. To force others to stop because you are not in control of your body is just ridiculous and reveals a weekness.

        And you NEVER eat in the depo room at teh biglaw firm I work at. Once, some kid from the other side was eating a scone or muffin or something he got and he kept ruffling the bag to try to break a peice of it off duringthe depo and hte questioning partner smacked his hand. It was hilarious and I had to try to hold back my laughter.

        • To force others to stop because you are not in control of your body is just ridiculous and reveals a weekness.

          Massive eyeroll. I really think this is the attitude that makes so many lawyers burned out and miserable – the idea that wanting to tend to normal human functions or, in some cases, medical conditions are a “weekness.” (And I don’t usually point out typos but in this case . . . yeah, if you’re going to maintain someone with, say, diabetes is weak for eating a cookie during a deposition, you possibly should be perfectionist enough to be proofreading.)

          • It’s 7 hours without solid food. You can bring a smoothie, grab a coke, etc. There’s no human need anyone needs to eat solid food within that time frame.

            You ladies are insane on here about eating every 2 hours or what? You cease to exist? You get hungry? You can’t just bring a dannon smoothie to go in your purse as an emergency food each morning? Seriously ladies? You sound complainy and weak.

          • People have explained why a coke won’t work for many people; a smoothie might (I don’t have a medical condition requiring me to eat frequently so I don’t know), though last time I checked most of those are chock full of sugar too so probably present many of the same issues.

            Regardless, my point is that a work environment that treats people who want or need to eat something during a 7 hour period as weak , insane and “complainy” (yes, all those weak-willed women expressing opinions on a blog post dedicated to that very thing!) is pretty ludicrous and probably contributes to the high rates of burnout, mental illness, and substance abuse among lawyers.

            And yeah, I know places where that’s the prevailing attitude exist; what I don’t see is any legitimate reason for that to be the prevailing attitude other than an unhealthy desire to prove that you’re somehow more “hardcore” than everyone else or whatever that is.

          • 1. it’s not an every day event, its a freakin deposition. You dont have them every day. They can make or break a major case. You shouldn’t eat during them. It’s distracting and rude. Period. end of sentence.

            2. I make my own smoothie everymorning I have fresh fruit. They have no added sugar. They are great for you.

            3. Food options other than a coke exist.

          • Carnation instant breakfast, Ensure, etc. I dont eat in meetings or depos either, but have these constantly stashed in my desk or purse if going somewhere all day.

            It’s not about being tougher, but looking it ladies. Just be discreet and dont chew in a room full of people you may distract.

          • Another Sarah :

            I need to eat within 30 mins. of waking up, or else I faint. So, I have a good breakfast every morning. I still can’t go another 7 hours without eating something substantial, or else I faint. If all I have is a soda, I’ll get jittery before I faint. If all I have a smoothie (without some kind of protein in it), I’ll be super productive, and then I’ll faint. Eating isn’t a sign of weakness; knowing your boundaries and willfully ignoring them to the detriment of others is.

          • My smoothies also have a protein powder in them.

          • Anonymous :

            P, honey, have a drink, please, for the benefit of anyone who is around you. :)

          • “eating every 2 hours or what?”

            i will be unconscious on the floor.

            somehow i think that might be more distracting than taking a 10 minute break to eat a sufficient amount of carbs and protein.

            seriously, this world needs to get more accommodating to medical and physical issues, and to just basic physical differences between people. i’m a horrible, weak person because my body needs more nutrients than yours?! does it really need to be that big of a deal?

            that said: i am not a lawyer, but i keep a stash of snacks at my office and in my bag when i am dealing with long/many off-site meetings:

            trader joe’s peanut-butter-filled-pretzel bites
            string cheese sticks! (so good, and fun to eat :o) )
            cliff bars/protein bars
            bananas
            crackers
            nuts

            and while i try to eat before or after meetings or in breaks, sometimes when it’s unavoidable, i’ll make sure i’m sitting in an inconspicuous location in the meeting room and can quietly slip a few nuts or peanutbutterpretzels in my mouth to keep me going. And my direct supervisors know about my blood sugar issues, so that if i discreetly do this, they won’t be mad at me.

        • “To force others to stop because you aer not in control of your body is just ridiculous and reveals a weekness. [sic]”

          Are you serious? Reader S and others have actual medical conditions that require eating something more frequently than every 7 hours. If I did nothing but drink soda (the only drink that would keep that long without requiring refrigeration or some sort of preparation necessitating a break), I would literally faint.

          I agree that eating a muffin with crinkly paper was not smart during a deposition, but it seems like there would have to be a middle ground between becoming ill and being disruptive?

          • There’s liquid calories. Like I said, there is no need to have to break for food. Medical condition or not, there are liquid calories if you have a medical condition. And they make soy smoothies that last in your purse no refrigeration. Glucerma, ensure, etc. I drink them on the way to work all the time.

            When you work 15 hour days you dont want to break for lunch.

          • “When you work 15 hour days you dont want to break for lunch.”

            Or make time the to learn little, unimportant things like spelling or grammar. You do, however, want to make time to respond rudely to blog posts?

          • haha if I worked 15 hour days I’d be dying for a lunch break. I don’t have a medical condition, so of course im not going to starve to death 7 hours without food but come on, who can’t take a 20 minute break for lunch.

          • I think the 15 hours with no food is catching up with you. You sound grouchy and irritable. I would suggest getting something to eat.

            And I disagree about the starvation issue. It may be doable to go without eating for 7 hours, but its not healthy. Its a stress on the body, which goes into starvation mode, hoards fat (instead of burning it), and can lead to weight gain.

            If you think about it, the longest most people go without eating is when they sleep. And then they wake up and eat the most important meal of the day.

          • My scone wasn’t crinkly, and muffins are damn near silent, IMHO ;-) [Greedy Girls UNITE! Fight the Power!]

          • “Or make time the to learn little, unimportant things like spelling or grammar. You do, however, want to make time to respond rudely to blog posts?”

            HAHAHA, SNAP! (I realize that is an old, busted expression, but still appropriate I feel in this case.)

            I once worked for a guy like P, who viewed anything that took time away from working – eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, etc. as “a waste of time.” He just had his first heart attack, at 37. No joke. For your family’s sake, I hope that doesn’t happen to you, P. Or at least, I hope you’re well-insured.

          • “When you work 15 hour days you dont want to break for lunch.”

            Ummm… f*** yes, I will want to break lunch. If you insist on me working for 15 hours without eating at least one decent meal, you’ve guaranteed very little productivity out of me. Hope it’s worth it.

