“Those who have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” ~Edward Stanley
I am a firm believer in the “80/20” rule: As long as you are maintaining successful habits 80% of the time, you’ll reach your desired results.
How does this translate to my life and goals?
Well, I work hard to eat healthy foods no less than 80% of the time. If one day per week I have a treat, or even two, I know that this won’t throw me completely off the rails of my weight loss and health goals. All week long, I cook a scramble for breakfast each morning, eat prepared lunches (even if something else shows up in the office), go home and eat a well-balanced dinner. I keep myself on track with a Habit Tracker in my day planner.
One of my biggest hurdles though, has been office snacks.
I’m okay with enjoying a treat that I really love for a special occasion, but at work it seems like there is always some kind of special occasion. Someone has a birthday and we all have cookies. Someone retires and we all have cake. Someone remembers it’s Friday and we all have donuts. We have cookie exchanges and pass out candy on Halloween and have free mac n’ cheese once every month for lunch, just because!
All of this is all good and fine, as long as you learn when, and how to say “no, thank you.”
When I first started working at my current job, it was my first time in an office environment. My previous positions had always been fast-paced, more physical jobs. I’d worked several years in the food industry, and I taught pre-school for a couple of years. For me, slowing down and spending more time sitting at a desk, combined with constant opportunities to eat unhealthy foods was my fast-pass to weight gain and declining health.
Every time there was cake available, I ate it. Every time someone came around with donuts or girl scout cookies or chocolates, I ate them.
When I really started to evaluate what I was doing, I realized how ridiculous I was being. Nobody is going have their feelings hurt if you don’t eat the treat being passed around, and every day is not a special occasion to over-eat.
So, these days I am much more selective of what I say “yes” to. I rarely eat cake. If it’s chocolate cake, I just don’t touch it, because I never really enjoy it. Sometimes, I’ll have a piece of white cake (especially if it has raspberry filling) but even then, I’m careful. I ask myself if I’m eating it simply because it’s there, or if it really is something I want and will enjoy. If I’m truly going to enjoy it, I go for it!
If someone is selling treats for a fundraiser, like girl scout cookies, I’ll buy a box of my least favorite flavor and donate it to the local food bank. This way, I’m not being rude and ignoring the fundraiser, but I’m also not tempted to scarf them down myself, either.
Finally, I keep healthy snacks available to me at work. At Christmas time this year, my department received a huge case of different popcorn varieties. You know, the kind that are covered in chocolate and caramel and different sugary glazes. They sat on a counter next to our printer for weeks and I never ate any. A couple of times, I felt tempted, but then I remembered that the last time I ate that kind of popcorn, I didn’t even really enjoy it. Then I went back to my desk and enjoyed a handful of mixed nuts.
The bottom line is, people love bringing treats to work. No one is bringing treats in to try to sabotage your goal progress or to be rude, they are doing it because they are thoughtful people who want to do something nice for the people they work with every day. You don’t have to eat every treat that is brought in and there are tactful ways to go about it:
- If a celebration is involved, go and celebrate the person or event being honored. If you are hungry, eat a quick snack first and simply say “no, thank you” to the food.
- If the treat is just sitting on a counter waiting to be devoured, ignore it and have a healthy snack instead (or, if you aren’t even hungry, simply ignore it!)
- If a fundraiser is involved, buy one and donate it to someone in need (now you’ve done two good deeds in one fell swoop!)
- If someone is actively passing the treats out, simply say “no, thank you,” no one feels that you owe them an explanation. Just be sure that the thank you is genuine!
- Always remember, if the occasional treat comes along that you truly do want and will enjoy, just enjoy it!
Living a healthy life does not mean depriving yourself of all sweets and treats and joy. It just means that 80% of the time, you are making the more healthy choice.