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Avoiding Unhealthy Temptations at the Office

Because office spaces can be such miserable prisons, corporate America often tries to perk itself up by bringing treats to work. Birthdays, holidays and regular old Tuesdays are perfect excuses for bringing Thanksgiving leftovers, cake, brownies, cookies, donuts, bagels, and other comfort foods to share. Secret candy drawers and vending machines, not to mention happy hours and long lunch breaks add to the temptation to eat like crap to help you get through the day, but they often lead to you feeling worse, physically and mentally. Carb- and sugar-heavy foods drain your energy and can make you cranky, while the guilt over ditching your healthy lifestyle goals may also inspire feelings of depression, anxiety and failure. That half-eaten birthday cake in the conference room can be your worst nightmare, and in cubicle land, that’s saying a lot.

But when you’re surrounded by treats and goodies all day long — or all week long — it’s tough to avoid the temptation. In addition to vowing to practice a little more self-control, there are some tricks you can play on yourself to keep the junk food away from your own desk, even on special occasions. First, bring your own food and snacks from home. Junk food is harder to avoid if you’re already hungry and it’s the only thing around. Bring a healthy lunch and pack portioned out snacks in plastic bags, like nuts, low-fat wheat crackers, yogurt, and sliced raw vegetables. Pass up lunches with co-workers and tag along for coffee breaks instead. And when you’re forced to eat with a group — catered meetings are sometimes mandatory — pick the smallest plate or bowl and fill it with salads and the veggies.

When it comes to birthday parties and the baked goods trays lying around the office, don’t feel like you have to eat something to be polite or gracious. There are other ways to show your appreciation or to share congratulations than eating someone’s snack: put on the birthday hat, send a thank you note, or offer to pick up a little of the birthday girl’s workload that day. Another reason people often indulge in snack trays is because it’s free and they feel like they deserve it. But food shouldn’t be treated as a reward or something to be traded for hard work, ever. And if you’re at work, that means you’re earning a paycheck, and you can buy your own food — you’re not in college anymore.

As bad a rap as America gets for being overweight, Doritos-guzzling slobs, healthy eating is becoming more and more mainstream. If you bring your own snacks to work and pass up the lasagna tray, you aren’t going to stand out as a veggie freak as much as you might think. And your conscience and your body will thank you by 5 o’clock.

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