          • Someone give P a snack. She’s getting moody.

        • Ballerina girl :

          TROLL! I think it’s ridiculous and inconsiderate of both the witness and opposing counsel to insist on going straight through for seven hours. It’s one thing to not provide breakfast (I would be shocked if they did–I think adults can be expected to get their own breakfast before a meeting) but to go from 9 to 4 without lunch (or longer) is just stupid and inconsiderate. Moreover, a lot of people have health issues or just get low blood sugar. I can’t skip lunch. Period. The fact that I won’t starve isn’t the point–I’ll feel lightheaded and sick to my stomach. Why should I have to feel that way because you’re trying to gain some petty advantage. Lastly, in any deposition I’ve taken, the witness has always been free to take breaks at his or her discretion (as long as a question isn’t on the table) to consult with his or her attorney or what have you.

          Finally, I agree that bringing a scone back to that meeting sounds inconsiderate and a bit ridiculous. Eat before the meeting and then hold off till lunch. Or sneak something on a bathroom break. When I do these, I eat a HUGE breakfast and bring granola bars to sneak while we’re on 5 min breaks.

          • I stand by my point. You should never eat in a depo.

            Although you may find opposing counsel inconsiderate for working through lunch, you still shouldnt eat in the middle of a taped depo.

            Call me a troll or what. I stand by my opinion. I am appalled a lawyer would even consider this an option.

          • Ballerina girl :

            I’m not saying you should eat during the depo–and I wouldn’t do it either–but I’m saying P’s position that lunch breaks are for the weak is total b.s. If you don’t plan lunch breaks, then expect people to take matters into their own hands. I’m not going to feel ill because you think you’re hardcore. It’s called common courtesy. And to be honest, opposing counsel doesn’t get to run the show without limits. There’s no rule that says a witness can be held hostage by lawyers. They’re entitled to breaks. I’ve never been in a depo where breaks weren’t allowed. The worst I’ve seen is a depo that went from 8 to 2 without stopping for more than 15 min but that’s still within the realm of “late lunch.”

          • I don’t think P is a troll — I agree with the majority of her comments. I would be appalled at any attorney eating during a deposition. And if the witness is fine to go, and the attorney taking the depo is fine to go, then I see no reason not to keep going as long as the rules will let you. Eating lunch is a major waste of time and hassle during a long depo. You break, everyone leaves, half the people don’t come back on time. The witness has a chance to collect his/her thoughts. I’m definitely in the camp of going full-force and maybe wolfing down a Luna Bar during a bathroom break. If you can’t handle that and you cannot find another way to accommodate your issues, you probably shouldn’t be a litigator.

          • North Shore :

            Goodness, if I’m defending and my witness wants to eat, then I demand a lunch break. If my witness wants to go straight through to get out of there sooner, then I’ll share my granola bars with him/her. Sometimes that works well, because opposing counsel gets hungry and finishes earlier. Often all parties have a plane to catch, and nobody wants to take lunch. That’s why you need to bring snacks.

          • That’s not 1.5 hours in and just whipping out a snack cause you’re hungry as suggested. IF it’s agreed upon, then you use what you have at your disposal.

            The 10:45 in from a 9 am start time and you start wolfing down a muffin is just unprofessional.

          • Ballerina girl :

            Ha, so now I can’t be a good litigator because I can’t/don’t want to go all day without eating. And my “food issues” being that I am not a robot that can go all day without food. The commenter said something about going without food–I can handle making due with a handful of granola bars on bathroom breaks but I don’t see forcing people to do that as a strength. It’s just a deposition, folks.

            That said, I’ll say it again, I think it’s unprofessional to eat during a deposition (in the room) if there aren’t food items set out for that purpose. And I think it’s inexcusable to go only 1.5 hours and then bring back a snack for just yourself (eat it in the hallway if you absolutely must do this) but I also think it’s unprofessional to push everyone (the court reporter, the witness, opposing counsel, and your junior attorneys) to work a full day without breaking for food. I’m not saying get the banquet tables out, but bring in sandwiches at least.

            And I called P a troll because it seemed implausible that someone would actually take that position without purposefully trying to stir the pot.

            Lastly, I’m a great litigator and I wholeheartedly object to the notion that you have to be some sort of robotron penis-measuring jerk to do your job well. In fact, I think that’s a huge misconception in the field.

        • Frankly, any time I’m working a 15 hour day it’s for something important that requires everyone’s full attention. I’d much rather a 5 minute break for everyone to eat than sloppy work. I’d question whether a penis-measuring contest to see which side can last longest without food is actually a productive strategy.

        • The next time I wipe the floor with a big law firm, I will remind myself that they may make more money, but my job lets me eat!

          What a ridiculous attitude. What would you do if you had a pregnant associate? One who was nursing? One who had diabetes? Tell them to suck it up?

      • I’m a greedy gal, I suppose. and litigators are an inhospitable lot. Just remembered The Rules: The lawyer taking the depo doesn’t want the witness to have food, feel comfy & at home, etc.. Make her/him miserable and suffer! So no food! (Snicker). I’m in-house now, and my execs *never* have a morning meeting without the requisite morning vittles (bagels, scones, muffins, fruit salad, etc.).

        • I’ve never seen the word vittles used before (unless you count Dickens). It’s awesome!

        • On the point about depositions and not eating (rather than meetings in general) and Lawgirl’s comments above, does anyone know if this approach to strategic discomforting is the same in the UK?

          • I don’t know about law, but when I was doing my work placement in the UK – my corporate workplace was dilligent about making sure everyone took their [quite possibly mandated by law?] lunch breaks, and their tea breaks. And we were hounded by questions of whether or not we had done so.

            I don’t know any European country where working for 15 hours without a food break would be considered sane by any profession.

  7. yeah, I will not eat in meetings, but I have been known to grab/snack on a granola bar or handful of almonds when hungry and working informally with others.

    My pet peeve is a brown bag lunch where most folks bring thier lunch, but no one eats. Mystery + annoyance = ending up eating in my car.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m not shy about being the first to start eating at a brown bag, and once I start eating normally everyone else does too.

      • the last one that I showed up at, I was a few minutes late. Not everyone brought thier lunch. It was just weird and awkward.

        Normally if I am there on time, I am not shy about pulling out my lunch, but the combination of being late and then not everyone having brought thier lunch made me decide against it.

      • Ugh! Can I just vent on a brown bag I went to recently for my local women’s bar association? I showed up about 3 minutes late (which isn’t very late at all in my locality), with my lunch.

