Office Stress v. Your Diet

Are you guilty of stress eating at the office (or failing to eat because you’re so stressed out)?  Today’s guest poster, Ruth More, tackles the issue.  You can also read her other guest post on Corporette, on downsizing your budget after you cast off your golden handcuffs. – Kat

When I was a young associate, I was continually in a state of fear or trauma. As a result, I didn’t really have the time or desire to make sure that I was eating healthily. To make matters worse, I still had a student mentality about saving money. I pretty much ended up subsisting on the little cups of cream that I would put in the free tea my office offered (I drank a lot of tea). Over the years, I have seen many female associates who have difficult workloads put eating on the back burner. They start to have that sort of adrenaline rush that starved people have, the beady eyes, the cold aggressive handshake.

But later on, when I was a slightly more experienced lawyer, I dealt with stress and exhaustion the opposite way, by eating a lot! I remember when it first started, I would come home from work, sit on the couch, and calmly polish off an entire pint of Haagen Dazs. When SeamlessWeb came around, and we could order food from hundreds of different restaurants with the click of a mouse, I began to order extravagant, heavy, meals that I swore to myself would be divided into two smaller portions — one for next day’s lunch– but I always ended up eating the whole thing, plus the free bread or fortune cookies.

Eventually, I realized that neither coping mechanism — eating very little or eating too much– was a healthy way to deal with stress. In this post, I share some tips and tricks for breaking the association between workplace stress and food:

1. Afternoon doldrums: snack with a friend.

I have never seen an office worker, male or female, walk so quickly to their office as when they’ve just picked up a delicious treat or meal. Nor have I ever heard an office door shut with as much urgency as when such an employee firmly closes the door to their office in order to be alone with their afternoon cupcake. I am just the same. Something strange happens when I eat by myself at work. A primal creature takes over and devours everything in a matter of seconds. Yet these torpid moments of private indulgence never really made me feel better afterwards. I’d just sit there with a, “What just happened,” look on my face, and feel gross.

But instead, when I am feeling sluggish and need to snap out of it, if I find a friendly colleague and we both go down to the bodega and get a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies or a dense and syrupy piece of South Asian dessert, and eat it together while chatting about work or whatnot, it is much more pleasurable (and civil) than snacking alone, and I always feel genuinely refreshed afterwards.

2. Early morning after all-nighter: take a walk.

One morning after pulling an all-nighter with a team of associates, two of us decided to go downstairs to the Duane Reade together and buy some toothpaste and toothbrushes. That turned into a nice brisk walk around Bryant Park at 6 AM, which was super invigorating. Though my companion and I were practically strangers, we were able to chat about work and life and have a nice, energizing break before we went back into the office for another work full day of work. Normally after an all-nighter, prehaps taking a cue from the kind of all-niters I used to do, which were related to drinking and partying, I’d automatically reach for a greasy breakfast sandwich involving copious amounts of butter, egg, and cheese. Nothing wrong with those fine ingredients of course, but if you’ve pulled an all-nighter and need to work another full day, that is not the best food to wake up to.

3. Too stressed, no appetite: easily digestible carbs.

Sometimes when your stomach is full of butterflies, it feels like there is no room for food in there. And I know a lot of professional women who see a busy period where they are too preoccupied to eat as a godsend, a painfree and natural way to lose weight. But you need fuel to keep a body functioning and healthy. Plus, under-eating can lead to a pretty annoying pattern of fluctuating weight. The best way to sneak some food in there when you’re not hungry is through juice and fruit, which I have found to be relatively palatable compared to other foods. If you can add a little fat in there by having a smoothie, then all the better! I’m obviously not a doctor or a nutritionist, but according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice is easier for the body to digest than bread and pasta, so that’s another food to try if your adrenaline level is making it hard for you to eat.

4. Sit with the feeling.

It’s very common to respond to strong emotions illogically. Sometimes over or under eating is a way to fill a void, dull a pain, or exercise control when you feel like you have none. A lot of times, I know that I am doing something unhealthy and pointless because I am trying to run away from an unpleasant feeling, such as anxiety, fear, or rejection. And even though there are a million tips floating on the internet on how to deal with your feelings, the truth is that a warm bath is not that different from a pint of ice cream if you are not learning to deal with the fact that you will have unpleasant feelings, but they can’t bully you around if you don’t let them.

5. Be connected to your body.

You can’t just be a brain, you have a body too. Sometimes in the office, when your job demands nothing of you physically than to sit and move your finger tips, it can be easy to disconnect from your body. When this happens, it’s easier to deny it food when you’re hungry, or load it with food when it’s full. One way to make sure you are grounded in your physicality is to be physical throughout the day. Not everyone has the luxury to go to the gym during office hours, but there are a ton of things you can do in the office, from taking off your shoes and sitting cross-legged on your chair, to doing deep breathing exercises, to givng yourself a shoulder massage, to raiding the cleaning closet and taking five minutes to spray down and wipe your desk and shelves, to taking the stairs instead of the elevator. One of my favorite things to do is to brush my teeth. The purpose of these activities is not to expend calories, but to reunite your brain with your body and remind your brain that no matter what happens at work, your body deserves to be fed regular, healthy meals on a regular basis.

