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How to Stop Eating Junk Food at Work

Something strange is happening across corporate America. And I don’t mean a Zombie situation, international espionage or soap opera level theatrics, though those elements may be present in your culture (and sorry if that is the case). What I’m talking about is how normally reasonable people will go crazy eating any form of junk food left out across breakrooms nationwide. You know, gobbling down stale pastries leftover from the Finance Team’s breakfast meeting seven hours earlier or going back for three slices of someone’s birthday cake, even when it’s a flavor you don’t like.

“Mindless eating can fill a void for people, whether they are stressed or bored at work,” explained Certified Nutrition Coach Linda Citron of Citron Nutrition. It helps individuals socialize because they go into the break room or they go by their colleague’s desk and they know candy is kept in the drawer and it’s just a chance to chit-chat.”

As reported in this Fast Company article, easy access to junk food decreases inhibitions. You might not normally pay to eat Halloween candy rejects in your daily life. But when you are super stressed out working on a big project deadline, and the candy sitting on a platter is giving you come hither glances, then even the Marshmallow Circus Peanuts and Necco Wafers look appealing.

Dr. Susan Albers-Bowling, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of six books on mindful eating, says in the Fast Company piece that one of the big reasons is that it’s free. “We are motivated to try things that are free because it’s low risk,” she stated. “We also feel like we’re getting a deal.”

Unfortunately, eating junk food on a regular basis isn’t just hurting your waistline. That momentary rush of pleasure often results in an energy crash and brain fog, just when you need to concentrate the most. Ready to cut back? Check out these three ways to stop eating junk food at work:

1. Plan in advance.

Load up on better-for-you snacks. I keep individual packets of lightly salted, roasted cashews in my desk because are delicious and filling. Got access to a refrigerator? You can store string cheese, fruit, Greek yogurts or whatever else floats your boat. If you know a big lunch meeting will be all about pizza, the very item you are trying to cut back on, bring something delicious but better for you to eat instead.

2. Set your intention.

As Citron notes, don’t think you can never indulge at work, just pick the times that you do. If co-workers are enjoying cupcakes in the breakroom in honor of Amy’s promotion and you know everyone is going out for Mexican food after work to celebrate as well, choose to eat one of those items rather than mindless scarfing snacks and a heavy dinner.

3. Restrict access.

The old proverb “out of sight, out of mind” rings true. If you can’t see the temptation, people are less likely to seek it out. So, if you have a choice of refilling your water bottle in two breakrooms, and one always features leftover bags of chips from team lunches while the other doesn’t, go for the space uncluttered with enticements. Take the long way around hallways to avoid the receptionist’s desk top candy dish and pick up some extra movement steps in the process.

If you encounter a junk food temptation in the work place that you truly love and are hungry, go for it. But if you are mindlessly snacking just because everyone else is, or it has become your default reaction to boredom or stress, it might be time to back away from the last shards of Girl Scout cookies and come back to the light. Hopefully these tips will help!

How do you deal with junk food temptations at work?

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