The office is a breeding ground for bad food habits. A recent survey by US company CareerBuilder of 3,000 full-time employees found 80% tend to scoff snacks at work and 55% deem themselves overweight. One in three blame stress for at-work bingeing, 53% snack because they’re sat at their desk all day, and 45% say they’re too tired from work to exercise. Use these simple solutions, the last four are from nutritionist Sophie Enever, to avoid the temptation to snack on those high-fat and high-sugar foods commonly found in the office that will derail your better-body efforts.
1. Delay eating the doughnut
It might seem too simple to be effective, but telling yourself (ideally not out loud) that you’re not going to have that sweet snack now but you will later in the day is often enough to quell your cravings, according to research published in the Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology. This approach means you’re not technically denying yourself, although the chances are you won’t be bothered later on and so avoid snacking altogether.
Feeling hungry can often be your brain misinterpreting a thirst, so next time you’re tempted by the biscuit tin have a glass of cold water to see off your cravings. Research published in the European Journal Of Nutrition found that 500ml of water is enough to stretch your stomach and send signals to tell your brain you’re full. The study also found people who drink half a litre of water before a meal eat 22% fewer calories than those who don’t.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just eat healthier more often, a sensible strategy is to get off social media. Simply seeing food can stimulate cravings and hunger and even increase portion size when you next sit down to eat, according to research published in the International Journal Of Obesity. Limit your exposure to stomach-rumbling food pics by unfollowing all those avocado-loving accounts on Instagram and other social media.
4. Start the day with a full stomach
Prevention is always better than cure, and eating breakfast will keep you feeling full all morning and put snacking far from your mind. Of course, that only works if you start eating a better breakfast. “Swerve the bowl of sugary cereals for a breakfast based around quality protein,” says Enever. “Eggs are a great choice and some studies have shown that eating them first thing can help prevent unhealthy snacking later in the day.”
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“You don’t have to starve yourself at work but you do need to snack smarter,” says Enever. “Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer so you don’t get caught out if hunger strikes.” Swap crisps with mixed nuts or popcorn (just not the kind drowned in sugar or butter), and a chocolate bar or sweets with nut butters and rice cakes to boost your intake of the quality fats and protein your body needs to build muscle and burn fat.
“If you’re really struggling to resist sweet temptations, treat your diet like a well-structured exercise plan,” says Enever. “Plan what you’re eating each day in advance and give yourself time at the beginning of the week to pick up supplies on the way to work.” Think Greek yogurt, whole fruit, beef jerky and porridge pots for a good mix of protein, slow-release carbs, vitamins and minerals.
“Watch out for empty calories,” Enever says. “Fizzy drinks can be a big contributor to your calorie intake but are nutritionally useless because they generally just add sugar to your diet and not many essential nutrients. They also don’t keep you very satisfied and can send your blood sugar and appetite on a rollercoaster ride.” If you don’t like plain water, add some citrus fruit or cucumber for a more refreshing taste.
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.