If you're about to head to a meeting, read this first!
I’m not working in an office anymore, but I have long enough to know that on any given day, food can appear. It may be cake in the conference room at 1:00 for someone’s birthday; pizza in the teachers’ lounge; a goodies basket from the building owners in the kitchen; a Thanksgiving potluck the day before Thanksgiving (I never understood why people would want to jump the gun on Thanksgiving…); or those girl scout cookies you bought from your boss’s daughter that have finally arrived.
The invitations come in the form of e-mails, announcements over the loudspeaker, a “help yourself” note, or a sudden “employee roundup” by some of the enthusiastic organizers of a particular celebration.
And there you are: sitting in your cube, or at a desk in a boxy office, or in your classroom grading papers as kids’ screams echo through the halls. And it’s not that you are hungry and cannot go on with your work until you get to eat. But you’re bored, or stressed, or starting to feel your afternoon drowsiness, and the thought of something sugary or chocolaty suddenly becomes very, very appealing.
Don’t get me wrong – I think celebrations in the workplace are great. It creates a sense of community and helps people to feel appreciated. But why is work an excuse to eat the most unhealthy of foods?
Here are some of my tips for keeping office eating under control:
• The most important tip I can give you is this: DO NOT replace a meal with a cupcake and two cookies at the office Christmas party. This is a bad habit to get into. Skipping lunch so you can pig out on treats and snacks leads to overeating, and these large amounts of sugar can really throw off the balance in your body. Eat your regular meals and maybe allow yourself one cookie at the party. Remember everything you learned about metabolism last week – it literally cannot work if you do not have proper nutrients, and skipping meals deprives you of nutrients, which leads your body to store the sugary treats as boy fat!
• When it’s your turn to bring in the food, choose a healthy option. You and I know that healthy does not mean yucky, and you can prove this to your coworkers by bringing in things like hummus with veggies and toasted pitas; spiced nuts; healthy muffins instead of donuts or bagels; or a veggie and turkey chili for that potluck.
• Go for the highest quality foods. Maybe you know that your boss’s wife is a health nut, so you can assume that whatever she prepared for his office party has a good chance of being healthy and possibly even organic. If you have the option of a high quality chocolate over a Hershey’s kiss, go for the better one. As one PWN reader stated in an email to me about this very subject, “When I eat Godiva or Lindt chocolate, I understand exactly what I am doing to myself. But, when I eat the cheap stuff, I have no idea. It could be filled with turds from Chinese cows who are fed led.” Well put!
• Plan ahead. If you know there will be treats in the office, decide ahead of time what your limit will be. Tell yourself you are only going to have one brownie. Or, you are going to eat the boxed lunch during your 2-hour meeting but you will not eat the bag of chips. If you establish limits for yourself ahead of time, you will stay in control. This week and next, Christmas cookies will appear every day. Allow yourself one or two days to indulge, but stick to your normal routine the rest of the days.
• Be wary of other peoples’ unwanted food. I am guilty of this myself – I end up with a big bowl of extra Halloween candy, so I bring it into the office and set it out for all to eat. People throw a party, have tons of leftover cookies, and think “someone in the office will eat these!”. If it looks like leftovers, stay away. It will be borderline stale and completely unsatisfying. An office should never be used as a dumping ground for unwanted food. Employees deserve better than that!
Follow these tips and you will avoid overeating at work, which can lead to things like headaches, drowsiness, a spoiled dinner (resulting in a lack of nutrients for the day, being that dinner is usually a time when people get 1-2 servings of vegetables), and eventually weight gain and other health problems.
And if none of those reasons can convince you, think of it this way: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are spent with good family and friends. They put so much time and love into the meals, and the food tastes so much better when you enjoy it in the company of these people. Save your calories for these times. Remember what I always say – you should not feel guilt or stress when you are eating something; rather, you should feel good about your decision to eat it, and enjoy it thoroughly.