Navigating the Holidays in the Workplace

When you’re on a weight loss journey, one of the biggest obstacles you can encounter is food in the workplace, especially this time of year, around the holidays. The holidays can be stressful by themselves, but since a huge part of celebrating has to do with food, this can place even more stress on those of us who are trying to make healthy food choices and not get derailed. I’ve been on this journey for several years, so I’ve survived a few.

First, realize the holidays are for celebrating and for family time. It’s not about logging food and watching other people eat what you don’t think you can have. That being said, I don’t think it’s a free pass to be a glutton, either. I read somewhere that the average American eats 4000 calories at Thanksgiving, which is nuts. For family time, I don’t log (my own dietitian says not to), I enjoy my food and more importantly, the company and I try to drink a LOT of water.

Work, for me is a different story. I worked in a hospital for years, hospital settings are notorious for spur of the moment potlucks. We’d celebrate anything and everything. I’m currently in a doctor’s office, where there are also a lot of celebrations – there was enough sugar at Halloween to feed a couple of classrooms at the  local grade school. I managed not to eat any candy, although I really wanted a roll of Smarties, they were a childhood favorite.

During these past few years of trying to make better food choices and being faced with the challenges of work parties/potlucks/holidays, I’ve made some rules for myself. I participate in the big holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, but not in the smaller ones, the Taco Tuesdays, the “everyone bring in food for no reason” ones, and any others that pop up. My first priority is to myself and my health.  This isn’t family time, this is a lunch break in a not so comfortable setting and it’s usually a grab your food and eat whenever event. Eating under these circumstances is just not worth it to me. I usually get some flak from coworkers, but I’m not about to eat food I wouldn’t eat on my own time. Sorry, not sorry.

For the times I do partake, I try to bring something I like, so I know there’s something there for me, if the other choices are less than optimal. Before I eat, I remind myself that I don’t need to eat everything just because it’s there in front of me and free. I step back and look at everything that’s offered, before adding it to my plate. You can’t go wrong with vegetables/salads, just watch the amount of dips/dressings. I try to get a protein in there and skip the rolls/bread (PCOS means I watch the amount of carbs I eat). A small scoop is smart, you can always go back for more. If you load up a lot on your plate, you’re more likely to eat it because it’s there in front of you. I skip the never ending supply of soda and juices and stick with water. I don’t like to drink my calories and I’ve been soda-free for five years now. When it’s time for dessert, the smaller the better. I remind myself of what I’m trying to accomplish and that a work party/lunch doesn’t have to derail me, even for one meal.

It can be easy to get caught up in the festivities and go overboard, but it should be a conscious decision to do so and it should be enjoyed. Work settings don’t do that for me so I simply don’t. The comments and disapproving looks are trivial, the bigger picture is to do what makes me happy and what is good for me.


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