        There were no seats left, so I sat on the floor by the door, because I wanted to hear the presentation.

        No one that had a seat was eating. And get this – about two thirds of the seats were occupied by men.

        I was kind of disappointed, and not sure I’ll go back. Why would I go back to a women’s bar association meeting where the seats are all taken up by men? If I wanted to do that, I’d just stick with the guys I already know.

  8. Hey Reader S! I also have hypoglycemia, so I can definitely sympathize with you.

    I do not eat in meetings where no one else is eating. Instead, I do what Kat suggested and take a quick break to down an energy bar that I’ve conveniently stashed in my suit pocket. I find those are easier and faster to eat than almonds and they have protein to keep blood sugar stable. They also don’t give weird breath like yogurt can.

    If I start to feel very bad very suddenly, I will drink a Coke before slipping out to eat, but sugar like that makes my blood sugar spike, so I have to follow it with something relatively quickly. Another trick is having a hard candy in your pocket or purse where it’s easily accessible (don’t dig around for it). Same thing as with the Coke, though, it just delays the inevitable for a little bit.

    Unfortunately, eating during the meeting when no one else is can be very distracting, and I don’t really like to call attention to my medical issues in a professional setting.

  9. This issue also arises for pregnant ladies who need to keep their blood sugar levels even to avoid nausea and lightheadedness. When I was pregnant I had no problem discreetly snacking when necessary in meetings with my co-workers – my office is very friendly and casual. In meetings with people from outside firms I would try to avoid it but frequently had to ask for a break because lots of people assume everyone would rather work through breaks and lunch to leave earlier. At 8 months pregnant I was stuck in a bunch of depositions with some men who tried to skip lunch and work through every day (even though I explained I couldn’t do this!). I had to put my foot down.

    • For us it depends on whether there are clients in the meeting or whether it’s an internal meeting, and if it’s internal, what levels of folks are in the meeting (peers, or higher-ups). It also depends on the time of day.

      If it’s an external meeting, we do not eat but beverages are usually ok. What about coffee with lots of milk, bottled smoothies (morning) or even those miso soup packets poured into a coffee cup with a lid on? Discreet is the order of the day for us in these meetings. Second the suggestion for keeping something in the purse and excusing oneself to the washroom if you must eat.

      If it’s an internal meeting that is early in the morning with peers, quiet non-smelly high density foods tend to pop up: granola bars, muffins, apples etc. But if it is eaten, it is done quickly, quietly, and usually by the meeting participant, not the meeting chair.

      • somewherecold :

        I like your soup idea. I suppose any kind of non-chunky soup would work–butternut squash, carrot ginger, etc.

        • Yep. I do the miso though because all I need to make it is the hot water from the coffee or tea thermos. And there is always one of those around.

          My eating issues have to do with low blood pressure and not enough sodium–so the hit of salt+little bit of protein+ low cal is perfect.

      • Anon in Ny :

        So on the mark about non-smelly foods. A colleague of mine is partial to egg sandwiches and bananas during morning meetings. The smell of eggs is bad enough to me but somehow the sweet banana scent on top of that makes it even worse.

        • Jade Moon :

          I love egg sandwiches and, separately, bananas. However, if you sit near a person eating a banana during lunch, the aroma emanating from it is fierce and can be nauseating to others. A lunchroom diner eating an especially fragrant banana can make everyone else’s food taste like banana. I think bananas should be eaten privately, or with group consensus.

          Well! I’m thrilled we’ve decided this earth-shaking issue, and can now go on to determine whether frilly collared blouses work in a v. conservative office.

          Okay. . . guess it is clear I’ve been working for the famed 15+ hours and am only minimally coherent.

          Carry on.

  10. I don’t think that I have ever worked in an office building that has a lounge area seperate from the actual bathroom. Am I the only one who is squicked out by the idea of eating in a room normally reserved for grooming and taking care of certain bodily functions? Blech.

    To the original poster, you have a bonafide health issue. Do what you need to do to maintain your health. I don’t think anyone would look at you sideways if you had an energy bar or a glass of orange juice at the meeting.

    • You don’t need to eat in the bathroom. There are hallways or other discreet places where you could probably snack on a handful of almonds.

    • For morning meetings we always have pastries with coffee/tea/water/juice.
      We have a policy where you have to have a break every 90 minutes. In afternoon meetings some people ignore this rule because they assume you are still full from lunch.
      I have no medical condition but have VERY fast metabolism, so if I do not eat (just munch on something, not an entire meal) every two hours, I get lightheaded.
      I carry around dark chocolate and dates (dried fruit from palm trees, very common snack in here). Both these snacks are very discreet and I can have them along my big mug of tea. Never had a remark about it.

      • and I forgot that I started writing my comment to say that we do not have hallways in the bathrooms but we have zen rooms and some people eat at the copy room too.

  11. I used to have really bad blood sugar regulating issues and be in that position. I never ate during a meeting, but I would often bring a drink that was a liquid snack (at the time I was big on iced Starbucks soy chai’s in which I mixed some protein powder before the meeting. No one could tell from looking at it). In addition to the liquid snack, I also had a bottle of water. At that time in my life, I also had a lot of depositions and testimonies to attend (I routinely ended up in marathon type ones with 2 minute bathroom breaks) and in those instances the liquid snack was harder to implement, so I would just eat during the 2 minute bathroom break, usually in the lounge type area in bathrooms (and sometimes walking down the hall to the bathroom). It sucked but it is what it is. At the time I was partial to things like Luna Bars and almonds.

    I did eventually figure out what type of low-glycemic diet worked best for me (it took a couple of variations to find what worked), which now means a two hour meeting is not a problem. I still eat during bathroom breaks during marathon depositions/testimonies, though my snacks have changed and I strictly avoid things like Luna bars because as it turns out, the sugar in them was part of the vicious cycle of my blood sugar crashing.

    • Sort of a follow-up question – I had the above m.o. because I was usually the most junior person in the room and the only woman in those years of my life – now, I would have no problem saying “no, I need a 15 minute lunchbreak” but back then it was different.Any thoughts on whether the above question has a different answer based on age/setting/context/seniority?

      • I think the question is definitely different based on those factors. I am the hypoglycemic Anon from above who eats protein bars, and I’m always the most junior person in the room. That is why I feel uncomfortable stopping the whole meeting for a break and will just excuse myself to eat discreetly outside the room. If someone asks if anyone needs a break, I will not hesitate to speak up, but I wouldn’t initiate the conversation. To head off any gender speculation, I’ve never seen a very junior man ask to take a break in a meeting, either.

