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Office Cake Culture Contributing to Weight Gain

Office Cake

Does your office frequently cater meetings? Do you often have parties for celebrations such as promotions, birthdays, or retirement? If so, your work life may be contributing to your weight concerns.


Did you know that according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com, 41% of the US workforce states that they have gained weight since starting their current position? Among those who have seen the scale turn upward, 59% say they have gained more than 10 pounds and 30% say they have gained more than 20 pounds.

It is not just the sedentary desk-job that is contributing. Professor Nigel Hunt of the Royal College of Surgeons says most of our workplaces can be described as “cake culture.” Office parties, client meetings, holiday parties all offer us opportunities for additional calories – and most of the time these foods are very high in fat and sugar.

In a speech to the Faculty of Dental Surgery's annual dinner, Prof Hunt said: “Managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions, and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays. But for many people the workplace is now the primary site of their sugar intake and is contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health…I'm not saying we need to ban such treats. But we do need a change in culture.”

What can we do to stop the unwanted temptation?

For starters, offices could limit the number of events they hold that center around food. For example, having a monthly birthday celebration for employees rather than individual parties. Limit catering of meetings unless it is for an important client, and then offer more healthful options such as whole-grain muffins, yogurt, fruit platters and 100% juice. For in-house meetings for a small group, consider "walking meetings" to get the blood flowing.

For the individual, it will mean improved willpower around the morning donuts, Christmas Cookie parties and after-work happy hours. The Harvard Business Review offers these three tips for staying healthy at work.

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First, Set VERY specific limits. Before you get anywhere near the cookie platter or the cheese plate, decide how much you can afford to eat without over-indulging. Decide, in advance, exactly how much you will allow yourself at work that day. Studies show that when people plan out exactly what they will do when temptation arises are two-to-three times more likely to achieve their goals.

On this note, do not plan on skipping everything at the party – make room for something that you especially enjoy. If you love Betty’s famous cookies or Jim’s tempting cheesecake, have a small piece and enjoy it. Deprivation almost always leads to over-indulging later.

Second, Decide what you will do after you reach your limit. When you’re trying not to engage in Behavior X (where, here, Behavior X is eating a tempting holiday treat), studies suggest that one of the worst things you can do is focus solely on not engaging in X (e.g., “If I want another cookie, then I won’t eat one.”) Unfortunately, this is exactly what most of us do, which can result in a rebound effect – where people end up doing more of the “forbidden” behavior than before.

Instead, make a plan. “If I want another cookie, then I will have a glass of water instead.” Also, move about the room and immerse yourself in good conversation so that you aren’t thinking about that cookie.

Lastly, Savor Your Favorites. Eat slowly and mindfully. Savoring is a way of increasing and prolonging our positive experiences. Taking time to experience the subtle flavors in a piece of dark chocolate, the pungency of a full-flavored cheese, the buttery goodness of a Christmas cookie. This help us to squeeze every bit of joy out of the good things that happen to us. If you down it all in one bite – you get all the calories, but only a fraction of the taste and happiness that comes from these wonderful foods.

UK Independent
Harvard Business Review

Photo Credit: By Vbccevents (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons