Occupational Hazard: Navigating Office Food Mines

in the officeIf you work in an office, you know your day can be filled with food-related land mines. It starts off bright and early with the scent of a greasy egg-and-cheese sandwich wafting over to your desk, and then sure enough, at lunchtime you hear the rifling of takeout menus. Clients comment to me all the time about the difficulties they face when dieting in the workplace: "I just felt so pressured to eat the cake she had made for me," or "I didn't want to be the only one not eating." One survey found that over half of it's participants ate foods they knew would sabotage their diet out of sheer obligation. When it comes to work-related eating, there are typically three types of eating personalities. I've broken them down for you and provided ways to overcome them.

The Situational Eater

You let the situation dictate how you are going to eat. For example, if the weekly staff meeting includes bagels and muffins, you fill your plate just because you can. Regardless of whether you've eaten breakfast already, you feel the need to eat.  Most likely, you don't even taste the food.

Fix It:

1. Ask yourself why you are eating. Often, people are feeding an emotion, whether it's the nervous energy of the meeting or the boredom you feel from your boss's last lecture.

2. Keep in mind that you have the power to control your eating and write your dieting script.

The Free Foodie

I hate to break it to you, but just because food is free, it's not necessarily good for you (and the calories do still count). In fact, most complimentary chow (i.e., donuts, birthday cake, candy) rank high in calories and low in nutrition. You'll most likely spend more time, energy and cash trying to peel off the extra pounds than if you'd picked up a solo salad instead.

Fix It:

1. When dining out, stay away from things that are easily refillable. Items like soda, wine (by the bottle) and bread baskets are things waiters can easily provide more of to ensure great service.

2. Try and be the last person at the table to order; people are less likely to focus on what you order once they've already placed their order.

The Office Party Animal

If every time you look at your inbox you have another Evite, then you fall into this category. Being social at the workplace and partaking in office camaraderie is important and can further help advance your career. Just be sure that it's not doing the same for your waistline.

Fix It: Try to be the server, not the eater. Take charge and volunteer to arrange the candles and dole out the dolce. Ironically, this trick puts the spotlight on you, yet makes it less likely that someone will fixate on what you're eating. Redefine the word "special." It's easy to let office hype get the best of you. Every lunch seems like it's at the best steakhouse and each happy hour seems like it's at the hippest watering hole, but what's really important to you? Save indulgences for things that truly are special, like your son's birthday or wedding anniversary.

Remember, dieting isn't necessarily about willpower; it's about having the strategies you need to make better choices. Once you've identified your workplace persona, you'll be completely equipped to maneuver occupational dieting hazards. 


Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN

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