Michael Mantell by Michael Mantell

You bring your carefully prepared lunch from home and there she is, asking, “Hey, we’re all going to lunch to celebrate Jane’s promotion—join us!”

You’ve promised yourself to stick with the veggies you’ve brought to eat as snacks, but then he appears with, “Hey, the boss’s wife baked our favorite cookies—have some!”

No more sugar for you and then they pop up right at your desk with, “Hey, you gotta try these incredible chocolates that Bob brought back from his sales trip to Switzerland!”

Whether it’s an office celebration, someone’s leftovers they insist you share, people making jokes about your diet program or ordering food for you that isn’t on your diet (“C’mon you have to try it!”), or folks just pressuring you to eat foods you’ve promised yourself you will no longer indulge in, “diet saboteurs” lurk everywhere, including the workplace.

In a 2012 study of 325 women by Survey Sampling International for Medi-Weightloss Clinics, and reported in the The Wall Street Journal in March 2012, nearly 30 percent of those surveyed said that they have felt pressured to eat more than they want to at work. They also report being made fun of and having food ordered for them that they don’t want to eat.

In another study done by CareerBuilder released earlier this year, it was found that 44 percent of managers gained weight at work, desk-job holders were more prone to weight gain and more women than men gained weight (46 percent vs. 33 percent).

So while Halloween and those holiday parties that always seem to sabotage your healthy eating plan are a ways off, staying on an optimal health trajectory at work can still be a real challenge.

In general, it’s important to always plan ahead. Do you remember that TV commercial that asked people to stand on one foot? The naïve suspect would inevitably fall. Then they’d put a rubber bracelet on the person, ask him/her to do it again and whoosh! They’d have perfect balance and if you ordered one of those amazing bracelets right now you’d get two bracelets and free shipping! The problem is that, of course, it wasn’t the bracelet. It was the second-time practice phenomena. That’s why practicing and mentally rehearsing how you’ll handle the various worksite food saboteur situations can be so effective in finding your resistance. Practice it once and then use it in real life. You’ll find the second-time practice effect will keep you balanced and on your diet plan.

Here are five quick tips to stay on your health plan while keeping your co-workers from feeling put off. No judgments, no holier-than-thou comments, no criticism, and nothing but healthy, positive thoughts and feelings to go around:

1. Visualize a conversation with your coworkers. Visualize that you are telling your co-workers that you are on a great, satisfying meal plan, that you have set very important personal health goals for yourself that you are very proud of, and that you are eating healthfully. Then when the situation comes up in real life, you’ll have a ready and well-rehearsed response that you can more easily draw on. And don’t forget to prepare for lunch or dinner meetings by checking the menu before you go to the restaurant so you know in your mind what you’ll be ordering.

2. Ask for the support of those with whom you work. Most folks will understand. Those who can’t take the hint may need to know how you genuinely appreciate them, but not their insistent interest in you eating the way they want you to eat.

3. Remember the difference between your actual hunger and your emotional hunger. Emotional hunger comes on quickly, focuses on craving only one or two foods, leaves you feeling guilty and unsatisfied, and doesn’t end when you’ve finished eating. Physical hunger comes on gradually, usually with some stomach rumblings or several hours after your last meal, can be easily satisfied with a variety of foods or a glass of water, and leaves you feeling full when you’ve finished eating.

4. Take the treats home and share. Can’t resist the boss’s urging to try his wife’s brownies or cookies? A gracious “Thanks and please tell her these look delicious. I’m going to take a couple for dessert tonight and share them with my husband/wife/roommate.” Then be sure to comment on how tasty they were the next day when you return to work.

5. Keep some healthy snacks in your desk drawer. When that roving candy dish comes by, pull out your own healthy snacks and focus on your internal pleasure in resisting the call of the candy. By the way, it’s not really calling your name!

It’s your health, your life and your “why” that got you started on your path to improving your health. Don’t feel you’ll gain much by giving in or giving up to the passing, disrespectful food saboteur. It’s never a trade that’s worth making. Ever.

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