Nutritional Pitfalls at the Office are Unavoidable
It was 8:30am (last Tuesday) and I had just arrived at the office having finished 2.5 hours of training earlier that morning – 75 minutes of intense upper body training followed by 60 minutes of pounding cardio and some foam rolling. My body was begging me to feed it.
As I entered the kitchen to warm my bowl of oatmeal and omelette, the smell of freshly baked banana bread was overpowering. In the middle of the table (and on another common table in our office) sat a plate of this and other delights. “Damn, we have a new baker among us,” I thought. “Just what I need during contest prep and having dialed in my nutrition for 12 weeks with only one cheat meal of sushi.” I quickly popped my breakfast of champions in the microwave and stood breathing in the smell of cinnamon for the longest 3:30 minutes of my life. It was so tempting that I forced myself to tweet a picture of the healthy breakfast I had packed to keep myself accountable to eat it.
Every day this scene is played out in offices across the country. The workplace is filled with nutritional landmines. If it isn’t the staffer who likes to bake and share, it’s the office birthday celebration, morning “muffin” meeting, pizza lunch, client lunches or Friday round of beers. I admit I am fortunate. Our office is a fairly healthy environment. We have a fully stocked fridge of healthy breakfast, snack and lunch options (although I bring my own prepared meals) and it is rare you see many of my colleagues with fast food at lunch. But there is still plenty of temptation kicking around.
In the first four months of my weight loss journey in 2008, I dreaded staff parties or what seemed like an endless parade of birthday cakes. Too much temptation and I didn’t have a game plan on how to tackle the situation. I would pray I’d have a meeting or conference call and try and skip the gathering at all costs. Avoidance wasn’t a long-term solution. Eventually I had to come out of hiding and learn how to socialize and survive guilt-free.
It’s like anything else in life – “Fail to plan and plan to fail.” Here’s how I did it and maybe some of these tips can help you.
Maneuvering Nutritional Landmines
- I keep a mini-fridge in my office with all my meals and snacks for the day. This keeps me out of the kitchen with the exception of heating my meals. If a fridge isn’t possible, invest in an insulated cooler bag to keep your food close to you.
- Stay hydrated. Most times you think you’re hungry when you’re actually just thirsty. I rarely go into a meeting without three beverages – a coffee, a litre of water and a protein shake (just in case it runs long).
- Have an office lunch? Ask where you’re going and check the menu in advance online. Most times I know exactly what I’m going to order before I get there and I’m not shy about asking for substitutions to accommodate my diet.
- Eat lunch when you think you’re starting to get hungry, not when you’re past the point of no return. My metabolism kicks into high gear when I’m training intensely. Mid-day is the worst time for me. If I don’t eat as I’m starting to get hungry it could take hours for that void to be filled (which means I end up drinking a lot of fluids between 1-3 pm).
- Skip the muffin platters at meetings and bring your own snack instead. It doesn’t have to be obvious – almonds, granola bars or protein shakes are discreet. And if muffins or cinnamon rolls are a weakness, it’s not hard to put the tray on a side table instead of the main meeting table. If it’s out of immediate reach you increase your chance of successfully avoiding it.
- Who says meetings have to take place over lunch? I am fortunate to work with great clients who are just as happy to grab a coffee or have a catered healthy lunch in the office.
- Office celebrations are a little tougher but the trick is to plan them later in the day and not during the mid-afternoon slump most people hit when they crave sugar. If you don’t want to indulge, have a coffee and bring your own snack.
I know what you’re thinking…and the answer is yes, it’s ok to treat yourself. I am human. In my offseason I strategically indulge but I pick my moments and ensure it’s something I’m really going to enjoy.
Check out a few new guilt-free cookie recipes in the What’s Cooking section that you can enjoy at your next office gathering.Next