Photo: Bethany Newman
This year, you decided you’d go through a painful, difficult breakup. You knew it wouldn’t be easy, but you were prepared for the separation anxiety. The onset of tears. The rumbling in your soul. You didn’t want to, yet your waistline was begging you to cut the cord … with the unhealthy snacks at work. Doughnuts, pizza, bagels, candy, cupcakes — ugh and oh my.
It’s all too easy to let your diet fall lower on your priority list at work thanks to a slew of factors, according to Gabriele Geerts, a registered dietitian at Green Chef. “Whether it be break-room snacks, vending machines down the hall, or a lack of planning, mindless snacking is especially easy at work.
The feeling of being hungry can be influenced by things like stress, boredom, and fatigue, which means a mid-afternoon craving may not even be triggered by legitimate hunger,” she continues. “Avoiding mindless snacking is especially difficult when food is accessible and free, making us more likely to eat and continue to overeat.”
To prevent you from going back to those habits that are toxic and terrible for you, try these effective hacks from nutrition pros:
Replace your snacking habit with something more productive.
After you down your salad, health bowl or veggie-rich soup, you instantly want something sweet. So you poke around the kitchen at work, grab something, down it — and then suffer the consequences a few hours later. It might not seem like much of a routine, but it is nonetheless, according to nutrition expert Jen Silverman. Much like quitting smoking, to get yourself out of this rut, you need to replace this action with something productive.
“Walk away from your workspace and find something more productive than consuming unnecessary calories. Whether it’s sipping hot tea, taking a 10-minute walk, or making a quick call to your mom, break the habit. You could also read that NY Times article you were eager to get through, listen to music, get some fresh air, take a walk,” she continues. “Clearing your head is more beneficial to your wellbeing and it won’t leave you with a brain-fog or afternoon fatigue.”
Rate your hunger on a scale
Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, urges professionals to take a long hard think about why they are reaching for a snack. How? Rating their hunger on a scale of one to ten, with one being starving and 10 being terribly full.
“Sit back. Turn off your digital distractions. Go outside the building or in the hall, alone, if you have to. Assign yourself a hunger number,” she recommends. “Think about when and what the last thing you ate was. What number would seem appropriate for you to begin eating? Why are you at that number (did you eat too much/ too little at your last meal?) What number do you expect to get to after your snack?”
Don’t be afraid to speak up
Silverman shares sometimes it isn’t about lack of willpower — but rather, workplace culture. If every single time you walk into a meeting there are cookies, cupcakes or another type of sugar or carb-heavy snack, it’s worth speaking up to your manager or human resources. You might be surprised by how responsive and receptive they are to the feedback.
“Companies are willing to invest in their employees’ health and productivity. They understand that sugar-laden, nutrient-poor food have negative effects on workplace efficiency,” Silverman shares.
Before you leave your homestead, Geerts suggests eating a well-balanced, fulfilling breakfast that will hold you over for at least a few hours. And to save money — and help you resist temptations! — pack a satisfying lunch. “A fueled mind and body is more likely to focus on work, not excessive snacking. Make your meals count and focus on a healthy ratio of protein, carbohydrate, and fat,” she adds.
Remember: You can’t have just one bite
If no one saw you take a big ol’ bite out of the brownie — did it ever happen? Sorry, but it did and even a single nibble can impact how well you perform in the office.
“The minute the tasty treat hits your lips — even if it’s as small as a Hershey kiss — your blood sugar spikes and it signals your brain and hunger hormones ghrelin,” Silverman explains. “Suddenly, you want more! Believe it or not, it’s actually easier to refrain entirely than it is to have a small piece. You’re better off refraining altogether.”
Refrain from eating while you work
Especially when you’re under the gun on a deadline, chowing down while you get through emails, proposals, and projects. It may seem efficient, but it’s actually the opposite, according to Geerts, if you want to stay healthy. How come? She explains whether it is a snack or a meal, it’s important to pay attention to your food and enjoy it, so you don’t overeat.
As she explains, studies show the snacking decreases significantly when it’s near you—or in your desk drawer.