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Posted on 04-20-2017

I have heard from many patients that co-workers often try to influence them to eat more or to choose less healthy options often when the co-worker knows they are on a diet. They will also describe a co-worker that never brought in treats, all of a sudden is bringing in donuts for an office meeting. Today a patient told me of a co-worker who keeps a “gigantic bowl” of chocolate candy on her desk and continually offers candy to her when she walks by.     

What can you do? Since we eat twice as much food when it is in our direct line of sight, during the meeting, take a seat as far away from the donuts as possible. This way you (hopefully) won’t smell them or be tempted to grab one. Also, don’t arrive at the meeting starving. Make sure you’ve had breakfast or a snack prior to the meeting. If not, bring your own snack to the meeting such as a piece of fruit and a bottle of water or coffee (without the whip)! If a co-worker has candy on their desk, try to map out a route to the bathroom and copier that doesn’t have you continually walking by their desk.   

According to Brian Wansink, PH.D., author of Mindless Eating, we eat 30% more, on average, when we eat with another person and if just one of your office workers is obese, your own risk of weight gain doubles! Apparently when we eat with others, we chat and pay less attention to what and how much we are eating.

What can you do? Pack your own lunch instead of buying from the cafeteria or going out for lunch. A recent study in the journal Obesity found that people who ate bagged lunches, dropped more weight than those that went out for lunch. Try to take a real lunch break, and not eat at your desk. Getting away from your desk is a mood lifter and when we are stressed we eat more (stress hormones increase hunger).

A quarter of U.S. employees cite their jobs as a major source of stress in their lives. When you are under stress the hormone, cortisol rises. Cortisol will slow your metabolism and raise the hormone insulin. Insulin will make you crave sweets, make you hungrier, and will make you store fat in your belly. Stress also interferes with sleep, thus further increasing cortisol and insulin levels. 

What can you do? Exercise is a wonderful way to bring stress and cortisol levels down. Walking with a co-worker at lunch is a wonderful way to get away from work place stressors. I have a patient that organized a 6-week fitness challenge at work. If your office doesn’t have one already, ask if they would be willing to add some exercise equipment or a gym. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Each hour try getting up for a few minutes to move and stretch.

Remember, the first step to mindful healthy eating at work is being aware of what you are eating. Preparing meals and being proactive during meetings helps as well. Keeping triggers out of the work place and exercising as much as possible all contribute to surviving work related weight gain.  

   

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