The majority of us spend most of our waking hours at work. This means it’s essential to make our work environments as conducive to healthy habits as possible.
Being healthy is not just an individual effort. If you work in an office where there’s a candy bowl, vending machines, or leftover baked goods from meetings placed in the lunchroom, it can be hard to resist these goodies all day. It’s not just a matter of willpower. The effort to resist a plate of cookies can detract from ones ability to focus on ones work. It can also lead to an increased likelihood that one will “cave” and over-indulge later in the day.
If you have a staff lunchroom, think twice before leaving baked goods from meetings, your home-made treats, or kids leftover Halloween candy for co-workers. If you don’t want to consume those foods then chances are your co-workers don’t either but they probably will - simply because they’re sitting there in front of them.
As Ellen Curitti, RD said as part of the Shifting the Weight Project (1), it’s “downloading calories” onto your co-workers. It may seem like a thoughtful and generous gesture but you may be inadvertently derailing co-workers efforts to eat better.
As for the ubiquitous candy bowl, research has shown (2) that candy consumption can be significantly decreased by placing the candy in an opaque container and even more significantly decreased by placing the container in an out-of-the-way location (in a corner or desk drawer). Even better, remove the candy dish entirely. Perhaps have a bowl of fresh fruit instead if you wish to provide food for your co-workers.
If you have control over the lunchroom design, consider not installing a TV. Eating in front of the TV can lead to overconsumption. Also, keep vending machines out of the lunchroom as they promote unhealthy choices.
Getting away from your desk to have lunch is important as well. You may think that you don’t have time to take a break but you will probably be far more productive if you step out of your office during lunch. If you can, head outside to get some fresh air and clear your head.
Try to practice mindful eating at lunch. Socialize with your co-workers, put down your phone and put away the newspaper. Wait until you’re finished eating before picking those items up again. Most of all: enjoy your food!
Rethinking the Lunchroom
by Diana Chard, RD