What are your tips for breaking the food and workplace stress association?

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  1. Anonforthis :

    Sorry for the early threadjack, but I could really use some advice. I work for a large nonprofit organization and recently learned that a volunteer I used to supervise is in the middle of interviewing for a position with another division within our organization. This person looks fantastic on paper, but had a terrible attitude, was frequently insubordinate, and generated lousy work product. I don’t want to get involved but I also feel that I should share what I know. Any thoughts on how to handle this?

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t think you say anything unless you’re asked.

    • You can let HR know that you used to supervise the individual and are available to give your opinion if asked.

    • Anonforthis :

      Let me add that my own supervisor is leaning heavily on me to say something, but won’t do it himself because I’m the one who worked most closely with this person. If I don’t say anything, I’m afraid my supervisor will be pi$$ed.

      • Then say saomething.

      • Anonymous :

        Then it sounds like the issue is between you and your supervisor, not you and this candidate. What exactly does (s)he want you to do?

        • Anonforthis :

          Well, pretty much everyone who came into contact with this person thinks the hiring division needs to know about the problems we had, and I’m the one who’s been tagged to speak up because of my position as our division’s volunteer coordinator. I think it’s the right thing to do, and I’m the right person to do it. I just feel extremely crappy about it.

          • Anonymous :

            Understandable that you’d feel crappy. Just be cautious and go through the proper channels, whatever they are for your organization. Ann’s HR suggestion is a good one.

          • Why feel guilty? You were not the one that was insubordinate, had the terrible attitude, or lousy work product.

          • Can your supervisor say something to the hiring dept, along the lines of, “I hear you’re interviewing X. You know, Anonforthis worked pretty closely with him/her in the past. Maybe you should talk to her to see her impressions.” Then, it’s not on you to initiate the conversation and you get to make your boss happy and the hiring dept aware of potential issues.

          • Why is it that [email protected] leave a trail of wreckage and the people who have to clean up their crap feel guilty on calling them on their BS? Actions have consequences, so if this person was horrible to work with, and a drag on the organization, it should be known. Just make sure it’s done in a way that’s cleared /in-line with your company’s HR policies.

          • be careful – you can be on the hook for defamation claims if it comes back to you; probably why your supervisor is trying to get you to do the dirty work.

          • Re- anon at 2:59- there is a privilege against liability for former employers to give honest job references to prospective employers.

          • true re the privilege, but that’s still just a defense & it’s no fun being sued & having to raise it.

          • People can sue others for a lot of frivolous reasons. It is no fun intimidating others out of giving honest job references.

          • I don’t think recognizing that there can be a real consequence (getting sued, dealing with the adverse effects of that such as possibly not being able to re-fi your home mortgage due to the liability, etc.) is “intimidating” someone. I get wanting to be honest & save the organization from this person, but at the same time, realize the reality. Recommendations are discoverable & you could find yourself in the middle of an ugly fight. To take that on, I’d personally really have to care & have to work one on one with this person & I wouldn’t do it for a boss.

    • Anonforthis :

      Thanks everyone! I’m going to go HR and have talked my supervisor to coming along for backup. I do feel less crappy now. :)

    • It’s an awkward situation but it’s better to address it now than to bring that person into your organization and have to work with them on a daily basis.

    • Anonymous :

      I was relieved to see your later post saying that you’re going to talk to HR about this. I completely disagree with the other responses here telling you to stay out of it. You have a responsiblity to your organization to give truthful and appropriate feedback about this person. Based on your description, this is not the kind of person your organization should hire. Imagine if you are the manager who hires this person, and he/she turns out to be a horrible employee, and you have to address the performance issues and ultimately fire the person — and then you learn that someone else in the organization knew what an awful hiring decision this would be but chose not to share that VERY RELEVANT information — if I were that manager, I would be very angry, and I imagine HR wouldn’t be very happy with you either. I have to say that I am very disappointed in all of the corporettes who responded basically, “myob.” That’s just wrong, for so many reasons. Grow up, people.

    • Anonymous :

      I was relieved to see your later post saying that you’re going to talk to HR about this. I completely disagree with the other responses here telling you to stay out of it. You have a responsiblity to your organization to give truthful and appropriate feedback about this person. Based on your description, this is not the kind of person your organization should hire. Imagine if you are the manager who hires this person, and he/she turns out to be a horrible employee, and you have to address the performance issues and ultimately fire the person — and then you learn that someone else in the organization knew what an awful hiring decision this would be but chose not to share that VERY RELEVANT information — if I were that manager, I would be very angry, and I imagine HR wouldn’t be very happy with you either. And the person who said this is defamation is just flat out wrong. There is a managerial privilege for sharing truthful, appropriate feedback about an employee’s job performance.

