How to handle food at the office

Hands up. If you work in a workplace where everybody loves to eat.

We just have food all the time in our office. You don’t need an occasion, we just love food. That situation can be very stressful for a lot of people. Let’s use a birthday, for example. Birthdays people bring in a lot of food. People tend to go all out. Which is lovely until you help yourself and help yourself and help yourself. And then you start to feel guilty. So you decide you’re not going to eat anymore. That’s it. Done for the day.

Until you get up and you have to move around the office! You just happen to have to pass the food table so you grab a thing or two. Just pop it in your mouth. No one will know. But then you sit at your desk wondering why you did that. You said you weren’t going to have any more for the rest of the day. Lunchtime comes around and you think, “right. I’m not going to eat my lunch that I brought with me because I have eaten far too much this morning.” But then as the afternoon ticks on all of a sudden you’re hungry because you haven’t really eaten properly or morning. You’ve just picked at things.

That stuff hasn’t filled you up. You didn’t eat your lunch. The food that you’ve eaten in the morning hasn’t sustained you. So your only other option is to go back to the food table. Before you know it, the day has gone and then you feel awful because you have eaten way too much of the stuff you think you shouldn’t eat, nothing that you planned for the day, and you’re not even that satisfied because actually by the end of the day, you’re sick to death of eating the stuff anyway. You’re not even enjoying it like you were when you started first thing in the morning.

Diet culture again!

There are several problems with the buffet situation and surprise, surprise It all stems from diet culture and restriction. Diet clubs, for example, don’t allow for is events like this. They will ask what you have got coming up this week and how you’re going to manage that. The suggestions are things like saving up your points through the week, or if you can just fill up on free foods then you can get away with it. 

Get away with it? You didn’t get away with eating. You just eat. Or fill up before you go. Have a good breakfast and then you won’t want to eat the food in the office. I’m not being funny, If there’s chocolate on a table free for me to help myself to I’m going to help myself to that chocolate regardless of whether I’m hungry or not.

If food is part of a celebration why should everybody else join in but not you just because you’re on a diet. How do we manage this?

Food is an important part of a balanced diet

Give yourself permission

Give yourself permission for starters. This can be a difficult thing to let go of. It can be really difficult to let go of that feeling of not being allowed to eat something. Or if you eat it, what will the repercussions be after? Those can be really difficult to let go of.

So the first step is giving yourself permission if you know there’s going to be food In your office today. Just give yourself permission to join in, and if it’s too much just to give yourself full permission to go for your life, fill your boots, eat what you want give yourself permission to have something.

Give yourself permission to have a doughnut. Give yourself permission to have a sausage roll. Give yourself permission. That will be a massive step forward. Don’t restrict other food to make up for things that you eat because no good comes of that.

The binge restrict cycle

The restrict binge cycle is very powerful.

You will cut back on other food in order to make room for the buffet food. You will still have the guilt about the buffet food. You will not be satisfied because you haven’t eaten decent meals that you know would usually satisfy you. Because you’re not satisfied you, then look for more food and if the only food that you then have around you is the buffet food you’re back to square one. 

You’re eating the buffet food to try and fill the hole that is left because you haven’t eaten lunch. Before you know it, you’re cutting back on your evening meal because then you’re also trying to cut back for the food that you’ve eaten in the afternoon that you ate, because you’re trying to fill the hole that you had for lunch, that was there because you ate buffet food in the morning. It just goes on and on and on.

Then you go to bed at night. You feel terrible. You feel physically terrible too, because you’ve not eaten proper meals. You go to bed and you’re probably going to go to bed hungry because you’ve not eaten as decent evening meal because you’ve been trying to cut back.You go to bed thoroughly miserable.

You don't need to make up for it

You don’t need to make up for it the next day. It can be really easy to get up and think, “I need to make up for yesterday. I let myself eat whatever I want. I gave myself full permission to eat that food and I ate it, but maybe today I should be good. Because you know, I did eat a lot.”

You try and restrict but you don’t need to do that. Everything balances out in the end. If your overall diet is pretty good really what damage is that one day going to make? What damage is that buffet gonna do to you? Nothing. Because overall you have a good balance of all the food groups. All the vitamins, all the minerals. You have a good intake of all that stuff and if for one day, your day is not balanced it really doesn’t matter.

Nobody became vitamin deficient through eating that kind of food for a day. Nobody suffered poor health. Through having a day where they weren’t on a diet plan.

who said?

Anyway, where do these rules and restrictions come from that say you shouldn’t eat it? Who said that that was too much food. Who said that was the wrong food.

Have a little think about that right now. If you feel guilty about eating a particular food why do you feel guilty by that? Who told you, you should feel guilty about that food. Who told you that carbs or fats or party food or a cheeseboard or anything else that you really enjoy eating, if you eat a lot of it, who told you that’s too much food. Too much, according to what. Too much in comparison to what? Too much in comparison to what you would usually eat in a day? Does it really matter?

If we listened to everything that we are told by other people we would never eat anything. We would have so many rules in place that we wouldn’t eat anything. We would never eat carbs. We’d never have fat. We’d never have sugar. We would never eat past six o’clock in the evening. We’d never eat before midday in the morning. We would never eat cooked food. We would never eat meat or any animal products. In fact, we would never even eat vegetables because vegetables have got carbohydrates in them. So if you’re taking out all your carbs, well, you’re not eating any veggie either are you. Note, I know that not all veg has carbs in it, but you get the point.

Something else to bear in mind is if you lived on vegetables and vegetables alone, you would still not be healthy because you don’t have all your food groups there. You will have vitamin and mineral deficiencies if you left on only vegetables. You would be missing substantial amounts of things like protein and fats.

All things which are important and help your body to function properly, and help you to build new cells and for your organs to function well, and for your processes in your body to all work. If you just took out everything that we’re told we shouldn’t eat we would just be walking around with massive nutritional deficiencies.

What’s more important is actually to think about how the food makes you feel. That’s a much better approach to food. Enjoy that buffet but if you know that by eating a donut it’s going to make you feel physically bad then don’t do it. If you think that, for example, let’s, let’s use the gluten example again, if you know that having a sandwich from the buffet is going to make you feel physically unwell because you are gluten intolerant then don’t eat a sandwich.

Sometimes food can make us feel a bit sluggish maybe. It’s much better to eat some food and gauge it. See how it makes you feel. Start by listening to your body and seeing where foods have an impact for you

Things to look for, might be does it make you feel physically uncomfortable? Does it make you feel sluggish? Does it make your stomach feel heavy? Does it make your brain feel a bit foggy? Or does the food make you feel good? Does it fill you up? Does it give you energy?

So. My message for this is let go of the guilt. Let go of the guilt of eating. If you give yourself permission, there’s no need to feel guilty. So next time you have a buffet. Go for it.

Want a sneaky tip on how to manage the buffet food? Have a listen to the podcast.

Please note, this post is intended to be general information only. Every care has been taken to ensure that facts and figures are correct at the time of posting. As always, please seek the support of a registered professional before making changes to your diet or lifestyle⁠, or if you feel that you are affected by any of the topics discussed. 

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