        • I do too, but was curious to hear of others’ take on this. And yes, I have never seen a man (junior or otherwise) ask to take a break to eat. According to one of my doctors, blood sugar regulation is more of an issue with women than men.

        • Personally, I think it would look assertive and positive to say, yes, we will take a lunch break. I would not, however, do that if the senior people I was with had already piped up to say “no lunch.” But, hey, what do I know :)

        • I have to wonder, however, when men ask to take breaks to stretch their legs if some may be getting a snack. I know some will say this to go smoke.

          • Just to be clear, men (and women) often ask to take breaks at meetings that I attend, but only the senior ones. I’ve never seen a very junior man or woman ask the whole room to take a break without some sort of prompting (e.g. someone more senior saying, “Does anyone need to stretch their legs?”).

        • Different situation, but same dynamic:

          I (female) was co-teaching a three-hour class with a senior male prof. We had a series of student presentations that needed to happen on the final day. I suggested to the class that rather than our customary 20-25 minute break in the middle of class (during which many people ate quick lunch), we take just 5-7 minutes for people to take care of urgent business, so that we would have enough time for all the presentations.

          Though the students were in agreement, my co-instructor issued a loud and vehement “No” and insisted that he needed his full lunch time.
          My

      • My boss is a woman and we have a great working relationship. However, I am convinced the woman runs solely on coffee – she skips meals, dislikes water and rarely takes a bathroom break. I, on the other hand, am a grazer and a water drinker and have difficulty going for more than a couple of hours without any type of break. I have been in meetings with her where food was delivered for lunch and she is conducting the meeting but no one dares touch the food while she plows on. In more recent years, I have learned to just get up and help myself if she doesn’t look like she is going to take a break. Others generally follow. I also feel more comfortable taking bathroom breaks and helping myself to whatever snack tray that might be provided.

        However, when I know there isn’t any kind of food provided beforehand, I try to plan ahead and either put some sort of candy in my pocket or a granola bar. During a recent mediation that was quite lengthy I had grabbed a handful of starbursts from a candy dish the previous day and just emptied my pocket of them on the table without saying anything and I received many very grateful thank yous. I think one’s seniority, comfort level in the environment (first meeting with this client or have you been working closely for a year?), the expected duration of the meeting and the formality level all come into play.

        • oh, and I know I rambled on but I have one more war story to add. During some intense negotiations my boss, my client and I were at our opposing counsel’s office facing a team of about 10-15 men seated on the long side of a very long conference table. It was late in the day – close to or after 5 pm – and while we were talking snacks were brought in and spread out on a buffet behind them. It had been an extremely long day for our team as we had been in and out of meetings at various offices in mid-town all afternoon. Over the next hour while we were there, members of their side got up to get food and never gestured or offered to share with us. I won’t name the firm but I felt it was definitely a purposeful negotiation tactic on their part.

    • Just out of curiosity, Valerie, can you recommend your low-glycemic diet?

      • Mine is cobbled together from a lot of different approaches. The most important thing for me was to figure out that the eat every two hours and/or eat small snacks throughout the day low-glycemic approaches really did not work for me at all. I needed slightly more substantial meals slightly further apart.

        So basically:

        1. Eat 3 meals a day and 1 snack – sometimes I have a second snack, though that food usually is folded into lunch these days as I eat lunch late, and keep my eating more like 3 to 4 hours apart instead of grazing.
        2. Focus on a high-fiber, high-vegetable, low-fruit, low-grain-flour, low-corn, low-white-potato, no-coffee-or-caffeinated teas, refined-sugar-free diet with some protein and fat at every meal. I still eat grains (usually brown rice or gluten-free oats, or the pseudo grains quinoa and buckwheat) but I try to eat them whole instead of ground up into flour.
        3. Give up most sugar in addition to refined sugars. I avoid all refined sugars completely (including evaporated cane juice) but I also limit natural sugars such as maple syrup, brown rice syrup or dates almost as completely. I do use small amounts of things like agave or coconut palm sugar, and by small I mean no more than a couple of tablespoons of those a week, if that. I do use some stevia, usually to sweeten what would otherwise be a very green smoothie (I often omit fruit from my smoothies).
        4. upped my intake of 2 liters of water a day to 3 liters.

        The flour thing was key for me in terms of blood-sugar regulation, but I kind of discovered that by accident. I am intolerant to gluten, dairy and eggs, but was still not doing great despite avoiding sugar pretty strenuously as well, so my doctor recommended going completely grain-free (many gluten-free grains can be cross-contaminated with gluten, so one way to avoid gluten completely is avoid all grains) – so for a while I was eating a lot of sweet potatoes and winter squash and beans as my main sources of carbs. I felt really good so when I reintroduced grains, I noticed I did better if I ate the whole grain (ie a bowl of brown rice rather than crackers made from brown rice flour).

        I realize this all sounds like a tremendous amount of effort, and I have pretty much given up trying to convince people that I don’t have an eating disorder. At the end of the day, I love that I have lots of energy and do not ever have an afternoon slump and I still get to eat chocolatey things, which is one of my favorite foods :) For an idea of meals, I post my lunchboxes on my blog.

        Also: I never had fasting blood sugar readings that were anything other than normal, but I did have symptoms of blood sugar irregularity, which is why I have been so focused on it. Additionally, my mom was diagnosed with diabetes a couple of years ago, despite not having any of the risk factors (ie not overweight, did not eat much sugar etc) and has been able to control her blood sugar through diet, which all further motivated me to stick to this.

        Feel free to get in touch with me through my blog (ie email/twitter/facebook/blog) if you would like a list of resources I used.

        • Thanks so much. It’s great to see what works for others.

          • You’re welcome. I also forgot to add this above – when I started completely rehauling my diet to cobble this plan together (as opposed to relying on the more general low-glycemic guidelines which were working ok, but not great), I had bloodwork done and was found to be pretty deficient in magnesium and Vit D, so take supplements of both. I did not realize this until later, but both mg and vit d are linked to blood sugar regulation, among several other body functions. So something else worth looking at might be getting bloodwork done to screen for that.

          • Wow, I’ve been taking Vitamin D supplements… and come to think of it, I haven’t had a glycemic attack since I started taking them regularly.

            I didn’t know about magnesium, but appreciate the tip. I’ll certainly check out your blog. Thanks.

        • Thanks for posting this! I am having blood sugar issues and I love to hear that people can make it work!

