Nutrition Articles

Eating Healthier at the Office

10 Ways to Make Your Workplace Work for Your Diet

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Work. It's where most of us spend the majority of our weeks. While that realization can be somewhat depressing, it also shows how your habits at work have a huge effect on your weight-loss goals. Sure, the office can be full of temptation--whether the vending machine calls your name at 3 p.m., or your boss brings in glazed donuts every Monday morning--but your workplace can actually be a place that supports your healthy lifestyle. You just have to know how to work the system. Read on for 10 ways to do just that!

10 Ways to Stop Your Workplace from Derailing Your Diet

1. Use the workday structure to work with your diet--not against it. The great thing about being at work on a regular schedule is that you have built-in structure for your day. While you may not know exactly what stress is coming your way, you probably know when regular meetings are held and when deadlines are approaching. So, just like you would for any other important assignment at work, get organized! Set aside time to eat a healthy snack or mindfully enjoy lunch without distractions, if possible. (Eating while you work is one sure-fire way to mindlessly eat out of stress!)  View your planned snacks and lunchtime as any other important to-do on your list!

2. Find a weight-loss ally (or 20). We all know how important it is to have a weight-loss buddy in our social lives, and the same holds true at work. Tell your closest co-workers about your commitment to stick with a healthy diet , and see if they'll join you. If you have a good relationship with your boss, why not tell him or her about your goals? Don't be shy in reminding your superiors that studies have demonstrated healthy employees are more cost effective and productive. Before you know it, you might have everyone at your workplace changing their ways!

3. Pack your meals and snacks. Preparation is the name of the game when it comes to eating right at work. Pack a small cooler each day full of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. It's good to bring a variety of options so that you can eat what sounds good to you at the time (this helps you from not feeling overly deprived or "stuck" with what you brought), and the extras come in handy if you have to work late. You might have to get up earlier to pack yourself a lunch and snacks, but after you start to eat better and feel better at work, you'll see that it's worth the extra time. For lunch and snack ideas, be sure to check out SparkRecipes.

4. Keep an emergency stash. For days when you forget your cooler, or find that your snack didn't quiet the hunger monster after that early-morning Spinning class, it's a good idea to have a drawer in your desk full of non-perishable, healthy snacks. Easy go-to options are protein bars, snack portions of trail mix or nuts, beef jerky, and even instant  or canned soup. It's best to pick items that are healthy, but not so tasty that you keep thinking about them all day long. So choose foods you like, but don't consider a treat. Remember, this is about preparation--not feeding your sweet/salty tooth (more on that later!).

5. Practice your most assertive and nicest "No, thank you." Almost everyone can name a food-pusher at work. Whether it's the receptionist who likes to bake or the sales rep that also helps her daugher sell Girl Scout Cookies, unhealthy temptations are a part of the workplace and a part of life. If you've followed tip No. 2, hopefully this will stop some diet saboteurs from pushing food, but be prepared to politely say "No, thanks" when you don't want to eat something. Thank the person and acknowledge the effort, and then move on. For co-workers who are really pushy when it comes to food, follow these tips.

6. Out of sight, out of mind. Research shows that it's much easier to avoid that dreaded workplace candy bowl when you can't actually see it. In a study by Brian Wansink, author of the book Mindless Eating, people were 70 percent more likely to eat from the candy dish at work when it was transparent versus when the jar was opaque. If you have a candy dish on your desk, either put it in a jar that you can't see through, or—better yet--get rid of it all together. Follow this principle with all unhealthy foods at work: Close the lid on that donut box, move the plate of bagels off the conference table and into the break room (where other co-workers will quickly gobble them up), and talk an alternate route so you don't have to walk past the candy dish in reception.

7. Set a calendar reminder for your H2O. A healthy diet isn't just about food. Did you know that even being slightly dehydrated can leave you feeling tired and sluggish? Thirst can also masquerade as hunger, making it harder for you to stick to your healthy-eating plan. To avoid this, set a reminder on your calendar to pop up every 30 minutes. Every time you hear that reminder, have a few big gulps of water so that you're properly hydrated.

8. Keep a list of go-to restaurants with healthy options. You know how it goes. You pack a deliciously healthy meal when, all of a sudden, your biggest client wants to go out for lunch. What's a SparkPerson to do? Research! Write out a list of restaurants around your workplace that have healthy options (you may have to look them up online). Then, the next time you're surprised with a lunch offer, you can recommend dining at a place that you know has healthy food that you like. Not able to pick the restaurant? Follow these tips!

9. Make the vending machine a no-go zone. If you really struggle with junk food or soda from the vending machines at work, the first step is to commit to avoiding the vending machine. (Remember, you packed healthy snacks to nosh on!) The next step is similar to tip No. 6--out of sight, out of mind. If possible, try not to walk by the vending machines at all. If you have to pass by them, don't look at them, and walk quickly past them. You might even consider not keeping loose change or bills in your wallet so that you won't be able to buy from the vending machine in a weak moment. Another idea is to set up a reward system. Give yourself a dollar (or the amount you'd usually spend) for every day you successfully avoid the vending machine. In a few weeks, treat yourself to a fun reward like a manicure, a new book, or something else you love (that's not junk food!) with the money you've saved. Before you know it, the vending machine will lose its appeal altogether.

10. Indulge in your absolute favorites—and savor every bite. By no means should you never eat junk food or donuts at work again! When something is really calling your name, or a special event is going on, go ahead and indulge. Keep your portions in check. Savor every bite, eating slowly and fully enjoying the experience. Afterwards, get right back to your usual healthy eating plan. Just don't fall into the trap of indulging at every "special event" at the office, because those special days tend to come up quite often (it always seems to be somebody's birthday in an office setting!).
 

No matter if you follow one of these tips or all 10 of them, one thing is certain: If you work in an office and are trying to manage your weight, you have to be committed, organized and ready to stand up for your decisions to eat a nutritious diet. While it can be hard at first, don't be surprised if over time, more people start to try eating your way. Being healthy becomes contagious once others see your dedication, increased energy and great results!

 
Source
HybridHer via Yahoo Shine. ''5 Strategies for Mindful Eating and a Healthier, Slimmer You,'' accessed March 2011. http://shine.yahoo.com.

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Member Comments

  • PLCHAPPELL
    I have my emergency snack stash. Good idea about the water reminder.
  • LILYOFVALEE
    I actually eat better on work days because it's more structured. I have to eat breakfast before I leave, bring my lunch and snacks, and usually have a planned dinner. On weekends, I may not eat breakfast until 10 unless I completely forget about it, lunch is several hours after that and snacks are crazy. I need to find more discipline when I'm NOT at work.
  • Practicing visualization works for me. Keep my menu where I can see it. Out of sight out of mind works the other way too. Keeping my DH's chips behind closed doors defiantly keeps them out of my mind, Although, sometimes when he eats them I usually grab a couple.
  • While I appreciate that a number of people work in offices, I'd love to see an article about eating with an erratic work schedule, especially one where you don't work at a desk and don't take breaks, even for meals. There are days when I work from 6 am to midnight, but left to my own devices, I'll go to bed at 8. So some days I'm cramming a day's worth of food into 14 hours, and other days I'm making a day's worth of food stretch 20 hours. When I work, I don't take breaks, so I'm shoveling food in my mouth as quickly as possible while still working.
  • that tip about keeping a "work day stash" has been a real saving for me - saving both money and calories for those days when I haven't planned to be here through lunch but wind up not being able to leave -
  • I have been taking my lunch for years and now I am on Spark, I make it to meet my needs and in the long run, saves money. For break, a group of us skip the break room munchies and go for a walk (1.2 miles in 15 minutes). I have a lady who works for me who has a candy bowl sitting in front of her all day long and looking at her, you can tell. But, I just pass it by!

