Every morning when Claire arrives at the offices of the marketing company where she works in Manchester, a female colleague has placed freshly-baked croissants on a desk in the open-plan area where they sit.
'At 11am, she brings out the biscuits or butter shortbread. Yet she never touches a crumb herself.'
If Claire's predicament sounds all too familiar, it is because the behaviour of the office feeder has become virulent, their insidious calorie-pushing cropping up in workplaces around the UK. Part of a once-rare proclivity, they derive intense pleasure from over-feeding or intentionally trying to fatten up colleagues and friends. For those targeted, the temptations proffered by feeders can be difficult to resist.
On a Weight Watcher's website discussion dedicated to the issue of office feeders, 26-year-old Sarah-Jo, from Suffolk, says there is a constant supply of cakes and biscuits from a particular colleague.
'In front of everyone else she says: 'Go, on - just one won't hurt,' and I am put on the spot. I really feel she is just being so mean.'
Another correspondent, Lorna, from Glasgow, says: 'My office feeder is very clever and knows all my weaknesses - she loves nothing more than feeding people, and my willpower can't take it.'
Research has shown that the workplace presents ample opportunity for weakening of resolve when it comes to weight loss.
Professor Brian Wansink, an eating behaviourist who is director of nutritional science at Cornell University, and the author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We think, found that female secretaries ate 5.6 times more chocolates if they were placed on a nearby desk than if they had to stand up and walk two metres to get it.
In another experiment, he showed that office workers sitting near glass dishes filled with sweets ate 71 per cent more - or 77 calories a day - than those sitting near white, opaque dishes of the same confectionary.
Over the course of a year, the clear dish would have added more than 5 lb of extra weight.
Wansink says that, typically, we eat 30 per cent more calories in company than we do alone, and that women are more likely to be influenced by the diet patterns of co-workers than men.
'When we put two women together, regardless of whether they are friends or not, they end up mimicking the eating habits of the other person,' Wansink says. 'And if the person next to them is eating fast, they will match her pace.'
But what drives office feeders to fatten up others? Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the eating disorders charity Beat, says they are likely to be harbouring an unhealthy relationship with food themselves.
'They like to see others eating, because it reinforces their own sense of mastery and self-will, and they feel good about avoiding calories when someone else is consuming them in front of their eyes."
For some feeders, however, there is more at play than a straightforward transference of guilt about eating.
An internet search on the subject of feeders or 'feederism' brings up dozens of sites devoted to what some enthusiasts consider to be a sexual appeal of the practice.
Fuelled by calls for greater fat acceptance within society, people obsessed with gaining weight themselves, known as gainers, or in taking control of the eating habits of others, so that they become physically incapacitated by fatness (feeders or feedies), are coming out of the closet in droves.
Ringwood says that the phenomenon is not an eating disorder in itself as, unlike anorexics and bulimics, 'gainers' claim they are happy with their bodies.
It is clearly abnormal behaviour in the extreme.
With the risks of obesity so widely known, why would someone encourage their partner or friend to eat themselves to ill health?
Professor Peter Rogers, head of experimental psychology at the University of Bristol, says there are many possible underlying reasons, but one could be that it allows the 'feeding' partner to gain control within a relationship.
'There's some evidence that men, in particular, encourage female partners to over-eat in order to make them less physically attractive to potential rivals,' Rogers says.
'In a bizarre way, they are attempting to protect themselves from the pain associated with a split.'
Sexual complexities can play a part in the office feeder's motivation, too.
Although no statistics are available for this emerging phenomenon, it is thought that, like most disordered relationships with food, office feeders are mostly women.
Driven by a desire to appear more attractive than her female colleagues to men in the office, a feeder sometimes uses food as a weapon to help her achieve the goal.
'Food is often used as a competitive tool and slimness seen as the ultimate sign of self-control and perfection.'
Certainly, this was true in the case of Samantha F from London, who reports in a revealing blog on a dieting and weight-loss website with a thread of comments on dieting jealousy that 'someone at work, who had made no secret of the fact that she fancied my boyfriend before we started going out together, tried to befriend me by bringing in Reese's Peanut Buttercups every day.
'I once said I liked them and she told me it was because she had cravings for them, too, yet she never let one pass her lips. She was the ultimate competitive feeder.'
For Claire Hill, there is no obvious trigger for her office feeder's behaviour.
'There are times when I think she really is out to get me fat,' says Claire.
'But then I wonder if she's just someone that likes to care for people, loves food and always has a full fridge at home.
'It does cross my mind that maybe she just likes me.'
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