      I have to say that I am very disappointed in all of the corporettes who responded basically, “myob.” That’s just wrong, for so many reasons. Grow up, people.

      • Going back and re-reading this leaves me more mystified–

        This person had been a volunteer. I’ll call this volunteer “X”. So if X was insubordinate, had a crappy attitude, didn’t do great work, it should be easy to get rid of them.

        Why was this person not given the heave-ho? The OP’s boss sounds like a wuss who will only reluctantly take responsibility. And perhaps this is the management style that’s the norm at this non-profit. I feel for the OP!

        If management is this spineless and weak at handling a VOLUNTEER, then, god help them with any personnel issues involving actual paid employees.

  2. Great topic. For about a month now, I’ve been making a point of going on a 5-minute mid-morning and mid-afternoon walk. I also force myself to leave my desk for at least 10 minutes during lunch to walk around, stretch, whatever. It’s a great energizer and I don’t feel like such a slug when I finally get home. Drinking lots of water throughout the day helps, too.

    I’ve learned through some really unfortunate situations that I can neglect my body’s needs — like moving and eating well — for only so long before I turn into a dysfunctional mess.

  3. 2 years of searching, panicking and being underemployed and depressed after my offer was rescinded from Biglaw one month before my law school graduation.

    FINALLY starting a permanent position next week. BEYOND excited. Not straight law (I’ve lost my taste for it), but close. Great title too :)

    Off to buy work basics! I ate my way through my depression so nothing fits anymore, lol!

    • Congratulations!!! That’s awesome!

      I have already been thinking about non-legal options after I graduate in May given the lousy economy. Any suggestions on a career that is related to law, but does not have such a depressed, flooded, job market?

      • I started looking at compliance:
        If you have experience in the financial industry, or an accounting or business degree look at banks and exchanges.
        If you have management experience, degree in social work, counseling or psychology, start networking with human resource people and gaining knowledge about anti-discrimination laws.
        If you have any experience in insurance or know people in insurance companies, network there as well.

      • Government affairs – particularly with trade associations. A law degree isn’t mandatory, but can be very helpful.

    • congratulations! Now that you have the lightness of heart, don’t forget to go back to the gym. After all that tension it can feel so good to challenge yourself to move! Also, when I was last in your position, I found myself so drained by returning to office hours after being out for months that I could have used the energy created by a regular workout.

    • Congratulations!!! I know how rough that can be. I wish you the best in your new job. Yes, definitely go treat yourself to some new clothes.

  4. Take stairclimbing breaks! This works if you work in a high-rise office building. Take the elevator five to seven floors down and walk back up the stairs. It’s invigorating and it takes only a few minutes. Great stress reliever and it’s time efficient. I sometimes do it twice a day.

    • Great suggestion. Before you do this though, make sure that you won’t get trapped in the stairwell — many offices (esp. high rises) have fire doors that prevent access to the staircases.

      • Totally – would get trapped in the stairwell. You can only exit at the ground level, and that causes an alarm to go off. I wish, though!

      • This happened to me once when I went for an interview downtown – I ducked into a stairwell to slip into my heels from my commuter shoes and was trapped! I had to walk down 15 flights or so and go back through the lobby and up the elevator again.

  5. The Bad Wife :

    This is all such good advice. I’m in a place right now where I can’t read the comments (because that just begins a downward shame spiral) but it’s great to have these posts to bookmark when I finally FINALLY begin The Diet.

    Is anyone happier when they are dieting? I find I am but I am paralyzed to start. I end up putting it off til tomorrow everyday for months on end. Off course, I gain weight then because I’m having “my last everything”.

    Broke that cycle before law school and was feeling my best in years (lost 40 pounds) then law school – sigh – (gained 30 back!). Is anyone in the same place?

    Is anyone beginning their pre summer diet now? (rather than in Jan!)

    • Don’t look it at as The Diet. You’re looking to make a lifestyle change, right? Good, permanent fixes? Because a “diet” is good for losing weight but not keeping it off.

      I really, really recommend Weight Watchers, because it’s really kind to you – especially this whole self-flagellation stuff that we do to ourselves. You can have any kind of food, even the stuff that you think you should swear off. I’ve gained back some weight but it’s all good – I’ve released myself from the bondage of Spanx and refuse to go back. Imagine, a life of no shapewear except in evening gown situations. Bliss.

      Also, I get really stubborn when I think I have to Diet and I set myself up to fail miserably. I just hate the whole concept.

      • Corporate Tool :

        I started to feel better as soon as I started WW. Not just because of the self-esteem, but my body felt better eating more fruits/veg and whole grains. I lost 30+ lbs (slowly), and I’m glad I did it.