  12. I’ve had witnesses in both depositions and arbitrations notify the attorneys / court reporter / arbitrator that they need to take breaks in order to eat for medical purposes. I didn’t think it was a big deal at all, and everyone was very accommodating. It may be different when you’re the attorney, since the witness is the star of the show, and you’re not, but I don’t think it would be a big deal if you didn’t make it a big deal. Of course these were proceedings that were obviously going to be multiple hours. For a 2-hour meeting, I would just eat right beforehand. I’m a grazer, and I find peanut butter to be enormously helpful in this situation.

    • Second the nut butters. I love that you can buy them in small pouches now :)

    • FYI: The nut butter smell and breath are rather repulsive to those of us allergic to them.

      • I’m sorry to hear about your allergy, but I don’t think it’s fair to expect everyone to avoid eating nuts or nut butters on the off chance that someone in the room is allergic.

        • Anonymous :

          Totally agreed–I hate the smell of peanut butter (and am allergic to peanuts), but I don’t care if people around me are eating it. Just like they better not care about my hummus and pita!

      • Great point – I generally don’t eat them around anyone and usually stick to coconut butter (best blood sugar balancing for me as far as I can tell) so this had not occurred to me. Do you mean the peanut/almond butter smells (which are distinctive) or all nut/seed butters in general?

      • out of curiosity: can you get an allergic reaction if you smell PB (without touching it?)

  13. I eat in meetings all the time. I’m often the only one eating though I never thought of it as something that could be a problem.

    • AnonAnonAnon :

      Same here. I used to get very ill sometimes, quite unexpectedly (as in, I’d eat right before the meeting but sometimes within an hour I’d feel lightheaded, nauseated, and completely incapable of focusing) so none of the suggestions here would work. And I absolutely cannot drink anything with sugar in it without vomiting.

      I’d simply quietly eat my snack (almonds or string cheese were my go to because they took care of my problems quickly.) No one noticed. Then again, I was very junior and typically sat at the end of the table, out of the way. I’d never do that if I were running the meeting or with clients who didn’t know me. But if I’m running it, I could insist on a 5 minute break.

      Franky, it irks me when people assume that because they can suck it up, everyone can. This just isn’t the case.

      • “Franky, it irks me when people assume that because they can suck it up, everyone can. This just isn’t the case.”

        This. I find that attitude to be quite rude. When clients come by for meetings, everyone trips over themselves to make sure that we take enough breaks, get coffee, “stretch our legs,” whatever. Because people need breaks. They just do. And it’s simply polite to make sure those needs are met. Forcing your team of junior people to power through with no breaks is inconsiderate and bad management, in my opinion.

      • I agree with your last sentence, but I would not say no one notices. The most junior person on my team snacks in meetings too and I know it bothers people, although they are probably wishing they had food too!

        • Anon in Ny :

          Effy – have you told the junior member on your team quietly that they are free to take a 5 minute break, or made sure they have time before/after to grab a quick bite? If so, and they continue to snack in an obtrusive manner, that’s their issue. But why not have a 2 second conversation? I bet that team member would appreciate it!

          • That’s a good point. I am pretty junior myself so didn’t want to come off as condescending, but it would help them a lot. If a good moment comes up I will do so. Thanks, you just turned my mild annoyance into something much more positive.

      • string cheese!! that’s my go to snack, too: quick and easy protein, and fun to eat! ;o)

    • I’m also a frequent in-meeting snacker… and I’m junior – eek! I came from a much less formal industry, so I never gave it a second thought, but I’ll pay more attention now. This is fascinating!

      • Anon in Ny :

        Effy – I’m a newly minted manager myself and I try hard to “mentor” other team members (especially women) about small things like this when appropriate – ie, we’ll be working at a conference for 12 hours on our feet, you may want to bring snacks, wear low heels, etc. It makes the junior people feel more comfortable and they generally appreciate the advice (when handled in a constructive manner of course). I know its something I would have appreciated hearing myself!

  14. I would probably bring a protein shake into the meeting in an insulated container like a stainless steel coffee thermos. Pure sugar for someone with hypoglycemia will forestall an immediate crash, but will set you up for bigger problems later.

    • Anonymous :

      What kind of protein shake do you like? I would like to try this idea.

  15. I think I agree with the majority — don’t eat if you can help it. If the meeting runs longer than 2 hours, there will either be breaks or people will be expected to excuse themselves for a few minutes. Otherwise, try to eat right before, have a drink with you, and go out of the room if necessary.

    You could also try to initiate some sort of snack policy for long meetings you know of in advance. But that may be more trouble than it’s worth to you.

    On an aside, I would just add that there should be some sort of etiquette for brown bag lunch meetings. I have been to a lot of CLE lunches at work recently, and the food people bring is amazing. Everything from salmon curry to buffalo chicken wings. I don’t think I have learned anything, I have been so distracted!

    • Buffalo wings, blech. I can barely stand to smell/watch people eat those in a bar situation, much less a lunch meeting.

  16. No snacking in meetings unless it is a “Lunch meeting.” The chewing souns are annoying, the smells are unpleasant for others, it comes off as selfish/you are not paying attention.

    Overall NO. Grab a coke or a latte. There’s no reason to eat during a meeting.

    • If I have a coke or a latte at best I’ll have a panic attack, at worst I’ll pass out. No thank you.

  17. I am gluten intolerant and get low blood sugar, so even in meetings where snacks are provided, there is frequently nothing I can eat. I try to keep a few gluten free snack bars in my purse/brief case. If others are eating, I’ll eat one of those in the meeting. If not, I’ll grab one during a break in the ladies room or hall. I get the non-crunchy kind, so they are easy and quiet to eat. An apple or banana, I think, would be more obvious and difficult to eat unobtrusively (crunchy, peel/core to dispose of). I have eaten them in depositions (when I was not defending or taking, just one of numerous co-defendants) even if others aren’t eating, though, just depends on the meeting.

  18. Honestly, are you all that sickly or are you all crazy obese or something that you Must eat solid foods every 2 hours?

    I’m not being rude, but you can get a frappuchino or fruit smoothie that has something like 500 calories in it. There’s NO reason you ever need to eat in a meeting.

    • This is an extreme response. I agree a two hour meeting shouldn’t usually create such a major issue but many of us end up in marathon nearly all day meetings where others will plough forward with no food and this becomes a significant problem. Personally, I cannot go 5-6 hours without any food at all or I will lose my ability to concentrate at the least and get a splitting headache at worse. And as other commenters have indicated, many people have low blood sugar issues where this is a serious need.

