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This answer advises to "never eat alone" at the workplace if you want to go ahead in your career. That sounds like good advice, but a major problem I have with following that is I do not have lunch at work at all.

I do not have lunch alone, I do not have lunch at my desk, I do not go home to have lunch, I do not go to a restaurant for lunch, I do not have lunch at all.

It doesn't feel right to just sit and watch the others eating for the sake of "socializing", especially since the ensuing discussion would invariably center around the benefits of having lunch.

What other options do I have to avoid this adversely affecting my career?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Mar 31 '17 at 11:41
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    Please clarify: You don't eat on your lunch break, or you don't take a lunch break at all? – Shawn V. Wilson Mar 31 '17 at 21:25
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First of all, I'm not convinced of the "never eat alone" philosophy in general. If you just stay at your desk and work, I don't think it will really impact your career. Maybe this depends on the corporate culture in your office, though.

If you DO want to socialize, try going into the lunch room at lunch time and sit there doing stuff on your cell phone. Join in the conversation as appropriate, and avoid awkward silences with your phone. In today's millennial society, I honestly don't think this will even turn heads.

If someone DOES ask you why you're not eating, simply reply "I already ate." Conversation over. If they press the issue because they didn't see you eating, say you ate at your desk. Yes, it's a lie; a white lie. It saves you from having to rehash the same tired arguments and it ultimately doesn't impact your working life, so I don't think there's any harm in it.

Obviously, this tactic won't work as well if people are going out to a restaurant, but you can bow out of those invites by saying you don't want to spend the money, or you don't want to take a long lunch break (going out can sometime run long, especially with a big group.)

Edit: Assuming you still drink water on occasion, you can take a glass of water with you to help complete the illusion.

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    Also -- consider joining the group for a few minutes only, at the end of their lunch break. You will be seen to be socializing but it won't eat up much of your time. – A. I. Breveleri Mar 29 '17 at 18:10
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    What pun? I merely offered a plain-vanilla remark for general consumption. – A. I. Breveleri Mar 29 '17 at 18:23
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    "... plain-vanilla remark... general consumption ". I can cook up stuff like this all day. – A. I. Breveleri Mar 29 '17 at 19:42
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    I feel like the white lie part of this answer is unnecessary. OP isn't trying to avoid talking about skipping lunch, and even if he was, he might want to talk to someone about it one day, and then that person tells the other and then one of them knows they're being lied to and maybe things get out of control from there. Skipping lunch isn't so weird that you need to lie about it anyways. – Goose Mar 29 '17 at 19:52
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    @A.I.Breveleri Touche, sir. Well played, indeed. – Steve-O Mar 29 '17 at 20:49
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"Lunch" is not the only way to socialize. If you are working at an office, the others are maybe less obvious and less "default", but there should be plenty. Thinking of my office, I know there's guys meeting for an early coffee at the machine that come in early. Most latecomers queue up there at around 10. Then there is the "lunch". After that, on sunny days there will be an ice-cream truck outside at a specific time where people meet. And last but not least, the smokers corner. Even used by non-smokers to get some fresh air compared to their meeting rooms full of people (oh the irony...).

So if you don't want to use lunch, use the other options.

I have been on lunches where I was the odd one out that was basically holding a glass of water for the whole time. However, that may not be comparable, as it was obvious that was temporary (for example jaw surgery). As long as people understand why you don't eat with them, it should not be a problem. Although your reason should not be offensive to them (so you should refrain from saying things like "I'd never eat this garbage" or "eating meat is murder", keep it centered on you, like "I don't eat meat" or "I have problems with the food they serve here"). You did not give a reason, but make sure they understand it. Then it won't be awkward, neither for you nor for them.

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If you don't eat, you can treat people by simply bringing in some snacks. For example:

One more suggestion: If large-ish groups of acquaintances in an unfamiliar lunch setting puts you off but you still want to be social and grow work relationships, what I've done in the past is bring in a box of donuts / cookies / fruit.

Set it on my desk, free for the taking, spread the news by word of mouth, relish in the short one-off conversations as co-workers swing by your desk.

Outside of food, decorations can also be a good idea:

Season decorations are a great way to add some flare to your office space. But if you decorate for the seasons be sure to take them down at the end of the season as not to look out of date. Try challenging your co-workers to a best holiday decorations contest.

References

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