Birthdays, baby showers, edible gifts from clients, and overzealous bakers can make your office into one big calorie trap. If you're not careful, your workplace can wreck havoc on your waistline. These five tips can help you stick to your diet without being a cubicle curmudgeon.
1. Pack your own snack
Pack an indulgent but figure-friendly snack in your lunch bag and you'll find it easier to resist whatever sweets are up for grabs. Try some Greek yogurt with granola and chocolate chips sprinkled on top, or peanut butter and honey drizzled over a piece of whole-wheat toast. You easily can satisfy your sweet tooth without going up a jeans size.
2. Invest your calories wisely
Dieting is like balancing your checkbook—you need to hold yourself accountable for the calories you spend. One bite of a cupcake isn't going to kill you, but eating a whole one every day will make the numbers on the scale soar. Pack a snack three days a week, but let yourself indulge a little on the other two. By planning ahead, you can cut back on your midmorning snack to keep yourself within your targeted calorie range.
3. Don't graze
On the days you choose a high-cal office treat, be vigilant about just how much you're shoveling into your mouth. A sliver of cake will seem pretty measly portioned out on a big paper plate. And studies show that you're much more likely to go overboard and load up on seconds—or thirds—if your brain doesn't think you're getting enough.
Researchers at Cornell University invited faculty, staff, and students from the nutrition school to an ice cream social to test how plate size can influence your diet. Guests were randomly given different sizes bowls and were told to serve themselves. Unsurprisingly, those with the bigger bowls ate about 30% more than the others. Even nutrition experts are prone to slip up when their minds think they aren't getting enough!
Keep a saucer-size plate or small ramekin at your desk and you'll trick yourself into thinking you're eating more than you really are. And never, ever eat directly from the office candy bowl. Pick out a handful of jelly beans and put them straight into your ramekin.
4. Sip something warm
If your cubicle mate's chocolate chip cookies never fail to trigger an overeating impulse, it's best not to take a bite. Fill your belly with a warm, low-calorie beverage instead.
I find most teas boring, but some of the more decadent flavors—think vanilla caramel or gingerbread—can fill you up with zero calories. When I get the urge to splurge, I head to Starbucks for a tall soy Misto with some sugar-free caramel syrup. It costs me only 70 calories and, more importantly, it tastes like a really rich treat.
5. Choose the weightier option
If the calorie content is relatively the same, always choose the treat that weighs more. I reach for pretzels and cheese instead of potato chips because even if the portion sizes are similar, I'll end up feeling much fuller with the heavier snack.