Are your co-workers making you fat?
It’s a topic The Wall Street Journal tackled last week, fueled by research published in the journal Obesity last month that highlighted the importance of social contacts in supporting weight loss.
The bottom line: Those cakes and cookies that folks bring to work can undermine your ability to control your weight. High-calorie extras add up over time.
Throw in the fact that the food is usually left out in plain sight (to encourage takers), couple the calories with a sedentary job, and you have a food environment gone toxic for anyone working to control their weight.
There are some institutional ways to fight back, of course.
Some workplaces establish policies that say what can and can’t be served at functions. Big bowls of fresh fruit may be set out for snacking, while doughnuts may be banned from the break room.
Those organizations are the exceptions. Most office communities find it hard to consistently back off the fried chicken, pizza, soft drinks and cake.
You can bring in a veggie tray so that there’s a low-cal option. You can even celebrate birthdays collectively to reduce the number of cake bombs you have to dodge (which reminds me of an episode of “The Office.”)
In the end, though, it’s important to prepare and even rehearse polite responses to offered food. After all, people bring it in because they mean well.
Two tactics to try
Two ways to do it:
• Perfect the “no thank you.” There was a period in my adult life when I weighed 15 pounds less than I do now, and I know exactly what I did differently then. I was an expert at the auto-no.
My knee-jerk reaction to anybody offering me food or drink, anytime, was no. I said no before I could even think about it, and sometimes that left me wishing I’d not been so hasty.
It also left me a lot lighter.
• Congratulate and go. If you’re in a room with a bunch of foods you’d rather not eat, remove yourself as quickly as possible. Join in the revelry, enjoy the company of colleagues, but be the first to leave, too.
Think ahead of time about other ways that may work for you. Politely push back, keeping control over your own plate.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian. Send questions to email@example.com.