    But, I do eat my lunch in front of the computer - usually searching Spark for interesting ideas and articles.
  • All of these are great tips, and essential too. I am blessed with a regular schedule so I can plan snacks and lunches. I prefer to bring my own. What helped me the most on this journey, at work, was a buddy. We were even Sparkfriends as well. We kept each other accountable, shared our good times and bad, shared recipes, brought each other experiments, etc. It was wonderful to have someone that REALLY understood. Our office now has moved toward a more healthy atmosphere which helps alot.Great article.
  • The last place I worked there is no way you could do some of these things. You had very little time for meals, most places (I worked for an inventory company) you didn't even get breaks. A lot of them they didn't allow you to have any water with you and you couldn't take breaks to go get water. If you took your meal someone would throw it away. They threw away my entire cooler and food plus a couple other things. It is nice when you have a company that actually cares about their employees.
  • Being self employed with DH is both a blessing and a challenge. He is my worst nemesis. I keep healthy lunch makings in our office refrig, I have a toaster and microwave and do my best to keep us out of fast food and restaurants at lunch. However, he gets tired of healthy foods and encourages me to go out to eat. I'm always relieved when he has a lunch meeting I'm not going to or one of his buddies takes him to lunch. However, exercise is almost nil at this office, There's only about 900 sq ft in the whole office. When the weather permits I try to go out and walk. As with lunch when he goes to a meeting without me, I jump at the chance to go for a walk at lunch since we are right dowtown and are in a really small community.
  • Good advice! I pack my lunch and snacks each day. I don't get into any trouble with bad eating habits until I walk in my front door very hungry! HELP!!
  • MANDYCAT3
    It's amazing what a difference there can be among workplaces. My last job before retirement was with a tech company in Denver, a city that is (relatively speaking) a very lean and health-minded place. Many of my co-workers were runners and ski buffs who worked out regularly and ate in a sane fashion.

    I now do volunteer work here in the Florida Panhandle. Eight out of ten of the salaried employees around me are overweight and sedentary. The break room is a nightmare of take out food and junk snacks. (Ironically, this is a healthcare facility.) Oddly enough, these unhealthy folks, most of whom are 20 to 40 years younger than I, have inspired me in a negative way. Watching them devour Southern Fried Everything has helped me lose the 20 pounds that had crept on in retirement. Go figure.
  • At work, I was not tempted but at home is another story!
  • Good suggestions. I wouldn't tell everyone I was on a diet since some people take it as a challenge to test you. I just say No thanks, and take my own snacks where ever I go.
    I've never had a desk or worked in an office, but I would take my lunch if I did. I like fruit and nuts for snacks. You need protein to stabilize your blood sugar though. Small piece of cheese, a few nuts. Carbs just make you hungry in a short time if eaten alone.
    Where ever I go I take water and some nuts and/or an apple, cheese crackers. That way I won't be tempted to get junk food.
  • Some good suggestions, but I personally don't think suggestion number 2 is a good one. Announcing your intentions to the office is what dieters do, and dieting is a temporary mentality. Success is about your lifestyle, not your diet. How many times do you have other people in your office come and tell you they're making a lifestyle change? How many people at your office would you WANT to come to you to tell you about a lifestyle change (think about that one). Your lifestyle is personal, your commitment to changing it is personal - your support group is not a business matter.
  • While my company is wonderful about supporting healthy nutrition and fitness, there are still ample opportunities to to create havoc on my health goals at work. I plan ahead, eat six small meals per day (so I am never hungry) and I am prepared for the unexpected...for example, I sometimes have to unexpectedly stay late. So I keep some raw almonds and fruit cups handy. I also keep some Quaker Real Medleys around. Peanut butter is another good option (just use portion control). I am confronted with donuts and bagels all of the time but I try to be mindful...am I hungry? What will this do to my calorie counts for the day as a whole...most of the time I realize that I don't want the food.

About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

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