Many of you are likely heading back to work about now, which might mean office morning teas and face-to-face team meetings – with food – are back on the menu. Do you thoroughly enjoy these or do they interfere with what are your otherwise nourishing work day food choices? If you fall into the latter camp, many people have shared with me over the years that they feel like their colleagues silently or openly badger them to eat the poor quality food that is often on offer at these occasions. If this occurs once a month, it’s going to have very little, if any, impact on your health, whereas if these morning teas or team meetings are weekly or biweekly, and you’d prefer to not always indulge, here are some considerations to help you navigate this terrain.
Junk and food
There’s no such thing as junk food. There’s just junk and there’s food. As humans, we are supposed to eat food, which many people now refer to as whole, real food. Up until the very, very, very recent past, all we’ve ever eaten is food. The junk is very new to us. Food supplies your body with what it needs to survive and thrive. Junk often contains substances that can take away from your health and it is easy to overconsume it. Yet it is what we do every day that impacts our health, not what we occasionally do, so keep these concepts in mind as you navigate workplace food.
The perceptions of others
It is very easy to be influenced by others when it comes to what we eat. Sometimes fear plays a role in this – fear of upsetting others by not eating what they have provided, fear of being different or singled out, or fear of missing out (on the food itself or the social aspect). The perception that we might be seen as being “difficult” or “fussy” or “hard to please” if we don’t consume the food that is provided can also influence what we eat.
When someone is upset or bothered by you choosing not to eat junk, it tends to reflect something about them, rather than you. Often, it’s a result of their own relationship with food or it might be due to a perception that you are becoming overly restrictive or rigid in your food choices, whether that is a reality or not. Or it might be that they want to remain your friend and with you looking after yourself more by just having a cuppa rather than the cake, they are worried they’ll lose you. Usually, people aren’t consciously aware they are feeling this way; in other words they don’t mean to hurt or discourage you. Start to become aware of why you eat the cake when you don’t want it – are you trying to please others or have them see you as ‘one of them’? Seeing it this way, does that help you to choose the cake less often?
Bring a plate to share
Another alternative in this scenario is to bring a plate of something that you’d like to eat. Vegie sticks with hommus, a platter of fresh fruit and nuts or some homemade bliss balls made from nuts and seeds and a few fresh dates. You’ll likely find that others will be happy to have some more nutritious options, too.
You don’t have to explain yourself, but sometimes it can help to let your colleagues know that you have some personal health goals that you have committed to. It can feel empowering to honour our own body and the commitment we’ve made to support our health and vitality.
Be a flexitarian
Rigidity when it stems from fear of food or weight gain, for example, does not serve our health in any way. Remember that it’s what we do everyday that impacts on our health, not what we do sometimes, so having some less nutritious food occasionally while socialising and enjoying the company you are in can be part of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Also remember that there’s a huge difference between one chocolate biscuit and eating the whole packet, and it’s when we have an “all or nothing” mentality that we’re more likely to end up doing the latter. For a nourishing way of eating to be enjoyable and sustainable, it’s important that you don’t feel deprived or like you’re missing out. So if you decide to have that one chocolate biscuit, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty. However, if you don’t want to eat the foods that are available at your morning tea, or you’re just not hungry, that’s perfectly okay too. Do what feels right for you.