Leftovers for Lunch: Career Limiting Move?

Studies have shown that dressing for success at the office helps create a good impression at work. But eating for success? An article at food site CHOW asks readers if eating leftovers at work creates a negative “upward mobility” impression.

Bringing leftovers in Tupperware is like wearing an old cardigan to work: There’s nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t project power and success. What you eat can send a subliminal message about who you are, just as much as what you wear.

Feeling just a tad defensive as the grubgirl who would rather bring leftovers or eat sawdust-tasting protein bars than *gasp* actually “waste” a precious 20 minutes running out into the fresh air to buy food to take back to her desk, I thought this was worth discussing.

I think the main difference I have with purchasing my lunches from the various eateries near me, versus bringing my own food, is that nowadays, I am cooking healthier, leaner, well-balanced foods in decent portions. When I’ve gone a few weeks in a row buying my lunch (and eating everything, of course, because wasting food is sinful!), I do tend to notice scales tipping a bit, and the ol’ muffin top rearing its fold. (That, or the opposite occurs…I pay a lot of money for tiny portions, and I’m left unsatisfied.) But then again, back in the day, when I used to make mounds of homemade mac ‘n cheese, I would’ve gladly eaten double portions of that for lunch than something made with ingredients that came from an industrial can.

Should that matter? Does upper management dismiss all this as anxieties of the proletariat? Should I eat out more often and unabashedly throw away whatever I can’t finish?

Wasting food, or leaving a little bit behind in your bowl or plate, my mother told me, was an old Asian sign of wealth. Those that could do so were signaling to the lower classes that they had enough financial security to waste things.

Me? I’m just hungry so I clean the plate. (Rich people apparently have such an abundance of food at their beck and call that they are never so hungry to clean a plate…so when I finish my plate and ask others if they’re done with their helpings I suppose I’m appearing dirt po’ .)

Does industry matter? Where time is money, like in some finance shops, small boutiques often bring in lunch daily for their employees. Same with the Googlers, right?

Does this new sensitivity to green environmentalism (reuse, renew, recycle) judge wastefulness? Does scoffing at tree huggers signal that you’re successful (and thus call your own shots)?

What do you think about this? Any folks that have risen in the ranks despite bringing leftovers? Does it make a difference if it’s obvious that your spouse packed your leftovers for you, versus your putting it together yourself? I haven’t heard from you in a while…

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