Sunday, October 26, 2014

How I Stopped Eating Office Junk Food

About a month ago, I set out to have a low-sugar week. For breakfast, I traded in my sweetened yogurt for homemade oatmeal; I turned down evening treats and just said no to the delicious office sweets. My only slip up was that Friday night, where I had some meringues that one of our friends brought over.

I plan to continue limiting my sugar intake - cutting it out at work and limiting it at home. I don’t think sugar is evil or want to say goodbye to it, no doubt in a drawn-out farewell scene where I cry and the sugar strokes my cheek before sadly turning away and going off to war, but cutting it out for just a week really pinpointed the weaknesses in my food plans. I was doing pretty well, I was making progress, but not as quickly as I could have.

I’ve realized that (part of) the answer is in those little treats that I would end up eating during the day - a little chocolate from the candy bowl, a quarter of a bagel from the office breakfast, a couple of bites of something offered by a generous co-worker... They take a great day and turn it into an okay one, or they leave me with only 300 calories for dinner, so I end up going over my intended calorie allotment in order to eat a reasonable dinner. Not ideal.

Since that week, I have not had a single office treat. Not when there were chocolate croissants at breakfast, not when a colleague brought in cookies from the best place in town, still warm, not when the candy bowl was overflowing with mini Three Musketeers. There has never been a month-long period where I didn’t eat any office food - probably not even a single week where I didn’t partake in some way. (And I wonder why I gained twenty-five pounds after I started working.) 

That's... a tough one.

Before now it never seriously occurred to me that cutting out office food - all office food - was a possibility. I mean, what if there was a really good cake? What about balancing treats with eating healthy? Turns out that was bullshit - I'm not cutting out all sugar, just what's at work. Sometimes it's easier to always say no. I'm taking those automatic "no, thanks" answers to a new super-level, office edition, available in stores right now.

This is one of those things where I’m so proud I want to tell people on the subway about my accomplishment, and high school students are surprisingly good listeners.

And those dumb cliches about how "It gets easier" and "You don't even want it after a while" are completely true. That first week of my personal low-sugar party, I was heating up my oatmeal in the office kitchen and someone had put the leftovers from a “welcome to the company” breakfast in there - a plate or two of pastries, wafting up their intoxicating buttery scent. Almost every other time, even the weeks I lose weight and generally consider to be successful, I’ve had a bite or even a quarter of a muffin. But this time I ignored them until the microwave beeped. And it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was just something I do, and I didn’t even feel like I missed out on anything. 

It’s easier to go off previous momentum, to think “I never have those. I can, but they’re not worth it so I don’t bother” than agonize over whether I should spend one or two hundred calories on it. It turns out it’s easier to just never have it than to decide if I should.

The lesson I’ve taken from this is that it’s not worth it 99.9% of the time. Anything offered at work, I can either buy or make. So if I wouldn’t buy it or make it, why should I eat it just because it’s free and in front of me? Once an awesome colleague stood in line for three hours to bring us cronuts, those super-trendy donut/croissant hybrids, only sold at one location and limited to two per customer. That’s the only time it’s ever been worth it for me to have any of the sweets at work, because then I got to try something unique that I’ll most likely never have again. But catered chocolate croissants? Bagels? Even, I dare say it, fresh-made apple cider donuts? Still not worth it. I love that my coworkers and my company can be so generous, and it definitely contributes to our generally pleasant work environment, but I no longer want to participate.

Nobody is going to notice or care, just like they haven’t so far. If I really, really, want something, then I need to want it enough to at least go out and buy it. “Free” and “being offered to me” are not reasons to eat it.

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