      • I second the WW recommendation. I got married my last semester of law school, and had put on some weight since moving in with my husband. I told myself I was too busy to diet when I was planning the wedding, taking 17 hours at school, moving into a new house, etc. I started WW after we got back from the honeymoon, and it was SO EASY. Seriously, anybody can do it. You just have to get up the nerve to sign up for it (and go to meetings if you need extra motivation, I did and found them super helpful). I’m totally pissed at myself for putting it off and not trying it before the wedding–I would like my pictures a lot more if I had!

      • Newbie to weight watchers. For successful participants: Have you stuck with your X points per day, or do you go with X points per day + points exercised + weekly points? (In other words, should my goal be 29 points per day, or can it be 36 on average, plus however many points I exercised, if I ever manage to do that?)

        I haven’t lost weight so far, but I do feel better and am more likely to work out because I can account for it somehow. Plus I eat a lot more fruit and vegetables because it tends to be zero points, so it’s a snack that I don’t have to remember to add for points purposes.

        • You’ll find out what works for you. The important thing is to track and you’ll see when you have patterns of weight loss. Starting out, I would average out my weekly points and not use my exercise points. Now, I lump all my weekly points for a giant slice of whatever-I’m-not-supposed-to-be-eating. And I learned that even if I stayed within my points, if I was carb heavy, no weight loss.

        • The way I’ve done it (that has been working so far as I’ve lost 20 lbs.) is to stick with the daily amount + 5 or 6 out of the weekly allotment for normal/average days. I thereby try to save some of the weekly allotment as a buffer for the weekend, which is when I tend to need/want them (or a big lunch or dinner out midweek, if that’s on the schedule). So, since it sounds like we have the same numbers, that’s 29 per day plus 5 = 34 points for Mon.-Thurs. Since my weekly points number is 49, that leaves 29 points for the weekend, so 29 regular daily points plus about 10 extra each day for Fri., Sat. and Sun. If I know I’m going to a cocktail party or birthday party or something I’ll save all 29-30 for that one event.

          I do try to earn as many activity points as possible (usually between 20-40 a week), but try not to “use” any of them. I’m sure there is a lot I’m fudging on the daily/weekly points (like not writing down every bite or sip of what DH is having, or a 1/2 tsp. of margarine or jam), so I feel like building up the activity points and not using them is what has kept me losing steadily.

        • Re-posting to get out of moderation:
          The way I’ve done it (that has been working so far as I’ve lost 20 lbs.) is to stick with the daily amount + 5 or 6 out of the weekly allotment for normal/average days. I thereby try to save some of the weekly allotment as a buffer for the weekend, which is when I tend to need/want them (or a big lunch or dinner out midweek, if that’s on the schedule). So, since it sounds like we have the same numbers, that’s 29 per day plus 5 = 34 points for Mon.-Thurs. Since my weekly points number is 49, that leaves 29 points for the weekend, so 29 regular daily points plus about 10 extra each day for Fri., Sat. and Sun. If I know I’m going to a party or some other event I’ll save all 29-30 for that.

          I do try to earn as many activity points as possible (usually between 20-40 a week), but try not to “use” any of them. I’m sure there is a lot I’m fudging on the daily/weekly points (like not writing down every bite or sip of what DH is having, or a 1/2 tsp. of margarine or jam), so I feel like building up the activity points and not using them is what has kept me losing steadily.

        • I’m the anon from right above you. My strategy was to try to work out every day, and then try to stay within the 29 points + however many activities I got, and then not use any of the weekly points until the weekend. The days I didn’t work out I might let myself have 3-5 of the weekly points. I rarely only ate 29 points a day.

          I have to be honest, I’m really bad about eating fruits and veggies, but I still lost about 20 lbs. WW just made me get my butt out of bed and go running in the morning, which gets you a lot of activity points. It’s become so much of a habit now, that I’m trying to do my first half marathon in a few weeks!

    • Rather than dieting, I try to eat healthy whole foods all the time, incorporating lots of fruits and veggies in to yummy dishes. I also have a rule that if I want “junk food” I have to make it myself, from scratch. The extra effort makes me eat it less often, and when I do make treats, I know what’s in them and can substitute healthier alternatives. I find that eating this way keeps me happy, healthy, and feeling my best. Highly recommend!

      • SF Bay Associate :

        That is really similar to my philosophy on food. Real, whole, healthy, (and organic when possible) foods, and only those. I cook with whole ingredients. As a member of the instinctive clean plate club, sensible portions are key for me. I always have the option for seconds, which I usually find I don’t want after finishing my first portion. No junk, including no junk chips, no junk candy, no junk filler foods, no processed crap, avoid preservatives. More fiber. No fast food and no chain restaurants. No vending machine food/snacks. I keep lots of healthy snacks in my office to stay out of the candy bowl, the cupcakes someone brought in, and the vending machines.

