There’s nothing more depressing than doing a quick spot of munchie maths at
5.35pm and realising you’ve somehow snacked your way through your calorie
quota for the day. But the truth is your office is a diet disaster zone.
“We spend eight or more hours a day at work, and it’s during your working day
that your long-term eating habits are formed and consolidated,” says Dr
Libby Weaver, author of Accidentally Overweight.
“You can start the day with a healthy breakfast and eat a salad for dinner,
but it’s what happens in between that determines your weight.” But panic
not, we’re about to steer you through the muffin-top minefield that is your
Pounds-on pitfall: Scary boss
When you see the head honcho angrily striding over, your heart rate and
breathing speed up, and your stomach constricts. Biologically, this is how
our ancestors responded to predators.
Biologists call this the ‘fight-or-flight response’ and it “triggers the
release of stress hormones such as cortisol, which gear you up to eat,” says
Dr Weaver. It’s our body’s attempt to replace the fats you’ve used up
‘fighting or fleeing’. “This makes it almost impossible to resist sugar and
starch when your boss gets their rage on,” she adds.
Slim-down saviour: “Steady breathing tells your nervous system you’re
safe and helps your biochemistry return to normal,” explains Dr Weaver. Try
this fail-safe breathing technique three times a day to prepare for those
1 Close your eyes and breathe in. As you exhale, allow your tummy to
come inwards – a lot of people get this the wrong way around.
2 Concentrate on the sensation when you breathe in through your nose.
3 Visualise your favourite colour in the air around you, and inhale
this through your nostrils into your body.
Alternatively, take a B-vitamin complex to support your stress-coping
mechanisms. The complex helps your body to produce serotonin, which promotes
a stable mind. Or suck on calming Bach Rescue Remedy Pastilles (£5.89,
Holland & Barrett) – Jen Aniston swears by them.
Pounds-on pitfall: Office feeder
We’ve all got a co-worker who forces their chocolate HobNobs on you. “Many
people urge others to eat because it validates their own desire to snack,”
says psychologist Laétitia Barthomeuf. FYI, just two choccie biccies a day
can add up to a weight gain of 1st in a year! Gulp.
Slim-down saviour: According to Laétitia, feeders need to feel
included. They’ll buy a packet of biscuits for the desk rather than eat a
KitKat on their own at lunch. Say you’re on a health kick and ask them to
join you so they don’t feel left out. If this doesn’t work, distract
yourself. Tidying your desk works a (guilt-free) treat.
Pounds-on pitfall: The coffee machine
Many of us rely on a cheeky cappuccino for those all-important energy boosts
throughout the day, but caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands, which
release stress hormones and adrenaline. It also sends your blood sugar
levels on a roller coaster ride, causing a full-on sweet craving crash a few
hours later. Plus, caffeine may interfere with the process that moves
glucose from the blood into muscle and other body cells, messing up your
Slim-down saviour: “Get your pick-me-up from tea instead,” says
Professor Gary L Wenk, author of Your Brain On Food. “Tea and coffee, while
both containing caffeine, have very different effects on the human body. The
chemical theanine, an anti-stimulant, is found in tea. When it teams up with
the caffeine in your cuppa, it can stimulate your mind, improve focus and
help you relax.” And a chilled-out worker is less likely to make rash,
unhealthy daytime food choices. Brew, anyone?
Pounds-on pitfall: Office drinks
It’s good to booze-bond with the team, but your desire to fit in at work could
well stop you fitting into your skinnies. There’s no point dutifully having
a 450-calorie lunch only to slurp down another 450 in two mojitos (mint
doesn’t count as one of your five-a-day either – boo!).
Slim-down saviour: Everyone experiences pressure to socialise after
hours, but post-work drinks and diets don’t mix. If you want to stay on the
wagon, order a Diet Coke and people will assume it’s boozy. Or order a
vodka, lime and soda for a low-cal boozy fix. Download the iDrinkulator app
too (£1.79, iTunes). It tells you how many calories are in alcoholic drinks,
so helps you save booze for nights out with your ‘real’ friends. The golden
rule for getting away with not drinking is to make it clear you’re having a
good time. Staring miserably into your pop will have that man from accounts
lining up tequilas for you.
Pounds-on pitfall: Inbox overload
You’ve got 101 emails to open, and only Maltesers will get you through. The
bag is scoffed, and you trot back to the choc machine for more. “It’s become
normal to eat alone and snack in front of your PC, but a study has linked
this to weight gain,” says Deborah Kesten, nutritionist and author of The
Enlightened Diet. “The study also found those who are overweight eat more
but enjoy it less, and that overeating is prompted by negative feelings like
Slim-down saviour: “If you’re eating while doing something else, you’ll
get minimal satisfaction from it,” says Deborah. Stop dining al desko. Make
a pact with a co-worker to eat lunch outside, and meet again later for a
snack. You do have the time – when you’re popping chocs at your desk, your
mind isn’t really on that proposal.
ILLUSTRATION: ANNA HYMAS PHOTOGRAPHY: ALAMY