How to Avoid Ruining Your Diet at Work
Workplaces are often where fat loss efforts are ruined.
- People leave open packets of cookies, boxes of doughnuts and other free food in the kitchen.
- People bring snacks and “treats” back from their holidays.
- You make everyone else feel bad if you tell them you’re on a diet.
- People will try to get you to cave in by making you feel bad for not eating their birthday cakes.
- People will make you feel like a bore if you say you’re not going out for drinks on Friday night.
The office is potentially the hardest place to stay on track with your diet.
You can start the day right, but ruin it at work.
You can’t control what other people bring in to work.
And once you’ve cracked to peer pressure, it’s quite likely that you won’t bring the rest of the day back in line.
You’ll be more likely to say “oh well, the day is ruined anyway, might as well enjoy it.”
I know this struggle!
I used to work in a corporate 9-5 job where there was free food going around almost every single day (usually multiple times per day).
There were about 500 people in my building, and we often had meetings with clients, suppliers and partners.
These meetings always had food at them, and there was always some left over – and if you wanted it, it was easy to get it. This is in addition to all the other reasons that most workplaces are difficult places for staying on track with a diet!
Every time there was some food left over, it was put on the communal table near the kitchen, which also happened to be right near my desk. I was the closest person in the office to the free food, every time.
It was often sandwiches, rolls, wraps etc. from Pret, Benugo, Eat or somewhere like that (common places to grab an breakfast or lunch “on the go” in the UK).
If it was a breakfast meeting, there would often be pastries or other sweet treats.
And it wasn’t just meetings that resulted in free food
If anyone ever returned from holiday, there would be an email sent out to the floor saying something like “Chocolates from Switzerland – on the table near the kitchen!”
Whenever it was someone’s birthday, there’d be another email – “it’s Rob’s birthday! Sign his card, singing and cake at 4pm!”
There was ALWAYS leftover cake. So you could get a generous slice of cake at the first serving, and then if you went into the kitchen or walked past the breakout area, you could help yourself to more!
Every time this happened, I would almost always resist.
While a stampede of people hurtled past my desk, I would sit and peer over with curiosity. It’s not that I didn’t want to eat some cake, or a nice egg or salmon baguette. I would have loved it. But I had to learn to resist. I had to develop willpower.
I wasn’t always like this.
I would have been the FIRST one there.
Why I had to change
Firstly, I had to change because there was usually no “moderating” this sort of stuff.
I’m the kind of person who has to be either “all-in” or “all-out”. You can bet I didn’t want to eat a tiny slither of cake, and you can also bet I wouldn’t be able to resist helping myself to more cake after the first helping, if it was just sitting there in the kitchen.
If I ate any of that stuff, I ate ALL of it. It would often trigger a bit of a binge, and then I’d feel bad about it after.
Moderation requires knowledge
I CAN moderate if I’m tracking calories and macros, but when I didn’t know the source of the food, have no nutritional information to hand, and no way to accurately know the amount I was really eating, trying to track it seemed pointless. So I didn’t. So those days would turn into “cheat days” and I wouldn’t track the rest of the day either. I’d blow past my calorie goal easily, and the whole day would be a write off.
When you’re tracking your macros and calories because you have a physique goal, eating random stuff isn’t really congruent with that goal. You need to KNOW, to some degree of accuracy, what you’re eating.
If you’re trying to lose fat and you eat a big slice of some random cake, you have no idea how many calories you really have left for the day. Cake is calorically dense, so if you think you’re eating 100g of it when it’s actually 160, makes a big difference.
I’d rather save those calories and spend them on a cake that I know I like, that I can weigh or measure out a piece of, and know how it’s affecting my goals.
But What If You’re Bulking – Any Extra Calories Will Help!
When I’m trying to gain weight in the form of muscle, you might think I’d relax a bit. Those extra calories will help, right?
Well, they will. You do need a calorie surplus – but where people usually go wrong is massively overestimating the size of the surplus that they need.
Bulking isn’t about getting into a surplus through any means possible and not knowing the size of that surplus.
When bulking, you only need a surplus of about 200 calories per day. There’s only so much muscle you can gain naturally. You really don’t need a very big surplus each day. Anything over that surplus will only result in extra fat gain – it doesn’t make you gain more muscle!
Eating random stuff, saying yes to whatever’s going, and eating all the sugary treats and cakes is going to mean two things:
- You will rack up the calories very quickly.
- You won’t have a clue how many calories you’ve eaten, or how big your surplus is.
It’s better just to eat things that you KNOW the nutritional and caloric value of. Include treats, but be measured and include them as part of a diet that results in a small calorie surplus.
Obviously you don’t need to be a complete bore. I’m not suggesting you don’t even go to family BBQs or other occasional social events because you won’t be able to weigh out the food.
Use this as a guide for 95% of the time. The rest of the time won’t make much difference at all if you do that.