Eating Healthier at the Office10 Ways to Make Your Workplace Work for Your Diet
-- By Jennipher Walters, Health and Fitness Writer
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!
HybridHer via Yahoo Shine. ''5 Strategies for Mindful Eating and a Healthier, Slimmer You,'' accessed March 2011. http://shine.yahoo.com.