        I shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and the farmer’s market, and haven’t been in a Safeway in years. I’m working on drinking more water, too – having a giant clear Nalgene next to my desk that lets me see all the water I should be drinking seems to be helping.

    • I decided that instead of dieting, I was going to add one or two healthy things each week. I forced myself to drink more water, eat six servings of fruits and veggies, at least two servings of low fat dairy, and at least two servings of whole grains each day (the really whole kind like wild rice and bulgur wheat, not the enriched-sugar-cereal-and-wonderbread kind).

      It was surprisingly difficult, but crowded out a lot of the junk eating and made me think harder about ordering meals at restaurants (I hit my goal weight in 6 months). I should start doing it again. I found that it was much easier to add foods than to feel like I was depriving myself of things.

      • BigLaw Refugee :

        I second this approach. I tried Weight Watchers and I did feel happiness boost when I did it, but I think that was a result of the fact that I was trying to take care of myself and was no longer viewing my eating as something that was out of my control. It worked, at least for 10 of the 20 or so pounds that I wanted to lose, but I think it made me more obsessed with food, and so although I tried to think of it as an “lifestyle change” the reality was that as soon as I decided I was off my diet I started to slide. I eventually gained all of the 10 pounds back and then some.

        More recently, I have focused more on what I DO eat that on what I don’t. Like EC, I find that if I plan healthy snacks and make the time to prepare healthy meals for myself at home (which many weeks just means throwing something pretty basic in the slow cooker that I can eat all week), I am not tempted to raid the vending machine or eat huge portions of unhealthy take-out. As a result, I very slowly do lose weight, and I did not get into a state of obsessing about food or feeling deprived.

    • I am! I’ve lost 6 lbs in the past month using myfitnesspal (free iPhone app and website) and I already feel great. My clothes are fitting better, I feel like I have muscles again, I look better. 10-15 more to go!

      I used WW a few years ago and lost 25 lbs – then gained 15 of it back. My main problem with WW is that their database just never had the foods that I eat. Seemed like it mainly had food from fast food chain restaurants. It was such a pita to try to approximate a meal using the vaguely similar items I could find and I eventually just lost interest. Myfitnesspal database has just about everything I need on it, plus free is nice. Similar to WW in that you can eat whatever you want, it just tracks calories/fat/carbs/protein for you throughout the day, helps you figure out what to choose to eat and when to stop.

      Anyway, I recommend it. It’s helped for me to find an easy food routine – skim latte and nonfat yogurt or berries/cereal for breakfast, frozen entree for lunch (usually Amy’s or an Indian one from Whole Foods, 400 calories or less). Then whatever I want for dinner (within the calorie allowance). Dessert of either jelly bellies (yay) or a desserty nonfat yogurt (key lime pie, cherry vanilla, green apple pie). It helps so much to have these specific things on hand so it’s easy to keep to the routine.

      And, I’ve taken up the couch-to-5k running program, am on week 4. I am a terrible runner, but it’s really gotten me going longer than I ever have before and being on a program helps motivate to get to the gym.

    • Try reading Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They talk about “last suppering” and the cycle it creates extensively. Like anything, I don’t necessarily subscribe to all their philosophies 100%, but after reading and working on the concepts in the book, I feel far, far less compulsive about food, which is a pretty great victory in itself.

      • +1 to this. Love that book. It had a huge impact on my relationship with food and I recommend it pretty much any time I can.

    • I’m so with you here. I agree with many of the posters that you may have an easier time with the transition if you think in terms of better choices rather than “diet”. I realized that a tough school year and some bad summer eating habits had me pack on the pounds. I started then and there switching my grazing snacks to a steady supply of raw vegetables, drinking more tea than coffee. Now I have managed to fit the gym back into my schedule. I feel so much better, my clothes fit and I still refuse to eliminate burgers and fries and chocolate from my diet entirely. I am just being a little smarter about my choices. Hang in there. You will do great!

    • chicago assoc :

      My boyfriend and I are doing WW together, as well. I lost about 100 lbs on WW 7 years ago and for a number of reasons, I’ve gained about 15 lbs. back.

      This time around, I’m trying some new exercise routines and different foods. I’d say the hardest part this time around is that I am working at a law firm. In other words, the time I had 7 years ago devote to cooking food the night before, daily/twice weekly trips to the grocery store, half marathon training are now replaced by tempting sweets during the day, happy hour, etc.

      It’s hard. No doubt about it. But – WW 7 years ago CHANGED MY LIFE. I mean that. It changed the way I thought about food. I recommend it and hope that it changes your life, as well.

      Good luck!

