When I used to work at the hospital, I would constantly get invited to seminars, rounds, lunch or even a quick stop at the nurses’ lounge for a “snack” that a fellow coworker brought that day.
After awhile (and I would estimate this kind of thing happened about three times a week), my pants felt a little snug around the waist, and I saw that I gained a couple pounds on the scale.
Everything I’d been eating at home was the same (not much in terms of junk food, and eating mostly healthy grains, lean meats, fruits and veggies), I wasn’t eating out that much, and I still exercised moderately after work. I knew where those two pounds came from, and it wasn’t from eating healthy foods or gaining muscle from weight training!
Years ago, before I became a dietitian, I was told by the doctor that even though other components of my blood lipid panel were within the normal range, my cholesterol level was getting high. I made a few tweaks to my daily eats (less red meats, more plants) and brought it back down to under 200 before the doc could even say “medication.”
So that was what I worried about with those two pounds, because they came mostly from the unhealthy fats I was eating at work.
Here are a few ways you can battle through those office potlucks and peer pressure the next time you’re faced with it:
Map out your eating plan for the day. This was easy for me. Breakfast was always eaten at home, and I sipped a cup of coffee at work while I prepped for my day. I would bring lunch and even a small, healthy snack should a hunger pang hit. If you eat lunch in a cafeteria, opt for the mini-portion if they have it and supplement with some salad you brought from home or a side of broth-based soup.
Have your own stash. Have a couple snacks in your desk that are full of protein and fiber to stave off your hunger until lunchtime. I always had a bag of almonds or dried fruit lying around so I wouldn’t resort to the vending machine or barbeque pork buns that a vendor or patient’s family dropped off that day.
Just say “no.” If you’re confronted with a food pusher, politely say you’re full, you’ve already eaten dessert, you know it’s delicious but you’re stuffed, etc.
At potlucks, fill up on veggies and fruit. There’s bound to be a fruit and veggie plate someone brought in (or you can offer to bring one yourself). Stick to the plate rule: fill half your plate with fruits and veggies (stir-fried, raw, whatever), a quarter of your plate with protein (lean meats, beans), and the remaining quarter with grains (noodles, whole-grain bread roll, mashed potatoes, etc).
Bring your own drinks. Opt for water, unsweetened tea, skim milk or plain black coffee.
Portion it yourself! I never completely cut out the cakes, of course. To stay within moderation, I would eat a slice a week, but I would cut myself half or smaller than what was usually given to me.
Listen to yourself. Am I really hungry? Do I even want it for myself, or am I eating it just because everyone else is? A lot of times, I realized that I was just eating with the crowd. Learn to understand what your body’s telling you, and listen to it.