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Escape the Free Food Trap Part II: The Office

One of the many perks of working in an office environment is the abundance of free food. From stocked kitchens and holiday treats to cookies, candy dishes, lunches, bagels, and doughnuts, the workplace often becomes a culinary playground. While these offerings can bring joy and foster a sense of community, they can also pose challenges for those striving to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In this guide, we’ll explore strategies to navigate the office food scene without compromising your well-being.

My post last issue covered free food in general – at parties, at conferences, and places where you would EXPECT the free food. But when you go to work, you could be on your way to the printer and BAM – free doughnuts at the table in the kitchen. You could be blindsided and it can totally throw your healthy resolution off track. It gets worse around this holiday time, with cookies and candy canes and peppermint bark, oh my.

There is always some kind of candy dish or holiday treat lying around, which has the tendency to show up right when you may start to feel hungry or snacky. Here is your guide to deal with the office food in a graceful way that will not deter your fitness goals.

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Taste everything, eat little

Enjoy the treats but in moderation. You don’t have to eat a whole doughnut. I normally cut away a bite and eat that. You can politely take someone’s homemade blondie, eat one bite, and throw it away. Same with cookies.

If this is too hard to control, make it a habit of chewing gum. The minty or fresh taste will make you a lot more “picky” about what you end up eating, which is addressed in the next tip. 

Plan Ahead

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Bring your own snacks and meals. By having nutritious options readily available, you’re less likely to succumb to the temptation of office treats. Consider keeping a stash of healthy snacks in your desk or the office fridge.

Know the route to take to the bathroom, printer, or other common place that avoids proximity to the kitchen. In general, DON’T go to the kitchen unless you have a really good reason to do so, like to get the lunch you brought.

Stay Hydrated

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Photo by Boxed Water Is Better

Sometimes, feelings of hunger can be mistaken for dehydration. Ensure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. This can help curb unnecessary snacking and keep you feeling more satisfied.

Tea can be hydrating and good to drink to keep you warm. Coffee can do the same, but the caffeine does cause you to lose water so definitely ALSO drink water.

Establish Boundaries

It’s okay to politely decline offerings when you feel it’s necessary. You can say you just ate, or just a simple “no thanks, I’ll pass.”

Or try the defer, don’t decline method. “Maybe later.” This is a good self-check because even if you want that cookie or cupcake in the moment, you are more likely to lose interest if you delay even by just 10 minutes. Try it and tell me if I am wrong.

Encourage Healthier Alternatives

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Suggest healthier options for office snacks. If your workplace has a say in the snacks provided, propose alternatives like fruit bowls, yogurt, or nuts. This can contribute to a healthier overall office environment.

The best example for your team is the one you set yourself.. Consider bringing a fresh fruit bowl and leaving it in a community space or on your desk for those who come by to help themselves.

Office Fitness Challenges

This is related to the above tip, but goes hand in hand. Working out with your office mates builds a culture of health and wellness. This makes the group as a whole more inclined to want to eat better. Especially when there is the accountability of a group with a step or a daily habit challenge.

a man and a woman giving each other a high five
An office that works out together stays healthy together.

Engage in office fitness challenges or initiatives. This can create a supportive atmosphere where colleagues motivate each other to make healthier choices. It also provides an opportunity to bond with coworkers over shared wellness goals.

One great idea I got from a partner I work with is to use a community step app, like Run the Edge. This actually sets a step goal of 2024 miles for 2024, and it is exciting to do with others and see how your metrics progress.

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