Eating More Mindfully at Work

May 15, 2014

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"Break room"
If you work a 9–5 desk job, you may find yourself eating more throughout the day than you would if you were at home. Offices are social places, and at many jobs, there is always food around: bagels in the break room, the candy jar on your boss’s desk, cake for birthdays every Friday, the never-empty-soda-on-tap . . . It’s tempting to enjoy all these treats every time, but eating or drinking simply “because it’s there” is a bad habit to get into. If you aren’t hungry, it’s OK to say “no!”

Here are 6 suggestions to help you eat more mindfully at work:

1. Eat breakfast

By the time you finish your morning commute and sit down at your desk, you have probably been up for several hours. If you haven’t eaten that morning, your first thoughts at the office will probably involve vending machine donuts and overpriced coffee. Starting your day off with poor food choices will make it that much easier to slack for the rest of the day. Eat at home or take food in your car—but arrive at work having eaten a decent breakfast.

2. Bring your own lunch

This solution may seem obvious, but workers who brown-bag it every day are still in the minority. Although it is definitely cheaper than eating out, bringing your own lunch isn’t necessarily healthier—you still have to be conscientious about what you’re packing and intentionally make “better” choices. Still, bringing your own lunch helps you be more mindful about your hunger levels. Because you do not have to wait for friends/co workers or the specified “lunch hour,” you will be more likely to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Just try not to eat at your desk if you can avoid it—this can lead to distracted eating and lack of portion control.

3. Drink water consistently

Most people do not drink enough water throughout the day. Often, when we think we are hungry, we are actually just thirsty. Keep a water bottle at your desk and try drinking a cup of water before reaching for the chips or chocolate. You may find you weren’t really craving food after all/

4. Ask yourself if you are really hungry

Before you join in on the department pizza party or grab a bowl of the birthday ice cream, evaluate if you really want to eat what is in front of you. When food is freely offered to us, it is easy to feel like we are missing out or even wasting resources if we do not eat it all. The reality is, however, that it’s not your “duty” to consume a whole pizza. If you’re actually hungry, go ahead and eat the office snacks. If you’re not? There are plenty of other people who will gladly eat your share.

5. Be active during your lunch break

Before you eat, take a 10 minute walk around the block or through the parking garage. If the weather permits, walk outside and get fresh air. When you come back to your desk, you will feel refreshed and ready to assess how hungry you really are. If you can, take your lunch with you on your walk. The change of scenery will help, and you will be able to walk around before and after you eat.

6. Schedule your meals for the day

Be careful with this one—you don’t want to become so rigid that you ignore when your body is telling you it is hungry or full. As a general rule, however, you can plan out your meals and snacks to help you keep track of what you are eating. Most people eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with several snacks in between. For a schedule like this, it is best to eat every 2–3 hours. If you ate breakfast at 7:30 a.m., plan to have your first snack at work around 10. This allows you to take your lunch break around noon or 1:00, and keeps you on track for eating dinner at a normal time. Eat until you are satisfied, but never until you are uncomfortably full.

Eating mindfully, especially in the workplace, takes practice. It is not bad to indulge when you genuinely want to, but learning to control your cravings and fuel your body will help keep you healthier and happier throughout the day.

Photo Courtesy of Kristin Dos Santos and Creative Commons.

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