      • And to combat the low blood sugar or your headache bring a filling beverage with you. 500 calories for 6 hours should be sufficient.

        In addition, you can go 5-6 hours without any food at all. I assume you sleep. I assume you’ve gone to a Sunday brunch at 11 and was full and didnt have dinner until 6ish that night.

        • Ballerina girl :

          Six hours is a long stretch. I’m not saying you have to break for food, but there should be bathroom breaks and that’s a fair time to wolf down a protein bar if you’re hungry. For me it depends on the time of day. I can go 1pm-7pm without food, but I can’t go 8am to 2pm as easily. But I don’t expect people to cater to that–just give me a 15 min break here and there to a) not lose my mind, b) go to the restroom, and c) sneak a snack outside of the meeting if I want to.

      • The original questioner said she was in a 10am to 12pm, 2 hour meeting. I cant believe anyone would even think it would be remotely ok to whip out a snack and start munching down during that.

    • Actually, the opposite. Typically the skinnier you are the faster you metabolize food and the more you need to eat.

      • Agreed. I don’t look like it, but I eat constantly. If I go a few hours without soem protein, my blood sugar starts slipping. Sometimes I wonder if those around me think I have a tapeworm….

      • I am a partner in a large lawfirm. I have blood sugar issues and need to eat every 2 hours or so to function at my best and have never felt it was a character flaw of some kind. Usually I snack discreetly on almonds (yes, even during meetings). I can’t drink soda or smoothies because those would spike my blood sugar and I am too health-conscious to down a frappucino every day. Seriously, if that’s where you get your calories, you are coming up short on nutrients. I am tall and slender (5’9″ and 130 lbs). I’m not “sickly” – I am athletic, an avid cyclist, lift weights, etc. My body is just sensitive.

    • Another Sarah :

      I can’t think of a worse food than a frappuchino/latte/anything with caffeine in it as a way to tide you over until you can eat. It’s not always a matter of calories, but the balance of proteins/carbs. For me, empty stomach + caffeine = horrible, horrible, horrible pain.

      • AnonInfinity :

        And lightheadedness (for me)!

        • Anon in Ny :

          God, yes! Nothing is worse than the shakes I get from being in back to back meetings with no time to eat and then trying to down a sugar-packed coke or other soda!

    • Honestly, do you not read the comments?

      And yes, you are being rude. Not fainting is generally considered a good reason to do most things, let along something as minor as eat in a meeting.

    • Check out some brain facts.
      http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/carbs.html

      “A lack of fuel affects the ability to think and remember.”

      “Too much sugar or refined carbohydrates at one time, however, can actually deprive your brain of glucose – depleting its energy supply and compromising your brain’s power to concentrate, remember, and learn. Mental activity requires a lot of energy. ”

      Yes, you can go all day without eating. Will it affect your performance? YES. You are doing your clients a disfavor by not being at the top of your game- all for the 15 minutes you save by not eating lunch.

      • I guess the sad reality is, this is precisely what some are doing to the witness during a depo – to affect his or her ability to think and remember.

    • Wow, way to work some fat bashing into a generally obnoxious comment. For what it’s worth, I can power through meetings for 12 hours without food, because it so happens I am obese and I have a bladder of steel. But it would be rude of me to assume that others can do the same. As I’m a senior partner, I do insist on meal breaks on a regular basis. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

    • Usually whenever soemone calls for a 2 hour meeting in the afternoon, it takes at least 3 or 4 hours.Very.Bad.Time.Management.

  19. I had a male staff member who, on his first day of work, informed me that he needed to have a lot of small meals during the day, so he would therefore be taking several small lunch breaks rather than one long one (this in an office where we all tend to eat at our desks on most days, only taking a real hour-long lunch break if we need to). As it turned out, this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of high maintenance. I tried to downplay his announcement by telling him that he was a professional and that he should just do what he needed to do when he needed to do it. But he just couldn’t pull it off, and was constantly announcing that he was running off for a snack, needed to leave early to pick up his dry cleaning, etc., etc. Why he couldn’t just eat a granola bar and keep it to himself, I never did figure out.

    • Anon in Ny :

      On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was once helping to manage a large event for my company (one of those up and reporting for work at 6am, going till 9pm type of conferences) and my manager literally yelled at me for taking a 5 minute break to bolt down a granola bar and a coffee at 9am in our “war room” ie – not in front of partners or clients. Some people really do think having to eat is “weakness” and cannot understand those who don’t run on coffee and nothing else.

  20. Chris in LA :

    I put a smoothie in my coffee cup when I know I will be in a situation like the meeting described above. But like some of the other commenters, I have food issues (allergies) in additional to being hypoglycemic. I prepare in advance whenever possible. There are tolerable powered mixes that you can mix up in a shaker, but I opt for mixing my own at home and carrying it with me (along with the rest of my day’s caloric needs).

    I know how it feels to fade out during a meeting because your blood sugar is too low. It is not fun. But I know how I feel when someone is eating during a meeting when no one else is. Listening to them drive me nuts.

    On the other hand, being the only one at lunch meetings who can’t eat and has to watch everyone else is a different nightmare that people with severe food allergies have to face.

    • I totally do the smoothie in a coffee cup approach now too. I also like pouches of nut butters (easier to get down than nuts if rushing down a hallway or in bathroom/lounge area). I am gluten intolerant and have multiple food allergies, so I too carry 50 to 100% of my daily caloric needs to work with me, and am generally prepared.

      • Those packets of nut butters are great. Perfectly edible on their own, but also very easy to spread on a piece of bread or celery and wolf down.

        There are also packets of fruit sauces (like applesauce mixed with carrot) you can buy at Starbucks and there’s a Trader Joe’s house brand. Those work really well too.

  21. Refined sugar is the LAST thing a person with blood sugar issues should have. It will only lead to a far worse crash when it wears off.

    Complex, low glycemic index carbs and best of all, all three macros (low glycemic carbs, protein and a little fat) are best for maintaining a steady level of blood glucose.

    Yes, this can be satisfied by a suitable meal replacement bar or drink. If your condition is serious enough, you learn this stuff.

  22. I always have snacks in the bag I take to court with me. Trader Joe’s sells single snack bags of almonds, cashews and trail mix. These have kept me going so many times when a hearing has run long.