      • Salit-a-gator :

        WW changed my life too. I lost 27 pounds in 2009 – went from a size 12 to a size 6. I’ve since started working at a firm and don’t work out at all (whatsoever) – and I’ve only gained 5 lbs in 3 years. So I’ve gone back to try to lose the last 5 pounds again, but luckily I’m lifetime so I only have 3 lbs to lose before attending the meetings is free for me agains.

        I strongly recomend WW – its a long term lifestyle changer that teaches you about what is worth it: I consciously have my sweets in moderation and turn down other non-neutritious foods that are just not worth it for me. Even after you stop WW you’ll still keep this knowledge and have a better sense of portion control.

        • The Bad Wife :

          Thanks guys, this is all making me feel a bit better. Just trying to make better choices and will find a WW coupon and go!

  6. Anonymous :

    There are tips for healthier eating, and then there’s thinspo. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but all this is too much of the latter for me.

    The point is not to replace disordered eating with different kinds of disordered eating.

    • I agree. I get tired of women talking to themselves and each other like misguided children. Women are perfectly capable of regulating their diets and making healthy choices while stressed without these ridiculous “pointers” from every women-centered media outlet available.

      If you find you cannot make healthy food choices while you’re stressed, then you have an issue that requires seeing a therapist or life coach, not a magazine/blog list of quick tips. As if under- or overeating is simply a matter of silly ladies not having the right information or tricks up their sleeves.

    • I disagree with you. In fact, I think this is the opposite of thinspo. What I get from this article is eating mindfully, being connected to your body and making healthy choices within the confines of the reality of your job/life. What parts were concerning to you?

      In my old job, I used to do a lot of waiting around for add-on OR cases. I found myself snacking mindlessly (and making myself shots of espresso from my office machine…not good for my tremor).

      I’ve stopped snacking nearly as much in my new job. Part of it is that I’m not waiting around to do something and part of it is that our cafeteria is so good. I find eating a real, filling lunch (complete with salad and protein) leaves me satisfied for the afternoon, so that I don’t eat out of boredom or anxiety.

      • I agree with EC MD. I lose weight during trial because I’m stressed and busy and don’t think about food. It’s not a conscious decision. When I’m bored at work, I have a bad habit of snacking. I don’t eat because I’m hungry but because I look forward to breaking up my day with that snack run. Finding healthier alternatives to the boredom, like taking a walk with a friend, is good for my waist line and mental health.

      • I’m with you too. I have experienced too many of these habits myself to know that my health in the larger sense deserves that I pay attention to how and what I eat. It is sometimes too easy to skip meals for 8 or 9 hours only to realize that you are Cranky and feel sick or have been grazing on potato chips for a few days. I have simply found that being more self aware of what you are doing has lead to some better choices overall.

    • Maybe I’m out of the loop, but what is thinspo?

      • AnonInfinity :

        “Thinspiration,” which is what some people with eating disorders look to in order to motivate them to lose more weight.

    • I don’t see the thinspo here and I’m fairly anti-diet. Listening to your body and dealing with negative feelings head-on seem like pretty positive, healthy things to be doing.

    • I’m really not following what about this strikes you as thinspiration. Can you elaborate? I am honestly curious because I usually have a pretty good radar for this (particularly as a “recovered” person). Is it the activities that Kat presents as unhealthy/less than ideal (e.g., surviving on the cream in free tea, the people who are pleased when stress depletes their appetite)? I don’t feel it is particularly thinspiring to dispassionately discuss that this happens, particularly in the context of healthier and more mindful choices.

      • Maddie Ross :

        This. And I’ve also had disordered eating issues in the past. I think the article was a very dispassionate, objective description of both the under and over eating that occurs when you get busy and stressed. I understand the theory that people who describe ways of not eating could “give people ideas,” but I don’t see this article in that vein at all. To see this article as doing that, to me, really puts us in a situation where we cannot discuss food or eating at all.

      • I agree. I read the mentions of subsisting on the cream in tea and stress/no-appetite as a weight loss tool as examples of what no to do, not suggestions.

  7. Indecisive :

    When I’m so busy at work, I tend to let everything else go (my apartment’s a mess, i need to do laundry, goodbye gym, hello food on the go), but lately the one thing I’ve been doing is eating better. A lot more fruit and veggies, and I do feel so much better. I think mentally it helps to know you’re taking a positive step, even if you still need to do laundry!

    And now for a shallow threadjack: I bought a gorgeous Linea Pelle tote bag on Piperlime (the Dylan) in a great camel color leather, using an insane amount of BR coupons and other promos (snagging it for under $200!). It arrived last night, and it is big. So much bigger than I expected – as in, I can use it as my work tote bag and it fits my computer! This is actually an exciting development – except for the color. I know this site has had all kinds of convos about the perfect black tote – but what do you all think of a brown/camel tote for work? Too casual, too unprofessional? I also tend to wear mostly black and greys, so I’m worried that it will look mismatched. Thoughts???

