Do you struggle with comfort eating while you’re at work? It’s something I used to do – a lot! I used to see a lot of my colleagues constantly raiding their sweet drawer or heading off to the vending machine or tuck shop too (yes, one place I worked had a tuck shop – less shop, more a large plastic container filled with sugary, fatty and salty snacks)!
My tricky time of the day was when working late and I had taken enough ‘proper food’ with me. I knew I was going to be stuck in traffic and I knew I wouldn’t be eating until late, so I would reach for the chocolate and crisps and then instantly regret it.
Deep down, you probably know that you’re not genuinely hungry, but you snack anyway or you’re hungry, but don’t reach for the healthy food that is going to help sustain you. Are you ready to start breaking the cycle? Here are some tips for beating stress eating at work.
Are hidden beliefs playing a part?
Comfort eating is linked to your emotions If you’re bored at work, feel unappreciated or are having too much pressure piled on you, you may be turning to food to deal with the emotions, for example. Can you relate?
It can go a lot deeper than this too, and hidden beliefs can also play a big part. Maybe you’re lacking confidence in your abilities and the anxiety that this creates pushes you towards comfort eating. Or maybe you believe that you must go above and beyond in your job role and are on the fast track to burnout as a result.
Whatever the situation, dealing with these underlying factors is really important for helping you to stop comfort eating at work. Without this, you’re likely to carry on comfort eating.
Don’t eat lunch at your desk
Always tend to eat while you’re still at your desk? I have been guilty of this. I know it can be very tempting, BUT multitasking means you’re not going to be paying much attention to your food and it’s gone before you know it. You’re also a lot less likely to get the message that you’re actually full and will carry on eating.
Make a point of getting up and going elsewhere for your lunch break. Ideally, this will be somewhere that won’t offer distractions so you can concentrate on what you’re eating and being mindful with your approach.
What you eat for lunch can be really important. Filling up on protein and vegetables can help to stop you snacking. Don’t do what I used to do and eat a small lunch in the hope of losing weight or work through your lunch and have nothing to eat.
Skipping meals is a surefire way to encourage unhealthy snacking in the afternoon.
Don’t take unhealthy snacks into work
On a practical note, it’s a lot more effort to comfort eat if you don’t have unhealthy snacks to hand at your desk. If they’re there, you’re probably going to eat them! Not taking unhealthy snacks into work is one of the easiest ways to avoid mindless snacking. If you do feel like snacking in between meals, swap unhealthy choices for more nutritious options.
Think plant-based snacks such as carrot or pepper sticks with a small pot of houmous, roasted chickpeas, oatcakes, mixed nuts, fresh fruit, celery sticks with a spoon of peanut butter, vegetable muffins (courgette and carrot work well here), rather than biscuits, chocolate, crisps and other fat and sugar heavy snacks.
If you’re looking for support, then head over to my Facebook community. Here you’ll find amazingly supportive members who all want to help each other. It doesn’t matter where you are on your plant-based journey. Everyone is welcome. Best of all – it’s totally free!
Drink herbal tea
Staying hydrated can be really helpful for curbing cravings, not least because thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Water is a great choice but herbal tea can also help. There’s a lot of varieties to pick from so you’re sure to find one that helps to fight cravings, even for sweet ones. Plus, the physical act of holding the cup in your hands can distract from them too. You can have tea and coffee but caffeine can make sugar cravings worse so consider cutting down or maybe swapping your mid-afternoon coffee for a herbal tea.
Keep everything unhealthy focused in one place
In the typical workplace, there isn’t a designated place for unhealthy treats and snacks and that can make it hard to stay away from them.
If your colleagues often bring in sweets and biscuits you could see if they would appreciate these being somewhere that’s not so easy to access, or see if you can get a few others on board to encourage healthier snacking. You might find others appreciate not having to battle with their willpower because of the temptation you’re surrounded by.
You can do something similar if you work from home. Maybe your partner or children want certain foods you’re trying to avoid. Keep them in a specific place, out of reach. Put them in a tin or box and label them if you have to. Sometimes just not seeing food ca really help to not trigger the feeling that you want it. We’re very easily influenced by what we see.
Get an accountability buddy
Feel like you need a helping hand to beat emotional eating at work? See if you can get a colleague involved - preferably one that wants to stop comfort eating too. Commit to eating a healthy, nutritious lunch together and agree that you’ll support each other when you’re struggling. If you work from home, get a like-minded friend to check in with you regularly for the same effect.
Use visualisation techniques
Walk yourself through your ideal workday from a visual point-of-view and imagine yourself avoiding comfort eating. “See” yourself as a healthy, energetic person who is completely in control of their eating patterns. Use visualisation techniques first thing in the morning and whenever you feel your willpower starting to wane.
Affirmations are another tactic you can use to curb stress eating at work. When you feel the urge to reach for comfort food, repeat positive affirmations to yourself. This can be as simple as saying “I only eat when I’m hungry” or “I have the power to control my cravings.”
Think about your motivations
What is your main reason for wanting to stop? Think of the positives.
How will you think and feel if you stop comfort eating?
What difference could this make to you?
But also, what will happen if you don’t do something about it. You can use visualisation techniques to shock your mind into ditching comfort eating. Think about the downsides that could happen as a result of your eating habits. Avoiding a serious health condition or putting more weight on could be your motivation. Just knowing you’re not going to feel constantly guilty and frustrated with yourself can be enough to make unhealthy snacking seem much less appealing!