  23. A new page of comments when the first only has 24 comments?? This is crazy.
    I think you need to just excuse yourself and eat in the hall, go back to your office and snack, or eat in the restroom (yes, hopefully there’s a “lounge” area!). Unless you meet with the same people regularly for 3+ hours without a break and you can explain your situation to them, it will look weird and unprofessional for you to eat when no one else is. The suggestion to have a smoothie in your coffee cup is a good one too!

  24. This is a bit off the point of the topic, but we have exactly the opposite problem here. We almost always have food in our meetings. If two people gather for more than 30 minutes, they feel entitled to have food. We had several meetings here today, and I just walked into the kitchen to see an obscene amount of food left over. Bagels, lox, pasta, sandwiches, cookies, pastry, salads. My poor receptionist was actually chastized by someone yesterday for not providing catering for a videoconference at 1:00 for three people. I think it’s a bit out of control. There is very little incentive to plan and make good choices when catering leftovers are just a short walk away.

    • My office has a similar problem…though I think the leftovers mostly go to staff, who seem to appreciate it. But it is funny the amount of free food around our office. They LOVE the lunch meeting…and always have sandwiches. :-P

  25. I like protein bars for these situations. You can keep one in your pocket and just break off a piece during a break (or a “how do we set up this conference call? beep beep beep” down moment). They are clean, don’t smell like anything, and will keep you full for a surprising amount of time. My favorites are ProMax bars (I buy them at Trader Joe’s, but I think they’re available many places) and Kashi Go Lean Chewy bars.

  26. For me, PMS manifests itself in the form of raging migranes when my blood sugar gets too low. 25 days a month, I’m fine, but those 2-3 days before my period, if I don’t eat regular snacks, I need to lay down.

    I find dried fruit is a great snack for these situations. I keep a bag of dried apricots in my bag at all times. Easy to carry around and snack on quickly during breaks.

    • Anon in Ny :

      All natural dried fruit bars are a lifesaver for me – small, easy to carry, and thin! They’re like 3/$1 at trader joes most of the time and I stock up!

      • Target also has dried fruit bars and strips under their house brand (Archer Farms), and unlike most dried fruit bars they sell them in larger sizes (up to 16 per box).

  27. I’m in engineering and I’m sure most of my meetings are much less formal than most of yours. Most people bring drinks to meetings, regardless of length and snacks are not unusual. Bringing a full on meal is only done when meetings are scheduled during lunch time, which is pretty rare.

    • Similar experience here – all my meetings are internal only and if the meeting happens to be during lunch, it’s pretty usual that people will bring their lunch – it’s considered a good use to time.

      I’m genuinely sorry to hear that some of you aren’t able to even eat a few almonds when you get hungry during a marathon meeting – especially for internal meetings when there’s no client to impress, this seems to make no sense to me. I hope over time more workplaces realize that we’re all only human.

      • AnonAnonAnon :

        I started in engineering, so maybe that’s why I find it ludicrous for people to obsess over others eating a few almonds. I wouldn’t even notice. And frankly, I don’t think men notice. Yet another topic where women tear each other to shreds over minute details.

    • Same here. I’m also in a science, and while I’ve never been in an external meeting that goes for more than 3 hours, it’s fairly standard to bring food to internal lunch meetings or very long meetings. I’ll add this post to my mental list of Things On Corporette That Make Me Glad I’m Not A Lawyer.

  28. I’m in law, and yes, I eat in meetings where it’s just us lawyers sitting around. I’m discrete and quiet so as not to disrupt the meeting, but I wouldn’t hesitate to eat if I get hungry. If anyone sees that as a weakness, they have issues. People eat. . . get over it.

  29. My one thing topoint out to those who eat in meetings and claim they are quiet or discreet is it’s noticeable.

    Just imagine a room, one person talking across the table, you trying to listen adn you just hear “smack, gulp, smack) type noises. No one ever thinks they are a loud eater. The sounds are distracting and your conduct is rude and inconsiderate to your fellow meeting attendees.

    • Agreed. I find it disgusting when I see people eat things from their pocket sor hands and knowing they haven’t washed them.

    • I wouldn’t go nearly so far as to say everyone is so loud, but there are some people who always chew with their mouths open or take very noisy crunches into things who should be especially mindful in meetings. I was at a meeting where there were chips recently. Several people were eating them, but one did that big-chomp-before-closing-mouth thing and it was very loud and distracting.

      And while we’re on the topic! When you eat popcorn at the movies, please, I beg you, put the popcorn in your mouth, close your lips, and only THEN bite down on it. I hate movie theatres because a quarter or so of the time I end up with a Very Bad Popcorn Eater near me.

      • Anonymous :

        Oh. My. God. The “big-chomp-before-closing-mouth thing”. That kills me. I completely realize this is more my problem than anyone else’s problem, but that sound makes me absolutely cringe. Talk about not being able to concentrate! And I think most people don’t realize they do it. *Shivers*

        I can’t stand listening to other people eat. Particularly in a meeting. If you’re going to eat, please be discreet.

  30. AcrossThePond :

    I’m beginning to think you are all crazy. Here in the UK, if someone needs to eat during meetings for health reasons (or even if they are just due a feed) no one will worry. Yes, if you order in a catered meal folk will notice. However, when I have been in rooms with diabetics, or people is serious training for a variety of reasons, and one just accepts that people have to consume when they have to consume. Just as much as I expect if I attend a meeting with a coffee/cocktail/porridge – who cares? Similarly if a women leaves to room to pump her breastmilk. After all, if the meeting goes that long, who really needs to be there the whole time?

  31. My two cents: bring an Odwalla drink – one of the thicker ones that has a lot of fiber. You could certainly drink that throughout the meeting/depo/whatever. Also, my emergency trial food is dark chocolate-covered almonds – I always have a stash in my purse. Not the healthiest thing on the planet, but more or less natural, very portable, and gives you some protein and sugar to keep going. I eat them in the stall during bathroom breaks – not ideal, but better than being distracted by hunger/low blood sugar.

  32. You are right AcrossThePond, we are nuts.

    Everyone is different. Some can go hours without food and still be able to focus, others can’t.

    For the people who cannot: Use good judgment. If you think it might be inappropriate to eat during an important meeting/conference/negotiation, then it probably is. I agree with the suggestions to sneak out and eat a protein bar, almonds, etc. Just make sure it doesn’t leave a lingering smell, get rid of all crumbs and grease on face/clothes/hands, and CHEW A BREATHMINT afterwards. If its ok to eat during the meeting, eat something non-crunchy, non-smelly, and not loud to take out/put back inside (what food would this be? Any suggestions?).Most importantly, don’t eat in a way that would make others nauseous (finger-licking, chewing with mouth open, stains around mouth, etc).