    • Indecisive :

      Oh, and it’s this bag, for reference:

    • Nice on the price! That bag is totally professional and I don’t think the color of your clothes matters too much. If it makes you feel better, match it with your coat. Enjoy.

    • Maddie Ross :

      Oh, I love it! I would jump on it if I could get it for under $200 like you. I see no problem with carrying a brown or camel tote, or any other color for that matter. My work tote is a brown leather Linea Pelle open top tote bad. And my purse is currently metallic. I personally do not like black bags that much. I always think I’m going to or that it’s a “good basic,” but I wear a lot of black and I tend to think that camel, metallic or other fun colors (I’ve carried teal, red and ivory in recent memory) all work well. And FWIW, I’m an attorney in a fairly conservative firm.

    • Anonymous :

      I found the perfect work bag about a year ago and intentionally got it in a darker tan color — I tend to only wear black and gray too (especially in winter when my go-to coat is black) and wanted a little variety. I think as long as the bag is professional looking, you are ok.

  8. Any tips for healthy, hot lunches? Wraps and salads were my go-to in the summer but with the weather getting cooler I’m finding myself wanting a hot meal in the middle of the day. Something I can cook in advance would be best as I prefer to cook my own food rather than ordering out. Thanks in advance.

    • Soup. Fall and winter are full-on soup territory for me. I just make big batches periodically and freeze them, and then I always have it available to take to work, heat up as a quick dinner, whatever. Chili works really well too for something a little more substantial.

      Sigh, I love fall. Yum yum.

      • Hearty soups– Heartily Seconded!

        I make pots of ratatouille-ish soup, potato-bacon-kale soup, vegetable barley, and classic chicken soup and fill up my freezer.

        It’s also a good way to get one’s vegetables without having to resort to salad, which I’ve never been able to stomach. (Even if raw vegetables didn’t give me an upset stomach, I prefer all my vegetables to be cooked, for their flavors to mix.)

    • I make big pots of different soups and divide out for lunches and freeze–chicken noodle, potato, coconut lentils, vegetable barley, chili with beans, butternut squash, etc.

    • For something less liquidy than soup, stew chickpeas (I used canned) with veggies of your choice. Spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, etc., or some combo thereof, add your favorite spices, herbs, onion, and some water and cook until most of the water is gone. This works with lentils, too. And depending on the lentil/chickpea, you can add chicken or fish if you like.

      • You can also make the easiest soup ever by pureeing a can of chick peas, and throwing it on the stove with some water or stock, and a bit of olive oil. Add salt & pepper and garnish with some italian parsley (if you have on hand). It’s been my go-to late night supper for years.

        Otherwise, definitely agree that soup is the way to go as far as easy, healthy, make-ahead and bring-with-you lunch is concerned.

    • Stir fry some vegetables with chicken, and add some cooked brown rice – I make 3-4 servings at a time and put them in individual containers so I can just grab one and go in the morning.

      One recipe: 2-3 tomatoes, 8 oz mushrooms, 1 sweet yellow onion, 1 bag of peapods, 1 green pepper, 1 can water chestnuts, 1-2 broccoli crowns (or you can sometimes buy “stir fry” mixes of precut veggies) 2 cloves garlic, tablespoon of fresh minced ginger, a couple cooked and cubed chicken breasts, a dash of rice vinegar, tablespoon or two of soy sauce, a little bit of sesame oil, and a tablespoon of corn starch dissolved in a 3-4 tablespoons of water. Cook it together on med-high heat in a wok or big frying pan until the veggies are starting to get soft (but not limp) and the sauce has thickened a bit.

    • I third the soup idea. I make a pot of soup, eat it for one dinner, then freeze the rest in single-portion containers. Pureed vegetable soups like cauliflower, broccoli, carrot or zucchini are my go-tos. I also put leftovers in lettuce wraps that I put together at my desk after I warm the filling up.

    • A restaurant near my office does this, but I like it so much I started doing it at home for dinners, plus easy enough to make at home yourself for lunches- half a serving of chili on a serving of quinoa with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. It’s so filling and healthy and delicious it haunts my dreams…

    • Barrister in the Bayou :

      I don’t use it as often as I should, but I have a slow cooker and you can make some really great things in it. Just get a cookbook that goes along with your tastes and the meals will pretty much cook/prepare themselves.

      • Slow cookers are great. One of my favorite quick meals consists of: Trader Joe’s bean mix, chicken broth, carrots, a can of tomatoes and spices.

    • I like bringing dinner leftovers to reheat for lunch. I worry about spilling soup. Some examples:
      -Turkey meatloaf with green beans
      -Oven-baked chicken with broccoli
      -Stir-fry with rice
      -Baked pasta/casserole with whole wheat pasta and vegetables

      • After I make the soup and let it cool, I aliquot into ziploc baggies and freeze or throw into the fridge (if it will be eaten in the next couple of days). I take one to work and transfer into a real bowl (not plastic) for reheating. It works well and is very satisfying. I’ve never had it leak. You can double bag or put the baggie in a secondary container if you are worried.

