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Overeating on the Job

Overeating on the Job

Watch Out for Snack Platters and Food Pushers

By Heather Boerner

Between coworker birthday cakes, shared holiday-party leftovers, staff meetings with Danishes and pizza-fueled late-night work sessions, it's easy to blow your diet while on the job. But it doesn't have to be.  

"People are most successful in healthy eating when they can control their environment, as opposed to being in a negative environment and trying to control themselves," says nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge, author of Diet Simple.

Take Control

Figure out which food temptations you can control.

If you're the boss, you can tell the person who orders food to bring a platter of fruit instead of cookies to the staff meeting, and ask your staff to stash junk food in drawers.

Not the boss? No problem. Consider these tips:

  • Join the Office Snack Committee: "Lobby for fresh fruits and veggies instead of baked goods," says Tallmadge.
  • Plan Ahead: If your office doesn't have a snack committee, or you don't want to be on it, you can still ask ahead what food will be provided for this week's late-night work session or staff meeting. "Lots of people have to do this -- diabetics, people with food allergies, vegetarians -- so don't feel self-conscious," counsels Elisabetta Politi, a dietitian and nutrition manager at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center.
  • Share the Health: Be an example to coworkers and set out a bowl of fruit on your desk and invite others to enjoy it. It could start a healthy trend, according to Tallmadge.
  • Talk to Coworkers: You may not have authority, but you can still ask coworkers to stash their candy and junk food in their drawers instead of leaving it out. Most people won't mind, says Politi.

Resist Food Pushers

You may run into resistance from people who not only won't comply with your requests, but will also undermine your diet by actively tempting you with food you don't want.

With these food pushers, your best bet is not to engage.

"When you tell a food pusher you can't have something, that you're on a diet, you're giving a double message -- you're saying, 'I really want it, talk me into it,'" Tallmadge says. "It's always best to simply say, 'No, thank you,' and then compliment lavishly the food she brings that is healthy."

The situation could be more difficult if the food pusher is a work friend, and you used to eat junk food together. Politi advises that you two focus on the things you can do together that don't involve food.

"It's not about giving up friendships," she says. "Go for a walk with her and have meals with people who make healthy choices."

Be Flexible

Finally, the biggest challenge to a dieter's will power often comes from an all-or-nothing attitude, Politi warns. So don't fall into it.

"Look at it in perspective: You have 21 meals in every week," she says. "A few slices of birthday cake a month are no big deal. Most people have at least two meals a day they can control. Focus on that."

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