    For those who can: Please be considerate to others. If you are someone of seniority or the person running the meeting, allow for a short break, 10 minute tops. That way you can allow for the “weak” individuals to replenish themselves without losing a substantial amount of time.

    By the way, it really isn’t healthy to go for long periods of time without food. As someone already mentioned, the body will conserve calories and it could lead to weight gain. You may feel like not eating after a meal for 7-8 hours, but you really should.

    P.S. Deliberately depriving the witness of food? Having a buffet spread and not offering the opposing counsel. What a draconian, yet laughably transparent, tactic. I do the exact opposite. My firm stuffs the witness and opposing counsel like turkeys. The witnesses then feel grateful to us and gives us what we need, or they become lethargic with too much food and slip up. The opposing counsel is much more complacent, thus making negotiating a bit easier.

    • P.S. Deliberately depriving the witness of food? Having a buffet spread and not offering the opposing counsel. What a draconian, yet laughably transparent, tactic. I do the exact opposite. My firm stuffs the witness and opposing counsel like turkeys. The witnesses then feel grateful to us and gives us what we need, or they become lethargic with too much food and slip up. The opposing counsel is much more complacent, thus making negotiating a bit easier.

      Agreed completely! Unless your opposing counsel is completely incompetent (which yeah, happens), transparent tactics like those discussed above will only get her guard up.

  33. I am fairly junior at a law firm now, but a couple of years ago, as a brand new lawyer, I worked on the Hill. I was offered this fantastic opportunity to help somebody very high up in my office draft a large piece of legislation. Towards the end of the process him and I met one day to do “line edits” of the whole piece. Well, I didn’t really think about how long it would be or anything and just went over to his office with the papers. Turns out we went all day, starting from around 10. At one o’clock, completely unexpectedly, my stomach growled so loudly it would have been impossible for him not to hear. I was MORTIFIED (although yes, very hungry). Luckily (I guess) he thought it was hilarious and suggested we break for lunch.

    Now I almost always take at least a water bottle to a meeting that has the chance of going over 30 minutes – just in case my stomach wants to speak up, I can fill it up with water to keep the growling to a minimum. My empty stomach would probably be very distracting in depos or other meetings!

  34. I like the Myoplex Carb Control Ready-to-Drink shakes in dark chocolate. I try to remember to have these for days when I am in all-day meetings. Also quick to consume snack bars work for me when I am running from one meeting to the next all day. Both are fairly quiet to consume.

  35. If you have enough time to be scrutinizing those who might be eating in a meeting and making up stories in your head about how they are less “worthy” or “hardcore” than you are, you are not very focused and I feel bad for your clients.

  36. Isn’t eating in a meeting kind of like ‘snacktime at preschool’? Your three fig newtons so you don’t get cranky?

    Seriously. Unless its a group being served, save the snacks for breaktime. Be forthright and request/call a break if needed, but munching something during a depo or negotiation is ridiculous.

    • That might work if you actually GET a break. Today, i was booked solid in separate meetings from 9 am to 3:30 pm, and had barely 10 minutes to run to the bathroom. I imagine there are others like me.

  37. Quick Answer – fruit smoothie or liquid breakfast (Nestle has a good vanilla one). You can put in into an opaque mug/cup and bring it to the meeting. Folks will assume it is coffe and won’t think anything of it.

  38. Do people really think it’s less distracting to get up and leave the room than it is to have a dozen almonds in your pocket that you can eat quickly?

    I agree that there are some meetings where it’s inappropriate to eat. I work in government, and I would never eat in a meeting where we were briefing decision makers, even if I wasn’t doing the presenting. But I have frequent meetings that are “working sessions” where we are going over documents as a group, and the group is for the most part equals in the hierarchy. They could last all day. If I leave for 5 minutes, I could miss something important, and the group would have to repeat anything they decided on. If I don’t eat, I could at worst, pass out. At best, I get faint headed, can’t concentrate, and get extremely cranky, making my input less than helpful.

    This discussion shows the importance of paying attention to other people when running a meeting. There are a lot of reasons a person may not be able to sit in a room for 3-4 hours without a break. A lot of those are personal reasons that they may not want to share with coworkers or their boss. At least a 10-15 minute break ought to be afforded every couple of hours. If that’s what you’re going to get, you should have food in your bag that can be eaten in that timeframe. It’s nice to get a full lunch break, 5-10 minutes ought to be enough that you don’t pass out.

    I’ll also add – DO NOT eat during a conference call, especially if you turn on mute. We can all hear you. We all know you have food in your mouth when you ask a question.

  39. European trying to understand US habits :) :

    i read quickly all the comments, and i don’t think this has been discussed. When i was working in the US, i noticed that at ALL sorts of meetings, food was offered. Work meetings (with clients or not), school, association… anything. You come in and there’s usually a table set up in the back with coffee, tea, different sorts of milk, water, juice, pop, sugar, cookies, pizza… whatever. I’m from Europe, and I’ve never seen that in the different European countries i’ve worked. The only exception is a meeting that’s ostensibly a lunch meeting.
    I always loved having this free food and drinks when i was in the US :) But i wonder : how much of that influences obesity rates? How much do you actually eat/drink there? and : what happens to all the leftovers?? Are they thrown out???
    Thanks for your explanations :)

  40. Worker Bee :

    I just sat through a two hour meeting where three women were smacking and cracking gum, and when they were finished with the gum, one ate cherries and spit out the pits into a napkin (yuk) and another was eating a crunchy apple. Meanwhile the one with the cherries decided to file her nails! What is up with these women and the supervisor in the meeting who did not stop the rude behavior? Munch before you get into the meeting and rush for lunch when it’s over. Please do not smack and crunch during the meeting! Oh and by the way, to the cherry pit spitter who offered me the leftover cherries for lunch, I appreciate your willingness to share, but quite frankly, my stomach was turned and I wouldn’t spit out cherrie pits out at work, even in the privacy of my own office!

  41. 60% of the time, I am in back-to-back meetings, including over lunch hour. I find it difficult enough to take a bio break, let alone a snack break; and if I skip a snack, I pay for it later by overeating. So, I do take my snacks to meetings, with one exception: when I am meeting with a group that has the majority of people senior to me. In that case, I do not take a snack, but if I see several others with snacks, I do not feel constrained from slipping into my bag to grab one. When I am meeting with peers or in ‘working group’ meetings, I take my snack.

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