How to Make Healthy Eating Part of Your Workday
3 min read
If you work in an office, you’re likely to experience stress that can impact your appetite. Stress triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol that can ramp up your appetite or kill it altogether. The effects of stress combined with temptations like happy hours and potlucks can make or break your diet.
If you avoid triggers that compound your stress level, plus take a few plan-ahead precautions, you have a much better chance at staying on the right track. In this article, you’ll learn:
- Common factors that lead to poor choices
- 5 tips for resisting unhealthy temptations
Research shows that about 25 percent of adults in the United States rate their stress levels at eight or more on a scale of one to 10.
In the short term, stress can cause your body to release adrenaline, putting it in a fight-or-flight state that can kill your appetite. In the long term, it triggers the release of cortisol, which can ramp up your appetite.
Unfortunately, you’re likely to experience both short- and long-term stress in the office. Given its effects on your appetite, stress can make healthy eating at work especially hard.
Eating (Or Fasting) Through Stress
If you deal with stress by comfort eating, you’re more likely to reach for sugary, high-fat, overly processed foods. But if stress decreases your appetite, you might sabotage yourself by overeating later as a reward for a hard day or because you’re overly hungry.
In addition to stress, factors such as boredom, temptation, and peer pressure can also compel you to eat recklessly. When your brain isn’t engaged, dopamine neurons can wind down, and entertaining yourself with food can seem like a good way to wake them up. You could end up snacking all day without realizing it because you’re bored.
Workplace politics also factor in. More and more companies try boosting morale with catered lunches, donuts on Tuesdays, or epic potlucks. When food is part of team building, it can pressure you into eating things you normally wouldn’t just to be a team player or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
All of these reasons pose a challenge your health and fitness efforts, but it’s not impossible to stick to your goals. These five tips can help you resist temptations and avoid compounding your stress with unhealthy eating habits:
1 Out of Sight, Out of Mind
In addition to donuts and catered lunches, a lot of offices offer treats like candy bowls. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that people sitting closer to the candy jar are more likely to eat from it. You might not be able to control exactly where the jar is, but try to move it away from your desk if it hinders your health.
2 Don’t Dine al Desco
About 67 percent of office dwellers eat while working at their desks, which can distract them from mindful eating and lead to overeating. Make yourself get up and take a break to eat; you might even feel less stressed when you return. Plus, try not to store food at your desk. Grazing all day will constantly spike your blood sugar, putting you at risk for insulin sensitivity.
3 Eat Before the Work Party
Be careful if you’re going to a work-sponsored function that involves food. Eat a small meal with a good portion of protein ahead of time. You won’t show up hungry, and you can still enjoy some treats with the group without going overboard.
4 BYOL Bring Your Own Lunch!
Take time to prepare healthy lunches instead of opting for fast food. But we get it; sometimes convenience is king. Consider saving time (and stress) with a healthy pre-made meal service to deliver your meals for the week.
This can also free you up for a real lunch break by stepping out for a walk, running errands, or simply finding some peace and quiet.
5 Ask and You Shall Receive
Many companies are including wellness programs in their benefits packages for the health of their employees. However, the food they provide doesn’t always align with the goal of creating healthier and happier workers. Try requesting healthier food options in the office — there’s no harm in asking.
Thanks to high stress levels and the temptations of office foods, eating healthy at work can be a real challenge. But keeping these strategies in your back pocket will give you an excellent shot at sticking to your goals.