      • Hardhat Lawyer :

        Get the containers with twist-on lids. I have both Glad and Ziploc brand and have never had a spill. I cook once per week, on Sundays, and stretch it all week for lunches and dinners, so lots of soup, stew, and chili in the cooler months. One of the easiest non-soup crock pot recipes I like is salsa chicken: spray with non-stick spray, spread out chicken breasts, sprinkle with a packet of dry taco seasoning, and cover with salsa. I usually steam some brown rice and have corn/black bean mix to go with it.

    • Agree with the soup suggestions. To make it more fun, get an immersion blender (stick blender) – if you blend the soup a little it gives the illusion of being much thicker and creamier and more luxurious.

      • I am so in love with my new immersion blender! It’s a dream. So convenient and effective. So worth the $30 I paid for it.

        • Me too! I now make my own smoothies instead of buying them at Jamba Juice (so it’s already paid for itself), and last weekend made tomato soup that I blended in the pot. LOVE.

          • Immersion blenders are great– plus, many of them being dishwasher safe makes a huge difference. Cleaning out those old-style blenders made it mostly not worth the effort (to me).

            Although I admit to drifting into Jamba Juice recently to get the Pumpkin Smash Smoothie. It’s the one I can’t give up!

    • my favorite soup recipe – Hungarian Mushroom Soup

      I sub fresh dill for the dried, and rather than stirring sour cream in, I serve Fage greek yogurt on the side, along with more fresh dill. It’s awesome and even my kids like it!

  9. I force myself to count calories if I’m falling into bad food habits. I tend to not eat when I am stressed, so seeing that I have only eaten 400 calories by 3 pm means I need to head out to a store and get half a sandwich, or eat a protein bar or yogurt, or something. These usually aren’t enough to make you feel full but will help you from losing too much weight. I second the juice/smoothie suggestion for when you have absolutely no appetite.

    I recommend avoiding seamless web. For late nights, you are going to need some fresh air anyway even if the options aren’t as enticing.

    For people who stress eat, I say to bring in snacks from home. Stopping by a fruit stand on the way into work is easy and cheap(er) than Starbucks in the afternoon. Keep track of your calories too. Seeing the alternative for the same amount of calories is a good way to say no to Chipoltle. Or, yes to the tuna roll and no to the spicy tuna.

    If I eat by myself, I also make a point to eat half of my lunch, then do something else for a bit, and then decide whether I want to eat the rest or save it. The signal that you are full is on a fifteen minute delay. When you eat by yourself, you aren’t talking, so you can finish a huge amount of food before your brain knows it. By allowing your brain to catch up with your stomach, you can make a more informed decision about the back half of the lasagna. For days when you really are still hungry, you’ve still got half your meal, and for days when you aren’t, you have leftovers. Also saves you from getting into a food coma.

  10. SoGal Gator :

    Having just lost 55 pounds in five months, I am determined to keep it off. I gained it by not eating all day at work and coming home late and eating a bunch of highly processed fattening food, no exercise, 15 hour work days, big stress and travelling. The many changes I have made include eating something small every 3 hours — often a protein shake with fruit (150 calories — I keep a blender and frozen fruit in my work kitchen), joining two gyms (one near home and one literally across the street from my office), taking a lunch break always and often to go for a 30 minute walk with a co-worker, exercising 6 days a week no matter what, even if it’s just for half an hour, and making sure if I travel I have a place to work out. Having two gyms really helps because sometimes I only have time in the morning, sometimes only after work and once in a while I can even sneak in a lunch time workout. At home, I keep large containers of roasted veggies that I make every Sunday so that when I walk in the door starving, there is a healthy food ready to eat while I take my time to make a healthy dinner. The combination of eating a LOT more vegetables and fruit and regular exercise helps so much.

    • Whoa, that is really awesome. Go you!

    • This is fantastic and inspiring to hear about. Congratulations!

    • Wow, if you are willing to pay double fees, the 2 gym idea is brilliant.

      • SoCal Gator :

        One gym is really small, really inexpensive but 5 minutes from my home. The one next to my office is pricey but really full service and worth it if you use it regularly. All in all, not that much money and it’s hard to put a price on good health. Skip the Starbucks lattes and it’s a wash on the cheap one. It also eliminates the excuse that I can’t find the time to work out. My experience is that the easier you make it, the more likely you will keep your good intentions to exercise and eat healthy.

  11. Usually Lurks :

    after gaining 20 pounds during the first trial I was on, I ordered NutriSystem for each trial after that. I had it delivered to the office and just ate my veg/ fruit/dairy from the office catering. If I didn’t gave office catering I’d probably still have to do sonme shopping, but not having to plan meals saved time and not ordering in saved calories.

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