Are you committed to healthy eating and limiting your intake of sweets, but work in an office where there are many occasions to eat cake and cookies?
If it seems like your officemates want a cake every time someone has a birthday, leaves the company, graduates from school, or any other occasion they can dream up, you might find yourself in a dilemma. You have to strike a balance between not being too self-righteous about your healthy habits, which might make you look snobby and non-participative, and not letting all of the sweets ruin your weight and your health.
This can be even more difficult to navigate if these parties are the boss's idea. You might feel even more pressure to eat dessert in order to show your appreciation or to avoid offending the boss.
What do you do?
I've been in this situation many times, and I've come up with a few strategies that have worked so far.
I'm full from lunch.
This especially works well if the party occurs soon after lunch. Simply claim that you are full. It is even more effective if you rub your stomach, groan and bulge your eyes slightly, as if you can't possibly eat another bite. If your co-workers pressure you, you can put them off by saying, "I'll have a piece later." Then just don't get any. Once everyone goes back to work, they won't notice you.
I have an errand that I must get done today.
If you are trying to eat healthy, but your department has scheduled a pizza lunch, this strategy works. Just before everyone gathers together, jump up with a worried look on your face, grab your purse and tell a co-worker that you have to handle something urgent, and could they please let the boss know you'll be back as soon as possible. Then run out the door. Of course, your "urgent" errand is to go out somewhere for a nice salad. Or, if you bring your lunch, have it stored in your car and sit outside and eat.
Take advantage of chaos
If you are attending a company-wide lunch party where there are many people and many conversations going on, your co-workers are much less likely to notice what you eat. If it's a pot luck event where everyone has brought a dish, you may not know what's in them, but it's simple enough to choose dishes that emphasize vegetables and de-emphasize creamy sauces. And if you skip the sweets altogether, your dessert-less plate will get lost in the crowd.
Take advantage of the meeting
If cake is served during a meeting, politely accept a piece and set it further away from you than your notepad. Then, pay really close attention to the meeting and take lots of notes. If you're busy writing, you can't eat! Then, when the meeting is over, you can do one of two things with that cake. You can say, "Gosh, I really have to get on this task. I don't have time to eat this. Do you want it?" and offer it to someone. Or, you can take it back to your desk and promise to eat it while you work, then allow it to quietly make its way into your trash can.
Strategically timed bathroom break
This one works if the cake is being served at the end of a meeting. When the meeting leader calls for a break and people start to get the cake and plates out, sneak out to the bathroom. Stay there for a few minutes. By the time you come back in, the cake server will be eating their own piece, and you might just be able to hang out in the back of the room or sneak back to your seat without anyone making a big deal out of the fact that you don't have a piece.
Let everyone else get a piece first
This works especially well if the dessert is a small cake or a cookie cake, where it looks like there might not be quite enough for everyone. Just say, "I'm not sure I want any. I'll let everyone else get some, then I might take a piece if there's any left." Chances are good that the cake will be gone by the time everyone else gets theirs, which solves your problem. Or the person who asked you will be distracted by their own cake and forget that you don't have a piece.
OK, maybe just a little piece.
You can kick this one in if you have tried the other refusal strategies and they just haven't worked. If the well-meaning co-worker serving the cake insists that you have some, politely accept it. While holding your plate and talking to someone, eat three or four bites slowly. Then, when no one is looking, set it aside on a table.
Ask for half a piece.
If you just can't get out of having a piece, or if you have decided that you can indulge just a little, ask the cake server to cut your slice in half. Then eat it slowly. Chances are, you won't want to go back for more, and no one will say anything more to you about it.
Eat a healthy snack beforehand
If the cake party is a few hours after lunch, when you are more likely to have the late-afternoon munchies and think you might be persuaded to indulge despite your good intentions, eat a healthy snack first. A piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or a carton of yogurt will take the edge off your appetite and help you withstand the pressure.
It is okay to simply refuse, saying, "No, thanks, I don't want any." If you feel comfortable saying this without offending your co-workers or the boss, this is the most honest and straightforward strategy. If a co-worker persists, simply repeat yourself. They can't force cake down your throat.
A good way to strike the balance between being a non-participating health snob and ruining your diet with the weekly cake-fest is to alternate. If you refused the last time, take a slice of cake this time. This can be used in conjunction with the "OK, maybe just a little piece" or "Ask for half a piece" strategies to minimize the damage to your waist.
It seems like every time I turn around, cake or other desserts are being served at my workplace. With a little preparation and the strategies above, so far I've been successful at keeping extra weight off while keeping the goodwill of my co-workers.
Does your workplace have sweets often? What strategies do you have for staying away from the desserts?
Labels: desserts, eating, health, nutrition, work