Last Friday, I participated in our Nutrition and Culinary undergraduate students’ pastry exams. As part of their exam they presented beautifully plated pastries such as the butternut squash creme bruelee, flourless chocolate cake, and poached apple & pumpkin spiced pudding. It was delish. Yesterday, our Graduate Students presented their “nutrition assessment” projects while we the evaluating faculty enjoyed wine and cheese offered by the course’s professor. Today at lunch, two of our Dietetic Internship students dropped off a cranberry bread pudding that they had prepared last night for cooking demonstration. And you thought that you had it tough with the seemingly endless food celebrations at your office! As I researched this “weight gain in the office” topic, I found a statistic that stated that those who have sedentary jobs and sit for 6 hours or more are at least 2x as likely to be overweight than those who sit for 45 minutes or less at their jobs. It makes sense! An office environment can provide many pitfalls for those who are trying to stay in shape. To avoid being part of that terrible statistic, I realized, I must hold true and strong to a couple of my current strategies. I never miss a meal. I really can’t remember the last time I did. I am not for sure if that is somehting to be proud of or not, but what I do know is that it allows me to never get really really hungry. Some people work through lunch and don’t even realize it, others skip it intentinolly to get more work done. But do you really get more work done by skipping a 15 minute lunch? That lunch provides us energy to get through the rest of the day at work, it gives us a chance to take a mental break from our work and come back to our desk refreshed and mentally energized. I try to get up and move. I actually sit on a stability ball at work. I initially decided to do this so it would be a constant reminder to sit up straight. I definitely catch myself slouching, but one unbalanced movement on the stability ball reminds me to tighten up that core and pull back those shoulders. In addition, I try to get up and walk around at least once a hour, drinking lots of water helps…if you know what I mean. (: A quick walking break gets my blood pumping and improves my alertness. I bring my lunch. Yes, Fresh Gatherings Cafe, our nutrition and dietetics student run cafe, has the best food on campus. However, I usually save both calories and money when I bring my lunch from home. As I put away my dinner, most of the time I pack the leftovers for lunch. It is important though, that if you pack your lunch, it is something that you look forward to eating! Easy ways to spice up the brown bagged lunch is try and new and flavorful condiment, instead of the yellow boring mustard, try a spicy hot horseradish mustard. Swap out some whole wheat pita for your sandwich bread. Use last night’s grilled salmon instead of tunafish for your salad sandwich filling. I have learned to just say no. It gets easier as you go. Unfortunately, as much as I wished I could, I just can’t and shouldn’t eat it all. If I know we have a department party or a pastry exam, I make room for it in my caloric daily budget, or…I go over my budget. However, for all those unexpected break room goodies, I do my best to say, maybe next time. I have healthy friends. My next door “office neighbor” has healthier habits than I do. He snacks on figs and almonds, eats 2-3 apples a day, and never fails to not ride his bike into work..Even on 20 degree days. In addition, he’ll keep me abreast of running or biking events around town. We all need someone like this in our life, someone who keeps us on our toes and challenges us, and, if you are lucky enough like me, you can find this friend at work. Maybe you have to be that person to someone else? Encouraging others to partner up with you and bring healthy foods to your office potlucks or to meet you at lunch for a walk? What a great and fun way to stay on track. So get up and take a quick break! You and your work deserve it.
Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.